12 Ayurvedic and Natural Constipation Remedies

It is normal and natural for the human body to have a bowel movement at least once per day.  If you find you are constipated (e.g., sometimes go a full day without a bowel movement), once per day is a good target to aim at.

While some sources claim that people should have two to three (or more!) bowel movements per day, everyone’s body is different, and this may not be feasible or normal for everyone.   One good substantial bowel movement per day should be enough.  Of course, if you have more, great job.

In Ayurveda, those of the Vata constitution will find themselves most likely to be constipated.  This is partly due to the cold and dry aspects of Vata.  Many Vata people will find that their stools are difficult to pass, hard, and smaller than expected.  They may also have serious problems with constipation.

Following these tips should help you to ease your constipation.  I personally used to have a lot of trouble going each day, but through use of these strategies and practices, I have become far more regular, and feel much better as a result.

1. Regular morning Routine  (wake up at same time, go through same routine, etc.)

This point is one that I see is not sufficiently emphasized by almost any sources.  Having a regular morning routine, waking up at a good time, and giving yourself a regular time and place (e.g. your bathroom, or even work bathroom etc.) to take your bowel movement, is extremely important.

The body finds it easiest to move the bowels at around 8:00 am, or in the hours preceding or following that.  So you will want to wake up before 8:00 am (in Ayurveda, they recommend waking up by 6:00 am or earlier, but obviously do whatever works best with your schedule), to give yourself time to target your bowel movement at the time your body feels most suited for it.

 

2. Triphala (Ayurvedic Supplement)

The Ayurvedic supplement known as Triphala is an extremely healthy, natural, and effective way to produce a bowel movement.  You should take it first thing in the morning with your warm water and lemon juice.

We find the most effective brand to be Organic India Triphala capsules.  At least 2 of these capsules per morning (possibly more, if needed) should make you regular, and make your stools much healthier and easier to pass.

A great thing about Triphala is that it is all natural, made from the extracts of three traditional herbs/fruits, and you can really take as much as you like without any negative effect on the body (unlike commercial laxatives which can be damaging in the long term).

 

3. Warm Water and Lemon Juice

First thing in the morning, before consuming anything else, you should prepare warm water and mix with the juice of a squeezed lemon, or you can simply buy packaged lemon juice (usually comes in little bottles or even larger bottles).  Make sure it is 100% real lemon juice, with no sugar added.  It should be very sour.  You will be mixing it with water, to whatever taste is comfortable for you.  You will want to consume several glasses of this lemon juice, at least 250 mL (one cup), but could be several cups if this is necessary for you.   With this lemon juice, you will want to take your Triphala capsules or powder (capsules are recommended, as the powder tastes very, very strong).

 

4. Spirulina

This is one that we do not often see recommended.  But it can be helpful for energy, vitamins, minerals, a protein source, and also for helping to move the bowels.  Take about 1 to 3 grams of spirulina, either in tablets or in powder, either with or directly after your warm water, lemon juice, and triphala.

5. Throughout the day:  Plenty of fiber

Eat plenty of fiber throughout the day.  High fibre foods include practically all vegetables, dried fruits (e.g. prunes), and things like bran.

6. Throughout the day: Plenty of water (not ice cold!)

Having plenty of water is very useful for keeping things moving through your digestion system.  Drink lots of water throughout the day.  Water with lemon is doubly effective, and even more effective is warm water.

If you routinely drink ice cold water, this may be a little-known source of your constipation.  Ice cold water has been found to temporarily paralyze the muscles responsible for peristalsis and colon emptying, and this stops your bowels from moving.

If you like cold water, try moving to room temperature water instead.  You are likely to immediately notice an improvement in your regularity.

 

7. Super-natural laxative:  Prunes

Prunes (or Prune juice) act as a kind of natural laxative, as they contain sorbitol, which helps absorb back water into the colon, to help with bowel movements.  Eating just 3 to 5 prunes over the course of the day (or more, if required), should definitely help your regularity.

Prunes may not be the solution to eat first thing, on an empty stomach, particularly for vata types or those with diabetes-like symptoms, as they are likely to spike your blood sugar.   Save first thing in the morning for that large amount of water with triphala, lemon, and possibly spirulina.

Save the prunes preferably until a bit later, until after you have consumed either a decent amount of spirulina, or preferably also some kind of protein, which will slow down their digestion and release the natural sugars of the prunes into your blood in a more slow and controlled manner.

8. Eat plenty of Fibre throughout the day, in the form of Vegetables.

Green Vegetables are the healthiest source of all the nutrients your body needs, including the fibre to keep you regular.  Eat plenty of these throughout the day to bulk up stools, making you more likely to pass a good stool easily the next morning.

9. Digestive Enzymes

These can be taken if you are experiencing indigestion after meals.  They will help your digestion to run more smoothly.  Supplements like Triphala can also be taken after meals to have a similar effect.   With good quality triphala, you should viscerally feel your body heating up and passing the food through your system more properly.

10. Probiotics

Many of the good bacteria in our gut may have been depleted by antibiotics taken in years long past, or overwhelmed by an excess of starchy or yeasty foods or sugars that are not good for gut bacteria.  Taking probiotic supplements daily should help with this, bringing gut bacteria back into proper alignment, and ultimately improving regularity.

11. Exercise

If you find you are constipated, you may need more exercise.  Physical activity helps clean toxins from the body, and get circulation, digestion, and all bodily functions moving properly.   Go for a run, ride a bike, do weight training, yoga, play sports, or whatever you prefer to get moving and get your excretion moving as well.

12.  Reduce Stress

This is a major one that is often overlooked.  Many people experience constipation as a result of stress, anxiety, or overwork or over-busyness in their lives.   Try toning down your schedule if possible, schedule some personal time to yourself, or try relaxation techniques like meditation or going for gentle walks, when you have time.

 

 

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The Counter-intuitive importance for Vata Dosha of *Scheduling*

Hi friends,

It is an interesting principle of Ayurveda that, the doshas inherently tend to have preferences, or to take action in directions that,  are often contrary to what might actually contribute best to the good or well-being of that dosha.

 

So for that reason, Vata dosha always seeks freedom, movement, being unfettered by all bonds of space and time, including very prominently, restrictions of Schedules.

 

Vatas love a free and unhindered schedule! (for the most part).   Very Vata people will want to have the whole day open and free, so they can freely explore various options and make use of their time in the way that they feel is best in that moment.

 

Brief Illustrative Contrast with Pitta (Love of Schedules)

This contrasts largely with the Pitta temperament, which is inherently metabolic (likes breaking things, or events, or appointments, or plans) down into small and digestible pieces, to be completed and carried through in a rational, scheduled way.

People of strongly Pitta temperament with respect to mind and scheduling, tend to be those who love to block off their day-timers,  to have things set,  to eat lunch and dinner at precisely the same times every day, and to know what will come next and what has been completed.

 

According to Ayurveda, Pitta people could actually gain a bit more balance by loosening up this rigidity of schedule.

 

Vata is aided by “Schedules”

But Vata people may actually be aided by bringing a bit more scheduling into their lives.

 

Why?  As many Vata-dominant people have told me,  they tend to lose all bearing, and often wind up getting less things done, rather than more (as they initially hoped) from a totally free and open schedule.

 

This may be expressed physiologically also as anxiety, uncertainty, and bowel issues (diarrhea, or much much more commonly for Vata, constipation).

 

Many Vata people have had this experience of Constipation, seemingly chronically in their lives,  and know not precisely from whence it comes….

 

But many of them find, seemingly miraculous, that when they are forced into, say, a kind of Day-job where they have to wake up in the morning, eat something, and go into work at the same time each day,  that miraculously their elimination/excretive processes are fixed up, and they find themselves having a (mostly) regular bowel movement ever single morning,  just as “clockwork” as the Pitta person.

 

(Indeed, the phrase, “like clockwork” might be revealing in this sense — it denotes regularity, and the Vata person who is forced onto the clock, may find that their Physiology responds very well to this scheduling, in the form of (not only getting more things done),  but also a reduction of Anxiety,  frazzled-ness, and a remedy of constipation/digestion/ elimination problems).

 

Now, this should be taken in moderation — of course, the Vata person will still find it useful (and important) to maintain some good degree of freedom in their lives (especially doing work that they find not a Drudgery but something personally Meaningful.)

But on the scheduling side of it, it is often advisable for Vata people to try to set themselves a good schedule, some way some how,  usually against their own original intuition/will,  and see if this brings their physiology and digestion into better alignment.

 

Summary of The Key Point:

  • If you are of the Vata dosha, and find yourself frequently unmoored, or suffering from a lack of direction in your life (very common for Vata), or having Constipation/Digestion issues (extremely common for Vata!),  then a strong recommendation of some Ayurvedic practitioners is to try to develop a Schedule and stick to it.

 

Final note —  This may seem difficult at first, but search online for various methods to make and keep schedules.  You need not be rigid as a board,  but at least having some positive scheduling in your life, to have appointments a bit more clearly delineated, is very likely to help your physiology and psychology as a whole.    Try it and see.  Good luck  🙂

Vata Issues — IBS, Hyperglycemia, Constipation, and relationships with Vata’s inherent Anxiety

In connection with my earlier post regarding some issues facing those whose predominant Ayurvedic dosha is Vata doshaI would like to briefly discuss some other things Vata very often has to deal with: in particular, constipation, IBS, and Hypoglycemia/Hyperglycemia.

*(Discussion of bowel issues is indeed taboo in most Western society: issues of “the Bathroom” are often thought off-limits to discuss in the parlour, or (god forbid) the forum. That said, I tend to believe these taboos may be less than helpful to our lives; for little is more natural than these natural functions, and it seems singularly unnatural to suppress advice or discussion of problems regarding them — in just the same way as it is unhelpful to suppress the functions themselves!)

I raise this issue not at random either; previously I blogged about scheduling difficulties facing many Vata dosha people, which is a problem I face every day in my life, and so too with this one — generally poor movements of the bowels (and hyperglycemia) are issues that have plagued me for much of my life.

Such bowel issues may be diagnosed, in Western medicine, as “IBS,” or Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Irritable Bowel seems to be largely a catch-all for those with various bowel issues. This can manifest as chronic problems with diarrhea, or with constipation, or with both (I have friends who speak of having IBS manifesting as both extremes).

One thing that interests me, is the strong Vata tendency towards constipation and bowel issues, as well as the Vata tendency towards blood sugar problems such as Hypoglycemia/Hyperglycemia.

In Western medical science, we would have a tendency to divide these up into separate and distinct issues — (say, IBS and Hypoglycemia) — but it often strikes me that Ayurveda tends to see them as all holistically linked — highlighting interdependent issues of body, mind, predominant doshas, lifestyle, psychological problems, diet, etc., etc.

Which is to say, that someone with Vata issues, both of the body and of the mind, is likely to have problems with Hyperglycemia, as well as a tendency to Constipation.

These may largely come from, or be closely related to, the leading “psychological” or “psycho-spiritual” issue facing Vata, that being the experience of Anxiety.

Dealing with Anxiety for Vata, as relates to IBS and Hyperglycemia

I know that the times I have anxiety or uncertainty in my own life, personally, are the same times I tend to experience the extremes of Hyperglycemia, Hypoglycemia, and issues with IBS/Constipation.

Maybe this is an obvious one — it sure seems obvious now that I read what I have written — of course the body works holistically, and of course our mental issues such as anxiety or uncertain situations, will impact on our physical organism.

That said, I think that this can be something useful for Vata in particular, to keep in mind — viz.:

*Vata must remember the importance of a (so far as is possible) calm and peaceful environment and lifestyle.*

Ayurveda highlights that Vata people, especially when they are experiencing problems with digestion, evacuation, or with metabolism (blood sugar), would do well to look at their problems not only from a physical point of view (e.g., look for physiological reasons and take medicines or supplements that address the issues of symptoms), but also from psychological, environmental, mental, emotional, or “psycho-spiritual” viewpoints.

This means, for Vata, in particular looking at what kinds of experiences, or elements of their lifestyle, may tend to make them feel scattered, nervous, over-stimulated or over-worked, or anxious.

And to consider these lifestyle elements carefully, and to consider whether it might be possible to eliminate them (or reduce their deleterious impacts) from their lives.  

My own experience: It is times of upheaval in my life (or, in particular, pertinent to earlier discussion, times when I have no set schedule and everything is uncertain…) that I experience the greatest issues with IBS/constipation, as well as Hyperglycemia.

Why should this be the case? Psychological elements of Constipation:

Psychospiritually, it may seem surprising that one’s body might react to times of uncertainty with Constipation. It might seem instead, that diarrhea should be the result — that so much “movement” is occurring in the consciousness of the organism, that this movement should also take manifestation in the physiological functions.

That said, we might cite a tendency of Vata anxiety to “hold on tight” to things — to try to keep everything held onto and “packed in,” in the primal anxiety of the organism for its own integrity and wholeness — and this can be seen to perhaps manifest as the organism (including the bowels) clutching onto everything, not releasing anything, largely as a reaction to this primal fear.

Vata — avoid stress during Meal Times! 

Perhaps I have already written far too much here.

But I wanted to make one further point, which is perhaps for me personally the most important point in this direction — which is the need for Vata, particularly for people with tendencies to Hyperglycemia (blood sugar spikes) or even Diabetes, to avoid stressful feelings during meal times.

Though it is of course difficult to avoid stressful feelings (though positive self-talk, and relaxation and particularly simple meditation techniques can be of great help — just prior to and during a meal) — what is (or can be) well within the Vata person’s control is the environment in which they eat. 

I find that it makes a world of a difference towards my physical well-being, how (relatively!) calm and peaceful is the environment and setting in which I take my meals.

(I could have a meal that would spike my blood sugar through the roof in a cacophonous, raucous setting, that might seem quite relatively easy to handle, physiologically, if I am eating somewhere that is tranquil, comfortable, and un-challenging.)

Eat Lunch or the Mid-day meal, in particular, in a calm and peaceful manner.  

Ayurveda recommends in particular, that Lunch or the Mid-day meal, be taken by Vata in a preferably calm, peaceful, and un-stressed way. Perhaps because this is the meal whose energy we partake of throughout the whole afternoon; (and much of the afternoon partakes of so-called “Vata time” (i.e.– the time when difficulties with Vata are most likely to arise).

Ayurveda speaks of the benefit of eating dinner perhaps in a more social way, with family and friends (it can be nice to have this camaraderie, and to look forward to a dinner with close ones, in the evening) — but Lunch, Ayurveda recommends for Vata (and also for other doshas, particularly Pitta), should be taken as peacefully and quietly as possible — even alone, and in silence, if this might be most comfortable for the individual.

Ayurveda recommends this as a good strategy for avoiding that whole constellation of Vata imbalances — issues with Blood sugar and with IBS/constipation.

Issues which Ayurveda sees as not merely physiological, but as informed by the major psycho-spiritual issues facing Vata, those of Uncertainty and Anxiety.

Eat peacefully; and avoid excess stress, Vata friends! 🙂

Scheduling and Ayurveda — Difficulties of the Vata Dosha

I have difficulties with scheduling.

Those who know me well – or even those who know me a little – will likely not be surprised at this point.

I nearly always show up at things at the last minute, despite my best efforts – or even a minute or two after the last minute.

I almost always find myself rushing.

But I want to talk about another aspect of scheduling, and speak about these vis-a-vis the Indian Medical system of Ayurveda.

doshas and elements small

My predominant Dosha in Ayurveda is characterized as Vata (of the three doshas, Vata, Pitta, Kapha; the dominant elements of these doshas are Wind, Fire, and Earth/Water, respectively);  And Ayurvedic tradition specifically picks out Vata dosha as having difficulties with adhering to schedules.

Vata is the dosha or quality regulating movement, creativity, and change-ability. Its movement is highly unpredictable, like leaves blowing in a windstorm.

Because of this innate quality of movement, Vata generally does not like adhering to a fixed rubric of time or activities.

This can become problematic for Vata. Vata can begin to move around so much, and try to cram in so many things into a day – and sometimes in the stress or anxiety that is created by not having a schedule to fall back on, Vata will end up getting less things done, or get more things done but compromise its own health or mental well-being.

On the other hand, the Pitta dosha, which is of the essence and element of Fire (and secondarily, water), is highly pre-disposed to scheduling. To setting things in a fixed schedule, to boxing things off, bracketing them aside, and getting them done.

Vata is of the essence of Catabolism – of creating new things, of creativity.

Pitta, with its strong element of Fire, burns through things. It is of the essence of Metabolism, or Digestion – Breaking things down into smaller pieces, and getting them done.

Pitta also is strongly linked with the mental attribute of Rationality – Pitta will assess something rationally, and may make a decision to adhere to the schedule even if it means leaving something aside for later. This may be something that Vata may or may not have a lot of difficulty doing, depending I believe on individual personality and work ethic.

I personally find in myself a tendency to perfectionism, and wanting to get as many things done (or started!) as possible.  This sometimes leads me to focus excessively on one thing, to the detriment of other important facets of my life (for instance, when writing a paper, I would ignore things like eating, or other human beings – and inevitably drive myself into “Vata imbalance”)….

Particularly, adhering to a fixed schedule of eating, is something that is said to be very difficult for Vata. For me personally, I find this very strongly.

It tends to just feel “wrong” to me to go and eat when (a) I am not hungry yet; or (b) I have other things that I wish to get done.

An unfortunate side effect of this is that, sometimes by the time I go and eat, my blood sugar has crashed quite low, and I end up overeating, or eating in a hurried and tense manner.

Or while my blood sugar is low, and I am rushing to prepare or obtain food, I may offend people or say or do weird things….

These are very typical elements of Vata Imbalance, and things that I still struggle with.

I am making a concerted effort over the last couple of years (off and on – (in a typically Vata fashion)),  to try to adhere more closely to at least some modicum of a meals schedule.  To at least try to eat at somewhat reasonable times of the day.

This is something that Ayurveda recommends very highly for Vata – in an effort to maintain balance. And as Vata is by far the easiest and quickest dosha to throw out of balance, Ayurveda would suggest this is quite important for Vata types.

It still poses difficulties for me. I am struck and amused by my Pitta friends, who have their meals like clockwork – 9 am, 12 pm, 6 pm – and am impressed by their regularity. Makes me think also of Kant, (the very exemplar of Pure Pitta Rationality!) by whom his neighbours could set their watches on the basis of the time he passed their cottages on his daily walks.

I am curious to hear of the experiences of others. Do you have difficulty keeping a schedule? If you are familiar with Ayurvedic doshas, do you see a connection of this with your Ayurvedic type?

Do you feel better when you do things on a consistent schedule, or when you maintain an “anything-goes” mentality?

Thanks so much for reading. Peace and Love.