Fix Your Bowel Glitch

Bowel

Words: Dr Ambika P NAYAK

The gut is the seat of one’s health and wellness. Emptying the bowels is functionally, or physiologically, important, every day, after getting up in the morning.

The practice is one of the prime indicators of one’s health quotient, because the nature of stools, like frequency, colour, and consistency, unravels a tale about your alimentary system. Hence, the common question — “How is your bowel movement?” — especially from an Ayurveda physician.

We have all watched this elderly gentleman, Bhaskor Banerjee, try implacably to have ‘the best motion.’ Yes, we’re referring to the riveting Bollywood movie, Piku, starring Amitabh Bachchan, as Banerjee, and Deepika Padukone, as Piku.

This, unfortunately, is the story of several elderly folks. Well, the fact also is the young and the middle-aged too have such issues — clearing their bowels. There are reasons galore for the distressing annoyance, viz., that hackneyed constipated face.

First things, first —  let us understand how stools [faeces] is formed. The ingested food is acted upon by the digestive enzymes [jaṭharāgni], starting from the mouth till the stomach.

It is subsequently divided into the nutrient part, called sāra, which is absorbed in the intestines. The residual aspect, called kiṭṭa, which normally moves down the rectum and forms faeces, or stools, after most of the water portion is absorbed, is eliminated from the body by the peristaltic action of the bowels, or intestines.

The longer they stay within, the more toxic they are to the body and mind. This is why regular elimination is important to keeping the body from absorbing such toxins.

Habits Matter

Our body follows a natural rhythm of events and when one cultivates the habit of morning defaecation, the body follows the same process every day. Once the regular rhythm, or habit, is set in motion, everything is hunky-dory. Early morning elimination cleanses the bowels, improves digestion and absorption, promotes health and keeps gut-related diseases at bay.

Irregular eating and bowel habits, in the long run, on the other hand, lead to hampered digestion, mal-absorption and related disorders, viz., flatulence [gas], heaviness and discomfort in the abdomen, constipation, diarrhoea, irritable bowel syndrome [IBS], haemorrhoids [piles] etc. Colonic cancer is also linked to irregular bowel habits and improper eating habits.

The causes of bowel irregularities and their resolution are often identified by the self — inadequate food and fibre intake, insufficient intake of fluids and water, lack of physical activity, or exercise, addiction [excess tea, coffee, smoking], distractions [mobile phone; newspapers], voluntary withholding, psychological stress, and sluggish intestinal movements.

Other causes that can be revoked with a little effort and, of course, proper treatment are indigestion, gastritis, piles, fissures, thyroid dysfunction, nervous and muscular disorders, long-term [over]use of laxatives [conventional/herbal/non-herbal], side-effects of medications, tumour, trauma, viz., sphincter damage, stricture, post-surgical and genetic, or structural, abnormalities.

Ayurveda Perspective

Ayurveda explains that any suppression of the natural urge for defaecation, or untimely forced initiation of the urge, as one of the important causes in bowel dysfunction.

Holding back leads to discomfort, or pain, in the abdomen, headache, bloating, flatulence, or burping, and aching in the calves. The effects can be immediate, or remote. Irregular bowel emptying not only affects the body, but also the mind.

Things To Do

A few simple tips to aid morning evacuation of bowels would be handy — drinking warm water after rising, along with a pinch of salt in water, or lemon juice. Brisk walking in the morning, or taking a few steps after drinking warm water, or light abdominal exercises to initiate muscular movement, massaging the tummy with palms [after warming the palms by rubbing against each other], practicing calm and sitting in kukkuṭāsana, or squat position, for a while, are useful.

Drinking adequate quantities of water and adding ample amounts of roughage, or fibre, in the diet every day, eating healthy, sufficient quantities, and on time, taking into account one’s digestive capacity, and regular physical activity, also help in better bowel movement.

A Case In Point

Constipation affects people of all ages. More so, children and the elderly — above 65 years of age. The uneasy disorder is suggested to be more widespread among women than men; the ratio being 3:1.

Common triggers include inadequate intake of fluids, disregarding, or deferring, the impulse for stools when it comes, the ‘purgative’ habit, thyroid disorders and certain conventional [allopathic] drugs.

When constipation is not suitably treated, it can lead to piles, or fissures, due to constant straining, faecal impaction and faecal incontinence — a psychosocial ‘bug,’ especially in children.

This is one reason why we are witness to seeing a legion going ‘shopping’ for laxatives, or every household has something such, or the other, on their shelves.

There are several bowel-aid preparations, or products, available at the nearest chemist. It is not advisable to ‘trial and error’ with them randomly. They are habit-forming; they often lead to a state that may be worse than the constipation anomaly per se.

Here’s a quick guide to choose your ‘safe’ remedy —

  • Small amounts of good fats, viz., ghee, or simple cooking oils, in a meal, or warm water helps individuals who have a ‘dry’ body, or habituated to eating ‘dry’ food — the trigger for their sluggish intestinal movements, or difficult, hard stools owing to lack of lubrication
  • Individuals with ‘small’ appetite end up eating small meals — this again reduces the bulk in stools. In such cases, taking psyllium husk, or isabgol, is often helpful
  • When the stimulation for the defaecation reflex is the issue, natural laxatives like triphala, nityam, may be used with good effect.

Yet, the caveat is simple. It is imperative that one speaks to, or consults, their Ayurveda physician, or healthcare provider, for safe, optimal, long-term results — to surmounting their bowel ‘distress.’

Dr AMBIKA P NAYAK, MD [Ayurveda], is Founder & Managing Director of Ayurvedeeyam, a speciality Ayurveda Clinic in Bengaluru. Her passion for the ancient, yet ‘completest’ natural medical system, and professional clinical skills are keyed to raising awareness for Ayurveda as a first choice of treatment for illness and healthy living, just as much as her axiom, Svasthasya svāsthya rakṣaṇaṃ — the age-old, fundamental principle of Ayurveda. Dr Nayak, who has presented papers and participated in national and international symposia, is also a strong advocate of panchakarma, thanks to its fully holistic and proven therapeutic efficacy in the treatment and prevention of illness, or disease.

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