Today's topic is something many people experience but few speak about-irritable bowel syndrome. IBS affects between 25 and 45 million people in the United States. About 2 in 3 IBS sufferers are female and about 1 in 3 IBS sufferers are male. IBS affects
people of all ages, even children-particularly the past two years with the pandemic, more children are experiencing IBS due to stress.
What is irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
Modern medicine describes Irritable bowel syndrome as a group of symptoms that affect the digestive system. People with this disorder may experience gas, bloating, cramping and boats of both constipation and diarrhea, and even heart burn and acid reflux. The causes of IBS are usually explained to be a result of food sensitivities, medications, or stress.
If you've ever been given a diagnosis of IBS you probably tried food elimination which might have helped temporarily, only to return again. You might have even gone through uncomfortable physical testing only to find out you're "fine"- except you don't feel fine. What is a person to do? This condition can keep you from enjoying your life and that is simply not ok.
Let's take a quick look at Ayurveda's perspective on IBS.
Irritable bowel is something people have experienced for thousands of years. In the classical Ayurvedic texts, IBS symptoms are called grahani which is a pathological condition of the integrity of the GI tract - especially the small intestine which is where absorption of the nutrition we get from the food we eat happens and then undigested food moves into the large intestine. IBS happens when the movement in this area is too fast or too slow. The muscles of this area are very susceptible to disruption. Ayurveda looks for the root cause of this "movement change".
Basic causes could be:
1. Toxins accumulating in the tissue blocking circulation.
2. Poor nutrition, like eating heavy food, overeating, improper food combining or food and drink that are too cold.
3. Poor digestion as a result of eating poor food at the wrong times, or skipping meals
4. Imbalance of the nervous system
5. Accumulation of physical and mental stress
6. Low vitality (ojas)
7. Disruption of the natural biological rhythm
I've highlighted the root causes I find to be the most common in my clients.
Those people with high Vata in their constitution are extremely vulnerable to IBS. Vata dosha, as you might recall, is the combination of the air and space elements and it governs every movement in the body. If you are governed by this dosha you are more disrupted and pushed out of balance when qualities of Vata are present (anything mobile, light, dry and cold). lf you are a Vata and have IBS you may notice that this condition "flares" when you are traveling (movement) or stressed (excess movement in the mind) or, when you're busy or rushed and it probably happens more in the fall/early winter.
REMEMBER, we all are made up of the 3 doshas (Vata/Pitta/Kapha) but in different proportions, so if you are governed more by Pitta or Kapha dosha and have IBS, Vata is probably pushing you around because it's in excess. Look at how much movement is happening in your head and in your body when it happens). There is usually a HUGE correlation here. It might not seem obvious at first, but sometimes the lifestyle imbalance has been going on for so long it might not seem obvious to you right away. Ask yourself how you feel mentally. Take some serious time to access how much time you're living in "fight or flight" mode (aka nervous system overload), consider how hard you might be working out (remember exercise can also stress the body), and then compare these things to the amount of time you feel joy, happiness and true ease.
A huge caveat to all this is that we are living in a highly VATA oriented world where everything is moving so fast and there is so much fear that keeps our primal instincts on alert. But this may also be EXACTLY why your poor digestive system is out of synch.
Sometimes you may be convinced that it's a certain food that triggers your IBS and that can absolutely be the case, but ask yourself if sometimes eating that food is not a problem for you? In those times when it's not an issue, is it a different season? Are you happy and relaxed and sitting down when consuming it? Hummmm....if so, that means the food is not likely to be the root cause of the IBS- but rather that particular food takes more digestive regulation and strength to process and the digestion is weak. This is where I come in, to help figure out WHY the digestion is weak. :)
IBS in not a life threatening illness, but it is certainly not a pleasant way to live. Rest assured, you DO have the ability to bring yourself back to living a very comfortable life. It might take a deep dive into learning to manage your thoughts and emotions, or it might be as easy as working more R&R into your routine and allowing yourself to deeply rest. Put your legs up, turn on some chill music and give yourself a true break. You will be surprised how fast a little rest can turn things around. Plus, every part of you will thrive in this state. You'll be doing your entire system a favor!
There is so much more to share on this topic, but for now, think all this over, experiment with rest (don't forget this also means resting your ears, and eyes) and let me know how you're doing. I've seen beautiful recoveries by those who decided to put the breaks on the intensity of their day-to-day to get well. The body falls quickly into alignment given the right conditions.
Have a wonderful week, friends! Please reply it you found this note interesting or helpful, or if you'd like to make an appointment with me.
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