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12 Ayurvedic Remedies for Constipation That You May Want to Know

Constipation affects all of us at one time or another.


This post will cover Ayurveda's view of constipation and its connection to vata dosha, the qualities associated with vata dosha, and Ayurvedic remedies for constipation.


12 Ayurvedic remedies for constipation





Ayurvedic remedies for constipation: a red apple on a green background

Vata Dosha


The colon is a site of vata dosha, the dosha composed of the air and ether elements.


Constipation is caused by vata dosha's qualities of hardness and dryness (Lad, 155).


Causes of constipation include (Lad, 155):

  • lack of dietary fiber

  • not consuming enough water

  • eating a lot of meat

  • not enough exercise

  • other factors


The qualities of vata dosha are:

  • dry

  • light

  • rough

  • cold

  • subtle

  • mobile

  • clear

  • and sometimes hard


Ayurveda tells us that like qualities increase like qualities, and opposite qualities decrease.


If the body has too much of the dry, light, rough, cold, subtle, mobile, clear, and hard qualities, vata dosha increases causing constipation to ensue (or other vata dosha issues may present before constipation).


To reduce vata dosha, increase foods and activities that contain the opposite qualities:

  • oily

  • heavy

  • smooth

  • warm/hot

  • gross

  • static/stable

  • cloudy/sticky

  • soft



Exploring the qualities of vata dosha to help understand the Ayurvedic remedies for constipation


Let's look at each of these qualities in depth.


Dry


Ayurvedic remedies for constipation: a dry desert

The dry quality is unique to vata dosha.


Pitta and kapha dosha are both oily.


The dry quality is present in dry foods, dry environments, dry relationships, a dry sauna, coffee, and green tea.


Examples of dry foods include rice cakes, crackers, pretzels, and anything else that creates dryness in the mouth when chewing.


Dry environments include the desert, a sauna, or anywhere the environment is devoid of moisture.


Dry relationships are missing their juiciness.


Coffee, green tea, black tea, alcohol, and marijuana are all drying for the body.


The opposite of dry is oily.


Applying oil to the body, getting good oils internally, and having juicy relationships help to reduce the dry quality.


Light


The light quality is common to both vata and pitta dosha, but kapha dosha is heavy.


Consuming an excess of light foods will increase vata dosha and may increase constipation.


Light foods include raw vegetables, leafy greens, rice cakes, and crispy snacks.


The opposite of light is heavy.


Eating foods with a little heaviness, but not too heavy to digest, will help to calm vata dosha.


Each person's digestion is different and handles different levels of heaviness.


Examples of heavy foods are on a spectrum from sweet potatoes to cheese to meat.


Rough


Rough foods and textures will increase vata dosha leading to imbalance.


Rough foods include raw vegetables, overcooked meat, and any food that feels rough when swallowing.


Wearing or sleeping on rough fabrics can also aggravate vata dosha.


The opposite of rough is smooth.


Smooth foods would include yogurt, well-cooked soups, ice cream (is smooth, but the cold quality aggravates vata dosha),


Cold


Ayurvedic remedies for constipation: a cold glacier

Cold foods will increase both vata and kapha doshas and decrease pitta dosha.


Cold foods include anything uncooked or anything consumed directly from the refrigerator.


Iced drinks also fit into this category.


Ayurveda categorizes some foods as inherently cooling and others as inherently warming.


Pomegranate, coconut, dandelion, rose, and lavender are examples of cooling foods.


The opposite of cold is warm or hot.


Warm or hot foods would include hot, cooked foods and foods that are inherently warming, such as ginger, chili, eggs, red meat, and alcohol.


Subtle


Subtle is much more difficult to explain.


The opposite of subtle is gross.


Subtle describes substances that enter the bloodstream quickly.


Alcohol, medications, and drugs are examples of substances with the subtle quality.


Substances with the gross quality include meat, cheese, and whole grains, those foods that take longer to digest.


Mobile


The mobile quality increases vata dosha and pacifies kapha dosha.


Any excess movement will increase vata dosha.


Flying in airplanes, driving in cars, hiking for long distances, and traveling all have the potential to increase vata dosha and create constipation.


The opposite of mobile is static or stable.


Taking time to be still, doing nothing, meditating, and avoiding travel all help to reduce vata dosha.



Clear


The clear quality aggravates vata dosha and pacifies kapha dosha.


Clear can also mean clearing, for example, excessive fasting would fit into this category.


If vata dosha is out of balance, eating slightly cloudy or sticky foods can help to balance the dosha.


Examples include cheese, creamy soups,


Hard


The hard quality can aggravate all three doshas in different ways.


For vata, the hardness of the stool can create constipation because too much water has been absorbed or maybe the food consumed was dry.


More liquids, soups, and stews should be consumed to reduce the hardness of the stool.


Learn more about these qualities in 20 Gunas (Qualities) of Ayurveda.


Ayurvedic remedies for constipation


Basically, anything that will reduce vata dosha will ease constipation.


For severe constipation, 3 or more days without a bowel movement, don't use an intense purgative as this can create intestinal obstruction or perforation (Lad, 157).


Dr. Vasant Lad recommends using an enema first and then working to stabilize the body (Lad, 157). To learn more about enemas, consult Dr. Lad's book, The Complete Book of Ayurvedic Home Remedies.


Here are some Ayurvedic remedies for constipation.


1. Eat warm, moist foods and avoid dry, light, rough, and cold foods


Ayurvedic remedies for constipation: stew in a blue bowl

One of the Ayurvedic remedies for constipation is to avoid eating raw salads and other dry, light, rough, and cold foods.


Raw salads increase vata dosha due to their dry, light, rough, and cold qualities.


Crackers, pretzels, chips, rice cakes, and other dry, light, and rough foods also aggravate vata dosha.


Favor warm, moist foods cooked with nourishing oils, like ghee, sesame, or coconut oil.


Soups, stews, and casseroles create lubrication during the digestive process.



2. Drink warm or room-temperature beverages and avoid cold or iced beverages


Ayurvedic remedies for constipation: ice cubes with a do  not use symbol

One of the Ayurvedic remedies for constipation is to consume warm or room-temperature water.


Cold and iced drinks aggravate vata dosha, but warm beverages help to pacify vata.


Iced drinks clog the channels of the body and slow digestion leading to increased constipation, gas, and bloating.


Stick with warm or room-temperature water to help avoid constipation.


3. Drink hot water with lemon or lime in the morning


Ayurvedic remedies for constipation: a yellow lemon

The next of the Ayurvedic home remedies for constipation is to drink hot water with lemon or lime.


Enjoy this in the morning after waking and brushing your teeth.


A friend of mine is a physician's assistant and she often uses this with patients in the hospital as a simple way to ease constipation.



4. Exercise


Ayurvedic remedies for constipation: two women walking on a path

Getting exercise daily, or mostly daily, is the fourth of the Ayurvedic home remedies for constipation.


Even 1/2 hour every day can help ease constipation (Lad, 157).


However, over-exercising may increase constipation because excess mobility increases vata dosha.


The Ayurvedic classical texts indicate that exercise should be to 1/2 of one's capacity with some sweat on the forehead, armpits, and back.


Sweating more than that can lead to constipation.



5. Hydrate



Ayurvedic remedies for constipation: a glass of water

Hydration is another of the Ayurvedic home remedies for constipation.


Be sure to drink enough liquids throughout the day, because a dry colon can lead to constipation (Lad, 157).


Someone with a vata dosha constitution or a vata dosha imbalance requires more water daily, while pitta and kapha doshas require a little less.


For vata dosha, consume at least 4 to 5 glasses of water per day in addition to any other liquids consumed.



6. Triphala



Triphala powder has become a famous Ayurvedic remedy for constipation over the past 10 years in the United States.


The word "Triphala" can be broken down into "tri" meaning three and "phala" meaning fruit.


This famous blend of three fruits is used to tone the colon and promote healthy elimination.


Amalaki, Haritaki, and Bibhitaki are the 3 fruits that are combined after being dried and powdered.


Benefits of Triphala include:

  • supports healthy digestion

  • maintains a natural rhythm of the gut

  • detoxifies metabolic toxins

  • rejuvenates the eyes

  • stimulates liver function

  • improves immunity (Athreya)


A half teaspoon of Triphala can be steeped in warm water for 5-10 minutes at night and taken 1-2 hours before bed.


If Triphala has you running to the bathroom at night to urinate, you can also take triphala steeped in a cup of water overnight at 4 or 5 am, if that works in your schedule (Lad, 155).


Athreya Herbs also offers Triphala as a tablet or cooked in ghee.







7. Eat fruit 1/2 to 1 hour before meals


Ayurvedic remedies for constipation: a banana on a blue background

Certain fruits are great Ayurvedic remedies for constipation.


Ayurveda recommends eating fruit away from other foods because the fruit digests faster than other foods and will ferment in the gut potentially creating digestive distress.


Some fruits that are especially good for constipation include (Lad, 156):

  • ripe bananas (not green bananas which are astringent and will create constipation)

  • apples

  • pineapple

  • raisins

  • prunes

  • peaches



8. Drink warm milk and ghee


Dr Vasant Lad in The Complete Book of Home Remedies recommends drinking a cup of hot milk with 1-2 teaspoons of ghee as a mild but effective Ayurvedic home remedy for constipation (Lad, 156).


It is especially effective for vata and pitta doshas, but may become too heavy for kapha dosha if used regularly.


You can use this Warm, Spiced Milk recipe and add ghee. Boiling the milk and spices will make the milk and ghee easier to digest.




Here's a recipe for Ghee, if you would like to try to make your own, but ghee is also readily available at the grocery store or online.







9. Yoga asana to prevent constipation


Practicing yoga regularly will help keep constipation at bay and is another of the Ayurvedic remedies for constipation.


Child's pose, Balasana, or any pose that compresses the abdomen will manually keep the intestines functioning.



Ayurvedic remedies for constipation: a woman in child's pose


Sun Salutation, Surya Namaskar, will help move the entire body to keep constipation at bay (Lad, 157).


Ayurvedic remedies for constipation: a woman doing sun salutation

Knees to chest pose, Apanasana, also compresses the abdomen helping peristalsis in the intestines (Lad, 157).


Seated or supine spinal twisting, Ardha or Supta Matsyendraasana, can also gently wring out the intestines encouraging peristalsis.


Ayurvedic remedies for constipation: a woman doing a twist


10. Hingvastak Powder





Hingv(w)as(sh)tak powder has become one of my favorite blends for constipation, gas, and bloating, and I especially love Athreya Herbs' blend.


Hingvastak powder offers the following benefits:

  • balances vata in the digestive system

  • maintains normal bowel movements

  • removes metabolic toxins from the gut

  • stimulates secretions for digestion

  • support absorption and assimilation of nutrients

  • promotes normal peristalsis (the wave-like movements that push the contents of the intestines forward)

  • eases abdominal fullness (Athreya)


Hingvastak is a blend of culinary herbs that are quite safe to consume.


Ayurveda recommends taking 1/4 teaspoon with warm water before meals to stimulate hunger, or 1/2 teaspoon with warm water after meals to stimulate digestion.




11. Abhaya Arishtam



Abhaya arishtam is another one of the Ayurvedic home remedies for constipation.


An arishtam is an Ayurvedic herbal wine that is used medicinally.


This Abhaya Arishtam's main ingredient is Haritaki, an herb well-known for colon health and one of the three fruits used in Triphala (mentioned above).


Benefits of Abhaya Asrishtam include:

  • regular bowel movements by promotion of peristalsis

  • balanced appetite and digestion

  • removal of ama from the intestines

  • reduced gas and bloating

  • lessened discomfort of hemorrhoids, fissures, and fistulas

  • normal urination

  • healthy skin (Kottakkal)


A dose of 15-30 ml can be taken after meals, twice a day.



12. Castor oil


Ayurvedic remedies for constipation: castor nuts for making castor oil

According to Dr. Lad, castor oil should be reserved for obstinant constipation (Lad, 156).


Two teaspoons of castor oil can be added to a cup of ginger tea made with fresh or powdered ginger at bedtime.


Be sure to use this castor oil remedy when you can stay home the next morning.


Castor oil should not be used often because, like other laxatives, habitual use can weaken the muscles of the intestines and colon reducing the strength of peristalsis and increasing the chance of constipation.


12 Ayurvedic remedies for constipation



Try these Ayurvedic remedies for constipation and let me know how they work for you.


If you would like to learn more about how to improve your digestion, you can schedule an online consultation with me.









 

Vasant, Lad. The Complete Book of Ayurvedic Home Remedies. 1st ed., Harmony Books, 1998.

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