Constipation is considered to be the root cause of all the disorders in Ayurveda. Ayurveda has a system of 3 doshas – vata, pitta, and kapha. These are metabolic systems that run the body, just like there the way finance, marketing, and HR system together run an organization. They have to collaborate and balance each other. But imagine if one system encroaches on the territory of the other, the organization is going to face the problem. All people who have worked in any organization will be able to relate to this.
Now vata is the primary dosha responsible for constipation. It is considered to be the most important of all dosha. Let’s suppose it the profit center of an organization. If the profit center is affected, the results will trickle down to each person in the organization. Similarly, when vata is vitiated in the body, each cell of the body gets affected. Vata can vitiate all other doshas. It is said that vata sweeps away other doshas from their balanced state as the way wind sweeps away clouds from their stationary position.
Ayurvedic Mechanism of Constipation
Dryness or rukshta is the defining feature of vata, just like high temperature is the defining feature of fire. So when vata is imbalanced, the first symptom that it causes is dryness in the body. Qualities of dosha. Dryness (dehydration) is the underlying factor that triggers constipation in the body.
It is interesting to note that each dosha has a head office inside the body, the physical department. These are called the abode of the dosha in traditional Sanskrit. Large intestines are the head office for vata. So if vata is vitiated, large intestines are the first ones to get affected. And the effect caused is excessive dryness. Now the primary function of large Intestines is to extract extra water from the digested matter and form fecal material. And a vitiated vata will cause the large intestine to work abnormally. The large intestine will absorb a lot of water from the digested matter and create constipation. Constipation in turns creates bloating, indigestion and a hoard of other problems in the long run. So it is an effect similar to the husband bullying the wife, wife bullying the elder child and elder child bullying the younger sibling.
The Mind is the Key
Now, there is a hidden health secret in this entire sequence of occurrences. This sequence indicates that constipation is not caused directly by less consumption of water, because ideally, less intake of water should first cause thirst. According to Ayurveda, forceful control or ignorance of natural urges leads to various disorders. Constipation is the second stage. The first stage is the thirst. When thirst is ignored, the incidental result is constipation.
Since most of the people are addicted to their work, enjoyment or electronic gadgets that they have become habitually oblivious to their natural thirst. Worse is that they forget to drink water sometimes. After that, they keep drinking water when it is not required, just like the way they keep eating when not hungry. Absence of mindful living is the first step towards all diseases. Thus I discovered that the real precursor of both constipation and thirst is mindless living…absent consciousness.
The primary factor being the mind, secondary factors are diet and lifestyle. Because of lack of awareness or conscious living, people tend to follow the wrong food and lifestyle. Ayurveda says that the body knows what’s best for it. And it conveys it to the mind, but as grown-ups, we get inattentive to these signals. Let’s look at small children, they eat only when hungry unless we pop a chocolate or potato chip in their mouth. They are naturally aware of their physical requirements. I don’t know about the gates of heaven, but if we are the children gates of health will definitely be open for us.
Hail Ayurveda, which says that each and every disorder has it’s rooted somewhere in the mind because the mind is the main computer that runs an entire factory of the body. One virus in the central processor can lead to incredible damage to the whole system. Therefore, if you are facing mild constipation, you should start meditating!!! And become more aware of your body, and it’s natural urges. This is a long term and permanent solution for not only constipation but also for all other disorders.
Mindfulness is a practice that can help you become more conscious of your body and its needs. Please find my personal experience with mindfulness in the book Instant Mindfulness. This book can help you practice mindful meditation even when you don’t have even one spare minute in your day!
Constipation is Good
Many vaidyas believe that constipation is the root-cause of all diseases. However, all types of constipation are not harmful. Sometimes, people get constipation due to freezing weather. Stored fecal matter is a source of heat and thus a source of life according to Ayurveda. If the body is not producing enough heat through metabolism, there will be constipation to preserve body heat. Constipation sometimes can be life-saving in cases where the digestive system of a patient becomes very weak, and there is no strength in the body, for example in the case of malnutrition, starvation, etc.
In such a case, the patient should focus on consuming hot and heat producing food (ginger, garlic, etc.) instead of trying to treat constipation. Besides, in such cases, constipation is preserved intentionally. Attempts are made to recover the natural heat producing system in the body, before trying to relieve constipation.
Unfortunately, most of the people try artificial methods to relieve constipation are heavy duty chemical-based laxatives. They produce results by extracting water from the intestinal lining and softening the stool. However, they can create an imbalance in the electrolyte balance in the body fluids because of the forceful extraction of water from the intestines. Besides, they are not safe for anyone suffering from any heart or kidney condition.
There is another class of constipation relieving medicines that stimulates strong peristaltic movement in the intestines and cause them to throw out the hard stool. They can be used in combination with stool softening drugs. However, they can make intestines tired and more prone to constipation.
Glycerine suppositories or enemas are also some other options. However, if the real problem causing the constipation is not corrected. All these relief methods can be habit-forming and in the long run, severely aggravate the disease.
In short, we must remember that what is not natural is not safe. In the next blog, see you with best food and lifestyle choices to prevent constipation.