Ayurveda – “the science or knowledge of life” – is a system of medicine from India that has been practiced for over 5000 years. The sister science to yoga, Ayurveda defines perfect health as the balance between body, mind, spirit and environment. When any one of those elements is out of balance, disease or sickness can occur. The goal of Ayurveda is to maintain the balance of all those elements. While it may not be immediately familiar, principles and ingredients of this age-old practice are often used to treat common illnesses and conditions, like constipation.
Ayurveda recognizes that we are all different and need to be treated as such; diagnosis and treatment focuses on a person’s constitution or “dosha,” the blueprint we are born with. Many things can put our doshas out of balance: stress, eating the wrong foods, unhappiness in life and relationships, negative thoughts, abuse and so on. Proper diet, body treatments, daily routines, meditation, aromatherapy and a greater overall awareness can help restore and maintain balance within our bodies. In addition to all of these measures, Ayurvedic practices can also involve the treatment of common conditions like constipation (which definitely throw our bodies off balance) with herbs and supplements.
According to Ayurveda, when a person is constipated there is too much “dryness” in the body and it needs lubrication. If you are experiencing constipation, address it immediately before it gets worse, as daily elimination is crucial to maintaining good health. If you have had chronic long term constipation which includes other symptoms such as gas, bloating or other digestive issues, consider seeing an Ayurveda practitioner, as there may be other underlying causes.
If constipation is mild, exercise and an increase in fiber intake can be helpful, in addition to drinking a cup of lukewarm water every morning upon rising. For more intense constipation a glass of warm milk with a teaspoon of ghee (which is clarified butter) before bed is very helpful.
Many times digestion is the root of the problem. The herb Triphala, made from the fruit of the Amalaki, Bibhitaki and Haritaki tropical trees is beneficial for both digestion and elimination. Available online or in most health food stores, the herb comes in tablet and powder form; however, the powder form is known to be much more effective. Mix a half teaspoon of the powder with one cup of warm water and drink it a half-hour before bedtime. Another Ayurvedic herb used to treat constipation is Senna, which can also be found at most health food stores in tea form. However, Senna is not intended for long term use as a dependency can sometimes develop. Castor oil is another effective remedy for constipation; however, you should first discuss your symptoms with an Ayurveda practitioner before using it.