Yoga for irritable bowel syndrome


What is irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)?

IBS is also known as functional bowel disorder characterized by disturbed motility of the large intestine leading to error of propulsion of its contents. It is not a killer disease but it could be great nuisance to life. In IBS there is increased sensitivity of the intestinal tract, movements that alternate from very loose (diarrhoea) to very hard (constipation) and may be associated with pain or discomfort in the abdomen that’s made better when people actually have a bowel movement. The problem normally lasts three months or longer to be considered as IBS.

How common is IBS?

Up to 1 in 5 people in the UK develops IBS at some stage in their life. IBS can affect anyone at any age, but it commonly first develops in young adults and is twice as common in women as in men.


What is bowel motility and how is it controlled?

The mass movement which squeezes the faeces onwards into the rectum called peristaltic contractions. This is activated early in the morning when you wake up or after breakfast. All this activity is controlled by nerves from higher brain. The parasympathetic nerves stimulate the peristalsis and hence ensures emptying of the bowel whereas the sympathetic encourages the holding in of the contents. Further, near the terminal part of the rectum, the anus, there are sphincter muscles which are also supplied by nerves from the higher brain i.e., the voluntary nervous system. In simpler term diarrhoea is over working of parasympathetic system and constipation is  over working of sympathetic system.

What are the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome?

IBS symptoms can include abdominal discomfort from diarrhoea, constipation and bloating or gas, feeling of nausea, stomach cramps and diarrhoea.  .

People with IBS fall into one of three categories:

  1. Those with abdominal pain or discomfort, and the other symptoms are mainly bloating and constipation.
  2. Those with abdominal pain or discomfort, and the other symptoms are mainly urgency to get to the toilet, and diarrhoea.
  3. Those who alternate between constipation and diarrhoea.


Does medicine help IBS?

Without any known organic cause or cure for IBS, treatment primarily focuses on symptom with medications like anti diarrheal, antispasmodics, or tricyclic antidepressants can be helpful when symptoms are overwhelming.


How Can Yoga Therapy Help IBS?

The role of psyche is very important even in the normal daily emptying of the bowel.  When the mind is disturbed, it leads to erratic functioning of the nervous system which brings imbalance in sympathetic and parasympathetic systems. This imbalance manifests as irritability of the bowel. Helping a balance between both the nervous systems is the major role yoga plays and hence regularizing bowel movement. Yoga therapy also helps person to decrease his over responsive nature to a stressful demanding situation and hence help to tackles stress. It may also help to reduce food sensitivity.

A regular practice of yoga has helped a large number of people to help themselves and be free from their Irritable bowel syndrome.


Do we require any other thing along with yoga therapy?

IBS responds best to yoga therapy and a diet that eliminates aggravating foods along with diet plan to enhance digestion along with and herbal supplements as provided in Ayurveda.

What diet to follow for IBS-

1. Avoid foods you are allergic to.

2. Avoid stimulating food like tea and caffeine as they tend overly stimulate the adrenals,  the autonomic nervous system and brain and can also cause an over stimulation of the bowels

3.  Avoid alcohol, chocolates, fatty and fried foods.

4. Eat light meals

5.  Eat Sattvic food– means freshly prepared (Vegetarian food), non frozen, not very hot nor very cold food.

6. Avoid overly spiced food.

7. Avoid artificial sweeteners like sorbitol and preservatives.

8. Reduce use of wheat, rye, barley and milk products.

9. Increase fruit and vegetable intake (take only properly cooked vegetables)

10. Indian butter milk or clarified ghee is considered nectar for the abdominals. If you don’t have access to clarified butter, you can add probiotics instead.

11. Also drinks lots of purified water.



What practices should be done in Yoga Therapy?

1. The asanas which involve compress or twisting the abdominal area, will help bring  awareness to the these parts.

2. Poses like vipritkarni with wall support (legs raised against wall),

3. knee to chest pose, shoulder stand prove to be helpful and simple abdominal twists like Jathara Parivrtti (a revolved twist) and Apanasana (a knee-to-chest pose), which may help soothe a hyperactive bowel or stimulate a sluggish one.

4. For constipation, you can stimulate digestion by working the abdomen more strongly in Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend) or Parivrtta Trikonasana (Revolved Triangle Pose

5. Abdominal breathing gives deep rest to abdominal organs and hence promotes healing process.

6. Nadi shudi

7. Persons with IBS and ulcerative colitis should avoid many of the brisk loosening practices in standing position.

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