Irritable Bowel Syndrome: A Closer Look with Ayurveda

Irritable Bowel Syndrome: A Closer Look with Ayurveda

For Practitioners and Doctors Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Kottakkal USA

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a functional gastrointestinal disorder. Symptoms stem from a dysfunctional gut, characterized by chronic abdominal pain and constipation, diarrhea or alternating of both. 

In Ayurveda, a similar condition is described at length: grahani or sangrahani. Grahana, a Sanskrit word, means “retaining ability.”

The grahani organ is the small intestine, specifically the duodenum. When the body loses its ability to retain the partially digested food absorb nutrients, overtime the person becomes depleted. This condition is called grahani.

Caraka (one of the founding fathers of Ayurveda) mentions the importance of dehagni, the thirteen bodily agni responsible for digestion and metabolism. If the dehagni function normally, the individual will have a healthy long life.

Similarly, if the agni becomes abnormal, the person will suffer from various disorders which effect vital energy, complexion, strength, motivation, growth, luster, temperature, ojas, longevity and even life itself. The food that a person consumes nourishes all saptadhatu, to produce ojas, but only when dehagni are functioning normally (Ca. Ci. 15/3-5). 

Causes for Poor Functioning Dehagni and Grahani

  • Abhojana - excessive fasting
  • Ajeerna bhojana - eating before the previous food is digested
  • Ati bhojana - overeating
  • Vishama bhojana - eating improper foods
  • Asatmya bhojana - eating unwholesome foods
  • Guru bhojana - eating foods that are too heavy
  • Sheeta bhojana - eating foods that are too cold
  • Rooksha ahara - eating foods that are too dry and processed
  • Dushta bhojana - eating foods that are too old
  • Vegadharana - suppression of natural urges
  • Vireka vibhrama - improper virechana (purgation)
  • Sneha vibhrama - improper oleation therapy
  • Swapna viparyaya - improper sleep, awake at night and asleep during day
  • Shoka - grief
  • Krodha - anger
  • Bhaya - fear
  • Vyadhi karshana - suffering due to chronic illness, leading to lowered digestion strength
  • Deasha vaishamya - moving or traveling
  • Kala Vaishamya - seasonal changes

Pathology of Grahani

  • Grahani or IBS is triggered by stomach infections, eating unhealthy food and/or chronic stress.
  • Due to one of the causative factors, samana vata is affected and hinders the strength of digestion and absorption in the small intestine.
  • The small intestine fails to perform its normal function of anna grahana (receiving food from the stomach.)
  • Pachana (digestion) and vivechana (separation of nutritive food and waste product) is munchana (food product is pushed to the large intestine). Thus, grahani develops.

Prodromal symptoms of IBS

  • Praseka - nausea, excessive salivation
  • Aruchi - tastelessness, anorexia
  • Annasya chirat paka - delayed digestion
  • Vidaha - burning sensation
  • Chardi - vomiting
  • Adhmana - bloating, distention of abdomen
  • Asya Vairasya - altered taste in tongue
  • Trisha - excessive thirst
  • Klama - fatigue
  • Bhrama - giddiness
  • Antra koojana - gurgling sound in the stomach

Signs and Symptoms of Grahani by Dosa

Vataja Grahani - abdominal pain, increased frequency of stool, altered bowel movement, distention of the abdomen, flatus, head ache, debility, chest pain.

Pittaja Grahani - burning of the chest, belching, head ache.

Kaphaja Grahani - mucousystool, sensation of incomplete evacuation of the bowel, nausea, vomiting, flatus, heaviness of abdomen.

Sannipataja Grahani - all three dosas are involved presenting with mixed features of all the dosas, including lack of concentration and severe debility. This stage is also called sangrahani.

With sangrahani, gurgling in the abdomen, fatigue, bowel with flatus or mucus, constant urge to pass stools, intermittent episodes and increased frequency of bowel movements in the daytime are common.

Complications of Grahani and Sangrahani

  • Jwara (fever)
  • Aruchi (anorexia)
  • Atisara (diarrhea)
  • Kasa (cough)
  • Avipakva (indigestion)
  • Kushtha (skin disorders)
  • Pandu (anemia)
  • Gulma (gaseous tumor)
  • Shoola (abdominal pain)
  • Shwayathu (oedema)
  • Arsha (hemorrhoids)
  • Bhrama (vertigo)
  • Parikartika (fissure in anus)
  • Bhagandara (fistula in ano)

Wholesome Foods and Habits for Grahani

  • Regular intake of takra
  • Chewing cumin seeds
  • Pomegranate fresh juice
  • Warm water
  • Light easy-to-digest foods
  • Moderate exercise
  • Proper sleep
  • Fiber rich food may relieve symptoms

Unwholesome Foods and Habits

  • Dadhi (curd or yogurt)
  • Madya (alcohol)
  • Shukta (acidic beverages)
  • Jagarana (awake at night)
  • Vegadharana (suppressing natural urges)
  • Aniyata asana (improper posture)
  • Upavasa (fasting for long periods)
  • Soda, processed food, restaurant food
  • Foods causing gas and bloating (potato, eggplant, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower)

Herbal Protocol

  • Dipana - carminative
  • Pachana - digestive
  • Sangrahi - intestinal restorative and increased absorption
  • Laghu - lightness

Useful Single Herbs for Grahani or Sangrahani

  • Dadimadi - Pomegranate
  • Kutaja - Holarrhena antidysenterica
  • Musta - Cyperus rotundus
  • Dhataki - Woodfordia fruticosa
  • Patha - Cissampelos pareira
  • Lodhra - Symplocos racemosa
  • Pushkaramoola - Inula racemosa
  • Chavya - Piper chaba
  • Daruharidra - Berberis aristata
  • Shalmali - Shalmalia malabarica
  • Lajjalu - Mimosa pudica

Kottakkal Products for Grahani or Sangrahani

Musta Arishtam: diarrhea and indigestion.

Kutaja Arishtam: diarrhea and IBS.

Pippalya Asavamanemia, piles, digestive and liver disorders andsprue; aids in weight gain.

Jiraka Arishtam: diarrhea and indigestion.

Vilwadi Gulika: diarrhea, indigestion, vomiting, fever and dyspepsia; increases appetite.

Vilwadi Leham: gastro-intestinal and acid peptic disorders, strengthens digestion, and improves the absorption of nutrients. Balances all three dosas, especially pitta.

Ashta Churnam: indigestion, weak appetite, bloating, IBS; balances vata and kapha.

Dadimashtaka Churnam: IBS, malabsorption, dysentery, indigestion, diarrhea; balances vata and kapha.

Mental Support for Grahani

Many people with IBS also have anxiety and/or depression. In such cases, along with efforts to restore digestive health, it is helpful to undergo relaxing and restorative therapies.

  • Shirodhara: herbal liquid poured over the forehead in a stream
  • Pranayama: yogic breathing exercises are very useful
  • Restore sleepcycle: wake with the sun and be asleep by 10pm
  • Moderate exercise: walking or yoga

For more information about AYURVEDA AND IBS, purchase this book by Ayurvedic experts from Kottakkal Arya Vaidya Sala, available on our online store.

Kottakkal USA Book - IBS

For more information about AGNI: THE AYURVEDIC CONCEPT, purchase this book by Ayurvedic experts from Kottakkal Arya Vaidya Sala, available on our online store.

Kottakkal USA Book - Agni

Original source: Dr JV Hebbar,                                   

Disclaimer: These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Kottakkal Ayurveda products and this information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure, or prevention of any disease. If you have serious, acute, or chronic health problems, please consult a trained health professional. If you are seeking the medical advice of a trained Ayurvedic practitioner or doctor, call (800) 215-9934 or email us at and we will connect you with one of our affiliated Ayurvedic professionals. Check with your doctor before taking herbs when pregnant or nursing.
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