Nobody likes to be constipated. The discomfort, the bloating, the pain…and yet our society has become wholly accustomed to this very real imbalance, with the laxative industry reigning in $800 million yearly, from Americans alone.
But Ayurveda, this sacred and vastly intelligent wisdom of nature, has always suggested that constipation is an entirely unnatural phenomena, and that we are meant to experience digestive ease if we live our lives in alignment with and in honour of nature.
While we recently covered the slightly taboo topic of the connection between regular coffee-consumption and constipation, in this article, we will cover this topic more broadly from the lens of Ayurveda, to offer a simple resource for all to enjoy and to initiate improvements in their own eliminatory habits.
However, if constipation feels like a life-altering issue for you, or that it stems from more complex and chronic health issues, we certainly recommend that you consult our in-house Ayurvedic Practitioner (and founder), Tiffany, or that you pursue consultations with another Ayurvedic professional.
The Roots of Constipation
Constipation is most often due to an imbalance in Vata Dosha. This implies that there is too much air and ether energy present in the system of the individual, for their particular constitutional needs (which are different for every being). Vata is related to movement, and thus governs the movement of wastes from the body, as well as other functions such as the evacuation of menstrual fluids and semen, the movement of thoughts, the pumping of the heart, and more.
As the primary qualities of Vata are light (Laghu), cold (Sita), dry (Ruksa), movement (Cala), friction (Visada), rough (Khara), and subtle (Suksma), you can imagine what can happen when these qualities permeate the colon. These characteristics render the colon and the feces cold, dry and rough, and dull the health and strength of the digestive fire (Agni), leading to a build-up of Ama and the consequential difficulty in removing that Ama.
The solution, according to Ayurveda, is to counter these qualities with those that are heavy, lubricating and warm.
So how can we do this?
Here we have compiled a list of several suggestions regarding diet, lifestyle and herbal medicine. While these suggestions can seem simple, with regular implementation, they will gradually enact Doshic balance and the removal of Ama, as well as retrain the nervous system.
However, it is important to note that this is not a quick-fix and that these suggestions will require a long-term commitment. We suggest working with an Ayurvedic practitioner for this reason. If you must work on your own however, then we suggest sticking to these practices for a minimum of 6 months to see the full benefits.
Focus your diet on foods that are heavier and denser in nature. Think about incorporating more one-pot meals of whole-grains, root vegetables, pulses and stewed vegetables with grounding spices.
Try this recipe at home!
Ground down with a daily routine, and especially with a morning routine that focuses on drawing you into the calm and peace of the present. Vata finds balance with routine and predictability. If your Vata-imbalance has been long-standing, your routine may need to be so disciplined that it might feel boring for a time, as the Vata mind loves stimulation. While those with a lot of Vata energy will feel more comfortable acting from spontaneity and inspiration, try to find ways to bring this creative energy inside the stable structure of a routine. For more information on how to start your own Dinacharya regimen, click here.
- purchase a weighted blanket
- ground your feet into the earth on a daily basis (in the warm months)
- lie in Savasana (corpse pose) for 10 min, 2-3x/day and draw your attention from all the points of contact between the body and the ground, moving from the feet to the head
- ask for and accept physical touch from those you love, in the form of long hugs and massage
- Avoid constant movement from place to place. If you have the tendency to travel to many different locations on a daily basis, do whatever you can to limit this. On weekends, try to stay home or within your neighborhood or town for a sustained period of time, but get plenty of time outdoors. Before planes, trains and automobiles, humans were forced to stay in one location or to move about slowly, by foot or horse. Allow yourself to experience the medicine of staying still for a while.
- Ensure you experience sustained and high-quality sleep. Take our Nighty Night Potion 1 hour before bed in a mug of warm vegan milk and cap off your night with meditation, gentle yoga or pranayama (yogic breathing techniques).
Incorporate more warm liquids and high-quality oils into your diet to provide lubrication and unctuousness to the lining of the digestive tract and to the stool itself, enabling more easeful movement and elimination.
- Drink 1L of warm water after rising in the morning, optionally, add a pinch of Himalayan Pink Salt (Saindhava) and a few slices of fresh ginger or drink from our Copper Cup or Copper Water Bottle, as water that has sat in a copper container for 2 or more hours will provide a gentle laxative effect.
- Drink liquids 20 min before and 1 hour after meals, to avoid diluting the digestive fire
- The best oils for Vata Dosha are sesame, ghee (clarified butter) and olive
- Add more oil than usual to all of your cooking
- Eat fruit! Add ripe bananas, peeled apples and prunes or raisins that have been soaked to your diet, but be sure to eat these alone, away from other foods.
Bring the energy of lubrication into your life both physically and energetically.
- Keep it simple. Notice how the mind unnecessarily complicates life, when it really is intended to be much more simple. Resist over-filling your time and headspace. Notice how the mind can be quite literally, constipated with thoughts. Allow yourself dedicated times at the beginning and ends of the days, like bookends, for sinking into the silence that lies behind the incessant mind-chatter.
- Use our Vata Abhyanga Oil and slather it lovingly all over your entire body
- Massage our Hair Oil into your scalp as a full treatment, at least 1x per week (more often if you can), and let it sit for 1 hour, then shampoo it out with warm water
- Swish with our Gandusha Oil, to lubricate the intestinal tract and draw out Ama
- Notice what you are doing when you feel soothed, nurtured, and metaphorically lubricated in love, and then do more of that! Some activities that may inspire this feeling? Yin or restorative yoga, listening to the sounds of nature or healing music, sitting in nature, holding hands with your partner, sipping warm tea under heavy blankets, etc.
Favour cooked food over raw food to limit the cold and roughness that uncooked foods invite.
- Cook and eat in environments that are both warm in temperature, as well as in atmosphere. Eat with those that you love and let the conversation be calm and enjoyable, or eat in silence, free of distractions.
- Drink all of your liquids hot as well!
- Drink warm prune juice before bed
- Finish your days with a hot bath with Vata-balancing essential oils (try pouring some Vata Abhyanga Oil into your tub)
- Stay warm & toasty. Do not expose yourself to cold winds, drafts or fans, especially at night. You don’t need to be so warm that you perspire, but you do need to keep warm!
- Although this recommendation requires much more commitment, for those who live in dry, cold climates, consider moving to a climate that is more humid and hot. Tropics anyone?
Start using and cooking with herbs and spices that combine all 3 of the qualities of heaviness, warmth and lubrication! Head to your local herbal dispensary and to our online apothecary and pick up herbs such as:
- RASA Ayurveda’s Vata Spice Mix (Churna)
- Adapt-to-Life Potion
Triphala: drink Triphala tea! This non-habit-forming bowel toner and peristalsis-triggering herb is a combination of three fruits which each balance one of the three Doshas, making it a tridoshic formula. Start by mixing 1/4 tsp into a cup of boiled water, let cool, then drink 30 min before bed. If no effect is noticed, increase dosage by 1/4 tsp until desired effect is achieved. Triphala can be taken long-term by many, but consult your Ayurvedic practitioner for more specific instructions.
LAST BUT NOT LEAST
One of the best ways to kickstart your transition into a Vata-balancing lifestyle, incorporating some or several of these suggestions, is with a 3, 7, 14 or 21-day Ayurvedic cleanse, to reset your digestion and to regulate and pacify the nervous system, which will certainly be tuned into overdrive if Vata has been high for a long time. Cleanses help to clear physical, emotional and energetic toxins, enkindle Agni (digestive fire), balance the Doshas, and restore the body’s systems of elimination. Afterwards, the body and mind will be cleaner and rejuvenated, making the previous suggestions much easier to implement and more effective.
We offer 3 and 7-day Kitchari Kits, which provide you with instructions and all the ingredients necessary to craft your own Ayurvedic kitchari cleanse at home. Learn more about this incredible healing cleanse here.
These are only some suggestions! But in time, you will find that many strategies for balancing Vata will become highly intuitive.
Tell us what you favourite Vata-balancing practices are!