Yoga for Irritable Bowel Syndrome

According to The National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NDDIC) IBS or Irritable Bowel Syndrome is not uncommon. It affects nearly twenty percent of the population. This disorder results from problems with the structure of the intestines, such that they are often overtly sensitive to the stretching and movement required to eliminate waste effectively. It is a different disorder than inflammatory bowel disease.

There is no known singular cause for IBS, but it seems to come on usually after some sort of intestinal infection such as from traveling sickness or parasitic troubles, however, there are other triggers, which cause IBS symptoms. People with IBS are usually referred to a gastroenterologist, but it is known that stress is one of the largest causes of the disorder. Instead of visiting a doctor, yoga can do quite a bit to alleviate stress. Additionally, there are several other yogic tools which can help to alleviate the symptoms of IBS before they ever arise.

Many people do not realize that the body reacts to stress in a number of purely physical ways. Stress is a form of energy, after all, and it must be processed by the body somehow. The autonomic nervous system and brain work in tandem with the colon to release waste products form the body. It is thought that nearly two thirds of all diseases are caused from improper digestion. When the body is over-stressed, the nerves may become over-sensitive to messages from the brain coming from the nerves in the colon. This can cause gas, a feeling of uncomfortable fullness, and bloating, sometimes even acute pain. These symptoms usually lessen after a bowel movement, and often come and go without logical sense. Most people with IBS will go back and forth from constipation to diarrhea, and almost all patients have infrequent bowel movements. Although you should consult with your doctor, and perhaps even have a colonoscopy to make sure there are not more serious issues, such as colon cancer, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colon, or some other obstruction to the bowels, yoga can help significantly.

Let us begin with why IBS happens from a yogic point of view, instead of an allopathic one. In people with IBS some psychological disturbance is usually there, which may exist in the form of suppressed anger, anxiety, depression, fear, sorrow or an urge for sex. These emotional ups and downs disturb these complex networks of the body in the same way as they affect the brain. Because of these disturbances, the lining of the large intestine becomes more sensitive and it starts behaving in such a way as to perceive the regular contents of its lumen as abnormal. Ayurvedic doctors have called this ailment Atissar, and it arises from grief, fear and sorrow. It is as if the tears created by ruminating over one’s sorrows or grief become too much for the body to handle, and the ‘heat’ of lacrimation causes excess activity in the bowels. The ancient seers seemed to clue in on the hypersensitivity of a special cell in the blood called IgC and CD4+. These are said to be the prime cause of IBS. There are numerous ways to help this, though.

To begin, yoga suggests a clean and healthy diet. Sometimes just changing dietary habits will make a world of difference from IBS sufferers. Stimulants such as caffeine and tea are suggested to be Pita-enhancing foods according to Ayurvedic and yogic science and should not be consumed by people with digestive ailments. They tend overly stimulate the adrenals and the autonomic nervous system and brain and can also cause an over stimulation of the bowels.

Yogis usually eat light meals. They do not like to become too Sattvic – meaning they don’t want to be weighed down. They realize that too much food consumption can slow the metabolism, slow the digestive process and make one’s mind sluggish and tired. This can be exaggerated in IBS patients. Instead of taking heavy meals 2-3 times, take in less food more frequently. Also avoid overly spicey foods or artificial sweetners like sorbitol and preservatives. Although not always suggested in a yogic diet, you may want to try abstaining from wheat rye, barley and milk products as well as alcohol, and increase vegetables and fruits which have lots of Prana and life-giving qualities as well as fiber to keep the pipes below the belt running smoothly. Indian butter milk, or clarified ghee is considered nectar for the abdominals. This is different than most other dairy products as the enzymes are harder to break down, so if you don’t have access to clarified butter, you can add probiotics instead. Also drinks lots of purified water for the same reason.

There are also natural herbs used by Ayurvedic doctors for centuries that can help with IBS. Some helpful herbs for IBS are Mulethi (Glycyrrhiza glabra), Shankhapushpi (Convolvulus pleuricaulis), Gudushi (Tinospora cordifolia) and Brahmi (Centella asiatica).

The next thing to add to your daily practice is pranayama and meditation. Youa re trying to calm not only the overly-sensitive lining of the large intestine, but also the hyper-busy mind. Do not practice breath of fire or other heat building pranayama, but slow, deep breaths such as Alterante Nostril Breathing (Nadi Sodhana) or the Victorious breath (Ujjayi) will increase the vital capacity of the lungs, calms the mind, oxygenate every single cell in the body and purify the blood. These pranayama practices will massage abdominal viscera and ease IBS symptoms.

By adding meditation to pranayama practice you can start to de-stress the mind. The Hearthmath Institute, and Harvard Medical School have over 20 years of research on the positive affects of meditation on the body, for almost any and all disease. By quieting the mind you can release deeply-held patterns of guilt, fear, sadness, or anger which you may not eve understand the original causes for. There are literally thousands of meditation techniques, but just starting on listening to the sound of the breath in a seat position such as Padmasana or Sukkhasana just five to ten minutes a day will drastically reduce symptoms.

Finally, you can practice many seated and forward folding asana to help massage the internal digestive organs, help to support the liver, pancreas and kidneys, and help to alleviate cramping and gas. Seated Forward Fold (Pashimottanasana) and Standing Forward Fold (Uttansana) are great places to start in an asana practice to help alleviate IBS discomfort. Be sure to always follow with a corresponding, yet gentle backbend such as Bridge Pose (Setu Bhandasana) or Camel Pose (Ustrasana) to bring the body back to balance and keep the spine healthy while you are trying to correct IBS.

Irritable bowel syndrome. NIH Publication No. 07-693. September 2007.

About The Author:
Christina Sarich runs

Bloating and abdominal distention are distressing symptoms of IBS. Gas, the cause of bloating and distention, comes from fermentation of food by bacteria present in the intestines.

So scientists have taken a closer look at gas forming bacteria in the gut. It seems that for some unclear reason, these gas-forming bacteria which normally are only in the colon manage to migrate up into the small intestine as well.

Overgrowth of inappropriately placed bacteria in the small intestine leads to the ability of some bacteria to cross the mucosal lining of the of gut wall. From there, the bacteria can activate the immune system and its immune cells as mentioned in the article.

If you suffer from IBS, consider getting a breath test. You drink some sweet syrup and then your breath is monitored for gaseous products of fermentation over the next couple of hours. A positive results means there is “small intestinal bacterial overgrowth.”

It’s now realized that most patients with IBS, long thought to have mental and emotional problems, actually have a change in their intestinal bacteria. The right antibiotics have been shown to cure some cases and the majority of people who try them for IBS get relief. If you are resistant to the idea of medication, probiotics and pre-biotics (what you feed your gut bacteria) can make a big difference. I’ve seen the latter work in patients – and I’ve experienced it myself!

Thanks for this very useful article. I think I do have this problem. I have occasional periods of bloating and this occurs when I am stressed or eat things faster. I also have extra fat around my belly, which I couldn’t get rid of despite regular exercises. This might have sth to do with my bloating.

I made significant changes in my diet such as cutting read meat and junk food and ready meals, and no my diet includes stuff like grapefruit, broccoli, carrot, apple, steamed rice and yogurt. I try to counter the bloating by eating foods with loads of fibre. However they didnt seem to big much changes so far.

Know a particular food that could ease bloating?

Aloe Vera juice or supplements might help you. Aloe has anti-inflammatory properties as well as an abundance of enzymes which can aid digestion.

Hope it helps!

as cocoandrico Said “[B]Aloe Vera juice or supplements might help you. Aloe has anti-inflammatory properties as well as an abundance of enzymes which can aid digestion[/B].”

Yoga is considered a form of moving meditation. It has been proven to provide a wide variety of significant health benefits, both physical and mental, including the alleviation and even prevention of digestive distress. In particular, yoga is an excellent way to manage Irritable Bowel Syndrome and inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis, and relieve symptoms such as diarrhea, constipation, abdominal pain, bloating, and nausea. Yoga has been shown to increase the efficiency of the heart and slow the respiratory rate, lower blood pressure, and contribute to the reversal of heart disease. As stress management technique yoga is superb; it promotes relaxation, reduces anxiety, and improves sleep patterns. Yoga also helps stabilize digestion, and offer outstanding relief from IBS symptoms such as constipation, diarrhea, bloating, gas, and pain. Yoga is also tremendously beneficial for preventing or minimizing menstrual cramps, which often exacerbate Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

Kriya Yog- Five Cycles of Anulom Vilom Pranayaam then Five Omkar Chanting AAAAAAAAAUUUUUUMMMMM, more emphasis on A ( AKAR ) then again repeat the cycle i.e. anulom vilom and Omkat chanting, when you chant A, keep your attention on Naval region, for U attention on Heart Region and while chanting M( Mkar) attention between eyebrows ( Bhru madhy ). This process will control and relax Sympathetic and Parasympathetic nerves system and AAAAA will relav intestinal region. Sorry, I am not a Doctor but it helps in IBS that I have seen.

This is very useful information.

Just a couple more points for yogis:

  1. Certain yoga practices that address chakras below Anahat, may initially induce IBS until one settles down

  2. Senior practitioners can also use bowel softners like metamusil to make it even better

  3. Drinking water (upto 6 to 8 glasses a day) helps too.

  4. IBS strain can be reduced if just before the evacuation one practices apana and udana vayu mudras for releasing gasses and facilitating evacuation.

Thanx Suhasji

Agnisara, Agnisara, Agnisara!!!

Also, look for what might be causing IBS. Often it is an allergy to a particular food you are eating. Lactose is often the culprit. We are not meant to drink cows milk.

:We are not Cows :smiley:

Hello, I suffer from IBS and need to go twice or trice in the morning to clear by bowels .In a day I usually go 4 times .I have been practicing pranayama from past 10 years and yet I didnt cure this IBS.I recently started agnisar and nauli kriya.They started aggrevating my problem more .What should be done ?