Author and scientist Giulia Enders has become renowned for her charming way of talking about the gut, and also promoting the importance of gut health. The 27-year old, who wrote the New York Times best-seller Gut: The Inside Story of Our Body’s Most Underrated Organ, talks in no uncertain terms about the need to be regularly emptying your bowels - a welcome change from the overly reserved approach many people take on the subject of constipation.
Did you know as many as one in five Australians, over the age of 30, experience constipation at some point? In North America alone there are some 63 million people battling it. The real numbers are actually much higher than that. For some, a bowel movement every other day is perfectly normal, although I’d like to see it a bit more regular than that - for others, just one day without going to the toilet, is a sign of constipation. Other signs of constipation are straining, being unable to have a bowel movement, feeling blocked up or having dry, hard or pellet-like stools.
What’s happening in our bodies
We get constipated when vata’s cold and dry qualities (remember vata is the element of air) disturb the colon, impacting its’ ability to function properly. Many of my patients say they’ve tried traditional methods to clear their constipation - like drinking water and incorporating more fibre in their diet - but nothing seems to help. The Ayurvedic perspective is that you need to counter the excess vata with warmth, oil and hydration. This is the opposite to air - when balancing the body you need to use opposites to stabilise, for example when you are cold you need warmth, When there is dryness you need lubrication - which is actually the exact opposite of taking laxatives.
What can be done to relieve constipation
The first thing you need to do is start by taking notice of how often you go, if you’re not emptying your bowels every day it might be because you’re not drinking enough water, getting sufficient fibre in your diet or effectively managing your stress levels. If you still find that you’re not regular, here are some Ayurvedic tips to help you become more regular.
Drink plenty of warm water and herbal teas: You can kickstart your digestion with an easy to make morning drink - 1 teaspoon of fresh grated ginger, juice from half a fresh lemon and one teaspoon of raw honey mixed in a cup of warm or hot water.
Increase natural oils: High quality and organic oils lubricate the body’s tissues, which can help with regularity. Add sesame and olive oil to your salads or vegetables (having less salads is best in these cases) and cook with ghee. Or before bed, try drinking a cup of boiled milk with 1-2 teaspoons of ghee.
Incorporate more fresh fruit in your diet: Fresh well ripened fruit are generally pacifying to vata. Ripe bananas, peeled cooked apples, soaked raisins, soaked prunes and peaches are all great with helping stimulate elimination. Prune or pineapple juice, either straight or diluted, can also do the trick. We limit juices as this puts too much cold raw element in the system. If you are taking a lot of juices please be mindful of this.
Go for soaked flax seeds: Boil one tablespoon of flax seeds in a cup of water for 2-3 minutes - drink the tea and the seeds in between your last meal of the day and going to bed.
Why elimination is so important
It’s important to understand that the colon is the seat of vata, and these imbalances lead to 80 per cent of all disease. When the colon isn’t moving regularly it means the body isn’t eliminating the toxins it needs to.
The toxic material leaks back into the blood and causes the liver to work hard in detoxifying - ultimately causing heaviness and a foggy head and leading to leaky gut and other issues - which are dramatically on the rise.
If things still aren’t working for you, there are also vata pacifying herbs that can help with regularity. Get in touch, so we can can offer individual assistance to help you shake things up and get your bowel movements more regular.
Another option is to try our 7-day gut detox, you can buy it here, it’s all online with videos and live chats, so you can do it from anywhere. After just seven days, you will have gone a long way to improving your body’s metabolism, and igniting your own body’s innate intelligence to self-regulate.