Ayurvedic Management of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

IBS is described as a functional disorder of the small intestine, characterized  by pain, discomfort and altered bowel habits. Irritable bowel syndrome is a relatively common digestive system disorder whose exact cause is still unknown in western medicine.

In Ayurveda, IBS is called grahani, which means retaining the ability of the small intestine or duodenum. If the function of these organs is altered or the bowel loses its control and its absorption is weakened, the condition is considered grahani.

Common causes of IBS

Ayurveda considers poor digestive fire (mandagni) and production of toxins (ama) as the main cause of IBS. From an ayurvedic perspective, IBS is linked to:

  • excessive fasting or excessive food intake
  • eating before the previous meal has been fully digested
  • eating improper or unwholesome food
  • continuous diarrhoea or food poisoning
  • consumption of heavy, cold, dry, junk and polluted food
  • suppression of natural urges
  • irregular sleep habits (e.g. staying awake at night and sleeping during the day)
  • grief, anger or fear
  • chronic illness leading to weak digestion
  • weakened immune system
  • constant travel and change of places

Symptoms of IBS

  • Nausea
  • Abdominal pain and bloating
  • Anorexia
  • Weight loss
  • Headache and tiredness
  • Chronic constipation and/or diarrhoea
  • Mucus and/or blood in stools
  • Anxiety or depression

Complication of IBS

Untreated IBS may lead to complications such as:

  • Skin disease
    • Anaemia (low iron levels)
    • Oedema (fluid retention)
    • Anorectal disease (like haemorrhoids, fissure or fistula in anus)
    • Abdominal pain
    • Abdominal tumour

    Ayurvedic Management of IBS

    Ayurvedic treatment of Irritable Bowel Syndrome involves alleviating aggravated body energies, restoring the function of the digestive system, and eliminating accumulated toxins. As stress is often a significant cause of the disorder, an important line of treatment consists of lifestyle guidance and herbs to nourish the mind and nervous system.

    Lifestyle Management

    Identify and remove food intolerances.

    Avoid an unwholesome diet including curd, alcohol, fermented beverages, junk food and gas-producing food such as eggplant, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, etc.

    Restore the healthy balance of good bacteria and flora in the gut (ayurvedic butter milk is wonderful for this).

    Attain a balanced mind by practising modalities that help you manage stress, for example yoga, meditation, tai chi, etc.

    Sleep well. Get adequate quantity and quality of sleep.

    Ayurvedic detox (panchakarma)

    Ayurveda believes it is best to treat the root cause rather than the symptoms of disease. A full ayurvedic detox (panchakarma) is necessary for ridding toxins from the body and re-establishing colon health.

    Panchakarma treatment for IBS emphasises medicated enema (vasti), which is a colon cleansing therapy. Ayurvedic enemas provide herbal cleansing and nourishment directly into the intestine and colon, without having to pass through the stomach and upper gastro-intestinal tract. With a therapeutic ayurvedic enema, a cleansing and healing message is sent directly to the colon.

    Panchakarma for IBS will also include:

    • Abhyanga (ayurvedic therapeutic massage)
    • Shirodhara (warm oil treatment on forehead)
    • Chakra basti (warm oil treatment around the naval and associated marma points)


    • Attain a balanced mind by practising modalities that helps to manage stress, for example yoga and meditation.Regular and Specific Asnas and breathing exercises help to manage IBS and get rid off completely as well.