Fiber, Constipation and Ayurveda

Article by Dr Raghuram Y.S. MD (Ay) & Dr Manasa S, B.A.M.S

Fiber rich foods or fiber diet is an important inclusion and essential part of ‘constipation remedies’. They are abundantly and popularly used in the treatment of constipation and chronic constipation in modern medicine.

Fiber rich foods take a long time to get digested and hence they create a feeling of fullness in the stomach. They are also not absorbed into the system. They also increase the bulk of feces. Consequently the person does not feel hungry.

Ayurveda, Fiber foods and management of constipation

Has Ayurveda explained the concept of using fiber rich foods in treating constipation?

No, Ayurveda has not specified or explained foods which are fibers or at least we do not find direct references.

But we shall analyze the concept of fibers and fiber foods from Ayurveda perspective in this article. We shall try to see the actions of the fiber foods mentioned in modern medicine from the Ayurveda lens and try to study their mode of action on the doshas and malas through their attributes.

Related Reading – 3 Fs and Chronic Constipation

Soluble types of fibers act by forming gel-like substances – This gel-like substance resembles kapha in texture and qualities. So, they can be considered to be antagonistic to the ‘dry nature of vata’. Carrots, apples and citrus fruits, based on their taste also are vata-mitigating, in addition to being fiber foods. While carrots and apples are sweet in taste and citrus fruits are sour in taste. Both tastes i.e. sweet and sour tastes are vata calming. Vata is the main dosha involved in causation of constipation. By taste and content (fibers), they balance vata and cure constipation when used regularly.

Avocados by their sweet taste and Berries with their sweet and sour tastes, along with fiber content – help in balancing vata and relieving constipation.

Yava or barley which is also a fiber food, is sara – that which increases intestinal motility and pichchila – slimy in nature. It is also soft and scraping in nature. Since it is anabhishyandi it does not cause blocks, including in the intestines. It increases vata and mala i.e. excreta and hence increases the bulk of the feces. It is heavy and sweet in taste. By all these properties yava is one of the best remedies for constipation. Yavakshara – an alkali preparation of barley is used for treating bloating.

Among the properties of Peas or Kalaya, which is a fiber rich food, Shodala Nighantu treatise has mentioned ‘Bhinna Vitka’ i.e. breaking the fecal mass. It also has madhura rasa and vikapa i.e. sweet taste and after digestion effect, which helps in balancing vata.

Another fiber food, Nishpava – beans has madhura rasa – sweet taste, amla vipaka – sour after digestion effect, guru – heavy and sara – laxative in action. This makes nishpava a suitable remedy for those having constipation.

Nuts and seeds like sunflower, melon, flax seeds, almonds, peanuts which due to their fiber and oily content balance vata and help in easy bowel movement.

Pramathi Annapana

These are the foods and drinks which help in clearing the obstructions happening in the channels of the body. So this action of these foods also applies to remove the obstruction happening in the colon in the form of constipation. These foods are specially mentioned in the context of treating the disorders caused by forcible withholding of natural urge of defecation which includes constipation of chronic forms.

Related Reading – Pramathi Annapana

To sum up

Any foods and drinks including vegetables, fruits, grains and nuts which has laxative property, which enables vata to move in its normal direction i.e. downwards and hence balances vata, which has sara and drava quality, which increases bulk of faeces in the colon, softens it and facilitates the easy expulsion of faeces without any difficulty, from the Ayurveda perspective might be those foods which have fibers and hence useful in treating chronic constipation. Study in this direction needs to be done on many food inclusions from Ayurveda perspective. Pramathi Annapana is one big clue from the treatises but with a deficit or almost no explanation. 

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