Fluid Imbalance and Constipation: Ayurveda Perspective

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

Fluid factor and Ayurveda

Fluid imbalance caused by inadequate intake of water is one of the most important causes for constipation. So, keeping up the levels of hydration to optimum levels by consuming a good quantity of water as per one’s needs is one of the formulas to keep the constipation at bay and to maintain an ideal gut health.

Ayurveda treatises have not directly explained this role of water in preventing constipation and keeping up optimum colon health. But from a few references which are indirect we can infer the role of water in this perspective.

Concept of fluid imbalance and causation of constipation – Ayurveda perspective

The Jala Mahabhuta factor

Jala Mahabhuta i.e. water element is one among the five elements of nature which take part in the formation of our body. It does the function of kledana in the fetus i.e. it maintains the moistness and integrity in its formation. Dravatva i.e. liquidity is a special feature of this element. With this quality it keeps things moving and flowing in the body. Its quality shall be maintained individually and relatively (relative to other elements) to sustain good health and for most functions to keep going smoothly in the body. Imbalance of water element causes serious health issues when it is not balanced. ‘Peeta’ i.e. drinkable foods are one among the four types of foods we take according to Ayurveda and it is an integral part of our food practice. Peeta includes water and other forms of fluids we consume in our food. When the water component of the body decreases it leads to extreme dryness, increase of vata and subsequent constipation.

The ‘Vata’ factor

Constipation is one of the symptoms or conditions caused by severe increase or aggravation of vata. So habitual consumption of vata aggravating foods, life activities and regimens and impact of vata vitiating seasons, when not addressed would lead to constipation owing to dry and rough attributes of vata.

When the final products of digestion of food reach the colon, they are acted upon by the shoshyamana vahni i.e. ‘drying fire’ located therein and cause the paripinditatva of digested food i.e. ‘bolus of final products which is almost devoid of watery ingredients or moistness’ i.e. faecal mass which is ready to be excreted. This explains the re-absorption process in the colon. When vayu is in a state of balance, the feces is formed properly and is easily expelled by the action of the same vata, apana vata in this case.

Abnormal increase of vata will increase roughness and dryness in the colon. This will dry up the feces excessively and make it difficult to be excreted. This leads to constipation. If this is unattended it leads to chronic constipation. Increase of dryness is caused by excessive intake of foods which aggravate vata – mainly dry, light and rough foods. This also reflects deficiency of moistness and unctuousness in the body. This may happen due to inadequate hydration of the body caused by insufficient water intake. This also shows that proper and adequate hydration is needed to keep the doshas, vata in this case, in a state of balance.

The ‘vata prakriti’ factor

Vata constitution persons are prone to vata imbalances leading to constipation. These people have less water portions in the body and less of doshas and tissues which contain water components. They have a dry environment in the intestines. If these people do not take care of their water balance and hydration, they may develop serious constipation in the long run.

Vata Prakruti persons whose body constitution is predominantly made up of akasha and vayu mahabhutas should pay extra attention to keep themselves hydrated.

The ‘Vataja Rutu’ factor

Extreme dryness in vata aggravating seasons i.e. summer and rainy seasons may indicate need for frequent hydration. If not compensated with, one might develop seasonal constipation during these seasons. Constipation may aggravate in those having constipation already, in those having chronic constipation and diseases of colon and may be of severe form especially in vata prakriti individuals or those suffering from vata disorders. 

The ‘vishamagni’ factor

Vishamagni i.e. erratic digestive fire is one of the causes for vata aggravation and vata disorders in the body. This is a kind of agni influenced by the erratic nature of vata. People having vishamagni would have chances of developing dryness in the colon and consequently constipation. Proper hydration is needed in these people. The pitta predominant agni i.e. ‘teekshnagni’ can also cause water imbalance in the body especially when it is associated with increased vata also which can lead to constipation.

Read more: Understanding Agni: Concept, Definition, Functions, Types

The ‘high pitta’ factor

People with high pitta in their system should also hydrate themselves regularly. High pitta is high fiery activity in the body. This will also cause excessive dryness and heat in the body and would cause a suitable foundation for the development of constipation.

The ‘kapha’ factor 

Kapha is representative of water in the human body. It is the calming moon energy. It is predominantly made up of water elements and partly by earth elements. Many tissues belong to the kapha group i.e. kapha resides in most tissues in the body. Apart from this, faeces and urine are the excreta which have predominance of kapha dosha. Vata increase or anything which increases vata will cause depletion of kapha and hence water depots in the body which would lead to constipation. The reverse is also true i.e. kapha depletion will also cause vata increase and hence constipation. Proper hydration is very much required to keep the kapha and its tissues balanced in the body and to keep away the dryness of vata and heat of pitta. Kapha being a water body thus works as a buffer and prevents wear and tears and burnouts in the body and also prevents constipation from occurring by keeping the body, tissues and organs cool and moist.

The ‘ati langhana’ factor

Excessive fasting which includes inadequate consumption or not at all consuming foods and water as a part of therapeutic, habitual or obsessive starvation will deplete water stores in the body. This will cause excessive dryness and lead to vata aggravation. This will create a dry atmosphere in the intestines, too much absorption of water in the colon as a feedback mechanism and consequent constipation. Similarly other forms of langhana therapies which bring about lightness in the body also cause constipation when practiced in excess.

The ‘other diseases’ factor

Excessive exercise, diseases like atisara – diarrhea, chardi – vomiting, prameha – urinary disorders including diabetes, diseases of mutravaha srotas and all vata disorders cause constipation due to dehydration.

The ‘vega’ factor

One should also keep away from withholding the natural urges, mainly of pureesha – defecation and apana vata – fart / flatus. This would cause abnormal movement of vata i.e. udavarta which would consequently cause constipation and other vata disorders. 

Read more: Constipation Causes, Ayurvedic Treatment, Home Remedies

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