Gastro Intestinal Problems due to Anxiety Ayurvedic Treatment

Any discomfort associated with gut/ intestine (starting from mouth to anus) is grouped under gastrointestinal disorders. They comprise irritations or disorders in mouth, esophagus, stomach, small and large intestine, rectum and anus. Many factors (eg: food, certain medicines, infections etc) contribute to the development of gastrointestinal disorders. Psychological disturbances, like stress and anxiety are the most overlooked yet important reason for these disorders. In most cases, stress or anxiety is the main triggering factor or the actual cause of the disorder. 

 Anxiety, fear etc activates ‘fight or flight’ response (helps in escaping from a threat) in brain and deactivation of less important systems like digestive system to conserve energy. Adrenaline is released abundantly for extra energy when the fight or flight response is on. The source of energy for this adrenaline rush is glycogen (stored sugar). When a person is anxious, the activating neurotransmitter serotonin is reduced and hence you are less active. Low serotonin also hampers digestion. Anxiety causes growth of bacteria that adversely affect digestion in stomach. An anxious person may experience sleep disturbances which is also associated with digestive issues. 

Signs and symptoms

 Gastrointestinal discomforts such as constipation, diarrhoea, bloating, acid reflux, feeling of urgent defecation and incomplete voiding, ulcer in intestine etc. 

Ayurvedic analysis

 Ayurveda emphasises the importance of mental status for proper digestion and assimilation of food. It says that, one should be devoid of anxiety, fear, jealousy etc while taking food; otherwise, it may lead to manifestation of several diseases including indigestion, abdominal pain, haemorrhoids, diarrhoea, bloody faeces, abnormal growths in intestine etc. 

Causative factors (Ayurveda)

Emotional disturbances vitiate pitta (especially Pachaka pitta which is associated with digestion of food) and as a result, paka (inflammation) occurs in intestine. Pitta loses its natural form and become watery, leading to agnimandya (reduced power of digestion) and ama. Samana vata also get vitiated by stress, anxiety, fear etc which is involved in digestion of food. Both these cause rasadushti (vitiated chyle/ end-product of digestion) which further interfere with the formation of other dhatu (tissues) like blood, muscle, fat, bones etc. As a result, the person with emotional disturbances will become weak and lean gradually. 

Possible complications

 Overlooked cases will lead to severe digestive issues like ulcerations, IBS, Chron’s disease, colon cancer etc. 

Other systemic diseases and precautions to be taken

 Consider other diseases like cardiac disorders, hypertension etc before planning treatment. 

Management

 Identification of the exact cause of gastrointestinal disorder as anxiety/ stress/ fear is the key to start treatment. Pacify the symptoms with suitable internal medication that improve agni, remove ama and rasadushti, and correct the Tridosha imbalance. Procedures like snehana (internal- to bring about mental stability), swedana (eg: steam bath), vamana or virechana, nasya (nasal instillation of medicine) and vasthi (enema with suitable medicine) are provided. Psychotherapy can provide complete recovery by eliminating the root cause- mental distress. 

Diet

 Avoid pitta vitiating food items like spicy, sour, hot etc. Include more vegetables, sweet fruits, milk etc in diet. 

Exercise

Regular exercise can eliminate stress, anxiety etc, and provide mental calmness and stability. Yoga, meditation and pranayama are also very effective. 

Preventive aspects

 Exercise regularly. Do not take food while afraid or anxious. Quit smoking and limit the consumption of alcohol to avoid mental distress. Reduce the intake of coffee or tea. Meditate more and stay positive. 

Importance of diet

 Certain food items can cause anxiety and stress by aggravating pitta. They include very hot spicy, sour item, excess intake of tea/coffee, processed food and non-vegetarian (that vitiate rajas/ mental attribute that cause tension, stress etc). follow the instructions of the physician before planning the diet. 

Lifestyle

Manage stress and anxiety. Exercise regularly. Avoid the food and drinks that trigger the symptoms. Drink more water. Ensure adequate sleep.

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