Updated: Sep 13
Constipation? Gas? Pain? Bloat? Sense of incomplete elimination? Anxiety? Overwhelm? If you don't give a poop you'll want to after reading this. Everything you ever wanted to know about constipation and healthy elimination according to Ayurveda and helpful tips for optimal elimination. A new survey finds "forty percent of Americans’ daily lives are disrupted by digestive troubles."
"Learn how to optimize elimination with Ayurveda--it's one of the most important daily cleanses and detoxes you can do!" -Veena, Saumya Ayurveda
Explore more on the Saumya Blog, selected top Ayurveda blogs and websites to watch.
Facts About Digestive Issues
According to the National Institute of Health, The most commonly reported symptoms were heartburn/reflux (30.9%), abdominal pain (24.8%), bloating (20.6%), diarrhea (20.2%), and constipation (19.7%). Less common symptoms were nausea/vomiting (9.5%), dysphagia (5.8%), and bowel incontinence (4.8%).
A new survey finds "forty percent of Americans’ daily lives are disrupted by digestive troubles." That translates to 60-70 million Americans are suffering from gastrointestinal (GI) diseases that can create serious disruptions to daily life, says the American Gastroenterological Association.
And if that hasn't gotten our attention, Medical News Today reports, "...laxative use can influence gut microbiota composition and induce long-term changes in the immune response. Research also shows that these changes may increase the production of toxins linked to inflammation, neural damage, and amyloid deposition- a biomarker for dementia."
Let's just say it--a good poop feels great and not pooping feels like crap. According to Ayurveda, the color, texture, frequency, and smell of your poop are indicators of your overall health. If your poop is discolored, watery, or too hard this indicates internal issues located in your digestive tract and likely beyond.
When you understand how to analyze your poo, you can proactively address health issues— as opposed to waiting until your symptoms become conditions and diseases.
Ayurvedic poo diagnosis is a non-invasive diagnostic tool that can see into the 30 feet of digestive tract.
In this article about constipation, we’re going to explore what your poop says about your health according to Ayurveda.
Ready to dive in? Grab the toilet paper and let’s do this!
The Painful Truth About Constipation
A staggering number of people around the world suffer from constipation. According to John Hopkins Medicine, "About 4 million people in the United States have frequent constipation. Constipation is the most common gastrointestinal complaint, resulting in 2.5 million doctor visits annually."
Besides the fact that digestive disorders are extremely uncomfortable, embarrassing, and inconvenient, they are a warning sign that the doshas are aggravated and bigger issues may be arising from within.
Your colon, part of the large intestine, is responsible for processing 1.5 to 2 gallons of water a day, alongside breaking down waste left over from digestion. It also eliminates harmful toxins that your body doesn’t need to keep you healthy.
Unfortunately, many people ignore their colon — and the health insights it has to offer — as such, they suffer unnecessarily from conditions that may be solved by taking a few proactive steps and consulting with a seasoned Certified Ayurvedic Practitioner. Book your free phone consultation today. It is not uncommon for clients to tell me that their bowels move once or twice a week and their doctor advises them this is normal. According to Ayurveda, it is not normal, nor is it healthy. Think about it this way--if you eat three meals a day, and elimination occurs once a week, how much waste is sitting in your digestive tract and for how many days?
"We take the trash out every day. We want to do the same with the waste in our bodies and minds. Don't hang onto to poo--be it physical or mental. Let it go!" - Veena, Saumya Ayurveda
How Frequently Should the Bowels Move?
As with everything in Ayurveda, the answer is....it depends. Frequency of bowel movement varies by individual and by dosha. For some people, a bowel movement every other day is their normal. However, in Ayurveda, more frequent bowel movements would be a core treatment aim.
For others, perhaps a Pitta type, only one bowel movement a day is constipation. (Meanwhile the Vata type is envious of a once-a-day movement.) No pun intended, but frequency and related details of bowel movement, is not a one size fits all situation.
Explore More: Wild List of Vata Imbalances
What Is Constipation According to Ayurveda?
Common Symptoms of Constipation Include: 1. Difficulty passing the stool. If you have to think about if it's difficult, then it is!
2. Absence or delay of regular bowel movement.
3. Experiencing the sensation of incomplete evacuation, as though matter is still hiding in the digestive tract.
4. Feeling stuffed, blocked, or full 5. Stools may be dry, hard, and pellet-like, though those qualities may not be present, yet constipation is.
8. Discomfort or pain
What Causes Constipation According to Ayurveda?
In a word, Vata. According to Ayurveda, constipation is a Vata disorder as Vata governs movement as well as elimination. (Oh yeah, and the nervous system.) All the usual influences that aggravate Vata such as dehydration, irregular eating schedule, stress, anxiety, travel, overdoing it, and dry, raw foods will aggravate constipation and anxiety. Now, the connection between the gut and the mind is clear.
The colon has a strong muscle response called peristalsis, a wave like constriction that moves matter forward and out. If the colon muscle is slow, sluggish, or if the colon is dry (yup, dry skin outside likely means drier skin on the inside), then the bolus (fecal matter) moves ever so slowly causing too much water to be absorbed creating a dry, slow moving and often difficult to pass stool.
Vata's qualities include cold, dry, and irregular. Constipation occurs when those qualities are aggravated in the colon, disrupting its normal function.
Other common causes of constipation include medications, lack of exercise, insufficient liquids, lack of dietary fiber, IBS, suppressing the natural urge to evacuate, changes (lifestyle, state of life, habits), use of laxatives, and depending on a cup or two of coffee to produce a morning poo.
Most clients think they are not constipated because after they have their big mug of coffee in the morning, they have a bowel movement. Do an experiment, don't have that cup of coffee and then see what happens, or doesn't happen.
"Coffee dependent bowel movement, is not optimal elimination. In fact, the coffee is drying to the digestive tract, furthering aggravating constipation, slow transit, and creating an environment of overall dryness in the whole body and even mind." - Veena, Saumya Ayurveda
According to NIH, "...drinking coffee can stimulate a motor response of the distal colon..." Coffee stimulates peristalsis, (that wave movement that move matter down and out), so if your morning bowel movement doesn't happen until you've had coffee, then your gut is dependent on a coffee. Healthy bowel movements are produced naturally.
To balance Vata dosha, the qualities of warmth, oil, moisture, and rhythm are needed. With Saumya Ayurveda's custom Ayurveda plans, this will be in the form of food as medicine, herbs, teas, spices, herbalized massage oils, and subtle body practices such as yog-asana and pranayama.
Explore More: The 3 Ayurvedic Doshas and Their Impact on Your Life
5 Ayurvedic Remedies for Constipation Relief
Drink plenty of warm herbal tea every day. Hot or warm fluids are best as that quality mitigates vata's cold quality.
Drink your hot tea away from your meals. Avoid taking fluids when you eat as it weakens the digestive fire.
Increase high quality oils in the diet. Oils should be based on doshic picture. Oils lubricate the dry tissue of the colon--just as oils are applied to one's skin. Cooking with sesame, ghee and olive oil are generally good choices. Having a custom Ayurveda food program is even better.
Eat fruit as it is hydrating, fiber rich and moist fruits are vata reducing.
Drink warmed up prune juice.
Which herbs are best for each person depends. Triphala, psyllium husk, and flaxseed are generally suitable for most.
Imbalanced Vata disrupts apana vayu which governs downward energy such as elimination, urination, and birthing. When Vata is out of whack, apana reverses and flows upward. This energetic reversal is how constipation and anxiety tend occur together. So, when the energy is flowing up, in the wrong direction for the job at hand, ground and reestablish flow. Consider legs up on the wall (viparita karani). Relaxing, restorative, grounding, and balancing. It's also a helpful yog-asana after work.
How to Perform Legs Up on the Wall | Viparita Karani
Sit on the floor near a wall. Use a yoga mat or blanket on the floor if needed. Swivel your body to face the wall and raise your legs slowly with awareness. How close with your butt be to the wall depends on your flexibility. There is no award for being closer, so go within your comfortable capacity. Now, lie down on the floor. Use any support you need for your back so that you are comfortable. Settle into the pose surrendering the body to the support of the floor. Place your arms with the elbows slightly bent and allow your chest and heart region to open. Close your eyes. Hang out here as long as you are comfortable.
4. Healthy Elimination Begins in the Mind
Vata governs movement, whether that is the bowel movement or movement in the mind. When vata becomes imbalanced, it tends to be felt in the colon, the nervous system and the mind. Sooth vata with simple and effective practices.
"The most important cleansing we can do, is to have healthy daily elimination and to cultivate a calm mind. Saumya clients love our free guided practices." - Veena, Saumya Ayurveda
Perform your yog-asana, follow our guided practices, then perform nadi shodhana and now, you're prepared for meditation.
Try Saumya Nasya Oil for Improved Mental Wellbeing
Nasya oil benefits the flow of prana by clearing and nourishing the nasal passages. This doesn’t just help us breathe better – it helps us feel better, too. When prana is cleared through the breath, you’ll feel stress and tension melt away in your neck, jaw, head, and shoulders. Any energy that has been blocked will be released, and won’t be able to stagnate in these areas.
Stress and anxiety contribute to fading health and many unnecessary afflictions. Unfortunately, they’re far too common. Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health condition in the United States, and we all experience psychological and emotional stress to varying degrees. Nasya oil can help balance these energies, so you feel composed and revitalized all day long.
“Oh, golly way, way improved. Stress fell off like an old hairy coat, I’m just not anxious. Depression is way decreased. There just nothing there. I was haunted by anxiety whole life, and it’s just gone.”
--Mark Hughes, Minnesota
Loving the daily practices, a routine that feels EMBODYING.”- Mark F., Boulder, Colorado
There is a saying, "The mind is more in the body, than the body is in the mind." The Saumya 3 Step Meditation Process shifts us from fight-flight-freeze mode, to rest-restore-relax mode. Give it a try for forty days and observe the changes. The more grounded and relaxed we are, the smoother life flows.
"The breath is the connection between the mind and body, so by training the breath, we become calm, focused, and grounded, we slow down the aging process by decreasing stress. These practices are so simple and easy to have as part of our daily life. We actually feel and look younger."
- Veena, Saumya Ayurveda
1. Learn Diaphragmatic Breathing and Change Your Life. When we re-learn to breath diaphragmatically, we move from the flight-fight-freeze mode, to rest, restore, relaxation mode from where we want and need to live.
3. Ayurveda Daily Routines: --Ayurvedic Morning Routine | 6 Rituals for a Calm and Centered Day
"Choose a couple of practices from the routines that provide you with the greatest support. Perform them while applying our two minute meditation technique and your mundane tasks, just transformed into a mellifluous meditation. This is meditation applied to daily life." - Veena, Saumya Ayurveda
"Veena was able to help me regain my energy in just a few months and I’m feeling like my “young” self again! I love the food plan she designed for me, and all the supporting practices (am/pm routines, breathing techniques, herbs, and spice mixes) are so enjoyable to incorporate into my day. I highly recommend Saumya Ayurveda if you want to feel better and have more vitality.”
-Molly Rossini, Minnesota
Explore More: Ayurveda Breathwork Pranayama
Perform an Ayurvedic Emotional Cleanse
Consider the mind-gut connection. The English language has many idioms about this long understood, important connection in Ayurveda. A Few Idioms:
Cast-iron stomach, go belly up, to be yellow-bellied, gutted, gut-wrenching, cannot stomach something, fire in your belly, sick to the stomach, a gut reaction or feeling, butterflies in your stomach, turn the stomach, in the pit of your stomach, and perhaps most importantly, TRUST YOUR GUT.
Signs You May Benefit from an Ayurveda Emotional Detox:
Changes in weight.
Lack of, or low energy.
Ignoring your gut feelings.
Feeling older than you are.
Waking feeling unrefreshed.
Feeling a lack of purpose in life.
Chronic tension. (Mind and body)
Being overwhelmed most of the time.
General sense of feeling out of balance.
A recent diagnosis physically or mentally.
Anxiety, anxious depression, and depression.
Experiencing, "I don't feel like me anymore."
Avoiding certain people or people in general.
Chronic health changes, mentally or physically.
Feeling hopeless, helpless, worthless, not good enough.
Feeling that most days are a struggle and not knowing why.
Things that were once easy and enjoyable, are now difficult.
Difficulty in letting go, wanting to, needing to, but not sure how.
Being easily influenced by others. (Sense of having lost oneself.)
Trouble falling and/or staying asleep. Ayurvedic Tips for Good Sleep
Wondering where your sense of calm went. “I wasn’t like this before!”
Worrying about the future and dwelling in the past, versus being here and now.
Hard to get things done or to get going, lack of feeling motivated, inspired, and interested.
Difficulty or absence of speaking up for yourself. (Loss of your own voice in relationships.)
Seeking escapes such as alcohol, drugs, affairs, media binges, and other vehicles of escaping.
Stagnant. Feeling hum drum, and/or difficulty letting go of the past and being present and open to possibilities. (Aka stuck)
Changes in sleep or waking up unrefreshed. Read our 10 Ayurvedic Evening Rituals for a Calming Night.
Lack of focus, forgetfulness, word search, why did I come in this room? Read our 8 Ayurveda Tips for Brain Health
Explore More: 30 Reasons Why You Need an Ayurveda Emotional Detox
Start an Ayurvedic Emotional Cleanse. How to Detox Emotionally|10 Ayurvedic Practices for Emotional Cleansing These days, feeling lousy is status quo. But it doesn’t have to be. According to US News and World Report, 2017 was a record year for unhappiness.
Emotional cleansing helps us to release old feelings and traumas that hold us back, so we can live fully and with joy--in other words, emotional cleansing helps balance Vata, Pitta and Kapha in the body and mind.
“Ayurvedic emotional detox helps clients live happier, more fulfilling, healthier lives. The mind is more in the body, than the body is in the mind. As the mind (thought habits) begins to shift, becomes calmer, clearer, a natural focus, ease, and contentment emerge." - Veena, Saumya Ayurveda
5. Create Your Simple, Sustainable Daily Rhythm (Dinacharya)
"When we flow with the natural energies present at different times of the day, we are in harmony, flowing with and not against. When that occurs, we balance the doshas and our energy and focus increases and our sense of calm comes effortlessly." - Veena |Saumya Ayurveda Ayurvedic Morning Routine | 6 Rituals for a Calm and Centered Day 10 Ayurvedic Evening Rituals for a Calming Night
Create a routine, rhythm, ritual that works for you. Keep it simple and focus on a few tools that provide you the most support. Less is more.
"We need to reclaim our calm. What happens in our digestive system is reflective of what is happening in our mind and to our nervous systems." - Veena | Saumya Ayurveda
"In the end, (pun intended), Vata needs to be balanced systemically. At Saumya Ayurveda we treat at the root cause of dosha imbalances." - Veena | Saumya Ayurveda
What is a Perfect Poo?
Keep in mind, that depending on whether Vata, Pitta or Kapha is your predominant dosha, what is a "regular" bowel movement varies. Vata, Pitta and Kapha dosha poo each have their own qualities. More scoop on the dosha poop later in this article.
A perfect poo may have these qualities:
· Complete elimination in the morning, about an hour within waking,
and NOT produced after drinking coffee or other stimulants.
· Brown color
· Banana shape
· No mess when wiping
· No bowel evidence left in the toilet bowl
· Fairly odorless
· Looks more or less the same regardless of what has been consumed
The Color of Your Poo and What it Means
You’ve probably gone to the bathroom before and noticed an abnormal fecal coloring. While slight variations from time to time are generally harmless, if you notice your poop is discolored for more than a few days, make sure you consult a professional.
Here are the different poop colors and a few ideas of what it may mean according to Ayurveda:
Any shade of brown is what you’re aiming for — this combined with the texture of your poop will indicate how healthy your digestive tract and body are.
If your poop is yellow or yellow-brown this indicates you have too much fat in your intestines due to malabsorption, an intestinal condition or disease, high Pitta, or improper nutrition.
Red poop means something you ate either had red food coloring in it, you have hemorrhoids, or perhaps bleeding in your digestive system.
Pale, White or Clay-colored
This is an indicator that your bile ducts may be blocked or congestion in the liver/gallbladder. As such, it’s important to address any underlying causes immediately.
Certain foods (such as licorice), medications, and supplements can cause black poop. However, if your poop is black for more than a few days consult a professional as this could be an indicator of bleeding in your digestive tract. Black stool may be a sign of old blood from a stomach or upper small intestine irritation. See a doctor straight away.
If your poo comes out looking like a bright shade of green, this either means you have diarrhea (and it’s green because it’s coming out of your body too fast and has not fermented properly) or you ate a lot of greens or consumed green food dye.
Pale, Clay-Colored Stools
Palish, clay-colored stools may be caused by a lack of bile making its way from the liver, to the gallbladder to the intestine. Bile is what colors the stool. A pale, clay stool means no bile.
Greasy, Slippery Looking Stool
You know it when you see it. As with clay-colored stools, greasy stool is usually a result of low bile flow from the liver and then the holding tank of bile, the gallbladder. Remember bile is what colors the stool. It's a greenish-yellow fluid that has many functions including emulsifying fats and carrying away waste. If the fats are not broken down, the undigested fat slimes up the stool.
Blood in the Stool
Spots of blood on the toilet tissues or elsewhere, or streaks of blood observed in the stool, if persisting, is a good reason to see your doctor. Most commonly, fresh blood in the stool is caused by hemorrhoids, and there may be other causes.
Mucus in Stool
New clients report seeing something that looks like mucus in their stool. They describe it as clear or whitish and stringy and clingy, wrapped around the stool. It's possible the villi of the intestinal wall are smashed down by the weight and thickness of mucous. If mucousy stool persists, one should see their doctor.
Mucus in the stool is caused by an imbalance of the intestinal wall. This could be a medical condition, so if it persists, see your doctor. If you see mucus in the stool—which typically looks like a white or clear stringy substance that wraps around the stool—the intestinal villi are likely flattened or bogged down by mucus. Some causes may include, coffee, processed foods, stress which we all know by know, we feel it i n our guts, and weak digestion that allows undigested food bits to pass through and irritate the GI lining.
Undigested Food in the Stool
New clients frequently report seeing undigested food in their bowel movement. Here's the chain of digestion. Assuming one is eating food that is correct for them, spiced correctly, a key stage in the complicated digestive process begins in the mind. That's right. Eat when upset and digestion is negatively impacted, and we feel it! Eat with a calm, grounded mind, using diaphragmatic breathing, and you'll enjoy your food, appreciated it and you will digested your meal well.
What comes next? If undigested food bits are evident in the stool, this poor state of digestion starts in the stomach. If the fire is not balanced, not optimal, food will not break down.
The most common reason for undigested food to be passed through the entire intestinal tract into the stool starts in the stomach. The stomach is responsible for the initial breakdown of food. If stomach acid production is weak, hard-to-digest foods will not be broken down.
Alternating Constipation and Diarrhea
Are you scratching your head, ready to pull out your hair and wondering what in the world is going on in there? One day loose stool, the next week it might be constipation, or you may experience both in the same week. I frequently hear from clients this experience is maddening and understandably so.
Striving to make connections between what they're eating and what's happening with this unpredictable elimination and not being able to make heads nor tails of it. It is a puzzling and frustrating situation, and it requires attention without delay.
How to Conduct a Poo Analysis with Ayurveda
As opposed to a one-size-fits-all approach, Ayurveda recommends using your unique constitution — otherwise known as your doshic picture of Vata, Pitta and Kapha — to understand what a healthy poop is for you.
Vata Dosha Poop Analysis
Vata dosha body types are governed by air, which means they are more likely to experience dry, sluggish bowel movements, constipation, and bloating.
A healthy vata stool will be passed without gas, have a firm texture (but not too hard), be dark brown in color, have minimal odor, and be eliminated through your digestive system once a day, typically in the morning within 2-3 hours of waking.
When the vata is imbalanced, the stool will be dry and/or hard, may look like rabbit droppings (as in small, thin pellets), occur irregularly, cause gas before and during elimination, be darker (almost black) in color, and smell foul. Vata may feel as though bowel movement is not complete.
What's My Tongue Saying About My Digestive Health?
Your tongue is a powerful and primary diagnostic tool in determining your state of health, just as a daily peek at the poo is. According to Ayurveda, when digestion is working well, it influences all aspects of one's health. When digestion is not functioning optimally--we feel it and not just in the digestive tract.
You may not think about it, but your tongue is located at the beginning of the digestive tract. Tongue diagnosis is a non-invasive diagnostic tool that can see far beyond the mouth into the 30 feet of digestive tract. At Saumya Ayurveda, we provide you with a professional assessment of the health of your digestive tract, as well as overall health through the organ map on the tongue.
Ama, toxins, undigested, unassimilated food debris in the digestive system.
Ayurveda Tongue Diagnosis
Take a peek at our tongue diagnosis chart. Now, take a look in the mirror or take a photo of your tongue. What is your tongue telling you about your health?
Optimal Elimination with Ayurveda
Poo analysis with Ayurveda is pretty fascinating you must admit, and yet it is just one assessment tool Saumya Ayurveda uses to help you feel your best. Imagine the insights when tongue, poo, pee, sweat, hair--well, you get the picture--are all carefully considered when creating a custom Ayurveda plan for you.
Achieve optimal elimination with Ayurveda to feel better, clearer, and more energetic. "When our mind is relaxed, our bodies work more optimally. Let's face it, a good poop just feels good." -Veena, Saumya Ayurveda
"I just completed a colonoscopy and my ulcerative proctitus was given a Mayo Clinic Score of 0, normal or inactive disease. THANK YOU! I had trouble keeping weight on and had lost 10 pounds. No matter what I ate, I felt like something was missing. My family doctor said I had colitis. My energy level was very low and I was using a prescription medication daily for a skin condition. Add to this severe migraine headaches about every two weeks. Following Veena’s guidance, all of these conditions have been eliminated!
I’m very grateful to Veena for the wonderful results and the healthier quality of life we have attained together. Without reservation, I highly recommend Veena at Saumya Ayurveda.” -Chris Schirber, Yoga Teacher, Minnesota
“I've definitely been more in touch with my body and definitely doing better with healthier bowel movements which is awesome!” -A.F., Minneapolis, Minnesota
Discover the Saumya Ayurveda Way
Poo--it's not the ending, it's the beginning to feel your best. Good mental and physical health begins in the digestive tract. "Hidden in the walls of the digestive system, this “brain in your gut” is revolutionizing medicine's understanding of the links between digestion, mood..." according to John Hopkins Medicine article on The Brain-Gut Connection.
We all want to be heard, understood, and cared for as whole beings, not a set of isolated symptoms. True health is more than the absence of disease, which is why Western medicine so often leaves us feeling hopeless and unseen.
Deep down, you already know what you’re searching for: a new framework for living – one that brings your entire being back into balance. With Saumya Ayurveda, you’ll receive individualized guidance to create the physically, mentally, and spiritually vibrant life you crave.
Veena is a Certified Ayurvedic Practitioner and meditation teacher, and monk.
She is President Emeritus of the Meditation Center and former staff member of the Minnesota Institute of Ayurveda.
Veena fell in love with the traditional medicine used in her family’s home, learning herbal remedies at her grandmother's knee. She remains passionate for over 30 years, helping clients feel their best physically, emotionally, and spiritually with Ayurveda.
Veena individualizes treatment plans to each person, rather than offering a one-size-fits-all approach, so it fits your life and becomes woven into your daily life, naturally.