Health Goal #6- Elimination
So far in our year long focus on Health we have examined what goes in, how we digest it, how we assimilate the nutrients. Now we will bring more light to the last stage, how we eliminate what we don’t use.
First, let’s hope it gets eliminated. For many of us this is a daily act that gets little of our attention. Focusing on what’s coming out can tell you a lot about the state of your health. Conditions like constipation and chronic diarrhea or loose stools can often be overlooked until they become bigger issues like IBS, colitis, and diverticulitis, to name a few.
The digestive system is of primary importance important in Ayurvedic Medicine, as it is easier to head off issues there rather than when they have spread into deeper tissues in the body. What goes in, must be properly broken down, absorbed and then properly eliminated. If not, Ama (or toxins) start to form and wreak havoc on our system.
What or how we eliminate shows us the final result of our digestion. The intestines are home to the absorption of nutrients from our food that goes to nourish our bones, brain and nervous system. If we have issues in those areas of our body it would be beneficial to take a look at the health and functioning of your large or small intestine.
The quality, quantity, frequency, and smell of our stool and urine are all telling you something about what’s going on in your body. Stools that have a strong odor, sink and are not fully formed are signs that our lower digestive and elimination system of our body need some care and attention. If you also notice bad breath, body odor, excessive gas, constipation, diarrhea, thick coating on the tongue (check first thing in the morning by scraping with a tongue scraper), and lack of interest in food, these are all signs that our Agni (or digestive fire/eliminative process) is weak.
Adhering to the first 5 heath goals (refer to my past articles) will take you far in supporting the health of your large and small intestine and get you on your way to better elimination.
If you still are having issues try these other simple suggestions below:
Eat for your Ayurvedic body type(watch for future articles on this topic), check for food allergies or food intolerances and get your fiber from eating lots of veggies especially dark leafy greens.
Eat your main meal or heaviest meal between 11am-1pm, don’t eat past sunset.
Give your body proper rest
Massage your abdomen clockwise(from your point of view) before bed or early am
Keep a regular daily routine to waking, sleeping, exercise, eating.
Drink plenty of room temperature water
Fast on lemon water, pinch of sea salt and ginger tea for 12-24 hours to reset your digestive fire. This can be as often as 1x a week or 1x a month practice.
Consult with your Health care practitioner to see if doing a longer cleanse or fast might be beneficial to you.
My top solutions for supporting eliminating system:
Work these spices into your cooking:
cayenne, ginger, black pepper, basil, nutmeg, cumin, asafoetida, rock salt, cardamom, turmeric, coriander, fennel
A special note on Ginger, It is one of the most regarded spices/herbals in Ayurvedic Medicine. It has uses for all 3 body type constitutions. It works to increase digestive fire, scrape toxins from the GI tract, support the immune system in warding off foreign invades like viruses and bacteria, as well as helping to reduce inflammation and aiding in support for those with arthritis.
Triphala is a Ayurvedic herbal formula that is most thought of as a natural mild laxative formula for those with constipation. Actually, the formula is well balanced enough to work with all constitutions and for those that have constipation or diarrhea. Each of the 3 ingredients work on balancing each of the 3 main body constitutions. It has more of a toning and nourishing action rather than a harsh purgative action. It can be taken long term for those who need it, especially Vata (cold & dry) body types.
Trikatu- 2-3 tablets 1/2 hour before a meal
It is another one of Ayurveda’s priced formulas, with 3 main ingredients; including 2 different kinds of peppers and ginger. It is used to help strengthen the digestive fire, increase metabolism, reduce mucus and has a natural antihistamine action. It is often given along with Triphala. Trikatu working on the upper part of the GI and Triphala working on the lower GI.
Spices to add to foods: asafoteida, ginger, cardamom, and fennel.
If this is a chronic issue for you then I would look to diet first. This is classically a symptom of eating foods that are hard to digest. In Ayurveda the Vata body type (cold & dry) is more susceptible to this. Eating for your body type or to balance Vata by eating foods that are cooked, increasing water and light amounts of oils, nuts and grains, minimizing or eliminating entirely dry snack foods, cold foods and drinks, salads (raw foods) beans and cabbage family plants is recommended. Check for food intolerances or allergies as a possible helper to determine foods that are hard for you to process.
Vata is nervous energy so we want to balance it by things that are calming and grounding. Try creating a daily routine for yourself. Get plenty of sleep, rest or meditate for a mid day break in your busy schedule. Take warm baths with Epsom salts. Massage your body with good quality sesame or coconut oil. Minimize stimulation like television and try to find ways to cope with anxiety, worry and stress.
When you absolutely need a laxative. Try an enema first. Laxatives and regular use of colonics are not recommended as regular practice as they create drying and can perpetuate the cycle. They also can weaken the large intestine and create dependency. If it has not resolved with one or two enemas then resort to the rare or occasional use of:
If you are not allergic to dairy take 2 teaspoon castor oil with warm (preferably raw) milk at bedtime. If you do not have a bowel movement in the AM repeat the next evening increasing the dose by one more teaspoon. Do this each evening until you find the proper dose for you.
If you are allergic to dairy make a cup of fresh ginger tea, add 2 teaspoons castor oil and repeat as above.
Spices to add to your foods: Ginger, pepper, saffron, coriander and nutmeg.
In Ayurveda this is more common in a Pitta body type (hot & oily). Though it can happen in any body type. For balance in a Pitta person or condition we want to minimize hot spice foods, oily foods, alcohol, heat provoking activities like excessive exercise, exercise in the heat or use of hot tubs/ saunas. If it persists over 3 days it is considered chronic. The reasons for chronic Diarrhea can be many and if continues you should rule out more serious conditions such as IBS, celiac Crohn’s disease, or bacterial infections.
For a quick fix to an acute attack of diarrhea try eating one banana with 1 teaspoon of ghee and a pinch each of cardamom and nutmeg. The banana is said to help bind the stool and the herbs can help stop the diarrhea. Be sure to drink lots of liquids and help reduce stress on your system by eating soups or bone broth until you are in the clear.
Ideally one should have an easy bowl movement in the early morning. The stool should float, hold a shape (some say a J or S shape), shouldn’t stink or be sticky (essentially your toilet paper needs should be minimal).
Every body type is different and some will have one bowel movement a day and others can be around 3. It is not uncommon to experience the urge to go after a meal because when food is detected in the stomach it stimulates peristalsis (contracting waves in the large intestine that helps us eliminate). You can think of it like the stomach is yelling down to small intestine and large intestine, “hey you guys, more is on the way, make room”.