What is Stomach Bloating?
Bloating is the accumulation of gas in the abdomen, which feels as if there is an inflated balloon in the stomach. It is a most commonly reported symptom in today’s life, sometimes accompanied by a visible increase in the width of the area between the hips and the chest.
Understanding the Bloating Phenomenon as per Ayurveda
In Ayurveda, there are four clinical conditions which resemble each other.
- Aadhmana – flatulence with distention;
- Pratiaadhmana – accumulation of gas in the upper abdomen only, without pain;
- Aanaha – distention of the abdomen due to obstruction of the passage of urine and stool;
- Atopa – gurgling in the abdomen, accompanied by pain.
According to Ayurveda, bloating is a Vata disorder (Vatvyadhi). It is accompanied by a weakened digestive or metabolic fire (Agnimandhya).
Causes of Stomach Bloating
The consumption of any Vata-aggravating foods such as beans or fried foods, frozen or processed food along with fried foods, dairy products, fermented foods e.g. alcohol, incompatible food combinations such as milk and fruit or milk and fish, improper food habits such as eating too fast, stress, sleep disturbances, not following a proper daily or seasonal regime, and the forcible suppression of natural urges like urination or defecation can create gas in the intestine causing colic pain in the abdomen.
Types of Aanaha (different types of stomach bloating with different causes):
- Amaj anaha: stomach bloating due to Ama;
- Purishj anaha: stomach bloating caused by constipation.
Signs and Symptoms of Amaj anaha
Symptoms range from mild to severe, including abdominal distention, with or without discomfort, pain, belching or passing gas through the anus. Sometimes gas and pain can even be felt as mild pressure or pain in the chest.
Signs and Symptoms of Purishj anaha
Excess accumulation of feces or constipation may cause pain in the lower abdomen, backache, uneasiness, and vomiting.
Pathogenesis of Bloating
According to Ayurveda, Vata-aggravating factors such as improper food and incorrect lifestyle (Vatprakopaka Ahara Vihara) cause an abnormal condition of the digestive fire (Agnidushti) and disturb the function of the stomach and intestines. This leads to impaired digestion and bloating (Adhmana). Vata aggravation in the rectum causes retention of stool, urine, and gas leading to colic pain, flatulence, or bloating.
Correction in the Cooking Style
Gas-producing vegetables must be cooked with digestive spices that will support the process of digestion and elimination of the gas. A combination of cumin, coriander and fennel helps for better digestion. Turmeric, rock salt and asafoetida are excellent in eliminating gas and toxins.
Spices Commonly Used to Prevent Bloating
- Black pepper (Marich) stimulates the digestive fire (Deepana), alleviates Vata (Vatahara), acts as a digestive stimulant and promotes intestinal motility. It is helpful in painful conditions (Shool), Vata-related disorders, and bloating.
- Ginger (Sunth) increases heat and aids proper digestion.
- Jaggery (Gud) ignites the digestive fire (Agnideepana) and cleanses the stomach, urinary, and excretory systems. It is helpful in flatulence and bloated stomach conditions.
- Cumin (Jeeraka) ignites the digestive fire (Deepana), promotes digestion (Pachana), and is effective in cases of weak digestive fire (Agnimandhya).
- Coriander (Dhanyaka) ignites digestive fire (Deepana), promotes digestion (Pachana), and is effective in bloating (Adhmana) and indigestion (Ajirna), it also possesses muscle-relaxant effects and is thus capable of relieving abdominal pain. Coriander also increases the output of urine and helps expel toxins.
- Fennel (Mishreya, Sanuf) is a carminative herb (Anulomana) which ignites digestive fire (Deepana) and removes toxins from body (Amadoshahara). It is effective in cases of weak digestive fire (Agnimandhya) and painful conditions (Shool).
- Garlic (Lasuna) ignites digestive fire (Deepana) and alleviates Vata (Vatahara). It is useful in painful conditions (Shool), Vata disorders (Vatavyadhi), as well as colic accompanied by flatulence (Vatashoola). Garlic relieves constipation and is helpful in treating disorders related to Vata imbalance.
- Peppermint (Pudina) ignites digestive fire (Deepana), alleviates Vata (Vatahara), relieves bloating (Adhmana), and strengthens weak digestive fire (Agnimandhya). It is also useful in painful conditions (Shool).
- Lemon juice (Nimbu ras) ignites digestive fire (Deepana), alleviates Vata (Vatahara), and promotes digestion (Pachana). It is effective in cases of weak digestive fire (Agnimandhya), anorexia (Aruchi), colic with flatulence (Vatashoola) and constipation (Vibandha).
- Asafoetida (Hing) ignites digestive fire (Deepana), promotes digestion (Pachana), acts as a carminative (Anulomana), alleviates Vata (Vataprashmana) and enhances digestive enzyme action in the pancreatic tissues. It is useful in diseases involving pain (Shoolrog), bloating (Adhmana), and weak digestive fire (Agnimandhya).
- Buttermilk (Takra) pacifies all doshas (Tridosha Shamaka), enhances digestive fire (Deepana) and promotes digestion (Pachana). It clears the channels (Srotshodhaka). It is useful in Vata imbalance-related disorders (Vatavyadhi), distention of the abdomen due to obstruction of the passage of urine and stool (Anaha), Udara Rog (abdominal disorders), and digestive ailments such as irregular bowel movements, irritable bowel syndrome, and stomach infections.
Classical Ayurvedic Products Used to Treat Stomach Bloating:
- Kalyana Ksharam
- Dadimashtaka Churnam
- Dipyakadi Churnam
- Panchakola Churnam
- Brihatvaiswanara Churnam
- Hinguvachadi Churnam
- Shaddharna Churnam
- Indukanta Ghritam
- Dadimadi Ghritam
- Indukantam Kashayam
- Chiruvilvadi Kashayam
- Kalasakadi Kashayam
- Balapunarnavadi Kashayam
- Gandharvahastadi Kashayam
- Rasnasaptakam Kashayam
- Saptasaram Kashayam
- Pulileham (Pulimkuzhampu)
- Vilwadi Leham
- Agnikumararasam Gulika
- Himguadi Gulika
Treating Bloating with Ayurveda
Fasting (Pachana) is advisable until Ama is detoxified. During this time, you can drink warm water (at a temperature of 60 degrees), mung water (Mung bean bouillon), warm water with lemon and honey, or consume light and warm vegetable soups.
Ayurvedic Line of Treatment for Bloating
Fomentation (Swedana), dry massage (Udvartnam), classical massage without oil and with pressure (Mardanam), different kinds of suppositories (Varti), enema, and intake of foods like appetizers. Soups that ignite the metabolic fire (Deepana), promote digestion (Pachana), and have a carminative action (Vata-anulomana) are recommended. All of the above are used according to the severity of the condition.
Vamana (medicated emesis)
In rare cases, mild Vaman, followed by the proper Deepana, can be administered to eliminate all bio toxins.
Snehan, Swedan, and Paste
Applying various warm Vatahara oils (e.g. Mahanarayana Oil, Saindhavadi Oil, and Sahachara Oil) followed by hot steam helps to pass gas and soften the stomach. The same effect can be achieved by applying paste of Hing, Triphala, or Trikatu; alternatively, Ajamoda with Takra or warm water can be used, too. Applying warm Hingu water (Asafoetida) in the umbilicus also helps release gas and alleviate pain.
Apply Asafoetida paste on the abdomen or on the sole of the foot (in the children aged below 18 months). The general line of treatment is administering Gudvarti (suppositories) in the rectum.
In cases of severe constipation, especially in children, inserting suppositories (Gudvarti) in the rectum gives better results. These can be prepared by mixing salt, Trikatu, jiggery, and cow’s urine. Cook the mixture, make a suppository and insert it in the anus – it will aid defecation and help release gas from the colon.
Medicated Enema (Basti)
For adults with severe pain or constipation, it is advisable to perform Aasthapana Basti (medicated decoction enema) for immediate results. It will aid defecation and help release gas.
In case of excess dryness and wind, your Ayurvedic expert might suggest an enema course (Anuvasan Basti or oil enema) for 7 to 10 days depending on the disease and dosha condition.
Ayurvedic dietary guidelines (Ahara Vidhi Vidhan) prove to be very helpful in preventing most digestive problems, including bloating. Following dietary rules helps promote conscious and cautious eating, which in turn results in the easy digestion and absorption of food. Thus, dietary rules promote both digestion and the overall health.
- Freshly cooked food helps digestion. Food should be freshly cooked and warm as it stimulates the digestive fire (Agni). In contrast, reheating affects the taste of the food and slows digestion down.
- The proper use of natural fats is very important as they lubricate the digestive canal and the visceral organs increasing their strength. Deep fried food must be avoided unless prescribed.
- The quantity of the food depends on its properties. Heavy foods such as pastries should be consumed in moderation.
- Food is to be taken if and only if the previous meal is well digested. This allows the body to eliminate waste in time for the next meal.
- Proper hygiene and a pleasant atmosphere are recommended when having a meal.
- Despite being appropriate, if the food is eaten too fast, it will not provide the necessary nutrition to the body and might increase the possibility of toxin generation. Hence, it is recommended to chew a bite 32 times for better digestion.
- Eating too slow is not advisable, either. One tends to eat more, which may lead to sluggish digestion.
- Meetings over lunch could save time but it will not help digestion. All our attention should be directed to eating while eating. Mindful eating helps digestion.
- Avoid beans, cabbage, peas, potatoes, cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, food high in fat, fried foods, and fermented foods as they could cause bloating. If dairy and/or flour products make you feel uncomfortably stuffed, then try eliminating them from your diet or adding spices to them.