Diarrhea – Atisara

Diarrhea- Atisara in Sanskrit means “excessive passage of watery stools”- “Ativa sarati iti Atisaram“. Diarrheal disease is the second leading cause of death in children under five years old and is responsible for loosing 1.5 million children every year. It is defined as the passage of looser or liquid stools three times per day or more frequently than is normal for the individual [WHO].

According to Ayurveda diarrhea is categorized under the diseases caused by Agni mandya– impaired digestive power. When analyzing the causes of diarrhea, it is conspicuous that almost all the causes are related with Agni mandya. According to the Ayurvedic medicine, Jatharagni [digestive power] consists of mainly three components; Pachaka Pita, Samana Vata and Kledaka Kapha (combination of doshas in the stomach level). Imbalance between any of these doshas causes Agni mandya, mainly Kledaka Kapha and Samana Vata. For instance, an oil lamp lights with the aid of oil, air and fire. If there is excessive oil by any means, it would be extinguished as well as due to excessive air. But the action of the air varies from time to time. Here, air resembles with Samana Vata and oil with Kledaka Kapha. The result of Agni mandya is the accumulation of ama [undigested metabolic waste] within the digestive tract leads to diarrhea.

What about infectious diarrhea? Does Ayurvedic Medicine describe only about the concepts of doshas? The answer is “No”. It describes that diarrhea can also be caused by Krimi– worms/ micro-organisms. Like in Modern Medicine, Ayurvedic Medicine has also mentioned several types of diarrhea. However, one of the “latest” types of diarrhea is radiation induced Diarrhea. There is no intention to compare the modern and ancient types of diarrhea but, radiation induced diarrhea co-relates with Vataja Atisara, which is mainly due to vitiation of Vata. Radiation damages the cells of the body. Any damage to the cells causes “Dhatu Kshaya” – destruction of Dhatu. Due to the destruction of Dhatu, absorption of the food from the small intestines is defected. This causes a reverse effect on the Jatharagni [digestive power], and the result is accumulation of ama. According to some of the modern concepts, radiation-induced diarrhea results from motility disturbances. Radiation damages the smooth muscles of small intestines, and hence bacterial overgrowth, which leads to diarrhea.

Management of diarrhea

In any event, a patient who is suffering from diarrhea should not be given heavy foods, but a light and thinly liquid diet. Gruel [Yavagu] prepared with the admixture of digestive drugs can be given in their proper order. In a case marked by colic and flatulent distension of the abdomen, fasting should be first advised.

Herbal remedies for diarrhea

Ginger tea digests ama and increases appetite. A mixture of ginger juice with honey is also useful. Hingwashtak, Trikatu and Bilva fruit powders are good remedies: increase appetite and digest ama. Nutmeg is the households remedy for treating loose motions. It reduces unwanted mobility of the intestine, relieves colic and controls loose motions. Infusion of slightly toasted cumin in boiled water is also effective. Kutaja (Holarrhena antidysenterica) powder can also be given with honey. Pomegranate juice/ powder cures the loose motion and also increases the digestive capacity. Can these herbs use even in radiation-induced diarrhea? Probably Yes, because almost all the above herbs are radio-protective as well.

May all beings be healthy!
Dr. Indunil Weerarathne

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