Dysentery and Ayurveda
By Sajimon George BAMS. AAA. ATMS
Dysentery is an infectious disease of gastro intestinal tract especially colon. World Health Organization defines it as any episode of diarrhea with loose, watery stools and presence of blood. Patient may also complain against tenesmus or urge to defecate. It is spread among human through contaminated food. When someone is infected with dysentery, the causative organism passes out through stool and cause infection to others in unhygienic sanitary surroundings. Shigella, Escherichia coli, Entamoeba hystolytica are main organisms causing this. Shigella is the main cause of bacillary dysentery. Prevalence is estimated to be 120 million and causing mortality of one million people. Amoebic dysentery is caused by Entamoeba hystolytica. Amoebic dysentery is the common type in tropical countries and its prevalence is estimated to be 50 million and results in 100,000 deaths an year. In general, signs and symptoms last for 5-7 days. Gravity of symptoms varies in different individuals. When dysentery is presented with severe diarrhea with vomiting, the dehydration may result in emergency situation. In Ayurveda , clinical condition called Pravahika is comparable to this condition.
Signs and Symptoms
Symptoms appear one to three days after exposure to infection
- Pain in the lower abdomen
- Fever and chills
- Nausea and vomiting
- Watery diarrhea with blood and mucous.
- Pain while passing stool
- Occasional constipation
- Amoeboma or Abdominal mass in Right lower abdomen
- Mild stomach ache and diarrhea
- Stool without blood or mucus in most cases
Ayurvedic Approach ( Dysentery and Ayurveda)
Modern lifestyle with negligence on healthy food habits is the cause of this disease.Food from unhygienic hotels, restaurants result in vitiation of Pachakagni or digestive fire along with Vatha and Kapha. Vitiated Vatha displace accumulated Kapha from its natural sites and brings to Pakwasaya or intestines. Increased kharatha (Hardness) and rukshata(Dryness) properties in the body cause sticking of Kapha in to the walls of intestines or Pakwasaya. Since Kapha is very sticky here, Vatha humor tries to forcefully eliminate this blockage from Pakwasaya.This cause Pravahana or frequent urge to defecate with small quantity of stool. Annavaha srothas (subtle channels carrying food) and Pureeshavaha srothas (subtle channels carryings stool) are affected.
Pravahika , the disease explained in Ayurveda is comparable to dysentery.
Signs and Symptoms of Pravahika
- Frequent evacuation
- Small quantities of stool
- Painful evacuation
- Intense urge to defecate
- Stool with mucous
- Stool with or without blood
Achieving healthy agni or digestive fire, healing of intestinal damage and nourishing the body are the objectives of the treatment. Frequent and small quantities of easily digestible foods are inevitable in the initial step. Deepana and pachana (Agni or fire promoting drugs), ropana or healing drugs are given in the next stage. Finally drugs with nourishing or brimhana property are advised.
In this treatment, quantity and frequency of food intake is reduced. Warm water boiled with dry ginger is used for drinking. Light easily digestible gruel like food prepared with appetite producing herbs such as cumin, pepper, thippali, dry ginger etc are ideal.
Deepana and pachana
Herbs which can stimulate production of digestive juices or which can directly cause digestion are given.
Ropana or Wound healing drugs
Formulations and herbs with wound healing properties are given to heal and soothe intestinal walls.
Vasthi with suitable medicated sesame oil is good for pacifying Vatha and Kapha vitiation of this disease.Vasthi also help in healing the damage caused to intestine by chronic dysentery.
Pichila vasthi (Special formulation mentioned by Sushtutha) is also effective for alleviating urge for defecation and healing the damage of intestine.
Brimhana or Nourishing drugs
Due to the pathological changes of intestines, digestion and absorption will be impaired. It later results in weakness of the patient. For the completion of treatment, body requires nourishment. Formulations and herbs with nourishing properties are advised.
While selecting formulations and herbs, it should be nourishing and should not impair functioning of digestive fire or aggravate dysentery.
Formulations effectively used
Vaiswanara churnam ,Dadimashtaka churnam,Pryinguadi gana,Ambashtadi gana , Vilwadi gulika, Kutajarishtam,Pipplayasavam,Mustharishta,Vilwadi leham, Talisapathradi Vataka are effectively used.
Food and life style
Lack of healthy food habit is the main cause of dysentery or pravahika.
- Garlic, asafoetida, dry ginger may be used in food.
- Avoid hot, oily, fried and food with preservatives.
- Avoid overeating, eat only after the previous food is digested
- Avoid junk food.
Buttermilk after removing butter is an ideal drink
This is laghu (light to digest) hence it will not vitiate Kapha. When buttermilk is not very sour, it won’t cause vitiation of Pitha or fire principle. Due to slight sweetness this won’t vitiate Vatha humor.
Goat milk is specially indicated drink here. In the absence of ama , goats milk is a very important option.
Yoga and meditation
Yoga and meditation techniques help in dysentery. Yoga helps in improving strength of digestive fire. Body and mind relax while doing yoga and meditation.
Two yoga positions help patients with dysentery. They are Pavanamukthasana and Vajrasana. Pavanamukthasana or the knee-chest position and Vajrasana improve digestion by removing blockage of annavaha and pureeshavaha srothas.