Sometimes, no matter what you eat, your belly feels bloated. You know the feeling: your waistband’s too tight, your stomach feels like a beachball, and all you want to do is wear sweatpants. So what causes occasional bloating? In Ayurveda, the answer has a lot to do with Vata dosha—the Ayurvedic mind-body energy associated with air and space. Nutrition and lifestyle play a part, too. In this article, we’ll explore the Ayurvedic perspective on bloating, along with some simple tips for addressing it naturally.
Common sources & signs of bloating
Certain foods give just about everyone gas (bean burrito, anyone?). And women’s hormones can also be a factor in belly discomfort, especially during the menstrual cycle and menopausal transition. In some cases, bloating can be caused by an underlying health issue; always check with your doctor. But from the Ayurvedic perspective, weak digestion is often the culprit behind occasional bloating.
Some of the signs of weak digestion, or low agni (digestive fire) include:
- Occasional gas, bloating, constipation, or a swollen and distended belly.
- Feeling dull and lethargic
- Indigestion, acid stomach, or even diarrhea
- Skin issues
- Weakened immunity
These are also the signs of an accumulation of ama (a sticky, toxic substance) in the digestive tract. Other signs of ama in the body may include an uncomfortable response to allergens and a sticky white or yellowish coating on the tongue in the morning. If you’re experiencing some of these issues, don’t worry! There are plenty of simple strategies for clearing ama from your system, and we’ll explore them below. But first, let’s talk about bloating and the Ayurvedic doshas.
Bloating and Vata dosha
In Ayurveda, there are three different mind-body energies, or doshas—Vata, Pitta, and Kapha—and each one is associated with elements in nature. Vata is associated with air/space, Pitta is associated with fire/water, and Kapha is associated with earth/water. Vata dosha governs all movement in the mind and body, and is located in the colon. Bloating from time to time is often an indication of excess Vata dosha in the colon.
If you think about it, what happens to air and space when they move? They become wind! In that same way, when there’s either too much or too little movement in the eliminative organs, you’ll often feel “windy” or gassy. This is one of the hallmarks of a Vata-related digestive issue.
Each of the three Ayurvedic doshas has different qualities. Vata is cool, dry, and erratic; Pitta is hot, sharp, and intense; and Kapha is cool, heavy, and oily. When you consider Vata dosha’s cooling, drying characteristics, it makes sense that an excess of Vata has a “drying” effect on the digestive system, leading to issues like constipation.
Signs of excess Vata in the eliminatory system
There are four main ways that a Vata imbalance can manifest lower digestive tract. They are:
- Anaha - constipation
- Adhmana - bloating
- Atopa - bloating and gassiness
- Udavarta - Vata energy moving upward, instead of downward, in the colon
Digestive habits and factors that cause occasional bloating
Certain diet and lifestyle habits can lead to bloating. Knowing these common culprits is the first step towards comfortable digestion.
It’s common sense: eating to excess can leave you feeling heavy and uncomfortable. For healthy, comfortable digestion, the Ayurvedic texts recommend stopping when you feel three-quarters full.
Incompatible food combinations (viruddhashana)
In Ayurveda, certain food combinations are said to cause indigestion. These include: milk and bananas, dairy and meat, eggs and potatoes, and melons with just about anything. As is often said about melons in Ayurveda: eat it alone, or leave it alone!
Combining wholesome and unwholesome foods (samashana)
When eating good-for-you foods like whole grains, legumes, and cooked veggies, it’s better to avoid adding foods of lesser value to the mix—like potato chips. Everything in moderation, of course.
Indigestion (ajeerna aahara)
Indigestion isn’t a habit, but it’s often the end result of things like overeating and consuming incompatible foods. Indigestion, in turn, can lead to bloating. So now, let’s explore some natural strategies for keeping the bloat at bay.
Managing occasional bloating with Ayurveda
When you’ve ruled out gas-promoting foods (like beans and sauerkraut), as well as incompatible food combinations, the best way to avoid bloating is by strengthening your digestion naturally. Kindle your digestive fire by eating a bit of fresh, grated ginger before meals. Cook with digestion-boosting spices like cumin, coriander, cardamom, and black pepper. Sip a probiotic-rich digestive lassi with meals to support gut health. You can also learn how to balance your digestion through Yoga Asanas.
Ayurvedic diet and herbs for digestive health
Diet is always the first line of defense in Ayurveda when it comes to creating balance. To keep your digestion shipshape, follow a largely vegetarian diet rich in seasonal produce, legumes, whole grains, dairy (if tolerated), nuts and seeds (again, if tolerated), healthy fats (like olive oil and ghee, or clarified butter). Avoid junk foods, leftovers, highly processed foods (including refined flours and sugars), icy cold foods and beverages, and canned or frozen foods, as these can all weaken your natural digestive fire.
For additional support, you can also try Herbal Di-Gest, a traditional Ayurvedic formula that supports healthy digestion and helps with occasional gas, bloating, and discomfort. Our Organic Triphala Rose is another excellent choice for bloating from time to time. This powerful herbal remedy encourages regular elimination and assimilation while promoting a healthy microbiome and gut.
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