By Ruchira Roy
For reasons as varied as overfeeding in case of infants, overeating fried food, allergies to certain foods or lactose intolerance, your child may complain of a stomach ache. Also, this time of the year is called Pittaprakopakala in Ayurveda, which means children are more prone to digestive illnesses during this period due to seasonal changes and imbalanced Pitta or fire element. Easily available ingredients like cumin, turmeric, rock salt or asafoetida in your kitchen cabinet can help manage the symptoms of stomach more acute when there is accumulation of toxins (also called Ama ache), build immunity and also strengthen digestion. Gastric problems are in the body, due to irregular eating habits (heavy, greasy foods) or stress, which is ubiquitous in the lives of children today.
Reports suggest as many as 24 per cent of children in India could be overweight. This is majorly due to increase in consumption of food high in salt, sugar and fat, which is more easily available to children. This has logically led to increased instances of stomach ache, diarrhoea, gas, constipation, cramps, acid reflux and other gastric issues among them. Ayurveda as a system of knowledge offers a plethora of home remedies, for gastric disorders as well.
Cause of Gastric Problems:
- Overfeeding (in the case of infant being overfed by mothers)
- Fried, junk food
- Sensitivity or allergy to certain foods (milk, pickle)
- Lactose intolerance (to dairy products)
- Gassy vegetables (cauliflower, raddish, cabbage, beans, broccoli, etc, can lead to gas)
- Worm infestation (highly common in children)
- Irritable Bowel Disease
- Consumption of contaminated water, eating roadside food
- Pitta imbalance
Pitta (fire element) imbalance
According to Ayurveda, imbalance in the three bioenergies of doshas—Vata, Pitta and Kapha—could aggravate gastric problems. The three doshas combine in differing proportions to make up an individual’s constitution or prakriti. This includes all factors—physical, mental and emotional—that express an individual’s uniqueness. Imbalance in the Pitta dosha is said to be the main cause of gastric problems and is further aggravated by eating junk, fried, processed and cold foods. Pitta, or the fire element, is said to govern all heat, metabolism and our sensory perceptions, besides transformation in the mind and body. It controls how we digest foods and an imbalance in Pitta dosha creates a lot of toxins or ama in the system. Ama makes one feel more lethargic, fatigued, causes stomach ache, bloatedness and nausea.
Ayurvedic home remedies for treatment of gastric problems
1. Hing (Asafoetida) and ghee on stomach
Take 1 tsp of hing (asafoetida) and mix it with 1 tsp of ghee. Heat it till lukewarm. The formulation could be applied on the child’s stomach four to five times a day till he gets complete relief. This is particularly helpful in stomach ache.
2. Castor oil and betel leaf
Take half a teaspoon of castor oil. Warm it till lukewarm. Apply it on the tummy region. Cover the portion with a betel leaf after applying. Castor oil helps in treating stomach ache as it stimulates the digestive system and improves the peristaltic useful in addressing constipation. Castor oil releases gas and clears bowel movement.
3. Decoction of jeera (cumin) and water
Take 1 litre of water and add two teaspoons cumin seeds to it. Heat it and pour the contents in a bottle. Ask the child to sip on it throughout the day. The bottle could also be kept with the child when going to school. This aids in better digestion.
4. Ginger and hing decoction
Take fresh ginger, hing and a dash of rock salt. Add it to water. Boil it and pour the contents in a bottle. Drink sip by sip.
5. Recipe for constipation
Mix 1 tsp fresh ghee and ½ tsp salt into 1 and a quarter cup hot water. Stir well. Sip it slowly. This should be consumed an hour after dinner.
6. Recipe for bloating
Toast 1 tsp fennel seeds and mix in 1 cup of boiled water. Add a few pieces of fresh ginger, a pinch of hing, and dash of rock salt to the boiled water. Sip this slowly after your meal.
7. Recipe for acid reflux
Combine 1/4 cup plain yogurt with 3/4 cup water (or double this, keeping same ratio). Mix well. Add 1 tsp rock salt, pinch of roasted jeera (cumin) powder, a bit of grated ginger, and fresh coriander leaves.
8. Home recipes for diarrhoea
Grate 1 inch of ginger and add to 1 1/4 cup water. Boil with a little aniseed. After it is boiled, add a pinch of turmeric powder. Strain and drink.
Yoghurt is considered to be a very good pro-biotic. Rich in lacto-bacilli, yoghurt protects the child from irritable bowel disease as well as the inflammatory bowel disease. However, it is advisable to consume yoghurt during the day than night.
10. Turmeric, cumin and fennel seeds
Addition of turmeric, cumin, fennel seeds, coriander and hing to the diet in general could help in improving the overall digestive function.
11. Burping of infants
Burping of infants such as patting them at the back when they are lying down could also be useful in treating stomach ache and releasing gas.
12. Ayurvedic medicines which could be of help:
- Hingwashtak Churna: 1 teaspoon could be added with ghee when having rice. Aids in better digestion and addresses bloatedness.
- Amrita Bindu: To be taken on an empty stomach with 4-5 drops added to water.
- Amlapittari Vati: A proprietary medicine used for hyperacidity.
- Pachani Rasayana: Helps in strengthening digestion.
- Ajamoda Arka: To be taken every morning with 4-5 drops added to lukewarm water.
- Kumaryasava: Improves functioning of the liver. If the problem persists, a doctor should be consulted without delay. Deworming the child every six months could also be immensely helpful in strengthening their digestive system.
Other precautions to keep in mind:
- Don’t drink water immediately before or half hour after eating food. This dilutes the digestive fire or ‘agni’.
- Ask kids to not hold their bladder for a long time as it can lead to gastric problem.
- Give kids more of bland food, soup and freshly cooked vegetables.
- Avoid junk and fried food. When eating outside, ensure the place has proper hygiene and water is purified.
- Encourage children to play more of outdoor games. This will improve their metabolism, make the child hungry and help improve the appetite.
Some Yoga exercises could also be useful in addressing stomach problems.
Pawanmukta Asana or wind relieving pose
This is a very powerful pose which helps entire digestive system and makes asana practice easier. It is particularly helpful in addressing stomach ache.
In this position, the thighs are pressed against the abdomen and the wrists or elbows are clasped. The neck is bent towards the knees and if possible the forehead or chin is touching the knees. The breath is relaxed.
Surya Namaskar or Sun Salutation is a set of 12 powerful yoga asanas (postures) that provides a great cardiovascular workout and improve the overall metabolism rate in the body. It is also a great way to stay fit, and make children less restless.
(With inputs from Art of Living’s senior Ayurveda Expert and Head Doctor at Sri Sri Tattva Panchakarma, Dr. Mitali Madhusmita)