Importance of Stool (Feces) in Ayurveda – Physiology, Pathology

Article by – Dr Renita D’Souza
Ayurveda emphasizes the importance of stool. Feces is a tool for good health and longevity. Stool is that element of the body which is eliminated out for its healthy functioning. Ancient Ayurveda has explained its importance in normal condition as one among the root cause for supporting normal functioning of the body.

Importance

Functions of stools
It supports the body. As per Ayurveda, feces should get formed in proper time. They should be there in the large colon for certain amount of time and they should be eliminated from the body in proper time. As long as the fecal matter resides in the body, it has specific physiological functions.
It maintains the Vata dosha and digestive fire.

Formation of stool and its elimination represents the normal functioning of digestive system which includes the good appetite,  perceiving proper taste of food, ingestion, digestion and excretion.
Abnormal formation of stools affect the normal functioning of vata and digestive fire.

How stools support the body?
Stools are such product of the body which has to be eliminated out regularly in proper quantity for maintaining good health. We all know the consequences when waste materials are stagnated in the body. Constipation is one such condition caused when stool is stagnated in body and obstructed from being eliminated.
Read TriMala – The Three Major Waste Matters Of Body

If this excreta has to be eliminated out then how it supports the body. Lets consider the case of diarrhea, why it causes exhaustion and weakness if it eliminates the the waste products all at once and keeps colon clean. Yes, this is how it shows the importance of its presence in little quantity inside the colon and supporting the body.

Stools are formed not only by undigested food materials but also contain secretions of large intestine. Thus it is said – Malochitatwaat dehasya kshayo vriddhestu peedanah – Loss of feces in diarrhea is more dangerous than the stagnation of stool as in constipation.
Read related: Senna Home Remedies for Flatulence, Constipation

In tuberculosis stools are considered the only strength of the body.  Ayurveda advocates the physicians utmost precautions during treatment of tuberculosis so not to evacuate bowel. As everything consumed is converted into stools in tuberculosis, they are considered as only strength providing material in the body which supports it.
Read related: Rajayakshma – Charaka Chikitsa 8th Chapter

Importance of stool in supporting normal functioning of body is well explained in Tuberculosis where the  ingested food is converted into stools and they are only source of strength.

Read related – Digestion Process As Per Ayurveda View

Normalcy

Normal quantity of stools
8 anjali- Anjali is the volume that is made when when we hold the hand in bowl shape.

Contents of stool
Undigested food material and metabolic waste of fat tissue.

Site of formation of stool
Colon (pureeshavaha srotas) is a site of formation and excretion of stool.
Large intestine (pakvashaya) and anal canal (sthula guda) are roots of colon.

Dosha dhatu mala moolam hi shareeram 
Ancient Ayurveda science has explained importance of excreta as one among the three component forming the root for existence of body such as Doshas, Dhatus (tissues) and Mala (waste materials ).

In Ayurveda word mala refers to waste materials formed during process of digestion (anna mala) and those formed in the metabolism of tissues (dhatu mala).
Stool is one among the Anna mala.
Read related – Types Of Doshas And Their Functions

Synonyms of stool in Ayurveda
Shakrth, vit, pureesha, gutha, varchas, upaveshana

Test for examination of normal and abnormal stools
Normal stool when put on water it floats whereas abnormal stool sinks in the water.

Normal stool appearance
Color – Yellowish to brown
Consistency – Semisolid (Like a ripe banana)
Taste – Pungent
Frequency of stool – once or twice a day
Stools should be passed in normal quantity without straining, no foul smell and should not stick to toilet or anal orifice.

Taste is mentioned as pungent. It was not actually tasted. Vata Dosha acts at the end part of digestion in large intestine and results in the pungency of stools. (Pungent taste increases Vata Dosha).
This is not tasted but guessed (Anumana Pramana) with smell. This helps to guess the functioning of Vata Dosha in the large intestine.
Read related: The Easiest Way To Understand Doshas

Anatomy

Purishavaha strotas ( excretory system of stools)
Purishavaha strotas is considered as colon which is the site of formation and excretion of stools. It forms the excretory system of feces with large intestine and anal canal as its two roots. It separates the digested food from undigested material, absorbs nutrients, excess water, holds the contents in colon for adequate duration and helps in easy elimination of stools.
Read related – Srotas: Body Channels and Duct systems – Easy Explanation

Disease condition

Causative factors for contamination of excretory system of feces

  • Sandharanath – suppression of urge of defecation
  • Athyashana – consumption of excess food
  • Ajeernath – indigestion
  • Adyashana – consumption of food when previous food is not digested
  • Dhurbala agni – low digestive fire
  • Krisha – emaciation etc
  • Read related: Stool Examination In Ayurveda

Symptoms of vitiation of excretory system of feces 

  • Krichra – voiding stools with difficulty
  • Alpaalpam – voiding stools in less quantity frequently
  • Sashabdham – voiding with sound
  • Athidravam – watery stools
  • Athigrithitha – voiding hard lumps of stool
  • Atibahu upavishtham – fecal matter stay in colon for long duration

Treatment

Treatment of diseases caused due to vitiation of excretory system of feces
Management is similar as done in ama athisara (diarrhea associated with ama).

  • Langana – lightening therapy
  • Laghu bhojana – food easily digested like green gram, snake guard, bottle guard, wheat,flatten rice buttermilk, fennel seed,pomegranate.
  • Pachana – intake of carminative and digestive food – pepper, ginger, nutmeg,
  • mrudhu shodhana – mild purification procedure

Formation of stool in Ayurveda
Food ingested enters the large intestine (Pakvashaya), the essential nutrients and excess water content from digested food is absorbed by the intestinal wall. Remaining undigested food which is now in semisolid consistency form the stools.

Agni(digestive fire)

Role of normal digestive fire in formation of food
Normal digestive fire will digest the food within 3 hours  and help in absorbing the essential nutrient and excess water through the intestinal wall (purishadhara kala). it is also responsible for the normal consistency of stools which can be compared to ripe banana.
Read related: How to understand Agni – digestion strength?

Consistency of stool based on abnormal digestive fire
If digestive fire is high (Teekshna agni) – Stools obtain hard consistency as it absorbs large amount of water.
Low digestive fire – Watery stools due to less absorption of water.

Influencing factors

Factors responsible in Ayurveda for consistency, color of feces
Consistency of stool depends on ingested diet, type of constitution
Color – color imparted to feces due to mala ranjaka pitta (stercobilinogen)

Nature and appearance of stool changes in particular diseases, when afflicted by specific dosha and ama (food toxin), nature of digestive fire and intake of particular food and medicine.
Read related: 37 Ayurveda Home Remedies For Diarrhea

Appearance of normal stool based on constitution
Vata constitution – hard stool
Pitta constitution – semi solid or watery
Kapha constitution – soft and solid

Symptoms

 Symptoms of decreased feces

  • Discomfort in heart and flanks
  • Abdominal discomfort
  • Gurgling sound in intestine

Symptoms of increased feces

  • Gaseous abdominal distention
  • Flatulence
  • Abdominal heaviness
  • Abdominal pain

Symptoms produced due to suppression of urge for defecation

  • Pindikodvesta – crams in calf muscles
  • Pratishaya – running nose
  • Shiroruja – headache
  • Urdwavayu – upward movement of vata
  • Parikartha –
  • Hridayasyoparodha – discomfort in heart
  • Mukena vitpravrthi – elimination of feces through mouth

Treatment

Treatment for condition caused due to suppression of urge for defecation

  • Ahyanga – oil massage. – There will be abdominal colic pain. Suppression of urge leads to reverse movement of Vata in the colon. To normalize Vata movement, oils like ksheerabala taila is rubbed over the abdomen with clockwise massage using palm.
  • Swedha – sudation therapy – sweating treatment over abdomen is given followed by oil massage. Sweating can be induced by a towel dipped in hot water etc.
  • Avaghaha – sitz bath
  • Varti – rectal suppository  – useful in relieving constipation instantly.
  • Basti – enema – useful to balance down Vata Dosha
  • Foods with laxative action – such as banana, castor oil etc.

Read related – Effects Of Suppression Of Urge To Defecate, Treatment

Appearance of stool afflicted by food toxin – Sama purisha
Nature – Heavy
Smell – Foul smell
Nature in water – Sinks

Differentiating factor when feces is not associated with food toxin  – Nirama purisha
Stools float while food on water.
Read Urine In Ayurveda – Functions, Importance, Pathology

Feces affected by doshas

Symptoms of stools afflicted by particular dosha
Vata dosha

  • Dry
  • Hard
  • Blackish

Pitta dosha

  • Yellowish
  • Watery stools

Kapha dosha – Whitish

Afflicted by all three doshas

  • Black
  • Loose stools
  • Yellowish
  • Constipated
  • Whitish

Vata and Kapha dosha

  • Ishat krishna – Greyish color

Pitta and Vata

  • Constipated
  • Yellowish white

Symptoms of stools remained for long time in intestine (jeerna mala)

  • Foul smell
  • Fragmented
  • Cold stools

What is a healthy stool?
Bristol stool chart describes various sizes and shapes of faeces. Sausage type of feces which is eliminated in semi solid to solid form, without causing any difficulty or pain is considered healthy. (read more)

Poop pill

A clinical trial conducted by University of Calgary has shown that Fecal Microbiota Transplant (FMT) is very useful in the treatment of clostridium difficile (C. difficile) infection. The transplant was either introduced through anal route via colonoscopy or through oral capsules.
Our colon contains many healthy bacteria. In certain infectious conditions or due to heavy use of antibiotics, the colon may lose these healthy bacteria. To regain back these healthy bacteria, FMT therapy can be very useful. (1)
Click to Consult Dr Renita D’Souza

3 thoughts on “Importance of Stool (Feces) in Ayurveda – Physiology, Pathology”

  1. V.R.K. Raman.
    Under the caption “normal appearance of stools”, it is stated that “taste should be pungent ” . ‘Taste’ is a quality applicable to
    edible food items. How is it relevant for stools?
    Even if it is relevant, will anyone taste his stools to check whether it is ‘normal'(i.e. pungent) ?

    Reply
    • Hi, Vata Dosha acts at the end part of digestion in large intestine and results in the pungency of stools. (Pungent taste increases Vata Dosha).
      This is not tasted but guessed (Anumana Pramana) with smell. This helps to guess the functioning of Vata Dosha in the large intestine.

      Reply
  2. Thanks. Pungent taste is made up of two elements, fire and air. Pungency increases pitta more ,
    vata less. Your statement that pungent taste increases vata dosha is not taking in to account
    its effect on pitta dosha. Pitta is the hottest among the six tastes; vata is cold. So pungency will
    cause greater increase in pitta and less in vata.
    In stool examination, the word ‘taste ‘ is rather inappropriate.

    Reply

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