It is evident from this classical text written by the surgeon Suśruta, that health is not simply the absence of disease, but the state of harmony and balance between all functions of body, mind, and spirit.
Self-Observation for Optimal Health
Although nourishment is highly important in establishing health, without properly balanced waste products, or malas, and proper waste elimination, we cannot make space for new nourishment to take its course of action in the body.
Upon waking, it is beneficial to go through a routine of self-observation to gauge how we are feeling that day, how our face, tongue, and skin look, or notice if there is a particular taste in our mouth upon waking up.
For optimal health, we should also analyze our Koshtha, or bowel movements. When we observe our Koshtha, we get a better idea about how we have processed and digested the meal of the previous day, how well we have absorbed the nutrients from the food, how fast or slow our metabolism is moving, which doshas might be lingering in our bodies, and whether we have accumulated toxins in the GI tract and colon.
The Three Types of Koshtha
Let’s look at the three different types of Koshtha or elimination types associated with each dosha. The observation of the Koshtha is called Mala Parīkshā.
The three different types of Koshtha recognized in Ayurveda correspond to each dosha: Vata, Pitta, and Kapha.
1. Vata and Krūra Koshtha
Vata-type individuals will most often struggle with Krūra Koshtha, which are hard stools with a tendency towards constipation. Krūra Koshtha is hard in texture, pellet-like in shape, dark in color, dry, and often difficult to eliminate, causing constipation. Evacuation time will usually be irregular.
2. Pitta and Mrudu Koshtha
Pitta-type individuals will most often have Mrudu Koshtha, which is soft in texture, warm and liquidy in form, yellow-green in color, often with undigested food particles inside, with the tendency to eliminate multiple times (2-4 times) a day. Pitta types have the fastest metabolism, so there is a tendency for the digestive tract to process things too quickly and not absorb all the nutrients from the food matter.
3. Kapha and Madhyama Koshtha
Kapha-type individuals will most often have Madhyama Koshtha, which is oily and bulky in texture, dense, pale in color, and often coated with a layer of mucus. They will eliminate regularly, often just once a day. If Kapha types resist the urge to defecate, they could end up feeling heavy and lethargic.
With these descriptions, you can reflect on your own Koshtha and decide which category yours usually falls under. Your regular Koshtha type will often match that of your mind-body type, or prakruti, your essential nature at birth, but not necessarily.
Once your regular Koshtha type is identified, you can do more acute observations daily and notice subtle differences based off foods you’ve consumed or circumstances that might change the Koshtha.
This knowledge could give you hints about your current state of imbalance, or vikruti. Suppose you normally have Madhyama Koshtha but went out for very spicy Mexican food the day before. In that case you might observe changes that appear closer to Mrudu Koshtha. Or, perhaps your normal tendency is towards Mrudu Koshtha, but after several days of traveling, dehydration, and eating packaged airplane food like crackers, you might notice that you have a more challenging time than usual going to the bathroom, and when you do that it has more qualities of Krūra Koshtha than your typical day.
Returning to a State of Balance
Once we can observe the changes taking place in our Koshtha, we have a better idea of how to look out for early signs of imbalance and we have a better shot at reversing them.
If we observe Krūra Koshtha that appeared after our traveling, we know to spend some time keeping Vata in check by avoiding the crispy, crunchy snacks and doing abhyanga instead. After observing an unexpected Mrudu Koshtha, we know that Pitta is high and should be reduced in diet by avoiding hot, spicy, oily foods, and sipping an after-lunch Lassie until the Koshtha returns to a balanced state. The same goes for Kapha, if we suddenly start observing mucus in Madhyama Koshtha, we can take that as a hint to lay off the ice cream and reach for the ginger tea instead.
Let's take a look at balancing the doshas based on Koshtha observation:
For Vata-type Krūra Koshtha
- Be sure to drink plenty of water to lubricate the colon, use plenty of ghee and oil in the diet, drink fruit juices, cook with rock salt, and include items like soaked prunes and raisins in the diet along with fibrous grain brans.
- Avoid foods like dry crackers, crispy-crunchy chips, and astringent beans to avoid further aggravation of Vata in its home site—the colon.
For Pitta-type Mrudu Koshtha
- Aim to improve the quality of absorption by reducing the heat that causes food to move quickly through the colon before it is absorbed.
- Avoid foods that are oily, spicy, salty, and fermented.
- Common remedies used are golden milk at night, ½ tsp. of psyllium husk at night, and 2 tablespoons of aloe vera gel after meals.
For Kapha type Madhyama Koshtha
- Decrease mucus in the stool by adding heating and astringent foods to the diet.
- Avoid foods that are sweet, oily, and dairy products.
- Common dietary tools can be ground flax seeds and soaked raisins.
Ayurvedic Herbal Remedies to Support Proper Elimination
We can also find simple remedies for the colon and Koshtha with use of herbs in the category called “Virechana”, or purgatives. This category of herbs may not necessarily have laxative qualities, but will work on toning and regulating the function of the colon and elimination channels.
For Vata-type Krūra Koshtha
Virechana herbs that can be used are Gandharva Harītakī (1/2 tsp at night), Harītakī, or Triphala with and pinch of licorice (skip the licorice in cases of high blood pressure).
For Pitta-type Mrudu Koshtha
Useful Virechana herbs include Avipattikar Churna (1/2 tsp. after lunch), Bhumyāmalakī (1/2 tsp. before bed), Āmalakī and Triphala (1/2 tsp. before bed) to help eliminate excess pitta.
For Kapha type Madhyama Koshtha
While Kapha will generally tend to have less difficulty with elimination, Virechana herbs that can be used are Bibhītakī and Triphala.
Note: Never take multiple Virechana herbs at one time and always consult with your Primary Health Care Physician before taking any Ayurvedic Herbs, as well as consult with your Ayurvedic Practitioner to check for any contraindications and see which herbs are best suited for you. Never take Virechana herbs if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, menstruating or have diarrhea. Always discontinue use if you are experiencing an adverse reaction.
Reducing Toxicity and Balancing the Doshas
In addition to the three doshic Koshtha types, we can also analyze the toxicity of the stool. When the Koshtha is sāma (toxic, or with āma),it is an indication of toxins in the colon and impurities in the digestive process. It will leave a foul odor, leave marks on the toilet bowl, sink to the bottom of the bowl and be sludgy in consistency.
In this case, you can focus on a gentle detox of light, seasoned meals that are easy to digest and balancing for your constitution. Eating a mono-diet of Kitchari for a few days will help the digestive tract and colon recalibrate and eliminate accumulated doshas. You can take the Virechana herbs for your constitution listed above, or tri-doshic Triphala if you are not sure which dosha is out of balance.
A Balanced Digestive System
We know that our doshas, digestive fire, or agni, and elimination are in balance when we observe Sama Koshtha, or balanced stool. Sama, or balanced Koshtha is light, well formed with a banana share, does not have a foul odor, floats on top of the water, and does not leave marks in the toilet. The bowel movement happens easily and early in the morning, without undigested particles in it. This is a good sign that your previous meals were adequately digested and that the doshas are not accumulated in the colon and digestive tract.
You can keep a seasonal diet for your mind-body type when you witness consistently balanced Koshtha. Taking ½ tsp. of Triphala at night can be taken at times when elimination is balanced, as a means of keeping the colon and cells strong and healthy. After all, it is said that a person is as old as their colon!
Remember to observe your Koshtha each morning when you evacuate as an essential step in analyzing your current doshic state of balance (or imbalance). You can also observe the levels of toxins currently present in your digestive tract, as well as the quality of your digestion, absorption, and assimilation of nutrients that you have consumed.
You can try the tips and Virechana herbs for the Koshtha types as potential remedies for your Koshtha type, but always remember to consult with and get permission from your Health Care Practitioner before taking any Ayurvedic herbs. Happy eliminating!
*Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health programs.
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