Triphala (sometimes spelled Trifala) supports bowel tone, muscular function, and contractibility of the intestinal wall, thereby supporting healthy digestion, assimilation, and elimination. Triphala also helps maintain the balance of mucus lining the intestinal wall, which soothes the digestive tract and buffers against strong digestive acids. While Triphala is not a laxative, it has provided many with healthy elimination support.*
This formula is comprised of three fruits that support the eliminative process:
- Amalaki is a fruit that supports a healthy intestinal system.
- Bibhitaki supports the natural balance of intestinal mucus.
- Haritaki supports the natural strength and function of the intestinal muscles.*
Suggested Use: Take 1 capsule 3 times per day before meals or as directed by your health care professional.
Bottle Contains: 90 vegetarian capsules, 500mg each
Ingredients: Organic Phyllanthus emblica (Amla Fruit), Organic Terminalia bellerica (Belleric Myrobalan Fruit), Organic Terminalia chebula (Chebulic Myrobalan Fruit)
(Go to Ayurvedic Herbal Makeup)
Does not contain: Yeast, gluten, corn, soy, milk, fish, animal products, binders, fillers, preservatives, or artificial coloring
Kosher Certified: No animal derivatives
A recent review of scientific literature looked at the state of modern digestion and elimination. Researchers found reports of sluggish elimination common, but inconsistent from country to country. Americans, in particular, seem unsure of how to classify their bathroom habits, with survey results ranging from 2% all the way up to 27% of the population. (1)
It’s no wonder that we visit the doctor an estimated 2.5 million times and spend an estimated $800 million dollars every year on laxatives (2), we still don’t know what a normal bowel movement is!
The medical definition of normal elimination is considered to be at least three bowel movements a week. (1) However, Ayurveda and many health professionals subscribe to the one bowel movement a day rule. Ayurveda says there should be a complete elimination within the first hour of waking up.
The newest studies on the gastrointestinal system are showing correlation, if not causation, between irregular bowel movements and many serious health issues. (3)
What Is the Cause of Poor Digestion?
There are more stress receptors in the gut than there are in the brain. Ninety-five percent of the serotonin in the body is manufactured and stored in the gut. (4) Other stress receptors like dopamine and norepinephrine (adrenaline) are abundant in the gut, making the gut the first responder for stress. (5) In fact, the gut has its very own nervous system called the Enteric Nervous System (ENS), which is totally independent of the Central Nervous System (CNS). Many of us can relate to feeling stress, nervousness, and butterflies in the gut. The gut is where we first learn to suck it up as kids, to stuff our emotions in order to deal with adversity and emotional trauma and cope with an unfriendly world.
In Ayurveda, the gut is considered to be the seat of the nervous system. Stress will cause poor digestion long before symptoms of fatigue, mood, and other more obvious symptoms are experienced. Stress impacts the gut wall by compromising blood supply and lymph drainage to the intestinal tract, which dries out the mucous membranes and often results in occasional constipation. Years of stress and elimination issues can cause the intestinal mucosa to produce reactive mucus as an attempt to soften the stool and improve elimination. Many laxatives mimic this effect, but not without side effects.
Do Natural Laxatives Work?
In one meta-analysis of over 250 studies, laxative therapies showed no noticeable difference compared to the placebo when measuring long-term bowel frequency. In other words, while laxatives of all kinds are prescribed and used as over-the-counter support, little if any evidence exists to confirm their long-term effectiveness. (2,3) While they often yield the desired effect at first, over time the body can become tolerant to them and they can stop working.
Are Laxatives Dangerous?
Laxatives typically speed up transit time, which is the time that it takes for food to be eaten and then eliminated. This increases the risk of mineral deficiencies due to a phenomenon called “intestinal hurry,” whereby the food moves too quickly through the gut to be properly absorbed. (6) Long-term laxative users can have somewhat regular bowel movements but may become run down and tired due to various mineral and nutritional deficiencies.
Even Natural Laxatives Can Create Intestinal Hurry
Magnesium, senna, caffeine, and cascara are common laxatives that cause intestinal hurry and possible malabsorption. Magnesium has been found to cause malabsorption at laxative dosages as low as 250mg per day. (6)
There are five major classifications of laxatives that can all have harmful side effects if used long term. They are:
- Bulking: Psyllium, Bran, Cellulose
- Stimulant: Senna, Cascara, Caffeine (Coffee, Tea, Chocolate)
- Osmotic: Magnesium, Sodium Salts, Epsom Salt
- Softening: “Stool Softeners” including Sodium and Calcium Sulfosuccinate
- Lubricant: Mineral Oil
Bulking agents like psyllium pull water off the gut wall, which dehydrates and ultimately irritates the bowel. The psyllium expands as it pulls more water off the intestinal wall, which causes the gut to distend. With long-term use, the gut becomes dried out, dehydrated and overly bloated. The more distended the gut becomes, the less motile and the more chronic the constipation becomes.
Stimulant, osmotic, and softening laxatives have all been shown to compromise mineral and electrolyte absorption by accumulating water in the gut and slowing absorption. (7, 8)
Stimulants like senna, cascara, and caffeine, and osmotics like magnesium also act as intestinal irritants (8) that aggravate the intestinal mucosa and desensitize the intestinal wall causing constipation, malabsorption, and dependency on laxatives with long-term use.
Lubricants like mineral oil leave toxic residues in the mesenteric lymph, intestinal mucosa, liver, and spleen while compromising absorption of water and nutrients through the gut wall. (8)
Bile Flow is Key
Healthy bowel function, which supports the stability and proliferation of good gut bugs, depends on the complete digestion of foods upstream in the stomach, pancreas, gallbladder and small intestine.
New research is now pointing to the regulation and production of adequate bile from the liver as a key component in healthy, normal elimination. (9) After digestion, leftover toxins in the large intestine are re-absorbed back into the bile where it ends up in the liver. Over time, the liver can become congested and the production of bile will slow down. This can lead to congestion of the gallbladder and poor bile flow into the intestines. Bile is the ultimate upstream regulator of the stool’s consistency, frequency and intestinal transit time. (9) Maintaining the healthy production of bile is key to regular elimination.
Foods that boost bile flow are called cholagogues and can be easily found. Some of my favorites are:
- Leafy greens
Fiber-rich foods, such as fruits, green veggies, whole grains, and beans are also key to healthy and regular bowel movements. Fiber scrubs the gut of excess mucus and toxins, attaches to toxin-carrying bile and escorts it to the toilet, and provides food for the good microbes that proliferate in the intestines. The goal is to reach 50 grams of fiber each day.
Healthy Alternatives to Laxatives
Triphala is a combination of three Ayurvedic fruits: Amalaki, Bibhitaki, and Haritaki.The first step in supporting healthy elimination is to tone the bowel muscles and lubricate the intestinal villi and gut wall. Triphala is a classic Ayurvedic formula that consists of three fruits which safely and effectively treat occasional constipation (10):
- Haritaki tones the muscular wall of the gut.
- Amalaki supports the health of the intestinal skin and villi.
- Bibhitaki boosts the removal of mucus and toxins from the wall of the gut.
Triphala is not a harmful, bowel-irritating laxative like senna, cascara sagrada and others which can also be habit-forming. Clinically, I find it useful as a bowel sweep for short-term eliminative support when traveling and during times of stress, and to help reset the lower digestive function.
Triphala and Healthy Weight Loss
In a recent peer-reviewed study, the effects of Triphala were examined. The study set out to measure the effects of Triphala and its individual herbal components Amalaki, Haritaki, and Bibhitaki. Laboratory mice were divided into 6 groups and monitored for 10 weeks: (11)
Group 1: Fed a normal diet.
Group 2: Fed a high-fat diet.
Group 3: Fed a high-fat diet plus supplemental triphala.
Group 4: Fed a high-fat diet plus supplemental amalaki.
Group 5: Fed a high-fat diet plus supplemental haritaki.
Group 6: Fed a high-fat diet plus supplemental bibhitaki.
The team measured food and energy intake daily for 10 weeks and measured the body weight of each mouse every third day during the course of the experiment. The results were amazing. All of the groups lost significant amounts of belly fat – with the exception of Groups 1 and 2. (11) Clearly, supplementing with these herbs has a significantly measurable effect.
Note: There are many wonderful natural remedies for mild or occasional constipation, but please remember that chronic constipation is a medical concern and you should speak with your healthcare practitioner about it as soon as possible.
Ayurvedic Herbal Makeup of Triphala
6. Wright, J. Nutrition & Healing. Premiere Issue. April 2005.