Article by Dr Raghuram Y.S. MD (Ay)
Medo Dhatu means fat tissue. Medo dhatu agni is the factor that controls fat metabolism. If the medo dhatu agni or the tissue fire of fat gets weak or stronger than usual, it leads to pathological manifestations. This leads to increase or decrease of fat tissue in the body. This in turn leads to a wide set of diseases which are again the root source for origin of many systemic illnesses like hyper-cholesterolemia, diabetes mellitus, obesity, neurological disorders etc.
The pathological manifestations of disturbance of medo dhatu and its agni are as below said –
Medo dhatu kshaya (depletion of fat tissue) –
Decrease of fat tissue can occur due to –
1. Poor supply of nutrition to Medo dhatu, caused by malnutrition, less eating fasting, etc.
2. Chronic diseases, obstructing the path of Medovaha srotas, thus blocking the flow of nutrition to Medo Dhatu – such as chronic fever
3. Chronic diseases causing weak agni, leading to depletion of all tissues, including Medho Dhatu. Eg: Irritable Bowel Syndrome, ulcerative colitis.
4. Severely aggressive Medo Dhatu Agni, causing burning of Medo Dhatu – as in case of excessive exercise, or drugs such as cocaine.
5. Abnormal tissue fire enhancing the interior metabolism in the fat tissue and burning away the fat.
Kshaya conditions can also be caused by sudden severe loss of the Dhatu due to blood loss after a serious accident which lead to critical Rakta Dhatu Kshaya, emotional trauma due to death or loss of a loved one, which can lead to anorexia and a complete stop eating.
Even the minimum accumulation of fat and its availability in circulation so as to render smooth body functions is hampered with the abnormal Medo dhatu Agni. There is severe depletion of fat than normal. The protective function of fat tissue is lost. The cells get dried up and the nerves lose their insulation. The cellular integration, the nerve conduction and other vital functions fail. It leads to many neurological and metabolic disorders. To compensate the loss of fat, the person tends to eat more but even that food is burnt away leaving nothing for the nutritional juices to be formed. On the backdrop of this problem we also will find teekshnagni (severe systemic metabolism monitored by vitiated pitta) or vishamagni (erratic and unpredictable systemic metabolism monitored by vitiated vayu)
Symptoms of Meda kshaya:
मेदसि स्वपनं कट्या: प्लीन्ह्नोः वृद्धिः कृशाङ्गता॥१८॥
medasi svapanaṃ kaṭyā: plīnhnoḥ vṛddhiḥ kṛśāṅgatā||18||
Ashtanga Hrudaya, Sutrasthana 11/8
svapanaṃ kaṭyā: – loss of sensation in the waist. It is due to the absence of fat tissue cushioning underneath the skin in the abdomen
plīnhnoḥ vṛddhiḥ – enlargement of spleen. Fat tissue decrease leads to immense increase of Vata Dosha. This increased Vata in the abdomen pushes down the spleen and thus spleen looks enlarged in the abdomen.
kṛśāṅgatā – emaciation of the body, lean body.
Medo dhatu vriddhi (increase in fat tissue) – This happens when the medo dhatu agni is abnormally decreased or weakened. This generally correlates to and is in rhythm and accordance with the weakened jataragni (gut fire or core metabolism) which in turn has its influence on the other agnis including dhatu agnis (tissue fires). When the Medo dhatu agni (tissue fire of fat) becomes impaired in the form of its qualitative and quantitative depletion, it fails to metabolise and convert the nutrients coming to it. The digestion of essentials within the cells of the fat tissue gets slow and lethargic. The local fat tissue proper is formed in an unripened form, the subsequent tissue i.e. bone tissue is not formed; the fat is neither metabolised nor mobilised from its sites. Fat starts accumulating in the body. This unwanted fat accumulates at every place and hampers the smooth functioning of other tissues and organs. Free fat which circulates in the blood stream accumulates in the blood vessels and causes lot of pathological conditions like hypercholesterolemia, hypertension, diabetes mellitus, heart diseases and many more. According to Ayurveda as it is said ‘Medasa avruta margatvat pushyanti anye na dhatavaha’ i.e. when the fat accumulates in various channels of the body, it creates multiple blocks and slows down (depletes) the flow of nutrients from one part of the body to the other. As a result other tissues are not nourished or enriched. Thus fat grows and accumulates at the expense of other tissues. The compromised tissues cause various diseases. This Medo Vriddhi also manifests in various forms. They are as below mentioned:
Medo Vriddhi (mathematical imbalance or increase of fat tissue and depots) –
This is a stage in which the fat tissue tends to accumulate in the body. It may either be a basic normal phenomenon or a pathological accumulation. This may have an impact due to erratic lifestyle, especially lethargic and sedentary lifestyle and consumption of high caloric foods, binge eating, lack of exercise, stress and sleep disorders.
Thus in Medo Vriddhi we can find ‘pathological increase of fat’ with a simultaneous depletion of other tissues. It provides a backdrop for the development of serious fat related disorders in the body.
Symptoms of Medo Vriddhi
तद्वत् मेदः तथा श्रमं, स्वल्पे अपि चेष्टिते श्वासं, स्पिक् स्तन उदर लम्बनम्।(अ.हृ.सू.१२)
Tadvat medaha tathaa shramam, swalpe api cheshtite shwaasam, spik stana udara lambanam (Ref – Ashtanga Hridaya Sootra Sthana 12)
- Shramam – exhaustion, fatigue
- Swalpe api cheshtite shwasam – dyspnoea or breathlessness (short of breath) even on doing a small quantity of work
- Spik lambanam – sagging of butts
- Stana lambanam – sagging of breasts
- Udara lambanam – sagging of abdomen (belly, tummy)
Note – Sagging of the said parts take place due to excess accumulation of fat, takes place even in men
Medoroga (Group of disorders caused due to metabolic disturbances and serious morbidity of fat tissue) –
Medo Roga means disease (diseases or symptom complex) which is manifested due to pathological increase in quantity of fat tissue in the body (Meda=fat, Roga=disease). This explains Medo Roga as a syndrome rather than a disease or a complaint. This term covers all the symptoms and complications which occur due to the disturbances in fat metabolism. This definition of Medoroga covers all the serious complications and systemic disorders covering multiple organ damage like heart diseases, hypercholesterolemia, hyper-lipidaemia, hypertension, kidney disease, stroke etc are covered. This topic is dealt in detail in Ayurvedic treatises.
This term looks in closer terms with Medo Vriddhi which we have already discussed. But both are different conditions. Medo Roga is the beginning of accumulation of fat such that the person looks sthula (obese). On the backdrop of medo vriddhi and consequent sthoulya, the accumulated fat causes serious morbidity by causing serious tissue and organ damage involving the morbid Dosha’s along with it (Medo Roga).
Note – All those who have Medo Roga (diseases caused due to disturbance in fat metabolism) need not look Sthula (anatomically obese).
Note – The terms Sthoulya, Ati-sthoulya, Medo vriddhi and Medo roga are used interchangeably. There is no clear demarcation to differentiate these terms as per classical references. I have described them differently to make it convenient for my readers to understand the minute differences between these terms. Unless otherwise these terms depict and represent different stages of ‘metabolic disturbance of fat tissue’
Thus the terms Sthoulya and Medoroga cover a wide array of medical conditions explained in Modern medicine like Hyper-cholesterolemia and Hyperlipidemia apart from covering obesity and overweight conditions.
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