By Dr Raghuram Y.S. MD (Ay) & Dr Manasa, B.A.M.S
Genetics is a branch of biology. It relates to study of genes, genetic variations, and heredity in organisms.
Ayurveda has its own theory of genetics. Tridosha theory, embryology, anatomy, kriya shareera i.e. physiology and nidana i.e. pathology, these concepts give us information that Ayurveda had a precise knowledge of genetic factors and genomes but ancient wisdom had a different pattern of understanding these concepts and documenting them.
Read – Prakriti – Ayurveda Body Types, Importance In Treatment And Remedies
Many research works including Ayurgenomics has been conducted taking prakriti i.e physical constitution of individual as basic study parameter to individualise people into different compartments based on dosha predominance in their constitution.
Dosha, Prakriti, Genetics
Dosha-prakriti theory as related with concepts of genetics
Prakriti means body type of an individual. It includes physical constitution determined by predominance of tridoshas i.e. vata, pitta or kapha. This body constitution presents in 7 different forms –
This shows that we are predominant in one particular dosha and that determines our body type.
Read – Prakriti – Dosha Body Type Features As Per Master Charaka
In dual constitution, one dosha will be dominant and other will be recessive. Example, in vata-pitta body type, vata is predominant and pitta will be less dominant in comparison to chief dosha making constitution. In same combination, if pitta is dominant over vata at birth, we may call it pitta-vata constitution for convenience of understanding but this will be another trait of vata-pitta and hence will not be counted as a separate prakriti. We have three such dual constitutions and they are seen in majority of population. Third dosha will be recessive in comparison to two doshas mentioned in dual constitution.
Read – Diet And Lifestyle Advice For Vata Dosha Body Type
Two doshas in combination can be in equilibrium and like terms. When there is mutual imbalance in doshas making double or triple constitution beyond permissible and constitutional limits, diseases occur.
When all three doshas are in a state of balance, it is called sama prakriti i.e. balanced and healthy constitution. This is rare to find. If there is relative imbalance in doshas participating in triple constitution, it is called sannipata i.e. triple vitiation. ‘Sannipataja’ is a type of diseases formed by aggravation of all three doshas in unequal proportions and is found mentioned and explained as sub-type of many diseases.
When we discuss about genetic predisposition of any disease, concept of prakriti will stand still to explain that Ayurveda was first medical school to explain genetics in one of its basic concepts. Read – Conception And Formation Of Fetus As Per Ayurveda
From prakriti viewpoint
Doshas form our constitution. Dosha means ‘that which has tendency to cause vitiation of body components and subsequently cause diseases’. Thus, we are all born with genetic predisposition to suffer from one or other disease depending on predominance of doshas. Doshas, though are functional components of body and are meant to maintain all activities of body, they become opportunistic in terms of causing diseases when they get disturbed. Read – Functions Of Doshas In Balance In The Body – Prakrita Dosha Karma
They get disturbed when we get exposed to etiological factors which lead to vitiation of these doshas. By classical evidences and modern research evidences we can see that people having different body types are prone to suffer from different set of ailments.
- Vata body types are susceptible to suffer from neurological, degenerative, neuro-muscular and musculoskeletal disorders more than other body types.
- Pitta constitution bodies are prone to suffer from digestive disorders, metabolic disorders and inflammatory conditions in severe forms in comparison to vata and kapha people.
- Kapha constitution people are more susceptible to suffer from disorders of low metabolism, blocks in vessels and channels, high cholesterol, stones in kidneys and gall bladder, urinary disorders, metabolic syndrome, obesity, hypothyroidism, diabetes and diseases of similar types. Though these diseases are common even among vata and pitta population, kapha types suffer more from these conditions.
Therefore concept of prakriti is earliest evidence of description of genetic role in formation of diseases and doshas form determinants. Imbalances of doshas in a given constitution will genetically put person in a susceptible position to hire diseases caused by vitiated doshas. Same doshas making up one’s constitution can cause diseases when they get vitiated. Other doshas can also cause diseases, so does relative imbalance amongst all three doshas.
Similarly predominance of rajo guna or tamo guna marks mental constitution of an individual. Another quality of mind i.e. sattva is not a dosha, i.e. it is not a mind contaminant like raja and tama. Being satvik is being serene and divine. Read – Mind – Qualities And Functions As Per Ayurveda
Off late some research works done in relation with prakriti explained in Ayurveda and modern genomics has been trending and carries heading Ayurgenomics.
Study of genomes is called genomics. Genome is genetic material present in an organism. Ayurgenomics deals with application of genomics to basics of Ayurveda, mainly to concept of prakriti, i.e. constitutional make up of an individual.
Motive – is to study behavior of persons having identical body types responding to changes in external environment in a typical way. Study tries to see if people of same body constitution respond to external environment and changes taking place therein in a similar way. Example – to see if people belonging to vata body type are affected in a similar way to environmental ways, like vata increasing due to cold climate and in rainy seasons, dry weather etc, vata getting pacified by oleation and hot comforts like sudation and pacification of vata increase on consumption of sweet and sour foods. This study also tries to prove that same factors which worsen vata in one person also would aggravate vata in other vata body types also and same factors which would pacify vata in one person would do same in other vata constitutions also.
This study shows proneness of identical body types to certain diseases and responding to medicines and interventions in a peculiar and identical way.
This study would help in administration of suitable interventions to cure diseases and to take proper preventive measures to prevent diseases caused by vitiated doshas.
Concept of prakriti is basis for this study. Constitution is determined at conception. This constitution which determines one’s body type will be constant and cannot be changed or altered during an entire lifespan of an individual.
Read – Shareera: Formation Of Human Body, Ayurvedic Concept
Constitution is formed due to genetic material of both father and mother carried to offspring. Thus, concept of prakriti can be quoted as first and earliest evidence of wisdom of genomes.
This theory is further supported by embryological concepts of matruja bhava i.e. maternal factors and pitruja bhavas i.e. paternal factors seen in child. Hard structures of child are formed from genetic materials coming from father and soft structures of body come from mother’s genetic material. Even here, doshas forming constitution influence these factors.
From viewpoint of vikriti
Vikriti is deviation in prakriti i.e. abnormality in one’s constitution. This happens in pathological manifestations of diseases. Vikriti is thus a state of disease or imbalance of doshas. People of different constitution are susceptible to develop different diseases as per predominant dosha(s) in their constitution.
Read – Dosha And Vikriti, The Pathology Of Diseases
Example – All people having predominant pitta in their constitution are prone to suffer from common ailments like inflammatory diseases of different viscera and tissues like gastritis, colitis, arthritis etc because of similar genomes they share, all pitta body types being identical personalities. Read – Normal And Abnormal Dosha Imbalance – Prakrita, Vaikrita Dosha Dushti
From viewpoint of dosha specific treatment
Different body types respond to different medicines and interventions and specific dosha alleviating herbs.
Ayurveda was first science to focus on personalization of medicines. Vishesha chikitsa principle i.e. separate and special interventions for diseases and their sub-types caused due to specific dosha vitiation explains choice and administration of medicines at personal levels. Read – Diet And Lifestyle Advice For Kapha Dosha Body Type
Example – Treatments suitable for one kapha type of person are mostly applicable in all people having kapha predominant pathologies or kapha diseases. This is possible because of similar genome types they share. All kapha body types show similar response to similar treatments and this wouldn’t be possible if these personalities didn’t share common traits related to genome structure.
Dosha prakriti as a study parameter in Ayurgenomics, benefits and application of Ayurvedic genetics
Taking prakriti as a study parameter, several studies and approaches are made to identify genetic variations responsible for manifestation of certain diseases in certain group of people. Several approaches were also made to study and understand genetic variations responsible for different response to drugs in different individuals by considering prakriti as study parameter.
Prakriti i.e. constitution of an individual determines inter-individual variability in susceptibility to diseases and response to external environment, diet and drugs. Apart from this, knowledge of applied aspects of prakriti from genetic viewpoint helps in disease prediction and prevention. It also helps in personalization of medicines, a trending part of modern day P4 medicines and treating lot of diseases. Read – Ayurvedic Pitta Diet – Food Suitable For Pitta Body Type
Concept and knowledge of dosha prakriti explained in Ayurveda leads and excels modern genetics since it helps to identify healthy individuals who would be differently susceptible to diseases on basis of dosha variations. On other hand, in case of modern medicine, preventive and curative approaches can be implemented only after a diagnosis of a disease has been made on basis of signs and symptoms of a given disease.
A breakthrough study produced evidences regarding healthy people with contrasting body constitutions i.e. vata, pitta and kapha identified on basis of Ayurveda fundamentals showed striking differences at biochemical and genome-wide expression level.
Future scope of Ayurgenomics
Helps in identifying people with similar genetic traits on basis of dosha prakriti and categorizing them as vata, pitta or kapha predominant
Helps in identifying factors which would predispose individuals belonging to certain body types to certain diseases. Read – Vata Body Type From Structural, Functional Mental And Social Viewpoint
Helps in identifying diseases at earliest, to predict manifestation and progression of diseases much earlier, in specific prakritis
Helps in preventing diseases from becoming chronic and arresting progression as soon as possible
Helps in making treatment protocols and interventions of diseases caused due to dosha variations in different body types affordable
May help in treating complicated diseases like cardiovascular diseases, obesity, hypertension, diabetes, mind diseases etc which have been caused by drastic changes in lifestyle and diet habits and also due to one’s inability to adjust to new environments and habitats
It helps in making medicines and interventions one-to-one, i.e. personalization of medicines, and in designing customized drug regimen for each individual. This would enable to minimize side effects of treatments and comprehensive healing.
Dosha and knowledge of doshas in comprehensive way will enable to know genetic linkup of diseases and individual susceptibility to different diseases, different from those occurring in his friends and fellow people. This will enable comprehensive customized treatment protocols to be made and implemented so as to get desired results in curing diseases or aborting them at earliest. Read – Kapha Body Type From Structural, Functional Mental And Social Viewpoint
NCBI has published scientific work done by Prasher B and team on Ayurgenomics in their publication. This highly appreciable work on Ayurveda genomics was done on 7500 individuals in five cohorts taking Ayurvedic fundamental, Prakriti as basis and study parameter.
Related Reference – Ayurgenomics for stratified medicine: TRISUTRA consortium initiative across ethnically and geographically diverse Indian populations – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27457695