Many people have a belief that regular intake of vitamins and minerals or nutritional tonics will help them stay healthy. But this is not sufficient according to Ayurveda. Unlike the general treatment approach of modern medicine, the approach in Ayurveda is individualized / personalized based on one’s Prakriti (Phenotype / Body constitution). One must know his / her Prakriti so that they can inculcate and adopt suitable diet, lifestyle to achieve optimum health and to prevent chronic diseases. Prakriti is a unique concept of Ayurveda and it has a significant role in personalized medicine.
When no two people are alike, then how can there be a common line of treatment for them when affected with the same disease?
According to Ayurvedic principles, all living beings and non – living things in earth is made up of five elements (Earth, Water, Fire, Air and Ether) in varying proportions acording to predetermined ratio that cannot be changed. Man is the microcosm of the universe. Whatever is present in the universe is present in man but in different combinations or proportions. The five elements combine with each other to form three doshas – Vata (Air + Ether), Pitta (Fire and Water) and Kapha (Earth and Water).
Prakriti (Body constitution) is a consequence of relative proportion of the three doshas which are not only genetically determined but also influenced by the environment, maternal diet and lifestyle and age of transmitting parents. Prakriti is similar to a genetic code - you are born with it and it remains unchangeable throughout the span of life. Prakriti is unique to every individual just like each of us have unique finger print. There are 7 types of Prakriti – Vata Prakriti, Pitta Prakriti, Kapha Prakriti, 3 Dual combinations - Vata Pitta Prakriti, Pitta Kapha Prakriti and Vata Kapha Prakriti and one combination of all the three – Vata Pitta Kapha Prakriti.
In Ayurveda system of medicine, predisposition to a disease as well as selection of a preventive and curative regimen is primarily based on phenotypic (Prakriti) assessment of a person. Also the effects of various diet, lifestyle, environment and treatment on different prakritis are well explained. The concept of constitutional uniqueness of human individuals leading to prescription of suitable drugs and specific diet is a remarkable feature of Ayurveda. This has similarities with the pharmacogenomics.
Understanding Disease Susceptibility
Prakriti provides knowledge about one’s personality, physiological strengths and weakness, mental tendencies, susceptibility to various illness. By knowing one’s Prakriti, one can understand what he is vulnerable to and thereby adopt suitable diet and lifestyle so that he can prevent illness even before its occurrence.
In general, Kapha Prakriti people have slow metabolism, Pitta people have high metabolism and Vata people have variable metabolism. Pitta people have have high Basal Metabolic Rate and when supported by Vata can be prone to premature aging whereas Kapha Prakriti people have delayed aging and longer life span. Because of Kapha dosha qualities such as steadiness, slowness, etc, Kapha people are well known for gaining weight and obesity which in turn links with a number of diseases like metabolic disorders, diabetes, etc. Kapha prakriti people do not become sick often and enjoy greatest level of physical health, endurance and stamina provided they stay physically active, do regular exercise / sport and follow healthy diet habits by avoiding excess fried food, fast food, processed food, refined sugar and carbohydrates. Pitta Prakriti people have strongest mind and will-power, average endurance, stamina and good immune system unless they overwork. Pitta dosha is hot in nature and hence Pitta people tend to develop bleeding disorders, skin disorders, ulcers, acidity, etc. which can be prevented by adopting nutritious diet habits and avoiding spicy, acidic food in excess and staying hungry. Vata Prakriti people have weakest immune system yet they have abundant energy but not the necessary stamina. They generally are underweight but when they are agitated they tend to put on weight and become fat. Due to the dryness, coldness, instability qualities of Vata, Vata Prakriti people have propensity to develop constipation, cold hands & feet, neurological problems, dementia, etc. They have an irregular eating habits which they should change. They should try to be stable and grounded, avoid stress and try to have regular routine and eat varities of nutritious and healthy food as they tend to get bored easily with same diet.
“Like increases Like” - A healthy diet & activity for a healthy life
Food substances which are similar in quality to a dosha increases the corresponding dosha in the body whereas food substances which are opposite in quality to a dosha decreases the corresponding dosha in the body. For instance, food substances which are similar in qualities to Vata dosha increases Vata in the body. Hence if a Vata Prakriti persons indulges more in Vata predominant foods, he is likely to suffer from diseases of Vata origin. So a Vata Prakriti person should adopt diet and lifestyle having opposite qualities of Vata dosha for maintaining a balance. Same is with Pitta and Kapha Prakriti people. Making wise eating choices in harmony with one's Prakrti will help to lead a healthy life. One’s activities also have a similar effect.
Preventive health with Ayurveda
Swasthavritha explained in Ayurveda texts have a great impact to preserve health and prevent diseases. Ayurveda emphazies on nutritious diet, adequate sleep, proper sensory activities, adopting daily regimen & seasonal regimen, regular exercise, non supression of natural urges, good conduct / social behavior and avoidance of stress for the maintanence of health & prevention of diseases. Adopting suitable diet and healthy lifestyle according to one’s Prakriti from an early age is a practice towards personalized preventive health which has Rasayana (Rejuvenation) benefits and boosts the child’s immunity leading to healthy, disease free, more productive and high quality life. Immunodeficiency (Failure of normal function of immune system) leads to susceptibility to infection. So one should incorporate Ayurvedic principles into daily life to achieve optimal health and for personalized prevention.