The building block of ayurvedic medicine is the theory of Tridosha (the three senses of humour of the body). These are – Vata, Pitta and Kapha. These are responsible for maintaining health by controlling all the physiological functions of the body and causing the disease when not in an equilibrium state. Modern science has established various physiological, biochemical, pathological and pharmacological experiments in order to identify the existence of different hormones secreted by the glands and their function. But according to Ayurveda, all the physiological functions are governed and balanced by Tridoshas, and their abnormal functions occur due to imbalance in the same. There is no clear text which explains hormones in Ayurveda, but the function of hormones can be related to the function of doshas, and an ayurvedic theory can be explained.
The origin of the doshas has been enumerated as Vata – Under nabhi (umbilicus) and pakvashaya; Pitta – between nabhi and Hirdaya (heart) and Kapha – in Urdhva Amashaya. All this humour is accepted in the entire body. The comparison of functions of the endocrine gland with three doshas functions is as follows:
- Vata Dosha predominance – Hypophysis
2. Pitta Dosha predominance – Thyroid gland
3. Vata and Pitta Dosha predominance – Pancreas gland
4. Vata and Pitta Dosha predominance – Adrenal glands
5. Vata and Pitta Dosha predominance – Testes
6. Vata and Pitta Dosha predominance – Ovaries.
In the initial stage of disruption in hormonal balance, doshas get accumulated and bataiye toured at the respective places in mahastrotas, and further main travel through stronasi (minor channels), and disturb other doshas as well. Does a disease and imbalance that occur mainly due to Pitta also inhibit certain symptoms of Vata and Kapha Dosha.
The liver (Yakrita) is the big gland in the Koshtha, and the postman function depends upon Pitta Dosha. Ranjaka Pitta is situated in Yakrita, whose main function is to give colour to Rasa Dhatu and form Rakta Dhatu. If any imbalance occurs in Pitta dosha or any other, Ranjaka Pitta is vitiated. Due to these vitiations, Ranjaka Pitta won’t be able to function properly, and hence Pandu (anaemia) may manifest. It is seen that Pitta dosha is mainly in Yakrita in normal conditions, but when it is vitiated, It is seen all over the body. Similarly, when one of the ductless glands is disturbed the effect can be seen in the body and symptoms may relate to other doshas as well.
The Tridoshas can be used to explain the disturbance of endocrine glands. Even if an endocrine gland is said to be predominant by a dosha on the basis of its normal function, it may also exhibit symptoms under abnormal status which may be linked to other Doshas. Due to malfunctioning of endocrine glands i.e. their hyperfunctioning or hyperfunctioning produce various symptoms. This may cause disturbance in the glands, but from an ayurvedic perspective, their vitiations are secondary. The primary cause of these disturbances is due to disturbance in Doshas. The Mithya aharavihara, climatic changes, habits and social environment are responsible for the vitiation of Doshas, which in turn disturb endocrine glands for their hyperfunctioning.
To make it simple we can consider the following example. The normal secretion of insulin from Iceland of Langerhans of the pancreas disturbs the conversion, storage and metabolism of glucose in the liver, which results in diabetes. The results of Madhumeha or Parmeha would bring us to the conclusion that eating sweets are the reason. But this reason is secondary. Vitiation of Kapha Dosha is the cause of Madhumeha. Thus, Mula (vrikka and vapavahana) and Medobaha srotamsi are vitiated. Hence, a correlation can be established between Ayurveda and the endocrine system.
As mentioned earlier, the main reasons for the vitiation of the endocrine system are environmental factors, eating habits and social environment. Let’s now elaborate on the effect of environmental factors on endocrine disorders. Environment it has become an important determinant of endocrine help and has a significant impact on the surroundings. The environment like physical, chemical, biological, and social are considered in environmental endocrinology.
- Impact of Physical Environment on Endocrine system:
Several nuclear disasters that have occurred in the last century have had an adverse effect on the endocrine system. Extensive exposure to two radioactive substances that are being released into the environment has adverse effects on reproductive health and carcinogenesis, and also affects the pituitary, thyroid and gonads. Another environmental effect can be considered forest fires. Forest fires can also affect the endocrine system as polycyclic aromatic compounds are released which are known as endocrine disruptors which steroid actions and their chronic exposure could affect the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis. Moreover, urbanization, limited areas for safe activity and an increased number of fast food outlets are responsible for the increasing prevalence of obesity.
2. Impact of chemical environment on the endocrine system:
Endocrine disruptor chemicals – which are exogenous chemicals that alter any part of the endocrine system, are the best example of chemical environment influence on endocrine health. These chemicals interfere in hormone synthesis, secretion, and metabolism, circulation, receptor interaction or elimination. Several pesticides, fungicides, herbicides, etc. which are used in farming and also household products like phthalates, polybrominated biphenyls and bisphenol A, are responsible to disrupt endocrine health.
3. Impact of biological environment on the endocrine system:
Here we can consider a recent example of covid-19 which has affected the endocrine system. Studies have shown that covid-19 has been associated with diabetes. Other examples can be the presence of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, an association of osteoporosis with hepatitis B infection, cytomegalovirus associated with Paget’s disease, etc.
4. Impact of social environment on the endocrine system:
The social environment can adversely affect the endocrine system in different ways. One such example can be considered an increase in road traffic accidents on highways with higher speed limits which leads to traumatic brain injury. Further, some social norms and religious customs also have a great impact on the endocrine system.
Thus, it can be observed how the environment affects the Endocrine system, and also, what causes them. Ayurveda’s understanding of endocrinology and its roots of considering the environment as a cause of damage, persist.