What is Obesity/Overweight?
The inability of a person to work and disfigurement of the belly, breasts, and buttocks, due to excessive growth of fat and flesh is known as Ati Sthaulya (Obesity). It is the form of energy stored as fat within the body. It is the reason for an increase in weight of an individual beyond a limit of skeletal and physical requirements, due to over-accumulation of fat. The causative factors
of Ati Sthaulya are:
2. Improper intake of food and overeating
3. Factors that vitiate Meda Dhatu (fatty tissue)
4. Factors that vitiate Kapha Dosha
5. Weakness in digestive fire at tissue level (Dhatu Agni)
6. Malfunctioning of the excretory system
7. Lack of physical activities and sedentary lifestyle
8. Day-time sleeping
9. Endocrine disorders
According to Ayurveda, one of the main reasons for obesity is an imbalance in Kapha Dosha. Individuals having a predominance of Kapha dosha are more likely to gain weight than Pitta and Vata Dosha. In Ayurveda, a gain of weight is considered a cyclic process and starts with one’s food and lifestyle habits that tend to hamper Agni (the digestive fire) of the body. This leads to improper digestion and accumulation of toxins within the body. Further, this accumulation of Ama hinders the natural metabolic process and results in the formation of fatty tissue, and creates a disturbance in the formation of Asthi Dhatu (bone tissue). This reduces the activity of Kapha Dosha and increases fats in the body. Also, accumulation of Ama leads to obstruction of the Stotras (Channels) in the body, leading to an imbalance in Vata Dosha which stimulates Agni. This imbalance increases appetite contributing more to obesity. Thus, we can say that excessive formation of Meda Dhatu leads to obesity. If this is not treated, it may lead to several complications like hypertension, high cholesterol levels, premature aging, kidney infection, diabetes, arthritis, mental confusion, endocrine disorders, etc.
What are endocrine disorders?
Firstly, the endocrine system is composed of endocrine glands which secrete hormones and contribute towards different functions within the body. It is also known as the hormone system. These secretions are the form of chemical messengers which are directly secreted from the bloodstream and are ductless glands. Endocrine secretions regulate various functions like metabolism, growth, development, reproduction, sexual function, moods, functions of tissues, etc. These secretions are affected by diseases like thyroid, obesity, hypertension, etc.
In the Ayurvedic context, tri doshas are the principal foundation of the Ayurvedic medical system. These are responsible for maintaining health by controlling all physiological processes of the body and also causing disease due to disturbance in their equilibrium state. The normal functioning of endocrine glands is dependent on the normal secretion of hormones. The activities and functionalities of vata dosha can be related with the activities of the central nervous system, peripheral nervous system, and autonomic nervous system. Pitta dosha contributes to the processes of digestion, metabolism, absorption, and conversion of nutrients into energy. Whereas, Kapha dosha is responsible for the functioning of the fluid compartments which are extracellular fluid, intracellular fluid, and plasma. Thus, we can associate Vata Dosha with adrenals and hormones. Stress aggravates Vata, which further causes an imbalance in other Doshas.
As Pitta Dosha rules liver and blood, it is responsible for various metabolism transformations. Pitta is aggravated by fermented substances, alcohol, and sour and acidic substances, which directly affect hormones.
When Kapha Dosha aggravates, it slows down the digestion process and eventually blocks the flow of nutrients and wastes.
Further, hormone activity can be related to the activity of Agni. Some hormones act upon the gastrointestinal tract under the influence of Jataragni, whereas some hormones act upon cellular metabolism under the influence of Bhutagni and Dhatvaagni. In the Ayurvedic context, all the bio-transformation activities are being carried out by Teja mahabhuta and hence endocrine hormones are part of Teja Mahabhuta.
Now if we see modern science, Obesity is caused by endocrine disorders:
● Pituitary – Frohlich syndrome, puberty adiposity, pregnancy
● Thyroid – Hypothyroidism
● Adrenal cortex – Cushing syndrome
● Gonadal – Eunuchoidism, polycystic ovaries syndrome
● Pancreas – Islets cell tumors
Looking at the above context, it is seen that the causes of both obesity and endocrine disorders are the same. More or less accumulation of Doshas leads to disruption of the system, which hampers the hormones and other bodily functions at the same time. This leads to the holding of ama within the body, and a root cause of the disease is generated. Thus, a balance in life is necessary.
To attain balance, the primal process is understanding an individual’s mind-body constitution (Prakriti), and also the state of imbalance (Vikriti). From there, it is possible to reconnect the natural rhythm of an individual through proper sleep, physical activities, and mindful eating habits. By this, the Agni is strengthened and the removal of toxins is promoted. Once everything is in sync, it eradicates reasons for diseases and accumulation of Ama which leads to obesity.