Ayurveda began 5000 years ago in India, meaning “the science of life”. The basic principle of Ayurveda is to prevent illness, rather than respond to indicators of diseases, by simply maintaining harmony between body, mind, and environment. Ayurveda mostly works on the
mental aspect of an individual, by empowering them to have the ability to heal themselves. One realizes their imbalances, and then takes control over the same, incorporating ayurvedic therapies to feel healthy, improve fitness, and thus, become happy and rejuvenated.
Endocrine system and Brain:
But to send all these responses, we should know, who is responsible for the transmission of these messages. We feel happy, sad, in pain, swollen, stronger, etc. by virtue of some chemical messengers within our body, which are known as hormones. These are the important messengers from head to toe, which include the brain and other parts of the body. Hormones are regulated by the endocrine system, which is the next major communication system after the Nervous System within the body. The Nervous System uses neurotransmitters as chemical signals, whereas the endocrine system uses hormones as signaling pathways. The different sources of hormones are the pancreas, kidneys, heart, adrenal glands, gonads, thyroid, parathyroid, and fat. The endocrine system controls the pituitary gland and acts on the neurons in the brain. Further, the pituitary gland secretes some factors into the blood that impact endocrine glands to either increase or decrease hormone production. This is called a feedback loop, which is a communication system from the brain to the pituitary gland to the endocrine gland, and back to the brain. This process is important for various functions and activation of activities like emotion, response to stress, eating, drinking, sex, and regulation of body functions including growth, reproduction, metabolism, and usage of energy. The brain also has receptors for thyroid hormones and other 6 classes of steroid hormones which are androgens, estrogen, progestins, glucocorticoids, mineralocorticoids, and vitamin D. These hormones are responsible to regulate the action of genes as they bind to DNA and may cause long-lasting changes in cellular structure and functions.
Hypothalamus – a link to the nervous system:
Hypothalamus is that part of the brain that is responsible for the maintenance of internal balance i.e. homeostasis. It is known as the link between the endocrine and nervous systems. It produces the hormones which regulate by initiating and inhibiting the production of other hormones throughout the body. To do this entire process, the hypothalamus stimulates or inhibits various processes within the body which include heart rate and blood pressure, appetite and body weight, fluid and electrolyte balance body, temperature, glandular secretions of stomach and intestine, production of substances that influence the pituitary gland to release hormones, and sleep cycles.
Primarily, hormones secreted by Hypothalamus are:
- Antidiuretic hormone (ADH): This hormone is responsible for increased water absorption into the blood by the kidneys.
2. Corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH): This hormone is a messenger to the anterior pituitary gland to stimulate the adrenal glands in order to release corticosteroids and help to regulate metabolism and immune response.
3. Gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH): It plays an important role in the stimulation of follicle-stimulating hormone and luteinizing hormone, which work together to ensure the normal functioning of ovaries and testes.
4. Growth hormone-releasing hormone (GHRH): It prompts the pituitary to release growth hormones.
5. Oxytocin: It is involved in various processes like an orgasm, body temperature, sleep cycles, the ability to trust, and the release of breast milk.
Ayurvedic perspective on brain types and hypothalamus:
In the Ayurvedic context, an individual has a particular combination of Tridoshas, which define the Prakriti of an individual. The Vata Dosha is responsible for the processes like cell division, cell signaling, movement at physiological levels, excretion of waste, and cognition. The Kapha Dosha is responsible for the processes like anabolic, cell growth, and maintenance of structures, storage, and stability. The Pitta Dosha is responsible for the processes like metabolism, thermoregulation, energy hemostasis, pigmentation, vision, and attentional processes.
Individual having the Vata brain type performs activity quickly, learns quickly, and forgets quickly; they have a fast mind which gives them an edge in creative problem-solving. The individual having the Pitta brain type is able to react strongly to all challenges leading to
purposeful and resolute action. They have a tendency to never give up and are very dynamic and goal-oriented. The Kapha brain type individuals are very slow in the study and have methodical thinking and action. These people usually prefer routine and need stimulation to get going.
Moving further, let’s now connect the main regulatory center – the hypothalamus with the brain types. As mentioned above, the hypothalamus is responsible for our homeostasis and automatic controls are responses to challenges freeing us from considering hunger, thirst, and arousal levels. For Vata brain type individuals, the hypothalamus changes the state of mind and body constantly. Those individuals may experience bursts of activity, rest, and frequently snack and drink. The individuals having the Pitta brain type, the hypothalamus has a strong on-and-off switch. When turned on maximum goals are accomplished. It also maintains a higher body core temperature and dynamic mental and physical activity which leads to a preference for cold foods and drinks in this brain type. In Kapha brain-type individuals, slower metabolism is maintained by the hypothalamus. This leads to weight gain and slow response to temperature and other situations.
Thus, every person responds differently to a situation. It all depends on the individual’s constitution. The hormones secreted in individuals of one type are different from the other, which is responsible for their actions. Thus, not in a direct way, Ayurveda does give a comprehensive understanding of hormones, and how they are related to the nervous system.