For thousands of years Ayurveda has described the functioning of our mind and body in terms of three main doshas—the underlying psychophysiological tendencies—Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. At birth we each have our own individual nature or “Prakriti,” which is a combination of the three doshas. By knowing our Prakriti, an Ayurvedic physician can personalize a diet, lifestyle, and herbs, which can help prevent disease and maintain our health. Knowing our “Vikriti,” an individual’s imbalanced or diseased state, the expert can treat specific imbalances and disorders.
A recent study published in Frontiers in Microbiology shows that individuals who are predominantly Vata, Pitta, or Kapha, each have a unique composition of bacteria in their microbiome. This is a huge breakthrough in the scientific understanding of Ayurveda. Previous research has correlated the Ayurvedic Prakriti of extreme Vata, Pitta, and Kapha, with specific genetic and physiological characteristics. This new study is even more significant because of the growing importance of the microbiome in health and disease.
The study examined the gut microbial community in 113 male and female subjects. The primary types of bacteria in all subjects came largely from two common groups, Bacterioidetes and Firmuicutes. In order to distinguish between the Vata, Pitta, Kapha groups, the researchers decided to focus on less common types of bacteria.
The authors describe the extreme Pitta women as having a larger amount of seven species of bacteria. Three out of the seven were a type called Blautia (a newly classified genera of bacteria in order Clostridiales). Blautia are a commensal bacteria, which means that they live in a friendly relationship with us, without helping or hurting. The Pitta women subjects also had larger amounts of the bacteria Butyricicoccus pullicaecoruma. As the name implies, this bacteria produces butyrate, a substance with many useful functions in the gut lining. Butyricicoccus pullicaecoruma has also been found to have a protective effect against Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). The Pitta women also had an overabundance of Gemmiger formicilis, a friendly bacteria that was shown in one study to be increased by a Chinese traditional medicine for the treatment of type 2 diabetes. There were two other types of bacteria that were higher in Pitta women, but their functions remain unclear at this time.
A unique difference was found in the extreme Kapha women. They had larger amounts of a type of bacteria called Prevotella copri, which is present in patients who have rheumatoid arthritis and insulin resistance.
In the extreme Vata Prakriti men and woman subjects, a mixture of hostile bacteria, Bacteroides vulgatus and Oscillibacter valericigenes, and friendly bacteria, Eubacterium rectale and Roseburia hominis, were found.
The authors explain that the different groups of bacteria in the extreme Prakriti types help to provide a scientific explanation for the classification of Ayurveda mind/body types. A person with a Pitta Prakriti, for instance, may be more prone to inflammation, but the bacteria they carry might help to protect them against that type of immune response.
In previous research, Kapha individuals were found to have higher levels of lipids as compared to other types, and are, therefore, thought to be more susceptible to type 2 diabetes and atherosclerosis. The authors suggest that this may be related to an overabundance of Prevotella bacteria.
Vata types are more variable in their digestion and have a lower immune response. It is suggested that this correlates with the diverse collection of both friendly and unfriendly bacteria found in these individuals.
The continued analysis of the microbiome, genetic expression, and the physiological characteristics of each of Prakriti is helping to create a stronger scientific understanding of Ayurveda.
Gut Crisis: How Diet, Probiotics, and Friendly Bacteria Help You Lose Weight and Heal Your Body and Mind by Robert Keith Wallace, PhD and Samantha Wallace, Dharma Publications, 2017 and website (docgut.com)
ROBERT KEITH WALLACE is a pioneering researcher on the physiology of consciousness. His work has inspired hundreds of studies on the benefits of meditation and other mind-body techniques, and his findings have been published in Science, American Journal of Physiology, and Scientific American. After receiving his BS in physics and his PhD in physiology from UCLA, he conducted postgraduate research at Harvard University. Dr. Wallace serves as Professor and Chairman of the Department of Physiology and Health, Director of Research, and Trustee of Maharishi University of Management (MUM) in Fairfield, Iowa. He helped create the first fully accredited Masters of Science degree in Maharishi AyurVeda and Integrative Medicine in the US. Dr. Wallace is the author of several books, including Gut Crisis: How Diet, Probiotics, and Friendly Bacteria Help You Lose Weight and Heal Your Body and Mind with his wife Samantha Wallace. See Gut Crisis website and Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/gutcrisis/).
SAMANTHA JONES WALLACE is a former model, featured in Vogue, Cosmopolitan, and Look Magazine. A lifelong practitioner of Transcendental Meditation, she has a deep understanding of Ayurveda and its relationship to health and well being. The coauthor of Quantum Golf, Samantha is an editor of Dharma Parenting, and coauthor of Gut Crisis. She is now finishing a book called Real Deep True Beauty, which emphasizes Essential Oil Skincare, and Ayurveda.