Ayurveda and Sthaulya (Obesity)

Ayurveda and Sthaulya (Water retention, and Obesity)
A Portion of the Student Project By Pamela Perez

Obesity under the western medical definition is body fat that is 20% and above the normal body weight or a BMI (body mass index) over 30. According to Wikipedia, the United States is the number one obese country on the planet. They also quote that statistics from a study rendered at the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) indicated that almost 40% of adults, older than 20, were obese in the Unites States in 2015-2016. According to the CDC, obesity gives rise to some of the leading preventable diseases that cause mortality, such as diabetes, stroke, heart disease and cancer.

Ayurveda, “the study of life”, has the capacity to support the immediately surrounding world by helping prevent disease wherever possible and by educating others on how develop a healthier and balanced wellbeing in their personal lives. This useful ancient and effective holistic practice can empower those that are seeking freedom from an epidemic that can kill them. By passing on the tools for mind, body, heart and spirit that Ayurveda renders, there is a solution.

There are seven dhatus, or tissues, formed as per Ayurveda. After food is digested, two parts form, Kitta (refuse) and Sara (the essence). According to The Law of Transformation (Kshir-Dadhi Nyaya) the essence creates the first dhatu and the subsequent dhatus in order, one by one. When tissues are formed, two parts are formed, a main tissue which is stable and unprocessed tissue of the upcoming one.

The stable dhatu stays put and the unstable dhatu travels forward to the strotas, or channels in the body, reacting with the agni, or fire, of the next dhatu to create it. For example, when mamsa dhatu, muscle tissue, is formed there is a stable mamsa dhatu and unstable medha dhatu, fat tissue. Medha dhatu, fat tissue, is the fourth tissue in the body, created from unstable or unprocessed mamsa dhatu, muscle.

In obesity, meda accumulates in the body when the metabolism of fat by the agni of meda dhatu declines. Water and earth molecules pertaining to form medha get metabolized poorly, these poorly processed “premature” fat molecules are called meda vruddhi. Obesity, or sthaulya, in Ayurveda is generalized as excess fat mass and not necessarily based on a specific weight range, as muscle weighs more than fat and someone can weigh a lot due to having more mamsa. Obesity as per Dr. Lad (p. 259) is flabby muscles with high weight.

Dr. Lad also indicates that imbalance of medha dhatu can cause other disturbances such as blocking the flow of Prana, life energy, as well as store negative emotions like pain and sadness (p. 143). The buildup of undeveloped medha blocks the medha vaha strotas. In addition to that, since the agni of medha is not properly functioning, medha will not be processed to appropriately form the remaining dhatus that follow: Asthi (bone), Majja (bone marrow, nerves) and Shukra (reproductive system). Obesity can then bring about concerns that can affect the livelihood of an individual such as debility, bad odor, excessive sweat, trouble having sex, earlier memory loss and most crucially, a shortened lifespan.

Obesity is caused due to imbalanced agni (digestion), specifically Manda agni or dull agni which in turn creates hypometabolism or a slow metabolism.

Mandagni is common amongst those with Kapha prakruti (natural body constitution) or vrikruti (aggravation in body constitution). In Ayurveda obesity is a Kapha and meda disorder. Water and Earth compose Meda, therefore disorders in meda can be created by high consumption of salty, sweet and cold foods, this hetu, or causative factor, is known in Ayurveda as atisampurna. Madhura Rasa (sweet taste) is composed of water and earth, is slow, oily, cool and heavy, excessive consumption of foods with madhura increase Kapha.

An example is Alcohol, this culprit may increase meda dhatu not just because it is sugar based but also as it disturbs the liver, as alcohol is processed by the liver. Jatharagni and bhutagni reside in the liver, digestive fire in charge of appetite and agni that breaks down food into five elements.

Therefore an alcoholic person is not just increasing meda because of the excess sugar but also because of jatharagni vitiation causing excess hunger.

Other hetus of sthaulya are not exercising (Avyayama), daytime sleep especially in the afternoon (Divasvapna) and a diet causes an increase in the Kapha Dosha (shleshmal ahara sevana), a sedentary lifestyle which increases Kapha (Shleshma VardhakaVihara Sevana), overeating, (Atisampurna) in particular oily, cold and sweet food contents, (Avyavaya) lack of sexual intercourse, (Harshanitya) always content, (Acintana) lack of mental exercise and (Bijasvabhava) genetically predisposed.

A case study of Pitta Kapha

The client was a Pitta Kapha 34 y/o male that reports would like to lose 30-50 lbs. The client was aware that he gained weight due to emotional eating, stress, lack of exercise and improper sleeping schedule in relation to working two jobs and going to college in the past year alone. The client reported he is aware his diet declined as well due to time restraint and increasing lethargy to prepare meals himself. He reports he has fallen into the habit of consuming bread, pasta, pastries and animal products as well as eating very late. Client reports eating lots of tamasic foods such as canned, cold and processed foods which contribute to ama. The client also reports that when roommate cooks meals that increase Kapha, such as mushrooms, potatoes, sweet potatoes and squash. Client reports attempting to consume vegan products but that are processed and high in sodium such as vegan cheese and sausages. Darshanam, Sparsnanam and Prashanam results indicated high ama (Sama Kapha), reporting symptoms such as extreme fatigue, lethargy, lack of concentration and Mandagni.

Client had inconsistent sleep schedule and ranges from 5-7 hours. Client indicated that he sometimes sleeps in the afternoon.

Client was counseled and advised to wake by 6am – 6:30a and sleep by 11pm. Various Dravya that support decreasing Medha and Kapha as well as support agni were suggested. The first was ½ teaspoon of the churnam Triphala in boiled water before bed, with option to consume 1 extra Triphala tea during the day.

This churnam supports proper bowel movements, weight loss and is Tridoshic. Guggulu churna was also prescribed to be taken after a meal, 1 tablet of 325mg, this is a great Lekhana to use when tackling obesity as it has a scraping action and removes Kapha as well as Meda. Turmeric, another Lekhana, was suggested to be added to cooking and consumption of the Kapha shamana, honey. Client began following suggested dravyas including a pea sized granule of Shilajit in tea later in the morning, between meals. Within a couple of days the client reported that his BM had returned to normal, going immediately in the morning. After 2 days client began reporting weight loss of 1 lbs and 2lbs after 4 days and presently continuing weight loss.

Client had reported in initial consultation that he had been consuming milk and cheese profusely but replaced milk with Almond milk and cheese with avocado as suggested. Limited amount of Ghee is recommended for Kapha, therefore ½ tsp of Ghee daily was suggested as it could satiate his craving for diary and because Ghee is known to support weight loss. Client was suggested may consume a controlled amount of Moringa, ½ tsp to start but not more than 1 tbs as in excess it could aggravate Pitta. Moringa is known to support weight loss, bowel movements and increase energy.

Client began consuming freshly prepared foods full of prana and more suitable for a Kapha diet such as leafy greens and fresh fruits. Client was also coached on consuming various Kapha friendly foods that were pungent, astringent, bitter while limit heavy, cold, salty and oily foods.

Client added CCF tea (cumin coriander fennel tea) to support digestion.

Client was encouraged to return to his Japa meditation practice to regain his spiritual balance, including doing breath work, pranayama. Nadi Shodana, alternate nostril breathing, upon waking or anytime he felt stressed, for 1 minute minimum which would balance Ida and Pingala, left and right side of the mind as well as the feminine and masculine side of the body.

The client was also recommended to practice Skull shining breath – Kappalabati in the morning as it awakens the mind, in addition to burns Medha in abdominal area by strengthening the core muscles. The client was motivated to do Sun salutations on a daily basis due to time restraint, preferably upon waking, and start with something manageable such as 5 minutes and increase to 15 min. The client was recommended to sleep on this left side to pacify Kapha.

The client was also recommended to rub almond oil in a circular motion for 1- 5 minutes on various marma points that supports Kapha. To soothe and calm negative emotions affecting Anahata, the heart chakra, it can be stimulated by rubbing Hridaya marma, located at the center of the chest, and Talahridaya, located at the middle of the palm with essential oils like Jasmine, rose, lemongrass or Sandalwood.

Indrabasti is a marma point located in the middle of the calf, and when stimulated supports blood flow in particular to the heart, most importantly it supports agni. This marma point can in turn also support Kapha, in particular when suffering mandagni.

Textbook of Ayurveda Fundamental Principles Volume 1 by Dr. Vasant Lad
Secrets of Marma by Dr. David Frawley