EPIGENETICS & AYURVEDA
Today we are exploring how recent discoveries in epigenetics perfectly mirror and parallel the ancient teachings of the traditional Indian medicine system known as Ayurveda.
Ayurveda teaches that we are all born with a specific body type which is based on 3 primary types constitutions, or doshas. Now in Ayurveda, everyone is unique and there are more than 3 types of people, because these 3 fundamental doshas can combine in many different ways within any specific person.
So some people may be extremely kapha, which means they are likely to have large bones or even be overweight, able to eat lot of fatty foods and also able to fast for long periods without problems, and generally move slowly and serenely.
But another person might be Kapha-Pitta, which means their constitution blends these slow, heavy qualities of Kapha with the much more quick paced and fiery energy of Pitta. This will make for a unique constitution that is distinct from both Kapha and Pitta. Many people have constitutions that combine all three dosha types, while other people are extremely centered in just one type.
In this way, incredible diversity is possible, similar to the way 3 primary colors can be combined to create not only the entire rainbow, but also a practically infinite number of subtle variations of color.
HOW DOSHAS PARALLEL WITH EPIGENETIC SOMATOTYPES
Epigenetics uses a strikingly similar categorization as Ayurveda based in the theory of Somatotypes: mesomorph which is like pitta and has a smaller, strong, wiry body, high metabolism, extroverted energy and has difficulty fasting; endomorph which is like kapha and easily gains weight and can eat a lot of food or also easily fast, serene and introverted; ectomorph which is like vatta and is often tall, slender or awkward, may have digestive issues and not be as physically strong, but have a very strong mental energy that is both introverted and extroverted.
This theory of somatotypes was first postulated by William Sheldon many decades ago, though today many scientific researchers in the field of Epigenetics have been employing this theory to help decode the age old debate of Nature vs. Nurture
and to help define exactly how our genetic predisposition combines with environmental factors like diet and lifestyle to determine our physicality, as well as how these environmental factors actually alter our genetics, changing not only our own physicality, but also the genetic material that we pass on to our children.
Understanding your somatotype can help you make the best choices for yourself in terms of diet, lifestyle and many other environmental factors.
HOW KNOWING MY SOMATOTYPE / DOSHA HAS IMPROVED MY HEALTH
For myself, my somatotype is mostly endomorph, with a few mesomorph qualities as well. Understanding my dominant genetic phenotype greatly informed my decision to transition into a full-time lifestyle of intermittent fasting and cyclical ketosis, as I understood that I am designed to operate well with this diet, can easily fast and easily digest fat.
Understanding my somatotype also helped me commit to regular vigorous exercise,
as this is crucial to balancing my somatotype. I also stopped pushing myself to get up extra early in the morning –which has always been painful for me-
as this is actually not beneficial for endomorphs and they are much healthier when they sleep in and allow themselves to get going slowly.
This is in pretty stark contrast to mesomorphs who usually have difficulty fasting, need to eat small portions more often, have trouble digesting lots of fat, and also are much healthier when they get up early in the morning and do some light exercise.
Understanding these somatotypes is really crucial in overcoming the vast over generalizations that tend to happen in science in general, where the tendency is to want to generalize everyone into the same category and come up with these one-size-fits-all rules about what is a “healthy” or “unhealthy” practice or diet.
Understanding somatotypes frees us from this highly oversimplified, faulty worldview and allows us to live within the much more accurate understanding that there are different “healthy practices” for different people.
So understanding your epigenetic somatotype (or dosha /constitution in Ayurveda) is truly a fundamental tool that can accurately inform you as to the best diet, sleep habits and even what climate you would be healthiest living in.
As always I hope that learning about how Epigenetics and Ayurveda are in striking agreement about the 3 fundamental human body types has stoked your curiosity and inspired you to research more to learn about how you can apply this information to take control of your vitality and start living a happier, healthier life.
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I’m Kevin Asher, thanks so much for watching and be well!