The Ayurvedic Concept of Immunity “Vyaadhiksamatva”
The concept of immunity according to Ayurveda involves four factors of physiology: Ama (toxicity), Agni ( the digestive capacity), Dosha (the balance of physiology), Ojas (the physical principle of immunity equivalent to T-cells, natural killer cells, phagocytes, macrophages, eosinophils, basophils, leukocytes, etc,). When these factors are healthy and balanced then the person is strong, happy, and long living. Ama that chronically resides in the cell membrane gives rise to an attack on it from the body’s immune system and this is autoimmune dysfunction. The body attacks itself.
Ayurvedic concept of immunity is a captivating topic, covering the different factors that represent a balanced physical state.
Vyaadhiksamatva, as it is known in Ayurveda, literally means “resistance (ksamatva) against disease (vyaadhi). It covers both physical and mental aspects of immunity for all living beings. It regulates both prevention against and rapid recovery from diseases.
Vyaadhiksamatva (immunity) in Ayurveda is not immunity against a specific infectious agent or disease such as polio or rubella for which Western medicine provides “immunizations”. Rather, vyaadhiksamatva implies a resistance against the loss of the integrity, proportion, and interrelationship amongst the individual’s bioenergies (doshas) and tissues (dhatus). This homeostasis among the supporting elements of the mind and body is known as dhaatusaamya, and is the true meaning of immunity in the Ayurvedic system. It follows then that the Ayurvedic concept of immunity is intricately interwoven with the concepts of nutrition, agni (digestive fire), and tissue formation.
Amongst the factors responsible for immunity, the greatest importance has been assigned to the healthy condition of the three tissues-blood, muscle, and bone. In our opinion the reasons for this are: Here is a typical relation of between these three tissues and tridosha-i.e. between blood and Pitta, muscle and Kapha, bone and Vata. The healthy condition of these three tissues will naturally maintain equilibrium of the three doshas, which is also required for resisting disease.
Vyaadhiksamatva (immunity) in Ayurveda is not just about prevention against different diseases, but also about strengthening the body to fight the diseases that have already attacked the body. It is about keeping in balance all the three doshas and seven dhatus so that diseases stay away from the person. Ayurveda doesn’t have recommendations against specific diseases or conditions. It is all about keeping the physical constituents and bio energies in balance, so that the body will always have the resistance against diseases of various kinds.
Bala or strength is another term used in connection with immunity. It is about the physical strength of the person. This strength is responsible for the development and functioning of muscles. Bala, the vitality principle It also keeps in good condition the sensory and motor nerves, mind, etc. Good voice, complexion, good reflexes, physical strength, good digestion, etc are other symptoms of good bala
The overall health of the person, his/her tissues (dhatus) and the balanced state of doshas determine the immunity of the person.We have stated that one’s immunity is related to the health of ones tissues. The quintessence of all the tissues of the body is known as Ojas. Ojas is our vital energy which pervades all tissues, cells, and spaces; it is the ultimate distillation of each tissue combined together and is the main determinant of our immune status and hence our resistance to disease.
In Ayurveda, the superior vital essence of all bodily tissues is called “Ojas”. Ojasis an Ayurvedic concept, which doesn’t have any parallels in allopathic medicine. It is the essential vital energy present in all cells and tissues. It permeates the whole body and fills the vacant spaces. It is the essence of all the tissues combined together, it determines the immune status of the person. When the ojas is weak, the person is more prone to diseases, while a person with strong ojas will be resistant against all kinds of diseases.
According to the concept of Ojas or Vyadhikshamatva or Bala (immunity), the bodys resistance is of tremendous importance in the daily welfare of living beings not only for disease prevention but also for rapid recovery after disease affliction. Ayurveda propounds that prevention is an equally important aspect of disease management as cure and thus, strengthening the immune system, is a natural way to help the body fight against the disease causing pathogens.
There are several ways to build and preserve ojas, but I’ll touch upon a few:
- Healthy digestion: Ojas is the end result of healthy digestion. When we are able to break down food properly, we’re able to cultivate this essence that protects and preserves the functioning of every cell.
- Understanding your mind-body constitution: When one understands the nature of his or her inherent constitution, s/he is able to eat and live in a way that preserves and cultivates vitality and immunity, rather than depletes it.
- Eating appropriate ojas-building foods: Specific, nourishing foods are better at building ojas than others. Healthy digestion is key for breaking these foods down properly, but eating the appropriate foods to build the proper vital essence is the other half of the equation.
- Sufficient mental and physical rest: One of the primary causes of low ojas is continual over-exertion or over-stimulation. Mental or physical “burnout” or chronic fatigue are examples in which a person has depleted their ojas as a result of too much mental and physical activity.
- Meditation: I can’t emphasize the importance of meditation enough! In our modern day and age, our senses are constantly bombarded with stimulation, which can easily deplete our systems and destabilize the mind.
- Time in nature: The sensory impressions in nature are key to preserving ojas and are incredibly healing to body, mind and spirit.
According to Ayurveda scriptures, Ojas is of two kinds – Para and Apara.
There are three types of immunity (Vyaadhiksamatva or Bala)in Ayurveda
- Sahaja : Congenital or Natural
- Kalaja : Time, Season, Age
- Yuktikruta: Acquired
Sahaja Bala comes from the parents and is inherited. The effect will be at the chromosomal level. There is not much anyone can do to enhance or weaken the Ojas. However, persons with weak immunity can maintain strength, if the proper guidelines for healthy lifestyle are followed.
Kalaja Bala is inclusive of the time of day, day of the week, season, age, and place of birth are important factors for enhancing immunity. Everyone will have higher levels of immunity or physical strength during seasons like spring, as against seasons like monsoon or summer. Certain places have stronger and healthier climatic and environmental conditions. Another significantly important Ayurvedic concept of immunity is the effect of the place where a person is born and brought up. For example, places with an abundance of water, ponds, cool and pleasant climatic conditions are kapha-dominating areas and contribute to stronger immunity.
Yuktikruta Bala represents acquired immunity, in which disease can be defended against through Ayurveda people can develop their immunity by practicing good lifestyle, right food habits, exercise, meditation, preventive healthcare and modifying lifestyle according to seasonal variations. The different factors that affect immunity include exercise, food and preventive medicines.
How To Enhance Immunity through Ayurveda Concepts
Rasayana is health promoting and rejuvenates the whole physiology, producing resistance against disease both physically and mentally. If a person has a strong mind, even serious diseases can be faced by the physiology as minor diseases.
There are several herbs and herbal formulations that can develop and enhance your immunity. Rasayanas of various kinds are the primary means of enhancing one’s immunity. The type of rasayana is determined according to the physical constitution, age and other factors of the person
Another thing to consider about immunity is the mental strength of the person. A person with good willpower and mental strength can face major illnesses as minor ones and he/she can easily get out of the diseases or conditions. Yoga meditation is one method of disengaging your mind from worldly tribulations and uniting it with the center of the universe. It can bring in greater sense of self awareness, it also enhances Ojas, the vital energy responsible for immunity
Certain choices in food and lifestyle can also determine the immunity of an individual. Everyone falls into specific food and lifestyle choices, which may or may not be healthy.
According to Ayurveda, terminal diseases can be cured only through Rasa-Rasayan therapy . Rasa-Rasayan therapy is based on the idea that human body is composed of copper, iron, zinc, mercury, silver etc. In Rasayan shastra or rasashastra the principal element of Rasayan is mercury or parada. Gold, Silver, tin, Lead, Zinc, Copper, iron as well as precious stones like diamond, pearl,ruby, emerald, blue sapphire etc. these are formed into bhasmas and pishtis
When these elements in the body get depleted, use of bhasma of those relevant metals and herbs can make compatible impact on the body. There is a clear mention in the Ayurvedic texts, that incurable disease are to be treated by means of Rasa-Rasayan. These metals help in the prevention and treatment of many diseases
List of Autoimmune and Autoimmune-Related Diseases
- Acute Disseminated Encephalomyelitis (ADEM)
- Acute necrotizing hemorrhagic leukoencephalitis
- Addison’s disease
- Alopecia areata
- Ankylosing spondylitis
- Anti-GBM/Anti-TBM nephritis
- Antiphospholipid syndrome (APS)
- Autoimmune angioedema
- Autoimmune aplastic anemia
- Autoimmune dysautonomia
- Autoimmune hepatitis
- Autoimmune hyperlipidemia
- Autoimmune immunodeficiency
- Autoimmune inner ear disease (AIED)
- Autoimmune myocarditis
- Autoimmune pancreatitis
- Autoimmune retinopathy
- Autoimmune thrombocytopenic purpura (ATP)
- Autoimmune thyroid disease
- Autoimmune urticaria
- Axonal & neuronal neuropathies
- Balo disease
- Behcet’s disease
- Bullous pemphigoid
- Castleman disease
- Celiac disease
- Chagas disease
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
- Chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy (CIDP)
- Chronic recurrent multifocal ostomyelitis (CRMO)
- Churg-Strauss syndrome
- Cicatricial pemphigoid/benign mucosal pemphigoid
- Crohn’s disease
- Cogans syndrome
- Cold agglutinin disease
- Congenital heart block
- Coxsackie myocarditis
- CREST disease
- Essential mixed cryoglobulinemia
- Demyelinating neuropathies
- Dermatitis herpetiformis
- Devic’s disease (neuromyelitis optica)
- Discoid lupus
- Dressler’s syndrome
- Eosinophilic esophagitis
- Eosinophilic fasciitis
- Erythema nodosum
- Experimental allergic encephalomyelitis
- Evans syndrome
- Fibrosing alveolitis
- Giant cell arteritis (temporal arteritis)
- Goodpasture’s syndrome
- Granulomatosis with Polyangiitis (GPA) see Wegener’s
- Graves’ disease
- Guillain-Barre syndrome
- Hashimoto’s encephalitis
- Hashimoto’s thyroiditis
- Hemolytic anemia
- Henoch-Schonlein purpura
- Herpes gestationis
- Idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP)
- IgA nephropathy
- IgG4-related sclerosing disease
- Immunoregulatory lipoproteins
- Inclusion body myositis
- Insulin-dependent diabetes (type1)
- Interstitial cystitis
- Juvenile arthritis
- Juvenile diabetes
- Kawasaki syndrome
- Lambert-Eaton syndrome
- Leukocytoclastic vasculitis
- Lichen planus
- Lichen sclerosus
- Ligneous conjunctivitis
- Linear IgA disease (LAD)
- Lupus (SLE)
- Lyme disease, chronic
- Meniere’s disease
- Microscopic polyangiitis
- Mixed connective tissue disease (MCTD)
- Mooren’s ulcer
- Mucha-Habermann disease
- Multiple sclerosis
- Myasthenia gravis
- Neuromyelitis optica (Devic’s)
- Ocular cicatricial pemphigoid
- Optic neuritis
- Palindromic rheumatism
- PANDAS (Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcus)
- Paraneoplastic cerebellar degeneration
- Paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria (PNH)
- Parry Romberg syndrome
- Parsonnage-Turner syndrome
- Pars planitis (peripheral uveitis)
- Peripheral neuropathy
- Perivenous encephalomyelitis
- Pernicious anemia
- POEMS syndrome
- Polyarteritis nodosa
- Type I, II, & III autoimmune polyglandular syndromes
- Polymyalgia rheumatica
- Postmyocardial infarction syndrome
- Postpericardiotomy syndrome
- Progesterone dermatitis
- Primary biliary cirrhosis
- Primary sclerosing cholangitis
- Psoriatic arthritis
- Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis
- Pyoderma gangrenosum
- Pure red cell aplasia
- Raynauds phenomenon
- Reflex sympathetic dystrophy
- Reiter’s syndrome
- Relapsing polychondritis
- Restless legs syndrome
- Retroperitoneal fibrosis
- Rheumatic fever
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Schmidt syndrome
- Sjogren’s syndrome
- Sperm & testicular autoimmunity
- Stiff person syndrome
- Subacute bacterial endocarditis (SBE)
- Susac’s syndrome
- Sympathetic ophthalmia
- Takayasu’s arteritis
- Temporal arteritis/Giant cell arteritis
- Thrombocytopenic purpura (TTP)
- Tolosa-Hunt syndrome
- Transverse myelitis
- Ulcerative colitis
- Undifferentiated connective tissue disease (UCTD)
- Vesiculobullous dermatosis
- Wegener’s granulomatosis (now termed Granulomatosis with Polyangiitis (GPA)