In everyday conversations, we often blame things on our hormones, yet most people have only a vague idea of what these actually are. In short, hormones are chemical messengers our bodies produce through the glands in our endocrine system (i.e., thyroid, pancreas, testes, ovaries, etc.). These hormones have powerful effects on many of our bodies’ basic processes, from regulating hunger to influencing our reproductive systems. They affect our moods, our weight, our sleep patterns—you name it.
Not so incidentally, ayurveda (a 5,000-year-old holistic health system that originated in India) is concerned with all of these functions of our mind-body as well: Together, they amount to our overall well-being. Shijoe Mathew, M.D., a qualified ayurvedic doctor, tells us that these messengers form what ayurveda calls “Dhatu Agni” (or cellular fire), which categorises hormones and enzymes into groups by function, such as digestion or reproduction, rather than chemical classification like in modern medicine. It understands that “the control and functioning of each hormone in our body is regulated by an equal and opposite hormone produced from a completely different anatomical location,” according to Mathew, so unlike modern science, ayurveda seldom treats the affected gland alone.
Instead, the ayurvedic guidelines are concerned with overall balance. With the combined knowledge of ayurveda and your personal system, you can intuitively learn how to remedy any ills caused by both choices and situations out of your control. To use the wisdom of ayurveda to bring yourself into balance is not about a diet or a quick-fix solution—which is always the more popular approach in a time-poor, fast-moving world of instant gratification—but a lifestyle overhaul.
Instead of spot-treating the symptoms that arrive once we already feel ill or out of balance, through ayurveda we are able to recognise, read, and respond to our symptoms, or signals, from a 360-degree approach. “Treating the Dhatu Agni treats the issue by balancing the feedback mechanism, not by introducing more of a particular hormone externally,” Mathew says. “The effect of various foods and herbs on these functions are the basis of ayurvedic treatment, not their effect on a particular hormone.” Ayurveda offers us effective tools not only to begin to reverse problems, but even more helpfully, to avoid going off balance in any significant way in the first place. Prevention is better than cure.