Microbiomes & Nye Pas

The theories and methods of Western or Allopathic medicine and Traditional Tibetan Medicine (TTM) are quite different but there are some interesting overlaps.  Digestion and the digestive process is of paramount importance and has long been a major focus in Tibetan Medicine. In TTM digestion is seen as extremely important to understand and be able to treat.  The first internal disease to be studied and understood is indigestion.  Any interference or imbalance in digestion can result in many types of chronic illness, including, different sorts of edema, some forms of tumors, arthritis, gout, certain diseases of the liver, gallbladder, kidney, spleen, skin and many, many others.  

Recently there has been research in allopathic medicine that also points to possible profound and far-reaching effects of digestion, including its relationship with depression and autism.   I am interested in some of the ways in which current science and ancient forms of medicine such as TTM may intersect.  As more and more research is being done in both modalities it opens up new areas of convergence and generates new and interesting questions.  One such area that interests me is microbiomes, the community of gut microbes, bacteria and fungi that control digestion and work with our immune system amongst other things.

One way to describe TTM is that it is based on the 5 elements and three ‘nye pas’ or energies. The ‘nye pas’ are present in many ways in our body’s and are also involved in the digestive process as the beken nyakchi, tripa ju je, and the rlüng me nyam. TTM also recognizes seven constitutional types that correspond to the variations of the three nyespa. Each of these constitutional types also has a typical digestive pattern.  New scientific studies have found that there are three basic micro biomes, or bacterial communities in our guts. The three types of Bacteroidetes most commonly encountered in the Western gut microbiome are Prevotella, Bacteroides, and Porphyromonas.  Could these three microbiomes somehow correspond to the three nye pas, rlüng, tripa and béken in TTM and what are the possible parallels of disease? 

There has long been a recognition in TTM of the microorganisms in our intestines and even at times over the centuries a controversy regarding whether in the course of trying to heal a disease it is right that medicine should kill these bacteria.  This sounds similar to  the growing recognition in Western science of the danger of overuse of antibiotics which may kill a pathogen but also intestinal flora and can sometimes allow new resistant bacteria to grow.  There has also been a recognition in TTM of the link between digestion and mental health.

In my next blog I will look briefly at digestion and mental health.