Understanding the Body Ecology

Key Concepts of Tibetan Medicine

– by Pema Khandro

No one right diet for everyone.

Tibetan Medicine is oriented around the notion that every individual has a unique body ecology that must be taken into account. This is why there is not one good medicine or diet that suits everyone. Some people tend to be more metabolic, others colder and heavier. Some people tends towards inflammation, others towards weakness and depletion. Understanding the play of the elements that make up a person’s present health is the decisive factor in determining what diet, lifestyle and healing practices will be most effective.


The elements.

The main organizing principle of Tibetan medical theory is that of the five elements which manifest in the body as three primary forces. These three are known as wind (Tib. rlung) which accounts for the vital forces of the body and circulatory movement; bile (Tib. mKhris pa) which accounts for the metabolic processes of the body; and phlegm (Tib. Bad kan) which accounts for the immunity and structural functions of the body. Each of these three, wind, bile and phlegm have numerous sub-divisions which describe the body according to the interaction of the five elemental forces which govern human life – earth, water, fire, wind and space.



The Ecology of Everything

These elements also govern every food or supplement. Even though it is a sophisticated and intricate understanding of foods and supplements, it is a principle that is accessible through common sense. Cucumbers are cooling and anti-inflammatory. Hot chiles are heating and can activate inflammation.


Not a type, a tendency.

Understanding the interaction of the elements that govern the person clarifies what the path towards greatest health will be. This is not just a matter of the body type one is born with, but instead it also accounts for the factors accumulated through many years of nutritional, behavioral  and mental-emotional factors. These factors can dramatically change one’s constitution so that even someone born with strength can develop a high wind condition, a tendency towards depletion. Likewise, even someone born with weakness can develop great nourishment and strength. What is most important is where the body is now, what are the blocks to health now and what is most needing support and care now.

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