One of the big weaknesses of most gut repair programs is their lack of awareness of the individual nature of each person’s digestive system. We are all born with different genetic traits and tendencies, so it is not appropriate for each person to have the same diet. Some people might be lactose intolerant, while others may have genes for celiac disease. One person may naturally produce more gas than another, even when they are eating the same food. Some are prone to constipation, others to diarrhea. One individual can skip meals, while another has to eat on time to function well.
Nature and nurture are both important. We know that twins with exactly the same set of genes can have different types of digestion and metabolism. One twin might get fat while the other stays thin. Different genes are turned on in one, but are not active in the other. The genes that are turned on or off at any given time determine the style of functioning of our Gut/Brain network.
We have identified three basic Gut/Brain Natures, which represent both the physical characteristics of the Gut/Brain network and the programs that run it. These three natures are controlled by our individual genetic traits and modified by the particular environment we live in.
The three main Gut/Brain Natures are called:
Vata or V Gut/Brain
Pitta or P Gut/Brain
Kapha or K Gut/Brain
The origin of these three basic natures is Ayurveda, and they are called the three main Prakritis. The word Prakriti can be translated as “nature.” The Sanskrit words used to describe the three natures are Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. The V Gut/Brain refers to a Vata nature, the P Gut refers to a Pitta nature, and the K Gut refers to a Kapha nature.
Most systems of natural medicine, for instance, Traditional Chinese Medicine, also use different mind/body types or natures. As we mentioned, recent scientific research using genetic, epigenetic, physiological, and biochemical measures, shows that this ancient individualized approach can be objectively verified. Personalized Medicine uses genetic analysis to help individualize treatments.
Let us take a look at the three gut natures in terms of digestion and mental and emotional behavior. The V Gut/Brain Nature, V Gut for short, refers to people whose digestion tends to be extremely variable, leading to a digestive pattern and appetite that can be strong or weak at different times. These people are “snackers,” who enjoy and actually benefit from eating several small nutritious meals throughout the day. When V Gut people become imbalanced, they are prone to constipation and gas and have a sensitive or vulnerable gut that is susceptible to even minor disruptions in their gut bacteria. V Gut people would most likely be prone to irritable bowel syndrome and would benefit from a Low FODMAP Diet. In terms of behavior, they are creative and quick to learn but when out of balance can be unfocused and anxious.
The P Gut/Brain Nature represents individuals who have a strong digestive power and appetite. The P Gut individuals need to eat on time. If they don’t, they can become irritable and “hangry” (hungry and angry at the same time). We now know that gut bacteria can affect the brain, so perhaps P Gut individuals have a type of gut bacteria whose life cycle requires that they receive food on schedule; otherwise, they might release a chemical that affects certain parts of their brain, which are concerned with the emotion of anger. It would be interesting to decipher the biochemical and neural pathways that are responsible for this “hangry” condition. When these individuals are in a balanced state, their behavior is energetic and purposeful. When out of balance, they can become controlling and aggressive.
The K Gut/Brain person has a slower metabolism and is prone to gaining weight. In Ayurveda, it corresponds to a Kapha nature. Their digestion is stable and they can miss meals without being disturbed. K Gut people enjoy food; however, they must be careful not to overeat. Researchers may eventually show that they have a type of gut bacteria that predisposes them to obesity. These individuals are good-natured and calm when in balance but can become lethargic or depressed when out of balance.
There are also several combinations of these three main natures. (You will find details about each of the Gut/Brain Natures and their possible combinations at docgut.com.) These different Gut/Brain Natures can also be considered in terms of the systems of the body (see first article in the reference section at end of chapter). Interesting research has already identified three basic groups of human gut bacteria called enterotypes (Bacteriodes, Prevotella, and Ruminococcus) and perhaps these can be related to the three main Gut/Brain Natures.
We already know that one of the primary ways to change our gut bacteria and improve our gut health is through diet. By individualizing the diet for each specific Gut/Brain Nature, we can ensure a healthier and more ideal gut bacteria composition.
- Gut Crisis: How Diet, Probiotics, and Friendly Bacteria Help You Lose Weight and Heal Your Body and Mind by Robert Keith Wallace, PhD, and Samantha Wallace, Dharma Publications, 2017
- Travis, FT, and Wallace, RK, Dosha brain-types: A neural model of individual differences. Journal of Ayurveda and Integral Medicine 2015; 6, 280-85
- Dharma Parenting: Understand your Child’s Brilliant Brain for Greater Happiness, Health, Success, and Fulfillment by Robert Keith Wallace, PhD, and Fred Travis, PhD, Tarcher/Perigee, 2016
- Maharishi Ayurveda and Vedic Technology: Creating Ideal Health for the Individual and World, Adapted and Updated from The Physiology of Consciousness: Part 2 by Robert Keith Wallace, PhD, Dharma Publications, 2016
- Dey, S and Pahwa, P, Prakriti and its associations with metabolism, chronic diseases, and genotypes: Possibilities of newborn screening and a lifetime of personalized prevention. Journal of Ayurveda and Integral Medicine 2014; 5:15-24
- Vernocchi, P et al., Gut Microbiota Profiling: Metabolomics Based Approach to Unravel Compounds Affecting Human Health. Frontiers in Microbiology 2016; 7:1144
- Arumugam, M, et al., Enterotypes of the human gut microbiome. Nature 2011, 473,174-180