In Ayurveda, there are 7 dhatus or tissue elements and their correlating upadhatus or byproducts. The state of these bodily tissues can give rise to different imbalances and symptoms in the body. Starting with the most surface tissue:
Rasa - The blood plasma
Byproduct - Lactation, menstruation and the surface layer of the skin
Rasa is the clear blood plasma portion of the blood that carries nutrients from the intestines to the entire body. Factors such as fasting, eating meals at irregular times, not drinking enough water, eating a lot of dry foods (crackers, chips, popcorn or dry cereal), consuming too much salt, overeating, staying up late, not getting enough sleep and breathing shallowly or holding breath when stressed are disturbing to Rasa. Ways to restore balance back to Rasa are rehydrating with plenty of pure water, juicy fruits and vegetables, slowing down, relaxing more, getting more sleep, abhyanga oil massage daily and taking herbs that help to rebalance Rasa.
Rakta - The formed blood elements
Byproduct - Bile and the small tendons
Rakta is the red blood cells and bile, which is created mainly of the breakdown products of red blood cells. Factors such as very acidic foods (tomatoes or fermented), very alkaline foods (leavened with baking soda), toxins such as alcohol, nicotine, drugs or chemicals, frequent anger or frustration, fasting, hot, spicy or very salty foods, caffeine, unnatural food additives or contaminants (artificial coloring or preservatives), over the counter pain killers, allergy medicines, many prescription drugs, watching violent movies or shows, going to bed late and iron deficiency disturb Rakta. Ways to restore Rakta are following a diet of more neutral tastes, taking plenty of pure water, juicy fruits and vegetables, cultivating a more forgiving and tolerant state of mind, including rose petal jam or rose water into daily diet, drinking a quarter cup of aloe vera juice daily and taking herbs that help to rebalance Rakta.
Mamsa - The muscle tissue
Byproduct - Large tendons, bursa, earwax and nasal crust
Mamsa refers to the muscle tissues in the body, including the uterus, blood vessels, glands, bladder, bowels and heart. Factors such as consuming foods that are old, foods that are cold, dense, rich or heavy (many cheeses, deli foods and ice cream), overeating, iced beverages, non-organic, leftover or processed meat, not getting plenty of exercise, insufficient or excessive protein consumption and emotional stress which is held in the musculature are disturbing to Mamsa. Ways to rebalance Mamsa are activities that tone and strengthen your muscles, activities that increase circulation to the muscles (yoga, stretching and daily oil massage), lighter, preferably vegetarian diet, Rasayana or restorative tonic such as Chyawanprash, eating one or two dates a day, eating half a cup to one cup cooked buckwheat at least once a week, avoiding red meat, pork or cheese and takin herbs that help to rebalance Mamsa.
Meda - The fat or adipose tissue
Byproduct - Cholesterol, hormones, synovial fluid and ligaments
Meda refers to the fat tissues, hormones and carbohydrate metabolism involved in regulating the metabolism throughout the entire body. The liver, fat tissue, pancreas, thyroid and brain play integral roles in Meda. Factors such as eating too much fat or sugar, not exercising enough, eating too many calories, eating too much in the evening, fried foods, heavy foods such as meats or cheeses, creamy, rich foods on a regular basis, impure oils such as non organic, refined vegetable oils, lard, or genetically modified canola oil, eating late at night (after 8pm), drugs and medications that disturb sugar metabolism such as corticosteroids, pesticides, and any fat soluble chemical toxins and excess water consumption are disturbing to Meda.Ways to rebalance Meda are exercise, increase the amount of fiber in the diet, cutting out refined sugar and white flour, reduce fat and oils in the diet, eat organic food as much as possible, taking green leafy vegetable, legumes and taking herbs that help to rebalance Meda.
Asthi - The bone tissue
Byproduct - Cartilage, teeth, nails, skin
Asthi refers to the bone tissue and cartilage, hair teeth, and nails. Factors such as Vata dosha aggravation, late nights, mental stress, irregular meals, mercury, smoking, hormonal imbalances (reproductive, thyroid, and adrenal hormones), certain medications and drugs known to cause bone loss such as seizure medications and corticosteroids, lack of adequate nutrition such as calcium, magnesium, zinc, iron, and vitamin D, lack of exercise, poor posture, excessive exercise and insufficient or excessive protein consumption are disturbing to Asthi. Ways to rebalance Asthi are adequate vitamin D, balance of Vata dosha, eat calcium rich food, taking 20-30 minute walk in the rising sun, preferably without sunscreen, daily self oil massage and taking herbs that help to rebalance Asthi.
Majja - The bone marrow, nervous system
Byproduct - Tears
Majja (pronounced maaj) refers to the bone marrow, the main production site for red blood cells and immune cells but also the immune system, brain and central nervous system. Factors such as adrenal exhaustion, overwhelming stress, eating unnatural, unwholesome foods, drugs that suppress the immune system such as corticosteroids, mercury, lead, toxins that impair immune function such as alcohol and other recreational drugs, lack of foods rich in calcium, magnesium, ad vitamins B6 and B12, lack of sunlight to ensure adequate vitamin D intake, excessive Vata aggravating foods, trauma, lack of sleep, energy field invasion and concussion or contusion and disturbing to Majja. Ways to rebalance Majja are getting more rest, gentle but regular exercise, daily oil massage, eat very healthy and wholesome foods, avoid junk food and processed foods, eat organic foods a much as possible, including asparagus in the diet (2-3 times per week), including walnuts, pecans and blanched almonds in the daily diet, eat mangoes when they are in season and taking herbs to rebalance Majja.
Shukra - The reproductive tissue
Byproduct - Ojas or the essence of essential energy responsible for vitality, strength, immunity and overall wellness
Shukra refers to the reproductive essence of the body, specifically the eggs in females and the sperm in males but overall the reproductive system. It is closely related to the immune function and overall strength and stamina. When properly nourished and not unnecessarily spent for sexual functions, it supports the creation of ojas, which is the life giving essence of the body. Factors that deplete energy, immune strength, and nutrition or that overtax the reproductive system, too much sexual activity, to frequent child birth (less than 2 years apart), unwholesome foods lacking nutrients, mental or emotional stresses, carbonated beverages, bakes goods make with baking soda or powder, alcohol, pesticides and other chemicals with carcinogenic, estrogenic or DNA-damaging effects (such as Atrazine, DDT, DDE, dioxins and PCBs), ionizing radiation (such as x-ray and radiation treatments), drinking liquids or eating foods that have been stored in soft plastic containers, which can leach infertility causing chemicals if kept in warm environments and the use of chemical spermicides can cause disturbance in Shukra. Some ways to rebalance Shukra are practicing moderation in all your habits, including sexual activity, getting enough sleep (at least 8 hours), getting to bed by 10pm, daily oil massage, eating nurturing foods, fresh asparagus 2-3 times a week, including walnuts, pecans and blanched almonds in your daily diet, eating mangoes when in season, eating at least one juicy fruit such as a pear or cooked apple daily and taking herbs that balance shukra.
The proper function of each of the dhatus is imperative as each one correlates to a deeper tissue, which therefore feeds off the nutrients of the dhatu or tissue before it or the more "surface" tissue. These dhatus can either be in excess or deficient depending on a number of factors. Whether it be the over stressing of the deeper tissues (ex. vigorous exercise routine taxing the muscle and bone tissue) or lack of sufficient nutritional intake of the more surface tissues, the nourishment of the dhatus and their overall function is essential to optimal health and keeping the body free of imbalance.
Information on dhatus provided by New World Ayurveda LLC