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Persian Lifestyle Principles
The lifestyle guide in Traditional Persian Medicine (TPM) is focused on six core principles, known as Setah Zaroriah, all of which are associated with qualities of heat, coldness, moistness and dryness that can either be of benefit or harm. To maintain optimal health and keep our Humors in balance, TMP teaches us to align our lifestyle habits and environment to work in harmony with our individual Temperament:
An increase in the dominant quality associated with an individual’s Temperamental combination due to certain lifestyle choices can have a negative effect on their overall wellbeing.
Environmental Air & Breathing: e.g. the weather is either Hot/Cold/Dry/Moist
Food & Drink: e.g. ginger is heating, cucumber is cooling
Movement & Rest: e.g. exercise increases heat
Sleep & Wakefulness: e.g. sleep is cooling, wakefulness is drying
Emotions and Feelings: e.g. anger increases heat
Elimination: e.g. vomiting/diarrhoea causes dehydration, leading to dryness
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The Six Persian Lifestyle Principles:
1.Environmental Air & Breathing,
Environmental air refers not only to the air that all living organisms share, but also the effect of seasons and weather patterns. The air we breathe is our primary source of nutrition; it is extremely vital to our health. TPM advocates correct breathing techniques and encourages breathing exercises and meditation.
One should always be aware of seasonal changes and the adverse effects of exposure to extreme climatic changes. For example, during cold and wet climatic conditions, those with a phlegmatic Temperament should take special care to ensure that optimum body heat is maintained. Similarly, a choleric person should avoid too much exposure to summer heat.
With respect to Temperamental combinations, a person with a dominant/sub-dominant Sanguineous/Phlegmatic Temperament, having a dominant quality of moistness, will be most uncomfortable and negatively affected in weather conditions where excessive moistness is prevalent. Similarly, an individual with a dominant/sub-dominant melancholic/choleric Temperament will be negatively affected during the dry season of autumn.
2.Food & Drink,
Of all the lifestyle principles, changes in our diet are the easiest to implement, as we are generally in full control of it. As Humors are produced from our diet, this lifestyle factor is in fact the most important. Each food type can be classified as being heating or cooling with moistness or dryness. Heating foods increase the metabolic rate, while cooling foods decrease the metabolic rate. This classification refers to the inherent Temperament/quality associated with the foods and the effects they produce. For example, milk is Cold & Moist, while chicken is Hot & Dry.
Similar to Temperament and humour, foods are also classified according to four groups: Hot & Dry foods; Hot & Moist foods, Cold & Dry foods and Cold & Moist foods. Each of these categories is subdivided into Meats, Vegetables, Fruits, Nuts, Grains & Seeds, Dairy Products, Herbs & Spices, Drinks, Flavourings, Confectionery & Desserts, Cereals, Dishes.
3.Movement & Rest,
Controlled, regular and suitable physical exercise is also essential to maintaining good health. TPM believes that equal attention should be given to the role of exercise and rest. As we are all unique, we each have different requirements for exercise and rest.
It is important to do exercises that are appropriate for an individual’s Temperament. Some Temperaments are more suited to strenuous exercises than others. Attitudes to movement/exercise also differs for different Temperaments; for example, the choleric Temperamental type prefers competitive activities, whereas a phlegmatic individual is likely to prefer leisurely walks or gardening. Swimming, walking and Pilates are ideal for all Temperamental types, while high impact exercises such as jogging might not be ideal for the typical Melancholic thin/bony frame.
4.Sleep & Wakefulness,
The amount and quality of sleep is essential for restoring harmony in the body. Sound and peaceful sleep allows the body to restore balance, repair and heal any damage; strengthen the body’s natural functions, and eliminate toxins.
TPM considers sleep to be cooling and moistening. Wakefulness increases dryness and heat, and depletes energy due to physical and mental activity.
Everyone needs sleep, but the hours required differ from person to person. The sleep requirements for the different Temperamental types are Choleric: 5 to 6 hours minimum per night; Melancholic: 5 to 6 hours minimum per night; Sanguineous: 6 to 7 hours minimum per night; Phlegmatic: 8 hours per night.
5. Emotions & Feelings,
Our emotions play a vital role in our wellbeing. Every emotion has a different qualitative effect on the body. Positive emotions such as happiness, optimism, love and humour are known to invigorate the body. Negative emotions such as anxiety, frustration, resentment and anger can cause serious health problems.
TPM associates each emotion with a qualitative effect, e.g. Anger: Hot & Dry; Worry: Hot & Moist; Depression: Moist & Hot; Fear: Cold & Moist; Grief: Cold & Dry; Excitement: Dry & Hot.
Individuals are more prone to the emotions that have the same qualities as their Temperament. For instance, a dominant Melancholic (Cold & Dry) will be more inclined to experience grief, whereas a dominant Choleric (Hot & Dry) is prone to anger.
To avoid negative health effects, the predisposition to certain emotions should be managed vigilantly. For example, a dominant Choleric individual needs to find effective ways of preventing anger with meditation and breathing exercises.
Undigested food and poor elimination cause toxins to accumulate in and strain the body. Optimising efficient digestion and elimination may involve dietary changes, detoxification and fasting. Whatever it needs for energy and survival, the body takes from the environment. What is not required is expelled back into the environment in the form of waste. When the body isn’t able to remove waste efficiently, it becomes susceptible to many different diseases and conditions due to the build-up of toxins.
Other Lifestyle Factors
Occupation or career: As occupations vary physically and mentally, a person’s health will be influenced by their occupation.
Where you live: This refers to the home environment, which may be overcrowded or lack ventilation. The pollution levels in one’s immediate environment also need to be considered; for example, the hazardous effects of industrial toxins can be detrimental to one’s health.
Age and Gender: while a person’s Temperament is fixed (with an ideal qualitative state), the different stages of a person’s life—from infancy to old age—influence the diseases or conditions that a person may be inclined to. For example, during infancy and early childhood, most illnesses are associated with moistness (phlegm disorders, vomiting, diarrhoea etc.), teenagers/early adulthood with heat (acne, inflammation) and late adulthood with dryness (osteoporosis). Gender also influences predispositions, as females are moister than males.
Personal habits and hygiene: Screen time, smoking and recreational drugs can have an extremely negative effect on a person’s Temperament. The influence of hygiene is also significant. In underprivileged areas where access to clean running water and basic necessities are limited, overall health is also compromised.
Our Body and The Four Primary Humors
Your mouth consumes food and drink
Nutrients are acted upon by
digestive fluids (unusable parts go
to your large intestine and are
emitted as excrement).
To Small Intestine
Becomes chyme by mixing with
digestive juices and fluids of meal
(travels through mesenteric veins, portal vein).
BLOOD HUMOUR ARISES
(Hot & Moist)
Superior nutrients are taken in via
bloodstream to heart and dispersed to
cells via general bloodstream
Less choice parts become
(Cold & Moist)
Normal digestion converts into mucus,
saliva, and gastric and intestinal mucus.
Abnormal digestion causes excess mucus,
classified as sweet, sour, thick, thin, etc.
Remaining nutrients become
YELLOW BILE (BILIOUS) HUMOUR
(Hot & Dry)
Normal bile is formed in liver, affects
blood, and acts in small intestine.
Abnormal humour causes destructive changes in bile.
Sediments of the leftover digestive nutrients become
BLACK BILE (ATRABILIOUS) HUMOUR
(Cold & Dry)
Normal humour affects spleen and blood,
and mixes with phlegm humour.
Abnormal humour is passed out as ash
or admixes with blood humour and other
humours causing ill health