As I continue to write about the science that backs up ancient Ayurvedic wisdom, I am regularly amazed by what they knew so long ago about the subtleties of the human body.
Without microscopes or any ability to see bacteria or microbes, somehow they were able to describe them in great detail!
In this article, I want to introduce to you krimi.
Krimi was the term used for both the visible and invisible microbes found on our foods, like milk, butter and others, utensils, in water, the soil and the body. Numerous microbe-residing locations were described, including infectious contact with animals like birds. (1,2)
In detail, they described the microbes that live on our foods and in our guts.
They blamed the proliferation of bad bacteria or krimi on poor hygiene—a concept that was 2000 years ahead of its time! (1)
To battle the risk of krimi infections, Ayurvedic diets and lifestyle practices were designed to support the healthy proliferation of what we call today, the “beneficial bacteria” or “probiotics” in our digestive tract, respiratory tract, and skin. Many of these diets and lifestyle practices are now backed by scientific studies. (1,3)
Writings about krimi were found in the oldest of Vedic texts some 3500 years ago. (3) The Rig Veda described both pathogenic and non-pathogenic bacteria (2), suggesting that some krimi (bacteria, microbes) were infectious and others were non-harmful. The concept of pathogenic and non-pathogenic was also described in Charaka Samhita, which is still the primary Ayurvedic text written some 1500 years after the Rig Veda was written. It is interesting that they did not say that the bacteria were potentially beneficial like the probiotics we refer to today. Instead, they called them non-harmful or non-pathogenic.
The concept of good and bad bacteria, according to the most recent science, has evolved to a new understanding that there are no truly good bacteria and no truly bad bacteria. There are just bacteria that live solely for their own benefit, not ours.
The science shows us that a so-called “good” bacteria in one person can be a very harmful bacteria in another—debunking the idea of good bacteria for now. For example, probiotics that many of us take can be toxic in the guts of people from other cultures. (4)
So maybe the way that the authors of Vedic texts described the bacteria or krimi as either “harmful” or “not harmful,” leaving out the concept of “good” bacteria, was actually quite prophetic!
Interestingly, the Vedic texts emphasized the discussions on krimi alone, while the Ayurvedic medical texts referred to the diseases caused by bacteria called Krimi roga. (3)
External, outer skin-residing bacteria was referred to as Vakva krimi. Internal bacteria, such as the gut microbiome, was referred to as Abhyantara. Dental bacteria was called Danta krimi. (3) They also described certain diseases that were linked to each of the different types of internal, external and dental krimi, something microbiologists are only just starting to do today.
Perhaps their most prophetic claim was that the human body has evolved from a single golden krimi or bacteria. (1-3) Today, this is the most widely accepted theory behind human evolution, as recently written in the New York Times article, “From Bacteria to Us.” (5)
The Ayurvedic texts also made outstanding original contributions to biology and medicine while describing the diseases or Krimi roga. In addition to internal herbal and mineral treatment of krimi, the texts mention three fundamental principles:
- Krimi Apakarsana: The physical removal of krimis.
- Nidana Parivarjana: The elimination of the cause of the infestation.
- Prakriti Vighãta: Modify the prakriti (nature or body type) and the habitat of the krimis (parasites and microbes) on one hand, and the gut of the human host on the other.
This a fascinating insight that is still not on the radar of medical science today. Instead of killing the bacteria as we do today with drugs and harsh herbs, they suggested to one, remove them physically or two, remove the cause of the infestation or three, alter the nature of the bacteria and the environment of the human gut where the infestation was—amazing! (3)
They went on to suggest that the prakriti (nature or basal makeup) of the human host, as well as the parasite, can both be suitably modified with dietary and lifestyle habits, herbal and mineral support, along with immune-enhancing Ayurvedic procedures.
Today, we have volumes of science to suggest that stressful environments, highly processed foods, and imbalanced diets can severely compromise a healthy microbiome. (6)
Modern Ayurvedic practitioners are trained to not “treat disease,” just as we have seen here in the approach to krimis.
In Ayurveda, we are trained to support the healthy environment of the individual’s gut, change their diet and lifestyle, and let the body do the healing.