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Year : 2016  |  Volume : 37  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 18-21  

A review on role of psychological factors in the etiopathogenesis of Pandu Roga with reference to iron deficiency anemia

1 Department of Roga Nidan Evum Vikriti Vigyan, All Institute of Ayurveda, Sarita Vihar, New Delhi, India
2 Department of Vikriti Vigyan, Faculty of Ayurveda, Institute of Medical Sciences, Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, India

Date of Web Publication17-Jul-2017

Correspondence Address:
Shalini Rai
Department of Roga Nidan evum Vikriti Vigyan, All India Institute of Ayurveda, Sarita Vihar - 110 076, New Delhi
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/ayu.AYU_186_13

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PanduRoga is a disease entity described in Ayurveda which has clinical features similar to that of various types of anemia, in which there develops a pale-yellow discoloration on the skin. Besides the various etiological factors, Acharya Charaka has specially described some psychological causative factors among which Chinta (excessive worry), Bhaya (fear) and Shoka (grief) are three main factors, which play an important role in the pathogenesis of Pandu Roga. This paper aims to explore the scientific explanations for the above stated factors in the causation of Pandu Roga (anemia). Hence, a thorough search was made on the internet using the keywords anemia, psychological stress, anger, fear and some scientific studies were found on the concerned topic. It reveal that these factors disturb the process of iron distribution within the body and affects the process of erythropoiesis causing iron deficiency anemia.

Keywords: Anemia, Bhaya, Chinta, fear, grief, Pandu, psychological stress, Shoka, worry

How to cite this article:
Rai S, Kar AC. A review on role of psychological factors in the etiopathogenesis of Pandu Roga with reference to iron deficiency anemia. AYU 2016;37:18-21

How to cite this URL:
Rai S, Kar AC. A review on role of psychological factors in the etiopathogenesis of Pandu Roga with reference to iron deficiency anemia. AYU [serial online] 2016 [cited 2022 Dec 3];37:18-21. Available from: https://www.ayujournal.org/text.asp?2016/37/1/18/210950

   Introduction Top

Nidanas (etiological factors) are the agents responsible for the causation of any disease – be it directly or indirectly. Ayurveda has laid down the importance of these etiological factors for both the causation of the disease and the treatment for the avoidance of the Nidanas. A list of various Nidanas[1] have been given in the texts for every disease as well as for all stages of the pathogenesis.

In the chapter of Pandu Roga, Acharya Charaka has described various psychological etiological factors as Kama (excessive thinking about sex), Krodha (anger), Chinta (excessive worrying), Bhaya (fear) and Shoka (grief).[1] However till now, no scientific study describing the mechanism of these factors in the causation of anemia has been reported. Hence, it was decided to study the three factors Chinta, Bhaya and Shoka which are collectively called as the main causes of psychological stress (PS) which in turn play a crucial role in the causation of various anemia and to observe the findings for any explanations.

   Review of Modern Science Literature and Researches Top

A thorough search was made on the search engine Google, Bing and PubMed, regarding the topic using the keywords – role of PS in the causation of any anemia and its mechanisms.

   Results Top

A few scientific studies were found describing the role of PS in the causation of iron deficiency anemia.

The first study [2] (conducted in the Department of Naval Medicine, Second Military Medical University, Shanghai) performed in an animal model of twenty male Sprague-Dawley rats in whom PS was induced through a communication box. A communication box was divided into room A and room B with a transparent acrylic board, room A included ten little rooms with a plastic board-covered floor and room B included ten little rooms with a metal grid-exposed floor for electric insulation. Rats in room B were randomly given electrical shock 90 V, 0.8 mA for 1 s for 30 min, 60 times in total through the floor and exhibited no receptive stimulation-evoked responses, such as jumping up, defecation, and crying. Rats in room A were only exposed to the responses of rats in room B to establish PS model. On the 7th and the 14th day after administration, ten rats were executed and the rat blood and femoral bone marrow were collected for analysis of serum iron (SI), serum ferritin (SF), serum transferrin receptors, hemoglobin (Hb), red blood cell (RBC) count, RBC distribution width (RDW), mean corpuscular volume (MCV), serum erythropoietin (EPO) and bone marrow iron. Experimental data were statistically analyzed with SPSS 11.0. The data revealed that for rats analyzed on the 7th and 14th day in PS group, the following points were noted.

  • Femoral bone marrow iron was significantly decreased
  • SI was decreased by 28.6% (P < 0.01) and 27.5% (P < 0.01)
  • Hb was decreased by 10.0% (P < 0.01) and 12.8% (P < 0.01)
  • RBC count was decreased by 5.1% (P < 0.05) and 9.8% (P < 0.01)
  • MCV was decreased by 1.7% (P < 0.05) and 7.3% (P < 0.01)
  • RDW was increased by 10.7 and 22.5%
  • SF, transferrin receptor and EPO showed no significant changes in comparison with controls after 7th day of administration, but SF and EPO were decreased by 23.8 and 12.3% while transferrin receptor increased by 31.5% after 14th day of administration.

Another study conducted at the same place but by other workers [3] further confirmed the above findings and also described the mechanism responsible for it as the interleukin-6 (IL6) hepcidin axis. This study was also an experimental study in rats done in the same way as stated above through a communication box. The investigators found that the SI level was decreased after 3 day repeated PS exposure before the decline of red cell count and Hb (which decreased on 7th day). They also noticed elevated body iron stores in those rats as elevated hepatic iron concentration indicating that PS changed the iron distribution of the body and limited the transportation and utilization of iron. Only male rats were included in the study and standard diet was given to the rats to exclude the factors related to feeding loss and menstrual blood. The researchers also noticed increased IL6 after repeated PS exposure which was through the activation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and sympathetic nervous system. They also observed the up-regulation of hepcidin and down-regulation of ferroportin through the Western blot technique after PS exposure.

The investigators further performed anti IL6 antibody experiments to examine whether the IL6-hepcidin axis was necessary for the development of hypoferremia induced by PS. They found that anti-IL6 antibody inhibited the up-regulation of hepcidin and down-regulation of ferroportin while also inhibiting liver and SI level changes.

Another experimental study conducted on rats in the Department of Pathology,[4] University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pennsylvania, also had similar findings of elevation of plasma IL6 on exposure to physical and psychological stressors which they further related to the activation of HPA axis.

   Discussion Top

Although Chinta, Bhaya and Shoka (PS) are described as etiological factors in the causation of Pandu Roga in Ayurveda [5] but no detail about the exact mechanism of action and the pathological process has been made there. However, at certain places, some specific hints are obtained which clarify and elaborate the whole understanding about the topic.

An important aspect about the association between these psychological factors and Pandu Roga is a direct cause and effect relationship as excessive worry or stress (Chintyaanam cha Atichintanaat) has been described as the specific etiological factor for the vitiation of Rasa Vaha Srotas[6] (channels carrying the first tissue element of the body formed from the digested nutrients) and Pandu Roga is a Rasa Pradoshaja Vikara.[7],[8]

Yet, it is clearly understood that certainly there must be several steps or processes between these two extreme points of cause and effect. These missing links are in the form of Agni vitiation. References are available in the texts which state that [9],[10],[11] wholesome food taken even in the right quantity does not get digested properly if the individual is afflicted with grief, fear, anger, sorrow and inconvenient bed for sleep (meaning disturbed sleep) infering thereby that these factors vitiate Agni and resultantly the digestion process.

In Ayurveda, the concept of digestion (Pachana) relates to the whole process of digestion, metabolism, absorption and assimilation in the body and depends on the proper functioning of the Agni.[12] It is only after the digestion by Jatharagni and Bhutagni that the food substrate gets converted into a form suitable for use by our body tissues and gets converted into the respective tissue by the action of the respective Dhatvagnis.[13] All these Bhutagnis and Dhatvagnis depend upon the main Agni, i.e., Jatharagni for their nourishment and strength. Vitiation of Jatharagni will also vitiate the other Agnis in due course of time and ultimately affect the status of tissues in the body.

Thus, this improper digestion might be related to any of the aspects stated above, resulting in the deficient production of Rasa Dhatu from Adya Rasa Dhatu (the fluid tissue of the body which contains the end products of digestion and metabolism and circulates it in the whole body for nourishing other body tissues) either quantity-wise or quality-wise (deficiency in the amount of nutrients present in it as result of digestion and absorption). This improper Rasa Dhatu further effects the production of Rakta Dhatu (which is produced by the action of Raktagni on Rasa Dhatu)[14] This could be the reason why the Acharyas have included Pandu in Rasa Pradoshaja Vikaras and described Alpa Rakto (decreased blood) as one of the main features of the disease along with Panduta.[15]

Besides the above-stated processes, PS also has some other impacts on the body, for it is one of the factors responsible as an etiological agent for generalized debilitation of the body (Samanya Kshaya Hetu)[16] as well as for decreased strength and immunity status of the body (Oja Kshaya).[17] It is worthwhile mentioning here that in the disease Pandu Roga also, there is description of decrease in the qualities of the Ojas (Ojo Guna Kshaya)[18] and absence of pure essence in all the body tissues (Nihsaarata).

Ayurveda states that the entity responsible for the intellectual capacities of the individual, enthusiasm, pride, the achievement of determined goals – all depends upon Sadhaka Pitta, which is located in the Hridaya.[19] The pathogenesis of Pandu Roga also describes the involvement of Hridyastha Pitta in the disease pathogenesis.[5] Hence, certainly, there is involvement of Sadhaka Pitta also by the effect of PS. It is also important to recall here that Rasa Dhatu is also the seat of Pitta Dosha.[20] Hence, covering all the above-stated aspects regarding impact of PS, the following pathogenesis is proposed [Figure 1].
Figure 1: The pathogenesis of psychological stress in causing Pandu Roga and its effects in the body

Click here to view

The scientific description provided by the studies quoted above specifies that the PS continued even for a small period of 7 – 14 days, changes iron distribution within the body and limits the transportation and utilization of iron; thereby causing a significant reduction of SI and bone marrow iron, significant inhibition of erythropoiesis process,[21] and an increase in the body iron stores (as hepatic iron concentration increased).[22] This process is mediated by the increased production of IL6 through the activation of the HPA axis and sympathetic nervous system. It is also to be noted here that the pituitary and the adrenal glands are capable of producing IL6,[22] which may also function as a hormone to induce the production of acute phase proteins from the hepatocytes [23] and to regulate the secretion of hormones from the hypothalamus as well as the pituitary and adrenal glands.[24],[25]

IL6 has been shown to stimulate the hepcidin expression in vitro and in vivo:[26] which may be the mechanism responsible here also for the up regulation of hepcidin, collectively leading to the hypoferremia and hepatic iron storage.

This increase of IL6 and hepcidin by the PS resulting in iron deficiency anemia through various mechanisms is quite consistent with the Ayurveda description pertaining to Pandu Roga and Agni. This also correlates to some extent to the description of Ayurveda pathogenesis of Pandu Roga (Samprapti) which states that Pandu Roga is a Pitta Pradhana Vyadhi (IL-6 and hepcidin are considered in the modern medical science as inflammatory mediators) and Rasa Pradoshaja Vikara. The above descriptions have clearly shown that Rasa Dhatu is getting affected here and is then causing Pandu Roga. The increase of IL6 and hepcidin which are regulatory proteins also acting as hormones is quite similar to the increase of Pitta (as they have functions similar to that of Pitta). This vitiated Pitta then circulates in the whole body by the channels of circulation or Srotasa getting lodged in the Rasa Dhatu and results in the manifestation of Pandu Roga. Initially, only the Rasa-Vaha Srotasa (channels) are involved, but later, all the tissues of the body and their channels might also be involved, that is why features such as Nihsaarata and Ojo Kshaya Lakshanas (features) are present in the patient, resulting in his/her decreased strength, work capacity and immunity status of the individual (described as Bala/Oja in Ayurveda).

   Conclusion Top

The above-stated studies and the discussion reveals that the scientific explanation to the etiopathogenesis of Chinta, Shoka and Bhaya in the causation of Pandu Roga, i.e. to say that these factors cause iron deficiency anemia by causing a significant reduction of serum and bone marrow iron while also inhibiting the process of erythropoiesis. This study also reveals the involvement of inflammatory mediators such as IL6, hepcidin in the pathogenesis of Pandu Roga caused due to the above-stated factors of Shoka and Bhaya, which have been described to be Vata dominant. Earlier studies have already proven that the inflammatory mediators are very much similar to the Pitta Dosha of Ayurveda. Thus, the above study throws some light on the possible role of pitta in the pathogenesis of Pandu Roga and confirms the Ayurveda Samprapti also to some extent. However, still more studies are required to throw light on the other attributes of the pathogenesis of Pandu Roga.

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   References Top

Aacharya YT, editor. Charaka Samhita of Agnivesha, Chikitsa sthana, Ch. 16, Ver. 7-9. Reprint edition. Varanasi: Chaukhambha Surbharati Prakashana; 2005. p. 527.  Back to cited text no. 1
Chen J, Shen H, Chen C, Wang W, Yu S, Zhao M, et al. The effect of psychological stress on iron absorption in rats. BMC Gastroenterol 2009;9:83.  Back to cited text no. 2
Min Zhao, Jianbo Chen, Wanyin Wang, Lei Wang, Long Ma. Hui Shen, Min Li. Psychological stress induces hypoferremia through the IL – 6 hepcidin axis in rats. Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications (Internet) 373, 2008;90-3.  Back to cited text no. 3
D. Zhou, A. W. Kusnecov, M. R. Shurin, M. De Paoli, B. S. Rabin. Exposure to physical and psychological stressors elevates plasma interleukin 6: relationship to the activation of hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis. Endocrinology. 1993; 133(6):2523-30.  Back to cited text no. 4
Ibidem Charaka Samhita (1), Pandu Roga Chikitsitam Adhyaya, 16/9; 527.  Back to cited text no. 5
Ibidem Charaka Samhita (1), Vimana Sthana, Srotasam Vimanam Adhyaya, 5/13;251.  Back to cited text no. 6
Ibidem Charaka Samhita (1), Sutra Sthana, Vividha Ashitpeetiya Adhyaya, 28/9-10;179.  Back to cited text no. 7
Shastri Ambika Dutta editor. Sushruta Samhita of Dalhana, Sutra Sthana, Ch. 24, Ver. 10. 13th edition. Varanasi: Chaukhambha Sanskrit Sansthan; 2002. p. 102.  Back to cited text no. 8
Ibidem Charaka Samhita (1), Vimana Sthana, Trividhakukhshiyavimana adhyaya, 2/8-9;238.  Back to cited text no. 9
Ibidem Sushruta Samhita (8), Sutra Sthana, Annapana Vidhim Adhyaya, 46/507-08;223.  Back to cited text no. 10
Upadhyaya Yadunandana editor. Ashtanga Hridaya of Vagabhatt, Sutra Sthana. Ch. 8, Ver. 31-33. 10th edition. Varanasi: Chaukhambha Sanskrit Sansthan; 1987. p. 76-7.  Back to cited text no. 11
Ibidem Charaka Samhita (1), Chikitsa Sthana, Grahani Dosha Chikitsitam Adhyaya, 15/3-17;512-4.  Back to cited text no. 12
Ibidem Charaka Samhita (1), Chikitsa Sthana, Grahani Dosha Chikitsitam Adhyaya, 15/15;514.  Back to cited text no. 13
Ibidem Charaka Samhita (1), Chikitsa Sthana, Grahani Dosha Chikitsitam Adhyaya, 15/16;514.  Back to cited text no. 14
Ibidem Charaka Samhita (1), Chikitsa Sthana, Pandu Roga Chikitsitam Adhyaya, 16/6;526.  Back to cited text no. 15
Ibidem Charaka Samhita (1), Sutra Sthana, Arthedasha Mahaamuliyam Adhyaya, 30/13;185.  Back to cited text no. 16
Ibidem Charaka Samhita (1), Chikitsa Sthana, Pandu Roga Chikitsitam Adhyaya, 16/5;526.  Back to cited text no. 17
Babu S. Suresh, editor. Ashtanga Samgraha of Vagbhata, Sutra Sthana. Ch. 20, Ver. 3. First edition. Varanasi: Chaukhambha Orientalia; 2004. p. 198.  Back to cited text no. 18
Ibidem Charaka Samhita (1), Sutra Sthana, Maha Rogaadhyaya, 20/8; 113.  Back to cited text no. 19
Chunlan Wei, Jian Zhou, Xueqiang Huang, Min Li. Effects of psychological stress on serum iron and erythropoiesis. Int J Hematol 2008; 88(1):52-6.  Back to cited text no. 20
Call GB, Husein OF, McIlmoil CJ, Adams A, Heckmann RA, Judd AM. Bovine adrenal cells secrete interleukin-6 and tumor necrosis factor in vitro. Gen Comp Endocrinol 2000; 118(2):249-61.  Back to cited text no. 21
Liuzzi JP, Lichten LA, Rivera S, Blanchard RK, Aydemir TB, Knutson MD et al. Interleukin-6 regulates the zinc transporter Zip14 in liver and contributes to the hypozincemia of the acute-phase response. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2005; 102(19):6843-8.  Back to cited text no. 22
Yasin SA, Costa A, Forsling ML, Grossman A. Interleukin-1 beta and interleukin-6 stimulate neurohypophysial hormone release in vitro. J Neuroendocrinol. 1994;6(2):179-84.  Back to cited text no. 23
M A Salas, S W Evans, M J Levell, J T Whicher. Interleukin-6 and ACTH act synergistically to stimulate the release of corticosterone from adrenal gland cells. Clin Exp Immunol. 1990;79(3):470-3.  Back to cited text no. 24
Nemeth E, Rivera S, Gabayan V, Keller C, Taudorf S, Pedersen BK et al. IL-6 mediates hypoferremia of inflammation by inducing the synthesis of the iron regulatory hormone hepcidin. J Clin Invest. 2004; 113 (9):1271-6.  Back to cited text no. 25
E. Nemeth, E.V. Valore, M. Territo, G. Schiller, A. Lichtenstein, T. Ganz. Hepcidin, a putative mediator of anemia of inflammation, is a type II acute-phase protein. Blood, 101 (2003):2461-3.  Back to cited text no. 26


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