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Tibb Principle: Lifestyle Factors

The Six Tibb Lifestyle Factors are ultimately the cause of both health and disease. After gaining an understanding into the Tibb principles of Temperament and Humours discussed on the previous pages, this section provides detailed explanation of the best way to stay healthy and well by effectively managing the Tibb Six Lifestyle Factors. These include Air & Breathing, Food & Drink, Sleep and Wakefulness, Movement and Rest, Emotions, and Elimination – that are specific to each temperamental type.

Principles in Tibb

The principles in Tibb are an assimilation of the philosophies of Hippocrates, Galen and Ibn Sina. These concepts not only allow for a comprehensive understanding of health promotion, but also provide valuable insights into the causes, pathological processes, management and treatment of illness conditions.

Tibb Principle Lifestyle Factors

In the discussion of the Tibb principle of Temperament it was highlighted that each individual has a temperamental combination of a dominant and sub-dominant temperament with an overall qualitative state of one dominant quality less of the two adjacent qualities and the least amount of an opposite quality. For example, an individual with a dominant sanguinous and sub-dominant phlegmatic temperament (marked X) will have an overall dominant quality of moistness followed by heat, less of coldness and the least amount of dryness. It was also mentioned that an increase of the dominant quality will negatively affect this individual the most and to the greatest extent.

The principle of Temperament was followed by the Humours wherein it was highlighted that just as each individual has a unique temperamental combination with an ideal qualitative state, each person also has a unique humoral balance, also with an overall quality of the four humours. It was further emphasised that for health to be maintained the qualities of the humours has to be the same as the overall qualities associated with an individual’s temperamental combination. As per the example above, this individual’s ideal humoral balance must have the same qualities as the individual’s temperamental combination i.e. dominant quality of moistness followed by heat, less of coldness and the least amount of dryness.

Whilst the overall qualitative state of an individual’s temperament is fixed, the overall qualitative state of the humours is constantly changing from the influence of the lifestyle factors especially food & drink from which the humours are produced.

Lifestyle factors influence humours by the qualities they exert, for example certain foods such as ginger have heating properties and would therefore increase heat within the body; exercise too, would increase heat; sleep has a cooling effect and emotions such as grief are associated with cold and dryness. Whilst physis is responsible to restore balance to the qualities of the humours to be the same as the overall qualities of the temperamental combination, this is not possible if lifestyle factors are not effectively managed to maintain this qualitative harmony between the humours and temperament. Lifestyle factors are ultimately the cause/s of both health and disease.

An important rule to remember in the implementation of lifestyle factors:

An increase in the dominant quality associated with an individual’s temperamental combination from Lifestyle Factors, will have a negative effect.

Tibb has identified Six Lifestyle Factors, all of which are associated with qualities of heat, coldness, moistness and dryness that can either benefit or be harmful. These include:


  • 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/diarrhea causes dehydration leading to dryness



Listed below is a brief summary of each of the Six Lifestyle Factors with additional information available on the Read More prompt.

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. One should always be aware of the seasonal changes and the adverse effects that exposure to extreme climatic changes have. 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 bilious person should avoid too much exposure to summer heat.

With respect to temperamental combinations, a person with a dominant/sub-dominant Sanguinous/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/bilious temperament will be negatively affected during the dry season of autumn.

The air we breathe, is our primary source of nutrition, vital to our health. Tibb advocates correct breathing techniques and encourages breathing exercises and meditation.

Additional information on the benefits of breathing as well as different breathing exercises for the different temperamental types is available on the
Read more…

2.Food & Drink,

Of all the lifestyle factors, food and drink is the easiest to implement since it is entirely in our control. In addition, as humours are produced from our diet, this lifestyle factor is the most important. Each food type can be classified as being heating or cooling with levels of moistness or dryness – where heating foods increase the metabolic rate and cooling foods decrease the metabolic rate. This classification refers to the inherent temperament/quality associated with the foods and the effect they have. For example, milk is Cold & Moist, chicken is Hot & Dry.

Similar to temperament and humours 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 are subdivided into: Meats, Vegetables, Fruits, Nuts, Grains & Seeds, Dairy Products, Herbs & Spices, Drinks, Flavourants, Confectionary & Desserts, Cereals, Dishes.

Identifying diet charts for different temperaments

When identifying which diet charts will be appropriate for the different temperamental combinations, it needs to be remembered that foods with the same qualities as the dominant quality associated with an individual’s temperament will negatively influence health. It therefore implies that foods from the opposite spectrum of the temperamental chart will be most appropriate for the maintenance of good health.

For example, an individual with a dominant Sanguinous sub-dominant Phlegmatic temperament – marked X should eat mostly Cold & Dry foods, followed by Hot & Dry foods, less of Cold & Moist foods, and the least amount of Hot & Moist foods.

Similarly, an individual with dominant phlegmatic sub-dominant sanguinous temperament (marked Y), should eat mostly Hot & Dry foods, followed by Cold & Dry, less of Hot & Moist and the least amount of Cold & Moist.

Although the foods have been classified according to the four categories mentioned above, most food ingredients are included in different recipes. Just as ingredients have qualities, we determine the overall quality of a recipe through taste, for example:


  • Salty taste – Hot & Moist,
  • Pungent taste – Hot & Dry,
  • Bitter taste – Dry & Hot,
  • Sweet taste – Moist & Hot,
  • Sour taste – Cold & Dry,
  • Tasteless/Insipid taste – Cold & Moist.


From the above tastes, an individual with a dominant bilious sub-dominant sanguinous temperamental combination should avoid Pungent taste (Hot & Dry) foods and also to a lesser extent Salty taste (Hot & Moist) foods to reduce the heat associated with this temperamental combination. On the other hand, the recipes beneficial for a dominant melancholic sub-dominant bilious temperamental combination should have Salty taste (Hot & Moist) foods and Tasteless/Insipid taste (Cold & Moist) foods.

For more details on the four (4) different food groups: Hot & Dry foods; Hot & Moist foods, Cold & Dry foods and Cold & Moist foods, classification of foods: Tibb/Conventional, the importance of heating foods, drinking enough water as well as other dietary advice, available on Read more…

3.Movement & Rest,

Controlled, regular and suitable physical exercise is an important aspect of maintaining good health. Tibb 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 of the utmost importance to do exercises that are appropriate for an individual’s temperament. Some temperaments are more suited to strenuous exercises than others.

The scenario listed below is a typical example of making the right choice of exercising.

“A couple joins a health club. They both participate in spinning classes (excessive cycling at a heavy pace, for at least 45 minutes). The husband – sanguinous/phlegmatic (dominant quality of moistness), had adequate moisture to balance the increased heat level. On the other hand, his wife (bilious/melancholic) developed an overactive thyroid due to an increase in heat & dryness from the exercise.”

Also, the attitude to movement/exercise differs in different temperaments, for example, the bilious temperamental type prefers competitive activities whereas a phlegmatic individual prefers leisurely walks or gardening.

From the above it is obvious that choice of exercise has to be according to the temperament of an individual. Whilst swimming, walking or pilates is best for all temperamental types, high impact exercises such as jogging is not ideal for the typical melancholic thin/bony frame.

The benefits of exercise as well as different exercises are available on the Read more…

4.Sleep & Wakefulness,

Quality and the amount of sleep is essential for restoring harmony in the body. Tibb considers sleep to be cooling and moistening. Wakefulness increases dryness and heat and depletes energy due to physical and mental activity. Sound and peaceful sleep allows Physis an uninterrupted opportunity to restore harmony in the body, repair and heal damage done; strengthen the body’s natural functions and eliminate toxins.

Everyone has a need for sleep, but the hours required differs from person-to-person. The sleep requirements for the different temperamental types are: Bilious: 5 to 6 hours minimum per night; Melancholic: 5 to 6 hours minimum per night; Sanguinous: 6 to 7 hours minimum per night; Phlegmatic: 8 hours per night.

The benefits of sleep are available on the Read more..

5.Emotions & Feelings,

Our emotions play a vital role in our well-being. 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.

Tibb 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 prone to experience grief, whereas a dominant bilious (Hot & Dry) is prone to anger.

This link to predisposition to emotions need to be managed to avoid negative effects. For example, the bilious dominant individual needs to be find effective ways of avoiding anger with meditation and breathing exercises.

Techniques and exercises to restore emotional balance often include breathing and meditation. Breathing is an important component in restoring emotional states and is always included as part of the meditation process. The most appropriate breathing exercise when meditating is the Tibb slow and deep breathing exercise as it has a calming effect.

Details of the Heart Mediation; Pineal Body Meditation exercises; are available on the Read more…

6. Elimination,

Undigested food and poor elimination puts strain on the body and causes an accumulation of toxins. 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 needed is expelled back into the environment in the form of waste products. When the body isn’t able to efficiently remove waste products it is susceptible to many different disease conditions. Waste products are removed from the body through bowel movements, sweating, urinating and other means.

Of all the normal elimination methods, elimination from the colon requires special attention. We know that most of the re-absorption of water from the digestive tract takes place in the colon. Due to the osmotic pressure created from the re-absorption process, a film of matter accumulates on the sides of the colon. Normal peristaltic movement does not remove this accumulation which becomes a reservoir of toxic matter. Although we may eliminate regularly, this build up can only be removed with an appropriate laxative taken on a regular basis. Historically every culture, every nation used to take laxatives on a regular basis. This helps the body to keep the colon free of toxic waste and is an important step to health maintenance.

More information on additional guidelines for assisting elimination is available on the Read more…

Other Lifestyle Factors

These lifestyle factors, unlike the Six main Lifestyle Factors which affect every individual, are specific to individual’s depending on their circumstances, and could affect health and wellbeing negatively:

Occupation or career: As occupations vary physically and mentally, a person’s health will be influenced by their occupation. For example, different circumstances present between a young executive behind a desk and a farm worker out in the sun from dawn to dusk.

Place of residence: This refers to the home environment, which may be overcrowded or lack ventilation. It could also be the presence of insects and house dust mites. The levels of pollution in one’s immediate environment also need to be considered, for example, the hazardous effects of industrial toxins can be detrimental to health.

Age and Gender: Whilst a person’s temperament is fixed, (with an ideal qualitative state) the different stages of a person’s life from infancy to old age influences disease 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 more moist than males.

Personal habits and hygiene: Societal impact of unhealthy activities such as screen time, smoking, recreational drugs may hugely and negatively affect temperament. The influence of hygiene is also significant. In underprivileged areas where access to healthy, running water and basic necessities is limited – overall health is also compromised.

Relationship between Physis, Temperament, Humours and Lifestyle Factors

The scheme (below) illustrates the constant interplay between Temperament, Humours, Lifestyle Factors and Physis. Although an individual’s temperament is fixed, humours fluctuate constantly as a result of changes to diet and other aspects of lifestyle, such as sleep, physical activity, breathing efficiency and stress levels. This dynamic relationship influences the humoral balance qualitatively, in relation to the ideal qualitative state required by an individual’s temperament, with Physis constantly striving to restore homeostasis. The inability of Physis to restore homeostasis inevitably leads to pathological processes that manifest as clinical disorders.

From the above, it is evident that Lifestyle Factors are ultimately the cause of both health and if not well managed will lead to disease. However, also note that Lifestyle Factors are just as important in the management and treatment of illness conditions. The role of Lifestyle Factors in Health Promotion and Illness Management are included in the Consumer Empowerment link where comprehensive information is provided.

The Tibb principle of the qualitative effect of Lifestyle Factors on humours in relation to an individual’s temperament, thus working with physis, in maintaining and restoring health, is unique to the Tibb philosophy. Having an understanding of the Tibb philosophical principles, I have no doubt will empower you to take responsibility for your own health and wellbeing.