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THE SIX STAGES OF DISEASE ACCORDING TO AYURVEDA

In Ayurveda, prevention of disease is a major goal within all of its approaches. Its aim is to primarily preserve health and wellbeing in the individual through maintaining homeostasis within the mind, body, and spirit. However, for those that are diseased and have health conditions, where possible, Ayurveda also aims to reduce the signs and symptoms of these conditions and maximise the quality of life for the individual.

In Ayurvedic medicine, pathology/disease stems from the result of Dosha (Vata, Pitta, Kapha) increase, aggravation and subsequent relocation to other parts of the body.

Causes of imbalances and disease include:

  • Poor/inappropriate diet choices, including overeating, eating before the previous meal is digested, and exercise after eating
  • Inappropriate food combining
  • Inappropriate lifestyle choices, including overstimulation of the senses, lack of balance in daily life, irregular habits, drugs, alcohol, stimulants
  • Exercise habits, including too little/too much
  • Poor sleeping habits
  • Sexual habits
  • Mental outlook on life and strong and/or repressed emotions
  • Hereditary factors
  • Environmental factors
  • Seasonal changes
  • Trauma and injury

One of the ways in which Ayurveda approaches health and wellbeing is through its foundational view on clearly defined stages of the disease process. Rather than look at a condition simply when it has manifested, Ayurveda believes that ‘pre-disease’ signs and symptoms can be seen and recognised by a skilled practitioner, before manifestation occurs.

The earlier imbalances are detected, the easier these imbalances are able to be brought back into more of a homeostatic balance – and before they manifest as a disease or condition.

In Stages 1 and 2 below, simple nutritional and lifestyle modifications and Ayurvedic bodywork therapies can be used to reduce the aggravated Dosha(s) back to a more balanced state.

In Stage 3 and 4 below, nutritional and lifestyle modifications, bodywork therapies, as well as herbal therapies and/or cleansing procedures are generally required.

In Stages 5 and 6 below, a multi-faceted approach is generally required including physical, mental and environmental approaches.

STAGE ONE: ACCUMULATION
Due to causative factors discussed above, one or more of the doshas (Vata, Pitta, Kapha or a combination thereof) can begin to become imbalanced through its/their accumulations at its/their respective ‘home seat(s)’ within the body.

Examples may include, Vata accumulating in its ‘home seat’ within the colon, nerves, or in empty spaces and channels of the body. Pitta may accumulate in its ‘home seat’ within the digestive tract, eyes or skin. Kapha may accumulate within its ‘home seat’ within the chest and the fluid substances of the body, e.g. joint fluids and circulatory system.

Vata symptoms may include distention of the colon, gas, dry stools, fatigue and general dryness.

Pitta symptoms may include: burning sensations, bitter taste in the mouth, yellow colouring to skin and irritability.

Kapha symptoms can include: lassitude, heaviness, indigestion and feeling lazy.

If the accumulation is not dealt with at this stage, the imbalance will progress to Stage 2.

STAGE TWO: AGGRAVATION
In this stage, from the continued involvement of causative factors, the accumulation of the respective dosha(s) increases, and may manifest symptoms within other sites of the body governed by the respective dosha(s).

While the first stage involves a quantitative change in the doshas, Stage 2 now involves a qualitative change in the dosha(s).

Vata symptoms may include: growling or rumbling in the colon, upper abdominal distention, dry constipation.

Pitta symptoms may include: Acidity, acid reflux, burning pain in the abdomen area, excessive thirst.

Kapha symptoms can include: Loss of appetite, indigestion, nausea, increase in salivation and/or dislike of food in general.

If the aggravation is not dealt with at this stage, the imbalance will progress to Stage 3.

STAGE THREE: RELOCATION
At this third stage, the dosha(s) continue to accumulate to overflowing point, and then begin to overflow into other sites in the body that are controlled by other doshas. The dosha(s) can now also mix with toxins within the body (Ama), or body waste (Mala). There continue to be no specific symptoms, however, vague, low-grade non-specific symptoms can be present, such as transient aches and pains or mild malaise, and the individual will feel unwell in some form, or know that they are not feeling quite right.

Vata symptoms may include: pain and stiffness of joints, dry skin, lower back pain, convulsions, spasms, dry cough, headache, intermittent fever, along with the symptoms listed in Stage 1 and 2 above.

Pitta symptoms may include:  Inflammatory conditions skin disorders, conjunctivitis, gingivitis, dizziness, headache, high fever, diarrhea, burning sensations, along with the symptoms listed in Stage 1 and 2 above.

Kapha symptoms can include: cough, more difficulty breathing, grasping for air, swollen glands, low grade fever, vomiting, indigestion, exhaustion, mucus in stools, along with the symptoms listed in Stage 1 and 2 above.

If the doshic overflow is not dealt with at this stage, the imbalance will progress to Stage 4.

STAGE FOUR: LOCALISATION
In Stage 4, vitiated dosha(s) travel through the bloodstream and localise in a tissue (often an already weak/susceptible area within the body) outside of its ‘home seat’ and begins to impair the function of that tissue/organ.

These factors will give rise to preliminary signs and symptoms of disease – and they can be either specific or general in nature. If the symptoms are general, they will have attributes of the opposite nature of the individuals inherent (birth) constitution. If the signs and symptoms are specific, they will have the same attributes as the dosha causing the disease (and will be the first manifestations of Stage 5 below).

STAGE FIVE: MANIFESTATION
In this stage, the disease manifests in its clearly identifiable form - and it is this stage where conventional medicine is able to (formally) diagnose a disease. Here, tissue functioning is disrupted by the complexity of toxins (Ama) mixed with the vitiated dosha(s). The longer the period one stays in this stage, the more likely that the tissues, and channels are damaged beyond repair (leading to Stage 6).

STAGE SIX: COMPLICATIONS
In the sixth stage, the disease becomes so embedded in the tissues that the body's natural repair mechanisms are not able to correct it – and this them becomes a long-term or permanent disorder. It can also be acute (e.g. a cold that develops in the bronchitis, which leads to pneumonia and subsequent death), or chronic (e.g. uncontrolled diabetes, leading over time to ischemic heart disease).

If you have any concerns about your health please be sure to consult an Ayurvedic Practitioner or your local health physician. See our Ayurvedic Practitioner Services and Consultation Page for more information.

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Disclaimer:
The above information is for information and educational purposes. As such we are not, diagnosing, treating, curing, mitigating, or preventing any type of disease or medical condition. Before taking any form of natural, integrative or conventional treatment regimen, it is advisable to seek the advice of a licensed healthcare professional.

 

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