Why We Get Sick
Disease grows in the body according to a process known as Samprapti, literally ‘the birth of pain’. Ayurveda recognizes six stages of disease: 1) Accumulation; 2) Aggravation; 3) Overflow; 4) Relocation; 5)Manifestation; 6) Diversification.
Disease does not suddenly appear. Illness and health both grow like a plant sprouted from our habits. Disease is the end result of a long process that can be detected and addressed at any stage. Ayurveda describes this in a simple way: such factors as diet, climate, seasons, lifestyle, emotions, etc. increase the doshas (stage1).
It is essential to understand that dosha is not a substance but force or principle (air, space, fire, water, earth). The word Dosha literally means that what goes out of balance.
If we are balanced the subtle energies of the doshas are naturally concentrated in the specific sites of the body (doshas’ seats): Vata in the colon and kidneys; Pitta – in the liver and small intestins; and Kapha in the stomach and lungs. Temporally imbalances are common and quite normal; problems arise if that condition is not corrected. Vata, Pitta, and Kapha naturally go through cycles of change: accumulation, provocation, and pacification (see Seasons and the Doshas; and The four stages of Life).
Typically, but not always, the first dosha to go out of balance is the one that is already domineering in our constitution (see Prakriti). It aggravates (stage 2) and starts to move first into surrounding areas and deeper into the body’s tissues (stage 3). In the fourth stage, the aggravated dosha again localizes, this time in tissue where it does not naturally belong, but where Ama (toxins) has created a physical weakness (see Ama-the root of all disease).
The aggravated dosha suppresses the normal qualities of the tissue and creates an altered state, changed in structure and function. The seeds of disease begin to sprout. Up to this point the disease has not appeared on the surface and is not recognizable for a Western doctor. But it can be detected and recognized by imbalances (both physical and psychological) in the doshas, so there are still opportunities for balancing those subtle energies before the disease manifest in its fullness. Knowing your leading dosha and imbalances it is prone to allows you to be observant of little changes in the body and mind (see Dosha test; and the Vata, Pitta, and Kapha portraits).
If the condition is not interrupted at this stage, it will erupt as a full blown disease. At that stage the signs and symptoms of an actual disease appear on the surface, the person becomes sick. The seeds of disease now sprout and begin to manifest in the area of the defective tissue. We can now identify the disease as asthma, diabetes, arthritis, or whatever it may happen to be. At the next and last stage the pathological process is fully developed, structural changes appear, and complications of other organs, tissues, or systems become evident. For example, in the fifth stage Pitta imbalance will manifest as an ulcer, and in the sixth stage the Pitta will perforate the ulcer and cause hemorrhaging, or it may provoke a tumor.
Obviously, treatment is much easier at earlier stages. It is much more effective to treat the illness in its early stage, before it sprouts and grows. The disease process can be addressed at any stage, but specific treatments are needed for different stages. In the first two stages, one can reverse the process by oneself using proper diet, some home remedies, and adjusting one’s lifestyle ( see Daily routine for your Dosha; and Panchakarma). In the two next stages restoration of balance and normal functioning is still possible but a help of an Ayurvedic practitioner is needed. The two last stages are the most difficult to treat.
TODAY’S TIP: The key is awareness. The more you are alert of your constitution and its reaction to changing circumstances, the more moment – to – moment choices of food, lifestyle, and types of physical activities you can make to maintain health and balance.