Ayurveda and Illness
With Ayurveda, it is not necessary to know the names or forms of illnesses; it is more important to know the attributes of the doshas and their states of imbalance behind different illnesses. Ayurveda sees all illnesses according to the three doshas; Vata, Pitta and Kapha (visit our What is Ayurveda page for further details on doshas). According to Ayurveda, no new illnesses can be found, only variations in the same basic illness-causing factors.
Illness is primarily caused by doshas that are too high or aggravated, according to Ayurveda. Low doshas are not thought to possess the strength to cause illness, but they do have their symptoms. Once the aggravated dosha is ascertained along with its site of manifestation, an integral regimen for reducing it can be implemented. It is the underlying energy of the illness which has to be countered, not merely its face that has to be identified.
Hippocrates once said that illness does not fall from the sky but is the result of all the small mistakes we make each day. For example, when a permanent stimulus of the Vata dosha occurs, causing the Vata principle to divert from its normal pattern, then an imbalance occurs in that dosha. This could be experienced, for instance, as nervousness, headaches, high blood pressure or digestive problems. According to Ayurveda, such symptoms do not occur overnight but develop over a long period of time.
The body will try to eliminate this disorder by activating the Vata-balancing properties of the Kapha and Pitta doshas. If, however, these reserves are used up, then this natural process fails to remedy the situation and the signs of Vata imbalance begin to appear. This Vata imbalance can be further increased by outside influences that the body is unable to combat. It could be compared to a steel spring, which over a long period of time is flexible enough to maintain its shape, but when overstretched loses its elasticity and form.
The doshas can also damage one another by an excess dosha taking the illness site of another dosha. This often indicates a more severe condition, in which the dosha has already damaged its own sites. For example, high Kapha, after damaging the lungs, may then damage the nervous system, as in asthmatic wheezing or epilepsy due to phlegm blocking the channels, thus affecting Vata. The doshas affect each other, and in severe illnesses like cancer, all three doshas may be out of balance, making treatment very complicated.
The Role of Toxins
Imbalance of the three doshas is not the only cause of disease; an accumulation of toxins can also impede good health, Ayurveda believes. Toxins may be produced through bad digestion, be absorbed into the body from the environment, or be produced as a result of mental or emotional stress. Toxins gather in the cells and tissues, hindering their development, purification and proper nourishment.
Ayurveda and the Six Stages of Disease Development
Ayurveda recognises six stages in the development of disease. An experienced Ayurvedic Practitioner can identify these stages with the help of pulse diagnosis. Modern medicine only has methods to detect the last three stages in the development of disease. The great advantage of Ayurvedic diagnosis lies in its ability to detect the earlier stages of disease. The sooner a disease can be detected, the easier it is to treat.
When a dosha cannot freely circulate in the body because it is blocked at some point, then it eventually accumulates there. The doshas begin to increase in their respective locales. Causes could include poor diet, seasonal maladjustment, incompatible lifestyle, psychological disturbance etc.
The doshas continue to increase in their respective sites, bringing about an increase in the symptoms manifested there, and by pressure of this accumulation, reflect symptoms elsewhere.
The doshas have now filled up their respective sites and begin to overflow into the rest of the body. They enter the plasma and blood and are no longer localised. They can now penetrate into the organs and tissues of the body. The doshas move in different directions causing various disorders and dysfunctions. The nature and location of these complications depends upon the direction in which the doshas move. They come into close contact with the tissues and waste materials of the body and become mixed with either of them. There will be a worsening of symptoms at their respective sites.
The doshas now relocate themselves in other sites in the body where they begin to cause specific illnesses. Generally, the doshas move to the tissues they are most connected to. Accumulated Vata usually moves to the bones, Pitta to the blood and Kapha to the lymphatic system. However, the doshas can move to any site in the body which is weak.
The doshas manifest specific symptom complexes at these particular sites. The illness can now be identified. The illness onset is now advanced and treatment becomes difficult.
At these particular sites, the doshas manifest their special characteristics. The illness can be identified according to its doshic attributes. For example, Vata type arthritis will evidence severe pain, cold, stiffness, dry skin and constipation. Pitta type arthritis will show fever, burning sensation, red swelling of the joints and loose stool. Kapha type will demonstrate swelling, oedema, phlegm and congestion.
Nb – the general rule in treatment using Ayurveda principles is that it is always easier to treat the doshas while they are still located in their original sites. The stages of accumulation and aggravation, therefore, are relatively easy to cure. The stage of overflow is the transitional stage. At the relocation phase, only the preliminary symptoms of the illness are in evidence and vitality is still strong, so treatment is relatively simple. The last two stages present a fully developed illness which has matured, so it would take time and effort to remedy.
Please visit the What is Ayurveda page of the website to find out more about Ayurveda, including information regarding its core principles, the three doshas, how it differs to modern-day medicine, and how to lead an Ayurvedic lifestyle.
If you would like to find out more about how Ayurveda could help you, please visit our Ayurvedic Consultations page, which highlights what to expect from a consultation with an Ayurvedic Practitioner here at Ayurveda Retreat.