The Onset of the Disease

Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it.
Because what the world needs is people who have come alive
Howard Thurman; Philosopher, Educator

Illness is generally the end result of a long process detectable at various stages. Physical ailments often follow emotional imbalances. In any case it is when the doshas (or humors) are coming out of balance that the disease process begins. Ayurveda describes 6 stages of disease.

  1. First stage is accumulation (Sanchaya).  The doshas are at home in a particular area: Vata in the colon, Pitta in the small intestine and Kapha in the stomach. These are their primary sites of functions from where they can spread. At this stage they will accumulate in their own sites and the individual is still quite healthy and craves for food with opposite quality to the accumulating dosha in question.
  2. Second stage is aggravation, provocation (Prakopa). When wisdom isn’t followed and the accumulating dosha is further aggravated. For example, you had Kapha aggravating ice cream on Saturday followed by heavy diner, and again you eat heavily on Sunday as you accept a last minute brunch invitation. Kapha is aggravated in the stomach and may result in congestion.
  3. Third stage is spread (Prasara). After further aggravation, the doshas leave their site and seek places in the body where they have affinities. For example, after travelling and flight long haul twice in a month, Vata leaves the colon and settles in one of its secondary sites like the skin or ears causing dry skin and tinnitus. Cravings are distorted at this stage and a person with high Vata may crave food with similar qualities such as dry and rough such as salads and biscuits.
  4. Fourth stage is deposition (Sthana Samshraya) is one part of the body and first symptoms appears. The aggravated dosha goes towards weakened area of the body (often related to our constitution). The dosha invades the dhatu (tissue, organ, gland) and fight within. If the dhatu Agni is strong, the dosha will not enter. But if Agni is weak the disease will manifest.
  5. Fifth stage is manifestation (Vyakti). The dosha has conquered the dhatu (tissue, organ, gland) and this results in pathological conditions. We can identify the illness and point to the particular qualities of the dosha. For instance in the case of Arthritis, Vata has now spread in the joints and creates cracking and deformity in the articulation with dry, rough, cold qualities.
  6. Sixth stage is structural change (Bheda): The disease becomes chronic and complications appear. The tissues, organs, systems can be destroyed. The disease is most difficult to treat at this stage. As an example, if Pitta was aggravated in the 5th stage and manifested with an ulcer in the stomach, in the 6th stage Pitta will perforate the ulcer and cause haemorrhaging or tumor.

The sooner we can address the imbalances or get familiar with Ayurvedic prevention, the better the chances to avoid the onset and complications of a disease.  Ayurveda addresses imbalances at stages 1 to 3 (Prevention) then treats at stages 4 to 6. Modern medicine only diagnoses and treats at stages 4-6.


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