DISEASE IN AYURVEDA
Ayurvedic understanding of the disease is different from the concepts of modern medicine. Despite the fact that Ayurveda recognizes the pathogenic effect of viruses and bacteria, it denies the ability of the latter to independently cause the disease. A huge number of microorganisms live in the body and in the environment. Medicine considers this as a source of the disease. Why is one person influenced by pathogenic factors, while the other one, meanwhile, remains healthy? What are the unobvious factors involved in the development of diseases?
There are many methods that effectively kill pathogens. However, the disease often reappears after a few years in the most cases (for example, with urogenital infections, tuberculosis). Antibacterial and antiviral therapy gives a short-term effect. The most importantly, they do not eliminate the causes.
Human is not only the body, and disease is not only a physical phenomenon. According to Ayurveda, we are composed of four aspects: soul, mind, feelings and body. All four of them determine health and happiness: a key factor in maintaining the vitality of each aspect and its connection with the fundamental integrity of life. Ultimately, it is the state of mind that determines the strength and weakness of the body, its resistance or susceptibility to pathogenic factors.
Three causes of disease:
- Prajna aparadha – mistakes of the intelligence
- Asatmya Indriyadha Samyog – misuse of the senses
- Parinam – impact of the climate change.
Prajna aparadha. Recognizing all three causes, Ayurveda considers that the error of intelligence is the main among these reasons. The most serious mistake of the intelligence is its self-identification with parts of knowledge, with individual objects, and not with unlimited integrity, which is its true nature. In other words, we tend to identify with limitations, but not with an unlimited potential. This situation is a stress factor, because it represents a fundamentally wrong attitude to life. Most people are unconscious in their choice. The behavioral patterns, as well as the belief system inherent in our culture and is instilled inside us through education, manifest. It exacerbates the loss of the natural close connection between the intellect and the source of pure Knowledge.
Prajna aparadha is formed at an early age and corresponds to a gradual weakening in the mind of the sattvic component: clarity, innocence and joy. With the weakening of sattva, we lose the ability to discern. As soon as this happens, our intellect begins to make all kinds of mistakes. Among them, there is the choice of food and behaviors that contradict the natural balance of doshas in the body and the principles of the elements that control our environment. Erroneous decisions inevitably conflict with the laws of nature and, in fact, are crimes against our well-being. By creating disharmony in our relations with nature, we thereby create an internal disharmony, where illness is a natural consequence of it.
When the intelligence identifies itself with the whole, the mind weakens and a false choice leads to illness. Let’s think about drinking and smoking. You can read a clear health warning on every pack of cigarettes. Everyone knows that alcohol and tobacco weaken the immune system and cause a number of serious illnesses. Despite this, many people continue to drink and smoke to their own detriment.
Asatmya indriyadha samyog (misuse of the senses). Having lost the sattvic component, the mind loses its ability to make decisions that support life. We begin to use the feelings to our detriment. According to Ayurveda, the misuse of the senses is the second cause of the disease. In the first chapter, we already discussed three options for possible abuse: feelings can be overloaded, starved, or poisoned with emotional toxins. The misuse of the senses weakens their protective function, as a result of which harmful influences can affect the mind and body. From this influence, sattva is weakened even more, an imbalance of doshas arises and ama (toxins and slags) is formed.
Parinam. Ama disrupts the ability of doshas to coherent and effective interaction. Doshas lose their natural adaptability and can no longer adapt to the changes in climate or season, or properly respond to the needs of the body arising from changes in the ratio of bhut in the environment. As a result, even more ama appears. In Ayurveda, the body’s inability to adapt to the new conditions is called parinam, which means “the influence of elements on the body.” Parinam is considered the third cause of disease.
Despite the fact that Prajna aparadha is the main reason of the disease, all three of these factors violate the harmony between the Bhutas that govern nature and the Doshas that control physiological processes. When the rhythms of our lives do not correspond to the rhythms of the nature, stress, poor digestion and imbalance of doshas are a natural result.
As soon as the doshas go out of balance, the load on both yathar agni and agni dhatu increases. Weakened yathar agni has a reduced ability to turn food into nutrients. As a result of this, ama is formed, and dhatu does not receive sufficient nutrition. The immune system is violated, when toxins accumulate in the dhatu or when the nutrition is not insufficient. The body begins to intensify pathogenic factors, the reproduction of viruses and bacteria, preparing the scene for a variety of infections and degenerative diseases. From an Ayurvedic perspective, pathogens are the second factor of the disease appearance. The disease appears as a result of impaired function and the subsequent development of structural consequences almost in all cases at the physical level.
Six stages of the disease (Shat Kriya Kal)
Modern medicine recognizes only two stages of the disease. The first stage is when the disease can already be detected. The second stage is the complications, that is, when the disease has moved to adjacent areas of the body and has become almost irreversible.
Ayurveda identifies six stages of the disease development (shat kriya kal), among which the stage of the visible disease and the stage of complications occupy the last two places. An Ayurvedic doctor can recognize and remove the disease long before the appearance of the first external symptoms. The toxicity of ama and mobility of doshas are the main factors in the development of the disease.
Stage 1 – accumulation (sanchaiya)
At this time, ama, which arose as a result of the disturbed digestion of prapak, is collected in the gastrointestinal tract.
This condition is associated with a weak yathar agni and with an excess of one of the doshas. Ama, due to the Kapha’s excess, accumulates in the stomach. Ama, caused by Pitta imbalance, accumulates in the small intestine. Ama, caused by Vata’s dysfunction, accumulates in the large intestine. The presence of ama disrupts the activity of the doshas and is manifested by insignificant. However, the symptoms are still quite distinguishable. Nevertheless, a person almost never reacts to these symptoms, as they pass on their own after a few hours. Imagine that you had dinner with friends and ate something indigestible. Maybe it’s just because it was late evening and Yathar Agni had already “dozed off”. You had a indigestion that prevented your sleep that night. In the morning, you felt heaviness, drowsiness, and possibly nausea. Incompletely digested food remained in the stomach and nausea was a signal of the body about the need to get rid of this food. It is best in this situation to fast a little, giving the digestive fire again to flare up at full strength and complete digestion. What do we do? We drink coffee, take an antacid medicine to hide symptoms and improve well-being.
Without proper behavior and proper measures, the undigested food and byproducts of malfunctioning doshas will remain in the body and pass into the intestinal canal. By noon, nausea will pass, but it will be replaced by increased acidity, bloating and an unpleasant taste in the mouth. This happens when undigested food moves to the Pitta’s zone. If we swallow another pill of antacid or decide to “eat with” an unpleasant state with no feeling of hunger, this will further strain yathar agni. The energy level will be low all day, but we will feel better by evening or in the morning.
It turns out that along with nausea and bloating, the chance to get rid of future diseases disappears. These symptoms go away not because we objectively feel better, but because ama no longer burdens the digestive tract, and despite the subjective improvement in well-being, the first stroke of the future disease are already present in the body.
Stage 2 – Prakopa or the stage of excitement
As soon as we feel better, the thoughts about changing nutrition and lifestyle usually leave us. We continue to ignore the warning signs of the body and accumulate ama. In the end, the quantity goes into quality, Ama is “excited”, that is, it becomes active in the places of its accumulation (digestive tract), and the third stage of the disease begins. The second stage has no pronounced clinical symptoms, but an experienced Ayurvedic doctor can detect the presence of ama by pulse and give recommendations that will stop the disease.
Stage 3 – Prasama or the stage of distribution
“Prasara” means “to leave” and “to spread”. The overfilling place of its formation (the gastrointestinal tract), ama is transferred by doshas to dhatu along with nutrients in the doshi gati (the movement of doshas from voids to deeper structures and back, which occurs twice a day).
The question arises: why does the doshi gati not transfer amu in the opposite direction: from dhatu to voids. The key to the answer is Ama’s stickiness. Once ama is fixed in the dhatu, its sticky properties prevent it from being returned to the gastrointestinal tract. The path of ama from one dhatu to another corresponds to the sequence of their development (from the gastrointestinal tract to the rasa dhatu, then to the rakta dhatu, mamsa dhatu, meda dhatu, etc.)
Stage 4 – Sthana Samshraya or the stage of deposition
Ama is fixed in weakened and sick dhatu, in places with weak immunity. It causes functional structural disturbances there. At this stage, degenerative diseases begin to develop and there is a threat of serious infections. What particular dhatu will become a target for ama is due to a number of factors. This is heredity, the influence of past lifestyles and nutrition, stress, chemical pollution and radiation, injuries. The combination of these factors causes damage to the certain tissues.
Stage 5 – Vyakta or the clinical stage
Vyakta means “this is what can be seen.” At this stage, the first visible symptoms appear. The disease suppresses the body’s ability to maintain its protective functions. Accumulated dysfunctions and structural changes allow the disease to “wake up”. This is the time when the painful process is manifested by the symptoms that Western medicine uses to classify and diagnose. But since there is no accurate and complete understanding of the causes of the disease in modern medicine, treatment is often aimed at getting rid of the symptoms, rather than the causes. Even if it is possible to temporarily alleviate the symptoms, the disease usually returns or finds another way of manifesting.
Stage 6 – Bheda or the stage of complications
Bheda means “differentiation”. At the fifth stage, you can make a general diagnosis, at the sixth one you can make differential diagnosis. At this stage, all groups of symptoms are manifested in detail, and therefore there is no doubt about the nature of the disease. This stage is characterized by a serious violation of the functions of dhatu and severe damage to the channels of oilseeds residues passing inside each dhatu, as well as complications (the defeat of adjacent dhatu). Painful effects may be exasperated by side effects of drugs. At the Bheda stage, many diseases cannot be cured.
Degenerative changes and infections are not developed in one night. It takes years and decades of the unhealthy lifestyle and vicious diet. If a person knows proper food and lifestyle for his constitution, he or she can prevent the disease. It is always easier than cure. Therefore, it is absolutely necessary to learn how to prevent disease and maintain a healthy lifestyle.