Ayurveda is a preventative form of medicine. Rather than maintaining a false sense of wellbeing by treating symptoms, Ayurveda strives to heal the root of disease and prevent symptoms from even occurring in the first place by addressing the six stages of disease. In order to prevent disease, it is vital to have a firm understanding of how diseases are developed in the body. This is not the simplest process, but once it is brought into our awareness, we can confidently prevent ourselves from experiencing unnecessary suffering or illnesses.
The Six Stages of Disease
Disease accumulates and manifests in the body in several stages:
STAGE 1: ACCUMULATION (SAṂCAYA)
The first stage of disease development is the most important. This is where the root of all disease is found, and where the evolution of disease can be prevented if proper awareness and action is taken.
Diseases forms in the Anna Vaha Srota (food channel), when our digestive fire is weak and when we have an excess amount of Dosha in the body. Ama, or toxins, are formed in the Gastrointestinal tract because of the inability to digest matter properly, and this causes an imbalance. As this ama, or toxicity, exits the Anna Vaha srota, it starts to travel into the Rasa and Rakta Vaha Srota (lymph and blood channels). It is during this movement that we can initially become aware of the excess ama in our body, and the resulting symptoms that occur because of it:
- For Kaphas, bloating, sluggish digestion, and mucousy, thick stools are common
- For Pittas, burning indigestion, diarrhea, overly loose stools, and burning urination are common
- For Vatas, excess gas, bloating, indigestion, and constipation are common
If we recognize these symptoms occurring and take proper action, we have a chance at halting the evolution of disease within our bodies. This is why accumulation, or Sanchaya, is the most important stage of disease to pay attention to!
STAGE 2: AGGRAVATION (PRAKOPA)
If disease is not halted within the first stage, it moves into its second stage – the phase of aggravation. It is during this stage that these symptoms start to worsen while still remaining at the site of the Dosha (found in the digestive system). Prevention of disease evolution is still possible at this stage.
STAGE 3: OVERFLOW (PRASARA)
If the first two stages of disease are not properly managed, the doshic imbalance leaves the digestive system, travels through the rasa and rakta vaha srotas, and moves into the circulatory system (Rasa and Rakta dhatus). We experience the following reactions:
- For Kaphas, there is water retention and a feeling of lethargy.
- Respiratory issues, mucousy cough, and increased sweat and urination are common.
- For Pittas, warmth increases and inflammation occurs in the body’s membranes
- Flushed skin, rashes, and burning urination are common.
- For Vatas, generalized dryness and coldness are common.
- Sweating and urination reduces, and circulation is poor.
STAGE 4: RELOCATION (STHĀNA SAṂŚRAYA)
This stage is when the imbalances of Dosha begin to settle. This is usually in the weakest part of the body, or the part of the body that is the most susceptible to whichever Dosha is relocating. That is, the qualities of the dosha will most likely latch onto an organ or tissue with similar qualities. It is in this stage that our bodily vulnerabilities are compensated.
STAGE 5: MANIFESTATION (VYAKTA)
The fifth phase of disease formation. This is after the dosha settles in to its new location and starts to act upon that location. This is usually when specific symptoms are experienced, and when a disease is characterized and given its diagnosis.
STAGE 6: DIVERSIFICATION (BHEDA)
The sixth and final phase of the disease process. It is during this phase that the symptoms become even more specific to the disease site, and more severe as well. Depending on the effected tissue, a person may experience chronic and severe health implications and irreversible damage to the body.
It is important to recognize the three major areas of the body that are involved in the total disease process:
- The digestive system (origin of disease, site of dosha)
- The circulatory system (site of overflow, the transfer through the Rasa and Rakta)
- The relocation site (could be anywhere in the body – generally where there is already a weakness)