The 6 Stages of Disease Progression
How does the word disease make you feel?
To me, it’s a word that says there is disharmony in body and mind and most likely in lifestyle too! Splitting the word in 2 as in dis-ease, to me says things are not flowing as they should.
How does Ayurveda define disease?
In Ayurveda, the disease is understood as a state of imbalance or disharmony within the body, mind, and spirit. Ayurveda views health as a state of equilibrium, where the three fundamental energies or doshas (Vata, Pitta, and Kapha) are balanced according to our original nature and the digestive fire (Agni) are functioning properly, and the body's tissues (Dhatus) and waste products (Malas) are in a state of equilibrium.
According to Ayurveda, disease arises when there is an increase in a dosha, and that excess dosha seeks a weak spot in the body's tissues. This imbalance can be caused by various factors such as; improper diet, stressful lifestyle practices, emotional disturbances, and environmental changes.
Whilst here in the UK we tend to go and see the GP when we can have signs and symptoms of a disease, Ayurveda is wonderful because it understands the importance of the earlier onset of conditions and offers ways to help find balance before it develops into a chronic condition - or even better prevent them from occurring at all!
Ayurveda recognises that each individual person is unique, and the manifestation of the disease can vary from person to person. Ayurveda helps me to understand the client's original constitution (Prakriti) and the nature of the imbalance of their current state of the constitution (Vikriti) to see the difference and effectively diagnose the cause and therefore treat health conditions, I primarily work with people who experience anxiety or stress but there is usually other health-related concerns going on too that need helping. By the constitution, I meant their dosha balance, made up of vata, pitta, and kapha. The aim of an Ayurvedic treatment plan is to identify and address the root cause of the disease rather than merely suppressing the symptoms.
There are many books and resources on Ayurveda which can support you, which usually focus on your current constitution (Vikriti) - your primary or dominant dosha now. Often the one that is highest is the most out of balance and you can follow some guidance to reduce it. However, an Ayurveda health coach, such as myself, can be a great option to tailor a health plan just for you and the mix of doshas that can be at play or determine which doshas need balancing and how to meet your specific health needs and goals - but depending on the level of disease an Ayurveda doctor or in-house full detox and rejuvenation could be needed. Let's have a look at the different stages of disease together now.
What are the stages of disease in Ayurveda?
In Ayurveda, the progression of the disease is described in terms of six stages. These stages represent the gradual development and manifestation of a disease process. It might be helpful to picture an image of the human body in your mind. Here are the six stages:
Accumulation (Sanchaya): This is the initial stage where the dosha or doshas that are aggravated start increasing and accumulating in the doshas home in the digestive tracts, either in the colon, intestine, or upper stomach. On your imaginary image of the Body - imagine a white spot in the colon for vata, a red spot in the intestine for pitta, and a green spot in the upper stomach for kapha. This starts to create first minor symptoms, which the bodies own natural innate intelligence may be able to resolve if it is functioning well, through effective nutrition and lifestyle most of the time it may well be able to deal with it.
Aggravation (Prakopa): If the dosha becomes more aggravated through continuing with food, lifestyle, and environmental influences that are creating like for like, rather than balancing out the aggravation, it will build up and further excess of the doshic imbalance will be created and symptoms may be more noticeable. Knowing how to find balance is key to avoiding escalation.
Overflow/Spread (Prasara): The aggravated doshas begin to spread and move from their homes in the digestive tract to other tissues and organs, it overflows to different areas of the body through general circulation. They look for a weak spot in the body's tissues to settle. Imagine the green, red, or white spot has grown a little larger and the excess breaks away and is moving around the body, this is the excess aggravated dosha and it’s looking for somewhere to settle such as an organ or the muscle, which can disrupt the normal functioning of organs and tissues and symptoms usually develop further. Our own innate intelligence may struggle to manage this stage and ayurvedic treatments can really help. However, the good news is that if there is no weakness found and all of the tissues are strong then the excess dosha will likely not find a home to settle and return to its seat either in the colon, intestine or stomach to be excreted naturally.
Relocation/Localization (Sthana-samshraya): The imbalanced doshas settle in specific tissues, organs, or systems. This stage signifies the manifestation of specific symptoms and signs related to the affected area. The disease becomes more apparent and recognisable.
Manifestation (Vyakti): At this stage, the excess dosha has made itself well at home in the lodged tissue for a period of time and it becomes fully manifested with clear and identifiable symptoms. Imagine the excess green, white, or red taking hold in its new home. The signs and symptoms reflect the nature of the doshic imbalance and the affected organs or systems. Diagnosis of disease often becomes more precise by this stage.
Maturation (Bheda): If the disease is not treated appropriately or its root cause is not addressed, it progresses to the chronic stage. The disease becomes deeply ingrained in the body, and the imbalance becomes more difficult to rectify. Chronic diseases may require more intensive and prolonged treatments via an Ayurvedic doctor. These stages of disease progression help us to understand the evolving nature of the disease.
In Ayurveda, the aim is to intervene at the early stages and restore balance to prevent the disease from advancing to more severe or chronic states.
As a qualified health coach, I can help support people with stages 1-3 to find more health and balance by addressing the doshic imbalance of their concerns, whereas if someone has a highly chronic and mature condition of stages 4-6 an ayurveda doctor is likely more appropriate. They can, for example, administer a deep panchakarma detox, often held at an ayurvedic medical or retreat centre, which would be more effective to really flush out highly accumulated doshas that have taken hold on tissues in the body and created imbalances in the mind.
What are examples of symptoms at the different stages of disease in Ayurveda?
In Ayurveda, the symptoms of the disease can vary depending on the specific doshic imbalance, the affected organs or systems, and the stage of disease progression. Here are some general examples of symptoms that may occur at each stage that I hope you can relate to:
Mild discomfort or uneasiness
Occasional indigestion or digestive disturbances
Initial signs of doshic imbalance, such as dryness, roughness, or heaviness in the body
Increased intensity of symptoms related to the doshic imbalance
Inflammation or irritation in the affected areas
Digestive issues, such as hyperacidity, heartburn, or diarrhea
Increased sensitivity or reactivity to external stimuli
Spreading of symptoms to other parts of the body
Worsening of existing symptoms
Fatigue or generalized weakness
Disturbed sleep patterns or insomnia
Systemic inflammation or further signs of Ama or toxicity, such as brain fog, white coating on the tongue, lack of energy, or sinus congestion.
Overflow or Localization (Sthana-samshraya):
Symptoms become more specific and localized to certain organs or systems
Pain, swelling, or tenderness in the affected areas
Functional disturbances in the related organs or systems
Changes in appetite, metabolism, or body temperature
Altered mental or emotional states associated with the disease
Functional impairment of the affected organs or systems
Altered body functions, such as impaired digestion, respiration, or circulation
Psychological or emotional disturbances associated with the disease
Persistent or recurring symptoms
Gradual deterioration of the affected organs or systems
Structural changes in the tissues or organs
Loss of normal physiological functions
Debilitating effects on overall physical and mental well-being
It's important to note that these examples are general and may vary depending on the specific disease and individual factors and many factors are considered to formulate an appropriate treatment plan.
What are examples of treatments for the different stages of disease in Ayurveda?
Ayurvedic treatments for different stages of disease focus on restoring balance, eliminating the doshic imbalances, and rejuvenating the affected organs or systems. The specific treatments may vary depending on the doshic imbalance, the stage of disease, and the individual's constitution (Prakriti). Creating personalised routines is key to consistently doing things that help reduce any imbalances and move your closer to health. Here are some examples of treatments:
Stage 1: Accumulation (Sanchaya):
Lifestyle modifications to avoid causative factors and maintain a balanced routine
Dietary changes to improve digestion and prevent further accumulation of toxins
Herbal remedies to nudge the body back into balance
Mild cleansing procedures like herbal teas and detoxifying diets, are often called Ama pachana.
Stage 3: Aggravation (Prakopa) & Overflow/ Spread (Prasara):
Ayurvedic herbs and formulations to pacify the aggravated doshas
Therapies to reduce inflammation and balance the affected doshas, such as herbal pastes and massage with oils
Personalised techniques like meditation, pranayama (breathing exercises), and yoga to calm the mind and balance the doshas
Internal and external therapies to eliminate the spread of doshas and toxins, such as Panchakarma procedures (detoxification therapies) like Vamana (therapeutic vomiting).
By creating a life that focuses on health, with the foods we eat, the movement we do, the impressions we take in through our senses (such as what we watch and listen to), the environment we surround ourselves with and the attitude we bring to life can really have a profound and empowering impact on our state of health and disease. And this is why couldn’t just teach yoga and moved into being able to deliver rounded support via Ayurveda health coaching - utilising; food, lifestyle, herbs, massage therapies, and of course breath-work and yoga or recommended movement based on someone's preferences. I am passionate about helping others in a multi-faceted way that has been proven over thousands of years.
I’m going to be real, when we realise how much we can impact our own health it can bring up a sense of blame or guilt.
In the past, I haven’t personally made the best choices for myself and felt chronically sick for years, but I was working with the knowledge and understanding that I had at the time and I have to offer myself some empathy for that. Fast forward many years and I have done many pieces of training and educated myself in Ayurveda, the nervous system, and many other holistic and self-help practices - I can now make different choices.
So this isn’t about blaming people for choices they have made in the past, but I think as a society we are slowly starting to wake up more and more to the fact that we can make many choices rather than live on autopilot and live in a more conscious way that focuses on health rather than sickness and disease. If we focused on choices that helped us to feel more vitality, balance, and harmony in body and mind, what would that look like? If you’d like to chat about what this may look like for you, I invite you to drop me a message on Instagram.
Follow Sam on Instagram for more Ayurveda and anxiety inspiration. Go to @sam.anxiety.relief.coach