The Six Stages of Dis-Ease and Their Signs

Photo: Emma Simpson

Working in a bustling Ayurveda Treatment Center means I get to see a lot of clients in varying degrees of health & well-being. About a week ago, as I chatted with a client after her session, she asked what kinds of clients we tend to see throughout the week, whether they were more ill or just seeking support for better health.

I thought this was a pretty great question because I had never really thought about it in terms of our general clientele. And truthfully, it does seem that the majority of people who seek Ayurveda treatments are already in the depths of an imbalance, some for years, and are trying to find answers for their discomfort. This was completely true of my own story as well- Ayurveda found me after suffering with a chronic illness for years and I was at my ropes end.

This is largely because holistic and alternative medicine options tend to enter the conversation after an individual has been imbalanced for a period of time and western practices aren’t providing the relief and healing they desire. Thankfully, this is changing in radical ways now that folks are reawakening to the benefits of holistic and natural modalities. The potential challenge for a client to fully embrace Ayurvedic wisdom is that they are coming to Ayurveda at later stages of imbalances and often miss the powerful teaching that Ayurveda is, above all, a preventative practice. Ayurveda teaches us to rejoice in the knowing that we can create environments, eat food, and live a life in accordance with our natural constitution that prevents dis-ease before it can manifest in the body. What a gift of premonition! And it is available to everyone.

One way to get familiar with preventative Ayurvedic care is to understand the dis-ease manifestation process as outlined in the ancient texts. These 6 stages of dis-ease can help you become more aware of what is happening in your body at any given time and course-correct when necessary.

Pre Dis-Ease | Prakopa | Provocation

The first step of an imbalance is that it must be provoked. This may be an environmental factor, a behavior, or habit. Living in a constant state of stress, smoking, eating an excess of processed foods, experiencing trauma like grief or loss that isn’t being properly processed can all be provokers of an imbalance. At this point there may not be any symptoms of discomfort. Anytime you have an imbalance that makes it to the later stages its good to come back to this pre-stage and ask yourself ‘what habits, experiences, or behaviors may have provoked this illness?’ . It is also wise to give an honest look to your habits today and see which ones may be potentials for leading your body out of its desired harmony.

Stage One | Sanchaya | Accumulation

Once the provocation has progressed it begins to accumulate the doshas (vata, pitta, kapha) in the body. Each dosha has a ‘home site’ where they reside: Vata in the Colon; Pitta in the Small Intestine; Kapha in the Stomach/Lungs. You may begin to sense this imbalance- perhaps its just a bit of heartburn, some congestion, or extra gas after meal times. These seemingly ‘minor symptoms’ are actually precursors to a potentially larger imbalance. Despite drug advertising these are not ‘normal’ actions of the body. It is at this stage that getting a Pulse Assessment from your Ayurvedic practitioner may assist you or research your symptoms for home remedies that work with the opposites or polarity of the problem to bring the body back to balance.

Ex. Congestion & Mucus needs drying and warming qualities. Stomach acidity needs cooled. A bloated and gassy belly needs lubricated and grounded.

Stage Two | Aggravation

If the imbalance isn’t addressed in stage one by introducing its opposite and the provoking factors aren’t eliminated then the imbalance enters into the second stage of dis-ease that is aggravation. In this stage the dosha grows to an excess that it begins to ‘overflow’ from its home site, much like leaving the bath running until it spills over. This is when Vata may move throughout the abdomen, Pitta may move to the stomach and gallbladder, and Kapha will lodge in the lungs. Even if you get to stage two, home remedies and changing your lifestyle and behaviors can assist in bringing the imbalance back into its natural alignment. Fasting or at-home mono-diet cleansing can be beneficial at this stage.

Stage 3 | Prasara | Spread

At the third stage of imbalance the excess dosha begins to travel the body via the blood and tissues and looks for a weakened place in the body to inhabit. A weak spot may be somewhere there was previous trauma (injury, operation), a genetic predisposition, emotional repression, dryness (such as in joints or colon). At this point a treatment plan should be created to draw the excess dosha back to the digestive system to be eliminated. Cleansing and Panchakarma, a more rigorous cleansing process, can assist here.

Stage 4 | Sthana Samsraya | Deposition / Infiltration / Localization

This is the stage when the excess dosha that has spread infiltrates the weaker tissues intelligence and begins to ‘confuse’ the natural processes. At this stage the individual may be recognizing some shifts in their body if they are self-aware and they may start to get the internal nudge that they should see a doctor or practitioner. This is the final stage before the full expression of dis-ease sets up and with a custom protocol, lifestyle adjustments, and addressing the provocation (if not already) can avoid moving to stage 5.

Stage 5 | Manifestion

This is where imbalances become more than a discomfort- arthritis, auto-immune disorders, diabetes, chronic inflammation and so on begin to manifest from the dosha that has spread to a new area of the body. As Dr. Lad states ‘The seeds of disease begin to sprout’. At this stage the disease is detectable through observation and testing.

Stage 6 | Bheda | Destruction of Tissue & Cellular Deformity

This of course is the hardest stage to overcome - though often not all hope is lost. Depending on how long an individual stays in this stage without proper treatment will impact greatly the opportunity to heal. In stage six we start to see additional complications arise alongside the original disease- common examples are the hemorrhaging of an ulcer in a weak stomach, atrophy of blood vessels from build up, fissures in the colon from prolonged stress, the beginnings of a tumor in weakened tissue. In this stage not only does the acute initial problem need care but so does the healing and repair of neighboring organs and tissue.

With the knowledge of the six stages you can now begin to identify where you fall on the scale from 1-6. It is my belief that there will always be fluctuation in our bodies when it comes to the doshas as we live life- everything in life ebbs & flows, including the elements in your body. Some weeks will be more stressful leading to more heat or air, sometimes we are processing hard emotions like grief that weigh us down with more earth. But if we are aware of how we feel and what is happening around us we can implement a self care protocol that will support the body from swinging too far in any direction.

Curious to learn more or better understand some of the imbalances you are experiencing? Schedule an Ayurvedic Intake & Consult for a personalized balancing protocol.