Ayurveda & The Concept of Disease
According to Ayurveda, disease is a state of the body and mind that gives pain and discomfort to us. The cause of disturbance of the normal balance between the mind and body can be internal, Nija or external, Agantuka.[i] It means that the internal environment of the body is at constant interaction with the outside environment. Disorder occurs when these two are out of balance. Hence to change the internal environment to bring it at balance with the external environment, it is important to understand the process of disease occurrence within the mind and body state. Ayurveda provides extensive insight into the concept and process of disease.[ii]
The Concept of Dosha
In Ayurveda, the term ‘dosha’ means a ‘disturbing factor’. The three doshas – vata, pitta and kapha – are responsible for maintaining homeostasis or Dhatusamya (state of harmony among body tissues and organs) in the body. Health, is therefore, a state of balance between these doshas. Disease, on the other hand, occurs when there is an imbalance between these doshas.[iii]
Classification of Disease
Ayurveda classifies disease according to its origin: physical, psychological or spiritual. Disease is also categorised on the basis of the site of organs where the disease presents itself: the heart, lungs, liver etc. Many times, the disease process may occur in the stomach, but present itself in the heart. Thus, the symptoms of disease may present at a site other than the origin of disease. Disease may also be described based on the causative factors and the pattern of tridoshas.3
The Prakriti or constitution of every individual decides how prone you are to a particular disease or a set of diseases. For example, people of kapha constitution have a definite tendency toward kapha diseases like repetitive attacks of sinusitis, bronchitis, tonsillitis and congestion in the lungs.2
Similarly, individuals of pitta constitution are more prone to gallbladder, bile and liver disorders, acidity, stomach ulcers etc. Pitta types also suffer from skin disorders such as hives and rash.2
Vata people are very susceptible to gas, lower back pain, arthritis, sciatica, paralysis and nerve pain.2
Vata diseases have their origin in the large intestine; pitta diseases in the small intestine; and kapha disorders in the stomach. Imbalanced humors or Tridoshas in these areas create certain signs and symptoms. These imbalances affect the natural protective or immunity system of body and thus the body becomes susceptible to disease.2
A disease can also occur in the body, but present symptoms in the mind.2
External Factors Causing Disease
External factors like food habits, living habits, weather etc. are equally capable of creating diseases, similar to the ones caused due to imbalances in the Tridoshas. These factors first create an imbalance that is presented in the physical form and later affect the mind through a disturbance in the Tridoshas. For instance, disturbed vata creates fear, nervousness and depression; excess pitta in the body will cause anger, hate and jealousy and an aggravated kapha creates possessiveness, greed and attachment. Thus, there is a direct connection between diet, habits, environment and emotional disorders.2
[i] Thakur VJ. EVOLUTION OF DISEASES i.e. SAMPRAPTI VIGNANA. Ancient Science of Life, Vol. I, No.1, July1981, pages 13-19.
[ii] Lad V. Ayurveda: The science of self-healing: A practical guide. Lotus press; 1984.
[iii] Patwardhan K. Concepts of human physiology in Ayurveda. 'Sowarigpa and Ayurveda’, published by Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies, Sarnath, Varanasi. SamyakVak Series-14,(2008), Page No. 53 to 73. ISBN: 978-81-87127-76-5. 2008:53-73.