Disease Process, Diagnosis & Treatment in Ayurveda
Health is order; disease is disorder. Within the body, there is a constant interaction between order and disorder. The wise man learns to be fully aware of the presence of disorder in his body and then sets about to re-establish order. He understands that order is inherent in disorder and that a return to health is thus possible. The internal environment of the body is constantly reacting to the external environment. Disorder occurs when these two are out of balance. To change the internal environment in order to bring it into balance with the external environment, one must understand how the disease process occurs within the psychosomatic being.
Ayurveda provides explanations of disease that make it possible to restore order and health from disorder and disease. In Ayurveda, the concept of health is fundamental to the understanding of disease. Dis means deprived of, and ease means comfort. Therefore, before discussing disease, we must understand the meaning of comfort or health. A state of health exists when: the digestive fire (agni) is in a balanced condition, the bodily humors (vata-pitta-kapha) are in equilibrium, the three waste products (urine, feces and sweat) are produced at normal levels, the senses are functioning normally, and the body, mind and consciousness are harmoniously working as one.
When the balance of any of these systems is disturbed, the disease process begins. Because a balance of the above-mentioned elements and functions is responsible for natural resistance and immunity, even contagious diseases cannot affect the person who is in good health. Thus, imbalances of the body and mind are responsible for physical and psychological pain and misery.
In Ayurveda, the concept of diagnosis implies a moment-to-moment monitoring of the interactions between order (health) and disorder (disease) in the body. The disease process is a reaction between the bodily humors and the tissues. The symptoms of disease are always related to derangement of the balance of the tridosha. Once we understand the nature of the imbalance, balance may be re-established through treatment.
Ayurveda teaches very precise methods for understanding the disease process before any overt signs of the disease have manifested. By detecting early symptoms of imbalance and disease reaction in the body, one can determine the nature of future bodily reactions. Day-to-day observation of the pulse, tongue, face, eyes, nails and lips provide subtle indicators. Through these, the student of Ayurveda can learn what pathological processes are occurring in the body, which organs are impaired and where dosha and toxins have accumulated. Thus, by checking the body’s indicators regularly, pathological symptoms can be detected early and preventative measures taken. Ayurveda teaches that the patient is a living book and, for understanding and physical well-being, he or she must be read daily.
Examination of the Radial Pulse
Not only the constitution, but also the status of the body’s organs can be determined by examination of the superficial and deep pulsations. The beats of the pulse not only correspond to the heartbeat, but they also reveal something about the important meridians that are connecting pranic currents of energy in the body. These currents circulate through the blood, passing through the vital organs such as the liver, kidney, heart and brain.
All Ayurvedic treatment attempts to establish a balance between the bodily humors, vata-pitta-kapha. As discussed above, disease results when these three are out of balance. According to Ayurvedic teaching, the initiation of any form of treatment (whether it be medication, acupuncture, chiropractic, massage, allopathy or any other) without first eliminating the toxins in the system that are responsible for the disease, will only push these poisons deeper into the tissues.
Symptomatic relief of the disease process may result from superficial treatment. However, the fundamental cause of the illness will not be affected and the problem will therefore manifest again in the same or another form. There are two types of Ayurvedic treatment: elimination of toxins and neutralization of toxins. These treatments may be applied on both the physical and emotional levels.
Anger, fear, anxiety, nervousness, jealousy, possessiveness and |greed are common human emotions. Yet most people learn in [childhood not to express these negative emotions. As a result, one begins at an early age to repress the natural expressions of these feelings. The science of Ayurveda teaches that the individual must release these emotions which, if they remain repressed, will cause imbalances resulting in disease-causing toxins. The Ayurvedic technique for dealing with negativity is: observation and release.
For example, when anger appears, one should be completely aware of it: watch this feeling as it unfolds from beginning to end. From this observation, one can learn about the nature of the anger and then let the anger go, release it. All negative emotions may be dealt within this way. Ayurveda teaches that through awareness all negative emotions can be released. Fear is associated with vata, anger with pitta, and greed, envy and possessiveness with kapha. If one represses fear, the kidneys will be disturbed; anger, the liver; and greed and possessiveness, the heart and spleen.
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