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In the last post I introduced you to the Ayurvedic approach for understanding your constitution, and explained how important it is to live in balance with this if you want a healthy, balanced, well-functioning digestion and immune system. This post follows on, explaining how to spot signs of imbalance and what to do about it.
If you do not know your Ayurvedic constitution, here is a link to find out – if you are currently unwell I’d suggest seeing an Ayurvedic Doctor or Practitioner with a strong history of clinical pulse diagnosis.
Signs of imbalance
All the doshas (the doshas make up your constitution – explained in the last article) have specific symptoms that start to show up when they are moving out of balance. You are unlikely to have all the symptoms listed, but usually one or two will show up to begin with, which if ignored can lead to other symptoms as the dosha continues to move out of balance.
The doshas reside in the digestive tract making specific bodily functions possible, but if they move out of the digestive tract into the tissues of blood, plasma/lymph, fat, muscle, bone, nerve and reproductive, they become toxic and often carry ama (undigested food and experiences) with them. This disrupts the communication network of the body.
To understand how dosha imbalance can lead to ill health you need to understand that the body has 3 disease pathways, the inner pathway of the digestive tract; the outer pathway of plasma/lymph and blood; and the central pathway of fat, muscle, bone, nerve, and reproductive tissue. From here – the central pathway – the doshas and any ama can access the organs and the brain.
Any excess doshas that have overflowed through the digestive tract will lodge themselves in the weakest tissues and disrupt the ability of the cells to function. This creates the conditions where disease can take hold.
Ayurveda also explains there are 6 stages to the disease process. Stages 1-2 are easy to reverse because the doshas are still residing within the inner pathway of the digestive tract. Stage 3 is a transitionary stage where the doshas are on the move out of the digestive tract, this can usually still be reversed quite easily if you are willing to make life changes. At stage 4 the doshas and any Ama that accompanies them starts to locate in a weak area of the body, it is still possible to reverse this. Stages 5/6, a point at which your symptoms can be labelled by Western medicine as a specific illness or disease, will always require the support of a professional, and usually involves the need for allopathic medicine or surgery.
Understanding how to recognize when the doshas are starting to move out of balance, and applying the remedy is a great way to take care of your health.
As you read through the following symptoms, please know that they show up in small ways to begin with, and you may only have one or two of them. At this point – stages 1-3 – they can be reversed quite easily.
Vata: Nervous, fearful, anxious, twitches, tremors, tics, spasms, body stiffness, muscle pain that comes and goes, dry or chapped skin, low body weight, gas, bloating, constipation, light or interrupted sleep, tingling in hands or feet, sensitivity to loud noises, struggle with cold and wind, dehydrated, mind races, excessive talking, life feels out of control, feel overwhelmed, start to skip meals; diseases usually involve pain or debility, dryness, cold, wasting of tissues; a reactive tendency when stressed ‘what did I do wrong?’.
Pitta: Impatient, frustrated, irritable, jealous, angry, resentful, judgmental, perfectionist, driven, overly ambitious; insatiable hunger/thirst, indigestion, acid reflux, bitter or sour taste in mouth, heartburn, infections, hormonal imbalance, hot flushes, bleeding, ulcers, yellowing of eyes, inflammation, inflamed skin, rashes, hot itchy skin, loose stools, excessive body heat, red inflamed eyes, light sensitivity; diseases usually involve fever or burning sensation, heat, redness, oiliness; reactive tendency when stressed ‘what did you do wrong?’.
Kapha: Lethargic, apathetic, foggy, heavy, dull, flat, depressed, no motivation, sentimental, resistant to change, stubborn, possessive, clingy; sluggish bowel movements, eating more, sleeping more, increased mucus, thick white coating on tongue, difficulty getting out of bed in the morning, over-weight or putting on weight and not able to lose it, diabetes, increased secretions, paleness, heavy limbs, asthma; diseases usually involve phlegm, dampness, excessive tissue growth and cold; knee-jerk reaction when stressed ‘I don’t want to deal with it’.
If you can relate to any of the above, have no fear, there are remedies you can apply to reverse the imbalance during the early stages. At the later stages (5/6 and possibly 4 if there are many symptoms showing up), you will need the support of a professional.
Vata: Slow down, take time to be still and quiet, keep warm, go into nature and bring a gentle rhythm back into your life, eat regular meals to balance vata dosha – favour the sweet, salty and sour tastes, bring qualities into your life that are the opposite of vata, like stillness, stability, softness, regularity, warmth, moisture and smoothness; carry out abhyanga (self-massage) each day followed by a warm relaxing steamy bath or shower; surround yourself with warmth and nourishment.
Pitta: Take some time each day to slow down, relax in nature, avoid time pressures; bring the qualities of cool, sweetness and stability into your daily life; follow a regular rhythm of meals that balance pitta dosha, favour sweet, bitter and astringent tastes; give yourself a calm self- massage (abhyanga) each day with a cooling oil e.g. coconut, followed by a bath or shower; take in coolness through all your senses – surround yourself with cool colours; and laugh a lot.
Kapha: Stimulate your system by bringing in warmth, dryness and light through food and life choices; eat foods with the tastes that balance kapha dosha – more of the bitter, astringent and pungent tastes; regular exercise routine – aerobics would be good; play lively music and dance; carry out daily dry massage or self-massage with small amounts of mustard oil; use a neti pot; de- clutter your home and life; avoid damp and cold conditions.
It’s a lot to take in I know, but if you can read this information a few times and start to apply the remedies, to experience how they help the dosha to come back into balance, you will soon start to make Ayurveda a part of your life and create the foundation for good health.
I hope this has shown you that while Ayurveda is a complex science, in essence it is remarkably simple to begin to create a preventative healthcare plan, you just need to understand which elements your constitution has more of – the balance of doshas (the doshas are made up of the elements) explained in the last post – and consume less of those elements through your food and lifestyle choices to remain in balance. The next thing you need to do is notice when any of the doshas in your constitution are moving out of balance by recognising the symptoms and then apply the remedy while at the early stages of the disease continuum – stages 1-3!
In the next post I will share more about balance and introduce you to some rhythms that will support your digestion.
If you are currently unwell, I advise visiting a professional for personal support.