What Causes Disease?

Oct 6, 2023 | Healthy Body

By Ava Wentzel, LMT, Ayurvedic Yoga Educator

“The Doshas are three: Vāta, Pitta, and Kapha. In their balanced state, they maintain the body. When imbalanced, they afflict the body with imbalances and diseases.”


-Charaka Samhitā, Vimānasthāna, 1.5

I like to think of the word disease as dis-ease, signaling a lack of easiness. Dis-ease implies that something has gotten in the way of your comfort. When there is dis-ease, there is not: Security, serenity, painlessness, effortlessness, simplicity. Put another way, when you are troubled you are not in a state of ease … when there is trouble, there is disease. So, what we want to know is: “Where is my trouble?”

According to Ayurveda, there are three causes of disease.

Pragyaparadh or Prajnaparadha — Offending your wisdom. Doing something that isn’t good for you, even though you know that it isn’t good for you, e.g. going for that cup of coffee even though you have a feeling* it’s going to give you acid reflux/an irritated gut/nervous sweats/a racing mind or heart. (*Note: Ayurveda is, at its core, practicing how to swiftly “tune in” to our body’s innate wisdom. This is the wisdom that is known so bone-deep that nobody really ever needs to teach it to us, we just need to remember it.)

Ask yourself … Are you offending your wisdom?

Are you staying up late when you know you need to be up early tomorrow? Are you eating foods that upset your stomach regularly and just dealing with the consequences? Are you drinking alcohol even though your stomach is in knots and your tongue is dry? Are you prioritizing everyone else before yourself? Are you offering your help to someone who you know takes advantage of you? Are you having a late night snack right before bed even though it gives you indigestion?

Asatmendriyartha samyoga — Improper contact of the senses with their objects, e.g., overindulging in treats, sleep, or television.

Ask yourself … Are you mistreating your sensory organs?

Are you listening to music too loudly in your headphones? Are you eating past the point of feeling full just because it tastes delicious? Are you ignoring tired eyes and looking at a bright screen late at night? Are you watching TV for hours on end? Are you in constant conversation or can you entertain silence? Are you over engaging in physical contact or do you regularly give yourself space to be alone?

Parinama or Kala — Living out of rhythm with nature, e.g. eating late at night when your digestive fire is low, eating foods that aren’t in season, or keeping up a wild schedule during the time of natural hibernation in winter.

Ask yourself … Are you living with Nature?

Are you eating foods that are growing in season or do you eat ice-cream in February? Do you wake up with the sun and go to sleep with the moon? Do you eat your biggest meal in the middle of the day? Are you favoring building, nourishing foods in Autumn and Winter? Are you favoring lymph-cleansing foods in Spring? How often do you look at the moon?

Personally, I struggle with overeating. I love food, what can I say! Usually, I am pretty good about stopping eating when I’m full but there are times when I snack away to my heart’s content even though I know I’m going to feel bloated or heavy or dull or get acid reflux. Listen, life is messy and nobody can make the best choice or the right choice one hundred percent of the time. But, what we can do is start to deepen our awareness of how we feel because this is ultimately the best indicator of whether or not something we are experiencing is working for us (or against us).

Our bodies are beautiful and divine instruments and we have the option of taking the time to learn how to work with them to make music. When we honor our feelings with our decisions, we are calling in our Higher Self. My teacher says, listen to your body while it’s whispering before it has to yell. Can you pinpoint what your body is yelling about, alerting you to the danger of disease? Better yet, can you listen closer to see if there is a whisper you have been ignoring?

ॐ शान्तिः शान्तिः शान्तिः

Om, Shanti, Shanti, Shanti

(Om, Peace, Peace, Peace)