This article is from the Alternative Medicine Therapies guide.
According to Ayurveda, every person contains some of the universe's five basic elements: earth, air, fire, water, and ether (or space). The combination of these elements in each individual breaks down into three metabolic body types, or doshas. The doshas are known as vata, pitta, and kapha. Vata consists of ether and air, and is associated with lightness and movement. Pitta is made of fire and is associated with transformative metabolic processes--the digestion of food to produce energy, for example. Kapha consists of earth and water and is associated with structure and stability. Although each type of energy resides in every individual, one is usually dominant.
The theory behind Ayurveda is that sickness is caused by an imbalance in one or more of the doshas. There are many things that can affect this balance, from dietary choices to the change of seasons. Stress at work or in one's family can throw off the harmony of the doshas as well. The result is the accumulation of toxicity in the body and mind.
Once the causes of an illness are identified, measures can be taken by an individual, under the guidance of an Ayurvedic practitioner, to restore balance and to remove toxicity. Proponents say that when energy is balanced, the body's natural defenses strengthen, making it easier to prevent or recover from illness.