Post Pancha Karma Trauma

Pancha Karma is a collective term for strong purification therapies. These therapies fall under the classification of Shodhana therapies, those therapies which are strongly reducing. For a full explanation of what is Pancha Karma please see the article on that subject.

Post Pancha Karma Trauma is what the patient experiences after undergoing a Pancha Karma that has not been done correctly. When a Pancha Karma has been done properly the patient typically experiences a period of fatigue which slowly leaves and is often replaced with a state of health superior to that prior to the Pancha Karma (PK).

When the patient has difficult to digest, when the fatigue becomes chronic and when other symptoms begin to manifest, this indicates a Post Pancha Karma Trauma. What are the symptoms of Post Pancha Karma Trauma?

1. Failure to digest simple food that was digestible before PK
2. The manifestation of gas, bloating after eating
3. Hyperacidity, burning sensations in the GI track
4. Loose stools, variable stools, hard stools, constipation
5. Fatigue that remains steady, or increases after PK
6. The manifestation of food sensitivities or food allergies after PK
7. Depression
8. Inability to focus mentally, loss of memory
9. Lack of motivation in life after PK

It is normal after Pancha Karma (PK) to feel tired and for the digestion to be weaker than before. Usually, these symptoms improve rapidly over the weeks following the PK. Typically Ayurveda counts the same time of recovery as was spent in the Pancha Karma. This means if you spend 3 weeks in PK you should count 3 weeks to recover. This can vary with from person to person and depends also on the pathology affecting the person. Usually, for chronic or strong disorders, 3 months would be the maximum period of time to recover from a 3 week PK. Thus, for prevention or light disorders one should count on 3 weeks to recover and for chronic or serious disorders up to 3 months.

If the fatigue and digestive weakness continue beyond the period of time indicated above, then you are experiencing a Post Pancha Karma Trauma (PPKT). For example, if you went to have a Pancha Karma for prevention, to remove toxins, but are not sick, and the Pancha Karma lasted 3 weeks and 4 weeks later you are tired and have problems to digest then this is most likely PPKT.

What are the reasons why this happens? There are three main reasons:
1. The patient does not respect the indications given by the doctor of what to eat and how to live, e.g. rest, after the PK
2. The doctor did not give post Pancha Karma indications to the patient
3. The doctor and staff did not do the procedures correctly as per the patient’s individual needs

When any of these three points are implicated the patient will suffer from PPKT. There are also many contraindications of when NOT to receive a Pancha Karma in Ayurveda. If the clinic staff ignores these then the patient may need several years to recover from the Pancha Karma.

All Shodhana therapies, like Pancha Karma, remove the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ from the body. In other words, everything is removed from the digestive system, and if done correctly, from the surrounding tissues, organs and glands. This is why a certain time is needed to recover from the PK. However, if the contraindications are not respected then this leads to physical trauma and can be very hard to repair or recover from.

It is not possible to list all of the contra indications of Pancha Karma because – as explained elsewhere – there are three steps to Pancha Karma each with several therapies in it. Each of these individual therapies has a list of contraindications. This means the doctor has to choose which therapies are correct for the patient as no-one can receive all therapies during a ‘cure’ or Pancha Karma. If the doctor chooses the wrong set of therapies the result will be Post Pancha Karma Trauma.

The main difficultly is the reduction or suppression of the digestive capacity, or Agni. If too much fat or oil is given, or if the Agni is not re-animated after purgation, then the patient will arrive home unable to digest food correctly.
Perhaps the most important factor in PPKT is the clinic who ignores the last step of a Pancha Karma called Paschāta Karma (reanimation therapies). This typically last from 7 to 21 days and is the period of time when diet is controlled and rest is taken. In my clinical practice, it is the lack of respect for this therapy that is the main cause of PPKT. Unfortunately, the cause is usually the fault of the doctor who does not take time to start these therapies and also does not educate the patient sufficiently so that they continue at home.

Post Pancha Karma Trauma has many causes and each case needs to taken individually. Protocol is to correct the Agni by controlling the Dosha that is disrupting the Agni. Diet needs to be simple and digestible for the patient. Herbs can be used to help the two preceding goals. For detailed information on Pancha Karma and the contraindications please see my book “Pathology & Diagnosis in Ayurveda (Volume 2, Ayurvedic Medicine for Westerners)”

2016 © Vaidya Atreya Smith, B.Sc.

Vaidya Atreya Smith - Born in California, USA he is the author of fourteen books on the healing traditions of India and is currently the director of the European Institute of Vedic Studies in Switzerland.