What Your Dosha Type Means for Your Diet
Ayurveda is Sanskrit for “the wisdom of life.” Ayurveda originated in India and pre-dates modern medicine by thousands of years.
Ayurveda healing differs from modern medicine in the following ways:
- Focuses on preventative techniques, instead of merely reacting to illness as it arises
- Diet and habits are more strongly considered when diagnosing and treating
- Emphasizes on the uniqueness of the individual and finding what works for you personally
Three Types of Ayurveda Doshas
There are three types of Ayurveda Doshas – kapha, pitta, and vata. Doshas are more commonly known as mind-body types and are derived from the five elements.
While we all have aspects of each of the three doshas, for most of us, there is one dosha that dominates. You can also be a combination of two doshas, but that is less frequent. Before you learn about the characteristics of each type of dosha, determine which one(s) are most pertinent to you by taking this quick quiz.
I took this quiz with a little bit of healthy skepticism, not expecting anyone dosha to be that much stronger than the others, but for me, the traits corresponding to vata dosha are twice as strong. There are several dosha quizzes online, all of which gave me similar results.
Once you determine which dosha pertains to you, read about the strengths and weaknesses of that dosha and what dietary changes you can make to keep yourself in better alignment. While this article focuses on dietary modifications, there are all sorts of supplements, lifestyle and yoga practices that are also beneficial.
Doshas: States of Being
- Balanced – This is when all three doshas are present in a proportional way. It is important to note that balanced doshas look different for each person
- Decreased – In this instance, the presence of one or two doshas is reduced.
- Increased – When a given dosha is overly present in a body, it needs to be realigned, often by using the medicine of opposites
The Medicine of Opposites
Similar to other types of Eastern medicine, Ayurveda healing is about balance and alignment. In order to stay balanced, counter your natural dosha inclinations with foods, lifestyle habits, and exercise that are the polar opposite. For instance, for the stable kapha dosha, add some adventure and movement to your life. This type flourishes in dry climates and can handle both hot and cold. For the anxious, changeable vata dosha practice gentle, restorative yoga or calming mediation. In addition, vatas perform best in warmer climates. Lastly, for the fiery pitta dosha, eat cool, refreshing foods like cucumbers and apples and avoid hot, spicy foods. Moreover, pitta types flourish in cooler climates and are likely to excel in winter sports like skiing and hockey.
The primary function of the vata dosha is movement and is related to the elements of air and space.
- Physical traits include: susceptible to cold temperatures, light bodyweight, and dry skin
- Personality traits include: creative, moving, quick, energetic and changeable
When balanced, vata types are high-energy and adventurous. They are prone to being creative and flexible. They tend to take initiative and are very active. They enjoy being warm and need lots of human contacts, both emotionally and physically. Each dosha type responds to and receives energy differently. Individuals with strong vata dosha get their energy in bursts, which means they are also prone to bouts of fatigue.
When unbalanced, they can suffer from insomnia, anxiety, and digestive issues. They can be spacey. They are also likely to blame themselves when things go wrong. An overactive mind is one of the greatest challenges for this dosha type, which can lead to anxiety-related health issues or insomnia. For a vata, these issues compound upon each other and will continue to make things worse until tangible steps are taken to realign your habits. Mediation, sticking to regular mealtimes, and getting at least eight hours of sleep are all helpful ways to get back on track. Routines are often the key for those that lean more vata.
If your vata dosha is increased, try adjusting your dietary patterns:
- Eat food combinations that are salty and sweet; avoid foods that are bitter
- Season your food with warming spices such as nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice and ginger
- Enjoy a warm cup of decaffeinated tea before bedtime, but avoid cold drinks
- Minimize caffeine and nicotine intake
- Avoid eating too much-processed food such as chips, cereals, and frozen meals
The primary function of the pitta dosha is transformation and corresponds to the elements of fire and water.
- Physical traits include: hot-bodied, medium build, and oily skin
- Personality traits include: intense, sharp, outspoken, intelligent, and fiery
When balanced, pitta types are fiery and energetic. They sleep soundly for short periods of time and have a strong sex drive. They also have good digestion. They tend to be are very intelligent, completive and incredibly driven. When they have control over their temper, they make strong leaders.
When unbalanced, they can struggle with heartburn, ulcers, and rashes. Also, since they have very good digestion, they can over-eat, which can lead to indigestion or weight issues. They also struggle with short-tempers and an inability to control their anger. Increased levels of pitta dosha can lead to inflammation in the body and rising emotional tensions.
If your pitta dosha is in excess, try adjusting your dietary patterns:
- Avoid spicy foods and acidic foods like citrus
- Minimize alcohol and caffeinated beverages
- Eat more cooling foods like cucumbers and sweet foods like melons. These foods are beneficial because they include large amounts of water
- Do not skip meals. If you get too hungry, you will quickly become hangry
- Drink a cold glass of milk, which is especially beneficial to the fiery pitta
The primary function of this dosha is stability and is related to the earth and water elements.
- Physical traits include: good physical stamina, sluggish digestion and circulation, great sleepers, soft eyes, and good skin
- Personality traits include: loyal, stable, reliable, loving and nonjudgmental
When balanced, kapha types are gentle, kind and compassionate. They are self-sufficient and loyal to their friends and family. They are not easily upset, undemanding and tend not to hold onto negative things. They are often stable person in romantic relationships or even friendships, in part because they are nonjudgmental and accept all types of people. They are happiest when they are out enjoying new experiences.
When unbalanced, they can be sluggish and lean towards depression. They are also susceptible to sinus conditions and respiratory problems, like asthma and allergies. They also tend to struggle to get up early. Their inclination to be overly sentimental can get them into trouble as they get attached easily.
If your kapha dosha is in excess, try adjusting your dietary patterns:
- Add garlic and ginger to your food to increase digestion
- Cook with lots of spices including cumin, chili, and peppers
- Minimize salt intake and sour foods such as vinegar or grapes
- Replace honey for sugar to increase your immunities and help with sinus troubles
- Avoid red meat, deep-fried foods, and carbonated beverages
- Eat meals hot whenever possible
- Also, exercise does not come naturally to this dosha, but is very important
Beyond Dosha-Inspired Diets
Dosha imbalances generally begin with an internal feeling of, “something is not quite right,” but can progress all the way to emotional distress or even a medical illness or condition. Focus on trying to get your doshas back on track by taking note of your imbalances, following the dietary suggestions, and experimenting with yoga practices suggested for the particular dosha which is misaligned. In fact, there are videos focused on each type of dosha – vata flow, pitta flow, and kapha flow. If this article has piqued your interest, there is a lot of information on doshas and Ayurveda healing out there, as well as practitioners that specialize in Ayurveda.
An Ayurvedic Elixir for Total Rejuvenation
The Vedic sutras and ayurvedic texts, describe a sacred drink called soma rasa, said to beget eternal life. Soma rasa, also called amrita, is a Sanskrit word meaning “nectar of immortality.’’ Like the legendary “Fountain of Youth,” there are many speculations regarding the origin and location of soma rasa. The mythic stories of soma rasa describe its literal power in the human body. Soma is created internally within natural physiological processes, and harvested externally from plants and herbs. The correct utilization of soma rasa via meditation, diet, ritual, and yoga results in total rejuvenation of the human form.
The tantric systems in India, teach that soma rasa is made from moon’s waters. The moon is sometimes referred to as a cup the gods drink soma from to maintain their immortality. Every evening all the gods dip a finger into the moon-cup and drink the soma until the moon is empty.[i] Rituals described in the Vedic texts, still practiced in Tamil Nadu and Kerala, make soma from a plant harvested in the Himalayas. Some researchers theorize this is not the soma plant referred to in the Vedic texts, and believe soma is an unidentified, hallucinogenic plant, that grows in northern India and Nepal.[ii] The 9th Mandela in the Rg Veda, called the Soma Mandela, devotes 114 hymns to the purification of Soma, which is said to bring those who drink it to ecstasy. Other scholars hypothesize that soma is a bhasma, a type of ayurvedic medicine made according to rasashastra.[iii] Rasashastra is a type of alchemy medicine native to India, and involves the purification of metals and gems through a process of alternate heating, cooling, oxidizing and crushing, until a fine pure ash of consumable medicine is left, called a bhasma. Mercury, one of the primary metals used in rasashastra preparations, is thought to make the body perfect. Rasashastra is still practiced today, and takes years of specialized study under a master alchemist. Taking rasashastra preparations from untrained or unknown sources can be dangerous, and possibly life threatening.
The Hatha Yoga Pradipika teaches that meditation, specifically a practice called the kechari mudra, where a devotee inverts his tongue to touch the far recesses of his throat, and holds the posture for a period of time, will clear a membrane, and allow the secretion of soma to consistently drip from the sahasrara chakra.[iv] Meditation is taught to perfect the body so the practitioner can focus on gathering his internal winds, and bring the soma from the base of his spine up to the crown of his head, where the sahasrara chakra secretes soma rasa.[v] When soma rasa is secreted, the practitioner will experience bliss and immortality.
In the Sushruta Samhita, a classic Ayurvedic text, soma is described as having several plant origins, extracted in an elaborate ritual, that require building a house made of three chambers, where the center chamber is dedicated for the soma practice. The devotee begins with a series of specific mantras, pricking the bulb of the plant with a golden needle, and collecting its milky substance in a silver vessel, and drinks it. He then experiences soma’s effects over a period of four months, marked by distinct physical changes and practices, that include moving to different chambers for set days, applying and ingesting specific herbs, taking baths, and receiving specific massages. By the end of the fourth month, he is renewed physically, attains mastery over cosmological knowledge, never meets a failure in life, and is infused with divine spirit.[vi]
Soma has both, a metaphysical and physical means of transference. The substance of soma is pure love, and gives waves of bliss through our consciousness when it is ingested or produced. Exposure to the full moon, far away from city lights increases internal soma. It can also be cultivated in healthy lifestyle habits, extracted from plants, and produced in meditation. It requires a level of systemic function to be fully utilized, and therefore, cannot be accessed by sheer whim. Intentional support, facilitated by rejuvenation practices that restore digestive strength and detoxification, enable the extraction and proper assimilation of soma rasa.
Physically, soma is secreted by the glandular system. It is a finite manifestation of our immune system, and life force. The ancient Vedic texts indicate the place of soma secretion is the pineal gland, and some theorize that soma may actually be the powerful antioxidant called melatonin.[vii] As it is consumed, the body’s tissues become more elastic, and regain strength. The heart beats with a youthful vigor, and the mind sharpens. The shared teaching of the soma legend says, that immortality is not living forever, as we understand it, it is having enough physical strength and health, that the body is not an impediment to self-realization. The Vedic texts teach the desire to live forever is only worthy in order to completely actualize one’s full potential. The yogic and ayurvedic practices rejuvenate the body and restore vitality, so that we can ultimately transcend our physical body and reach enlightenment.
Moon’s Soma Drink
This is a drink that enhances soma production within the body and mind. It is best enjoyed after an evening meditation practice while basking under the light of the full moon.
- ½ C Macadamia Nuts
- ½ C Brazil Nuts
- 4 C Purified Water
- 4 Thai Coconuts
- 1 T Turmeric Powder
- 1 tsp Pink Pepper
- ½ tsp Himalayan Salt
- 1 Vanilla Bean Pod
- ½ T Shatavari Root Powder
Soak macadamia nuts and Brazil nuts in a bowl with 4 cups of purified water. Strain and discard water.
Put nuts in a high speed blender with 4 more cups of purified water. Blend at a high speed. Strain through a nut milk bag and set aside.
Crack open coconuts and pour coconut water into blender. Scrape out meat and add to blender. Blend at high speed until liquefied.
Add macadamia and Brazil nut milk back into blender with coconut milk.
Slice vanilla bean pod and scrape seeds into a small bowl. Blend into nut milk with the remaining ingredients. Pour into glasses and serve at room temperature.
[i] Cashford, J. (2003). The Moon: myth and image. New York: Four Walls Eight Windows.
[ii] Jay, Mike. (1999). Blue Tide: The Search for Soma. New York: Autonomedia,
[iii] Mishra, L. C. (2004). Scientific basis for Ayurvedic therapies. Boca Raton: CRC Press.
[iv] Aiyangar, M. (1949). Haṭha-yoga-pradīpikā of Svātmārāma Svāmin ((3d ed.). Madras, India: Theosophical Pub. House.
[v] Fenner, Edward. 1(979). Rasyana Sidhhi: Medicine and Alchemy in the Buddhist Tantras. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin.
[vi] Dash, S., Padhy., & Sachidananda. The soma drinker of ancient India: an ethnobotanical retrospection. Journal of Human Ecology, 19-26.
[vii] Bhatnagar, S. S., & Isaacs, D. (2009). Microchakras: innerTuning for psychological well-being. Rochester, Vt.: Inner Traditions.