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.
What's your Ayurvedic dosha? Take this quiz and find out
The balance of your Ayurvedic doshas, also known as prakruti, is a key part of understanding your holistic health.
Doshas are the three energies found in nature, and also in the human body. They are broken down into three types: vata, pitta and kapha. The doshas are responsible over our bodies, minds, emotions, and thoughts. From birth, we are each individually made with a very specific blend of the five basic elements: ether, air, fire, water, and earth. That unique blend is your prakruti, or what uniquely constitutes your individual body, and can be broken down by a combination of the three doshas: vata (ether + air), pitta (fire + water), and kapha (water + earth).
The three doshas are the building blocks to understanding our prakruti, and once you understand which is your dominant dosha, you can know what your balanced state looks like. This is vital, as through this lens you can spot exactly when your body goes out of balance, and how to bring it back into balance. Humans are being of nature, constructed from the same five elements, and thus can use the opposing elements as needed to bring us back into balance.
It all hinges on knowing your doshas, however. You can get a general sense of where your dosha balance lies, and go from there to correct the problems. You can even seek out the help of an Ayurvedic practitioner, who can take a look at your insights and prescribe anything from food and herbs to a new lifestyle. Thanks, Ayurveda!
Tally up the number of v’s, p’s, and k’s you receive (standing for vata, pitta, and kapha), whichever you have the most of is your dominant dosha:
- v) I am a slender person and I hardly gain weight
- p) I am medium build
- k) I am well built and I gain weight no matter what I do
- v) My skin is dry, thin, and itches often
- p) My skin looks flushed; I have lots of moles and freckles on my body
- k) My skin is smooth and soft, it looks pale sometimes
- v) My hair is dry, thin and brittle
- p) My hair is neither dry nor oily (for men: I have a receding hairline)
- k) My hair is thick, full, lustrous, and slightly oily
- v) My face is oval
- p) My face is triangular (pointed chin, prominent jaw line)
- k) My face is round
- v) My eyes are small; they feel dry often and have a bit of dullness (usually brown)
- p) My eyes are medium in shape; sharp & penetrating (usually blue)
- k) My eyes are big and round in shape, full eyelashes
- v) My hands are generally dry, rough; slender fingers; dry nails
- p) My hands are generally moist, pink; medium fingers; soft nails
- k) My hands are generally firm, thick; thick fingers; strong & smooth nails
- v) My joints are small, prominent bones, and often crack
- p) My joints are medium and loose
- k) My joints are large, sturdy, with lots of muscle surrounding
- v) I am a very active person (always on the go, mind constantly thinking)
- p) I like to think before I do anything
- k) I am steady and graceful (I don’t like to rush)
- v) I walk fast and talk fast
- p) My actions are very thoughtful and precise
- k) I like a slower pace and I take my time to accomplish things
- v) I do not sleep soundly at night. I tend to toss and turn. I wake up early in the morning
- p) I am a light sleeper but if something wakes me up, I can go back to sleep easily
- k) I am a heavy sleeper
- v) Varies, sometimes I feel hungry, sometimes not, I feel anxious if I don’t eat
- p) I always feel hungry. If I don’t eat I get irritable and angry
- k) I don’t feel very hungry. I can go without food easily for a day
12. Bowel Movement
- v) I tend to have constipation and can go a day or two without a bowel movement
- p) I am regular and sometimes stools are loose (tend to get diarrhea)
- k) I have no problem. I wake up to go to the bathroom.
- v) My voice tends to be weak or hoarse
- p) I have a strong voice, I may get loud sometimes
- k) My voice is deep, has good tone
- v) I am a born worrier, I often feel anxious and nervous
- p) If things don’t happen my way, I feel irritable and angry
- k) I am a happy person, very caring and loving
15. Weather Preference
- v) I love warm and humid weather
- p) I enjoy cool weather, I dislike a warm climate
- k) I like warm but dry weather
- v) I sweat little but not much
- p) I sweat profusely and it might have an unpleasant odor
- k) I never sweat, unless working very hard
- v) I remember quickly and forget quickly
- p) I remember what I want to remember and never forget
- k) It takes me a while to remember, but once I do I never forget
- v) I tend to be spontaneous
- p) I am a list maker. Unless I plan, I don’t do anything
- k) I don’t like to plan, I prefer to follow others
- v) I like to do things in spurts and I get tired very easily
- p) I have medium stamina
- k) I can work long hours and maintain good stamina
- v) My mind gets restless and racing easily
- p) I get impatient easily
- k) It takes a lot to make me mad. I usually feel very calm
21. Decision Making
- v) I change my mind more often and will take time to make a decision
- p) I can make a decision easily and stick with it
- k) I want others to make the decisions
- v) “Is it too late to change my mind”?
- p) “It’s my way or the highway”
- k) “Don’t worry, be happy!”
- v) I like action
- p) I like to win
- k) I like to have fun
24. Health Problems
- v) My symptoms are mainly pain, constipation, anxiety and depression
- p) I often get skin infections, fevers, heart burn, and hypertension
- k) I tend to get allergies, congestion, weight gain and digestive problems
- v) I like art (drawing, painting, dance) and travel
- p) I like sports, politics, and things that get my adrenaline pumping
- k) I like nature, gardening, reading, and knitting