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.
9 Ayurvedic Rituals for Youthful Vitality
I love the buzzword “longevity”. Saying it almost makes me feel five years younger. Try it.
Don’t we wish it were that easy? We have tried the “low carb” diet and the “eat right for your blood type” diet. We heard about the power of goji and acai berries and so on, and we believed that the magic anti-aging pills would actually work. We believed these multi-million dollar industries that avowed that their products would indeed remove ten years from our being.
The truth of the matter is that it takes serious effort and a massively strong will for changes to occur.
The good news is that if we make the optimal “choice” of changing our lifestyle habits, we can attain that beloved state of being which radiates “youthfulness” even late into our eighties. By beginning to take seriously the task of obtaining balance over your own health and wellbeing, and committing fully and wholeheartedly to a set of healthful daily habits, the universe will be at your service.
The 5,000 year old science of Ayurveda holds all the secrets to living, maintaining and preserving a sweet long life, in all respects to our constant dance of life.
Attaining a human life, according to the Vedas, Buddhism and old Ayurvedic scriptures (such as Cakara Samhita) is by far the greatest gift nature endowed on us humans. This gift makes it so that we can conquer the most profound of goals possible: nirvana/moksha or liberation.
It is indeed our birthright to realize our true selves.
Such lucky humans are we.
According to Ayurveda (Dr. Arindham Chatterjee of Global Ayu Care in New Delhi, India), by following 70% of the techniques and tools suggested by the ancient knowledge of Ayurveda, one can truly attain well-rounded health of mind and body. Viva! This is in fact an attainable goal.
9 Regimens for Youth and Vitality
It might be impossible to introduce all of the following rituals at once. Take your time and try two at a time. It won’t take long to get a taste of success.
- Immediately upon rising (hopefully slightly before sunrise) brush your teeth, scrape your tongue and drink a cup of warm water with lemon. Toxins accumulate on the tongue while we sleep and we don’t want to introduce them back into our system. Tongue scraping acts to stimulate and massage the internal organs. The water with lemon kick starts the liver for a brand new day of work.
- Splash open eyes with clean water. This practice strengthens the eyes, improves eyesight, clears the mind and recharges mental energy.
- Self-massage with appropriate oils a minimum of three times per week. Don’t forget to include the ears. Self-massage ignites your internal pharmacy, according to Deepak Chopra, and stimulates all the systems of your body.
- Exercise daily. This includes either a daily yoga practice or a daily practice of the 5 Tibetans (fountain of youth).
- Eat only when hungry. Aim to eat Sattvic foods (pure foods). Ayurvedically speaking, eating only when you’re hunger rises means that you are responding to the urges of the body appropriately. Learn how to differentiate hunger, from eating for the sake of eating.
- Utilize turmeric in your cooking. Turmeric is considered the most medicinal Indian herb. Its powerful healing benefits help to clear infections, fight inflammation and support joint function. It also works to promote healthy skin and aids in digestion.
- Fast at least once per month. The term fasting does no have to mean avoiding food completely. One can fast on solids or grains for twenty-four hours in order to simply give your digestive system a break.
- Triphala before bedtime. If you had to choose one herb out of the thousands of herbs used in Ayurvedic Medicine, Triphala would be the one. Triphala translates to “three fruits” and is comprised of Amalaki, Bibhataki and Haritaki, which are three of the most important herbs in Ayurvedic medicine. Triphala is known as a rasayana, which means that it rejuvenates and strengthens the tissues–specifically as it cleanses and tonifies the gastro-intestinal tract.
- Meditate every day. A regular meditation practice will calm the mind. Learning to observe the movements of the mind is paramount to helping us to make conscious choices, live in the moment and face the daily battles of life from a much more detached place of acceptance.
Unlock your inner healing powers; you are your own healer.
For another perspective on increasing your longevity, watch the documentary The Immortalists.
Learn How to Meditate
Whether you’re looking to cultivate more authenticity, increase happiness, improve relationships, or reduce stress, all of these things are accessible to you through the practice of meditation. Learn how Gaia can help you transform your life in our Beginner’s Guide to Meditation.