Pitta, Vata, Kapha - What's your body type and appropriate diet?
Ayurvedic medicine is a system of holistic healing that has been practiced in India for thousands of years. Ayurveda translated to English means “The Science of Life”.
The philosophy of ayurveda is based on the idea that health is determined by the balance of three essential energies, or doshas, in the body: vata, pitta, and kapha. Everyone has a unique balance of these doshas, which determine your physical and mental constitution.
In this article we will explore what each dosha is and how they work.
Doshas and Ayurveda
Each dosha represents a different set of characteristics and qualities, and when they are in balance, the body is healthy. Pitta is responsible for the transformation of food into energy, vata is responsible for movement and kapha is responsible for stability.
When one dosha becomes dominant, it can throw off the balance of the other two. For example, if vata is out of balance, it can create excess air and gas in the body. This can lead to problems such as constipation or diarrhea. Pitta imbalance can cause problems such as acid reflux or heartburn. Kapha imbalance can lead to congestion, weight gain and lethargy.
The goal of ayurvedic treatment is to restore balance to the doshas and thereby restore health. This can be done through dietary changes, lifestyle modifications, yoga and meditation, and use of herbal remedies. Ayurveda recognizes that each person is unique and therefore requires individualized treatment plans.
The Three Doshas: Pitta, Vata & KaphaLet’s explore each dosha and how to eat for that dosha and body type.
Pitta is the Ayurvedic constitutional type associated with the element fire.
Pitta individuals are typically described as intelligent, articulate, and passionate. This type can often be "doers" and quite driven in their pursuit of goals. They are typically high-energy and can have a short temper and sharp tongue when things don't go their way.
They have a strong appetite and tend to be slender with a strong digestive system.
When out of balance they will likely experience indigestion and acid reflux.
Pitta types often perspire easily due to a low tolerance to heat or excessive labor. Being in cooler weather is usually quite helpful in keeping the balance.
This type is more likely to experience inflammation, fevers, and acne.
A diet for pitta should include foods that are sweet, and astringent. As well as plenty of cooling foods to help reduce inflammation and heat in the body. Pitta-pacifying foods include fruits like watermelon and honeydew, vegetables like cucumbers and asparagus, whole grains like quinoa and oats, dairy products like yogurt and kefir, and spices like cilantro and mint.
Pitta-aggravating foods include spicy foods, caffeine, alcohol, artificial sweeteners, and processed foods.
Pitta dosha is balanced by incorporating cooling, calming activities into your life, such as swimming, yoga, or meditation.
Vata is the dosha of air and ether. Vata’s do well in the Fall season, with cooler weather, but not in very cold weather.
People with a lot of vata in their constitution are often slim and have a delicate build. They generally have fast metabolisms, but can easily suffer from constipation. This is mostly due to the impulse to eat raw foods.
They are creative and energetic, but they can also be restless and easily stressed. Because of this, routine is necessary in order to maintain balance.
They may have dry skin and hair, and even feel emotionally dry or burnt out at times.
Illnesses and diseases that are common to the vata type include pneumonia and arthritis, as well as nerve disorders and constipation.
The dosha diet for vata is all about moderation. Because vata governs movement, they need plenty of protein and healthy fats to keep them moving. However, they also need plenty of fiber and whole grains to keep them regular.
Too much protein can actually be hard on their systems, so it's important to find the right balance. Some good foods to include in a vata diet are cooked vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and healthy oils like olive oil or ghee. Legumes can be difficult to digest, but when paired with turmeric and black pepper the vata will be at ease.
Caffeine and alcohol, which can aggravate vata's already-restless nature, should be avoided.
To keep vata in balance, it is important to eat plenty of grounding foods like root vegetables and whole grains, and to avoid foods that are cold or dry. Practicing yoga and meditation can also help to soothe the mind and calm the body.
Those who have a predominance of Kapha in their constitution are typically heavy, stable and calm. Kapha body types are generally strong, with a sturdy build and a tendency towards weight gain.
Kapha individuals tend to have good endurance and resist cold weather well. The qualities of kapha are moist, heavy, cool, static, and soft.
When in balance, kapha individuals are patient, loving, and supportive, with a calm disposition. However, when out of balance they can be lazy, possessive, and greedy.
When out of balance, however, they can become sluggish, overweight, stubborn and resistant to change.
Health issues that may arise for this type include fluid retention, nausea, diabetes and asthma.
A kapha diet should include plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds. It is important to avoid foods that are sweet, heavy, or oily. Some good choices for kapha include ginger tea, warm soups, and light salads.
A balanced diet and lifestyle is key for keeping kapha in balance.
Ayurveda recommends incorporating practices that stimulate movement and dispel stagnation such as yoga, massage and aromatherapy into your routine if you have a Kapha imbalance.
If you’re unsure what type of dosha you are, why not take this test and find out.
Keep in mind that each dosha’s relationship to seasons is different. Each one thrives and is more dominant in different seasons. So if you’re feeling out of balance, maybe it just isn’t your season. The good news is that it won’t last forever.
Most of this information and the beliefs around doshas are still being studied, even though they have been practiced for centuries. Ayurveda is a holistic approach to life and it is a process, but learning about who you are and how your body works is a step in the right direction.
Written by Caryn Mackenzie on behalf of Turmeric Zone