by Alora Phillips
What is Ayurveda?
Ayurveda means “science of life”, and is a holistic science, meaning that each person's diet and routine are customized to the individual's dosha (Chopra 2002). This ancient Indian science has a unique way of classifying human beings based on prakriti, or individual constitution. Theoretically, the three constitutions consist of Vata, Pitta and Kapha, all of which are based on physical, mental, and emotional characteristics (Payyappallimana 2016). Despite its major differences from modern Western medicine, some scientists are even bridging the gap between Ayurveda, genomics and epigenetics (Payyappallimana 2016).
So How Does It Work?
Ayurveda accepts the five elements as the building blocks of nature, and also the building blocks of humans. Tied in with these elements is the idea that food really can alter your mood, and you should eat foods opposite to your dosha (Payyappallimana 2016).
Earth, Water, Fire, Air & Ether
From these five elements, three doshic body types are produced: Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. A person's constitution is determined at the time of birth and does not change throughout life (Tiwari 2017). These elements are reflected in the person's behavior, physical appearance, and outlook on life. Each person contains all five elements, but one or two doshas are of greater amounts in the body. When a person becomes out of balance , they can eat foods to bring them back to their natural doshic state (Rotti 2014).
To assess your dosha, try this quiz!
Vata (Air & Ether)
Vata people tend to have thin, airy, slender frames, long faces, weak bones, small features, dry skin and hair, and weak digestion. They do better in warm, or even humid climates, since they usually struggle with cold hands and feet, and require external sources of heat. They speak quickly, often have racing, disjointed thoughts, generally have dry skin or hair, and troublesome digestion.
When in balance: excitable, energetic and creative, lively conversationalists, often like to take initiative, and are the “life of the party”.
When out of balance: prone to anxiety, worry, and impulsive; often struggle with insomnia, constipation, and weight loss, lack of appetite.
Since qualities of vata are cold, light, dry, and rough, its best they favor foods that are heavy, contain high-quality oils, warm/hot, and naturally sweet such as grains, yogurt, eggs, and nuts. Vatas should also focus on warming spices such as ginger, black pepper, and cinnamon.
They should avoid light, dry foods such as popcorn, crackers, or too much raw food, since added heat from cooking and spices helps them digest (Banyan Botanicals 2017). Image Source
Pitta (Fire & Water)
Pittas are of medium build, generally have striking, pointed features, have a strong appetite and digestion, get easily “hangry” when skipping a meal, are athletic and have sharp minds (and tongues); they are competitive, verbally articulate, passionate, romantic, and enjoy challenges.
When in balance: confident, good public speakers, hard-working; they are the “go-getters” of the three doshas.
When out of balance: Pittas can become angry, irritable, hot-headed, impatient, demanding or even authoritarian. When out of balance, physical symptoms such as rashes, loose stools, inflammation, acne or heartburn may occur. (Banyan Botanicals 2017)
Since Pittas run hot, they should focus on foods that are naturally cooling, such as cucumbers, melons, dates, mint, cilantro or sweet potatoes. They should also focus on bitter/astringent foods, such as dark leafy greens.
Avoid: caffeine (pitta-inducing), alcohol, skipping meals, hot/spicy foods.
Kapha (Earth & Water)
Kaphas are easygoing, slow-paced, relaxed, forgiving, compassionate, and nonjudgmental. They tend to have oily, well-hydrated skin, large features, soft eyes, and strong, thick frames; they are gentle, stable, reliable and calm. They also tend to be gain weight more easily and have slow digestion. Kaphas are often very grounding people, meaning they should focus on lighter foods. (Banyan Botanicals)
When out of balance: sluggish, brain fog, feelings of heaviness or laziness, can become complacent, may gain weight, resist change, and become excessively possessive or stubborn.
When in balance: steady mind, warm heart, calm, thoughtful, loving, patient, supportive
Use plenty of spices to assist in digestion, and consume light fruits such as pears and apples, raw, unfiltered honey, lightly cooked greens, increase vegetable intake, focus on light grains such as quinoa.
Avoid: excess meat, oils, nuts, overeating.
Amongst a frenzy of diet trends and fads, Ayurveda provides a whole-foods, individualized approach to diet, and provides a template for nutritional treatment and counseling (Rotti 2014).
Chopra, A., MD. (2002). Ayurvedic medicine: Core concept, therapeutic principles, and current relevance. Medical Clinics,86(1), 75-89. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/S0025-7125(03)00073-7
Payyappallimana, U., & Venkatasubramanian, P. (2016). Exploring Ayurvedic Knowledge on Food and Health for Providing Innovative Solutions to Contemporary Healthcare. Front Public Health,4(57). doi:10.3389/fpubh.2016.00057
Rotti, H. (2014). Determinants of Prakriti, the Human Constitution Types of Indian Traditional Medicine and its Correlation with Contemporary Science. Journal of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine,5(3), 167-175. doi:10.4103/0975-9476.140478
Tiwari, P., Kutum, R., & Sethi, T. (2017). Recapitulation of Ayurveda constitution types by machine learning of phenotypic traits. doi:https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0185380
Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. (2017). Retrieved November 6, 2018 from
The Digestible; a site for easy to understand food, nutrition, health, and energy balance information.