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Kapha Dosha: How to Embrace Your ‘Juiciness’ and Age Well

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Kapha - Dr. Axe

Maybe you took your first Ayurvedic body type or “dosha” quiz and your result came back as primarily “kapha.” What does it all mean? To better understand your primary dosha type, we first must take a look at Ayurveda, which roughly translates to “the science of life.”

Ayurveda is a buzz word popping up in the world of wellness a lot these days. But did you know it’s actually an ancient medical science  believed to be one of the first health systems in the world?

Ayurvedic medicine is a 5,000-year-old system of natural healing born out of the Vedic texts of India. In a nutshell, the idea is there are three doshas — Vata, Pitta and Kapha — and keep them balanced for our unique body type is quintessential to being mentally and physically healthy.


What Are Doshas?

Here’s a little more basic background on doshas to help things click. Ayurveda breaks up the elements of the universe into these parts:

  • Ether (space)
  • Air
  • Fire
  • Water
  • Earth

These elements create the three main “doshas” found in all of us. We all contain a personalized mix of the three main doshas — Vata (ether/space + air), Pitta (fire + water) and Kapha (water + earth) — but we tend to be dominant in one. And that primary dosha is also the one that’s most likely to come out of balance, threatening our health.

Knowing we’re all a unique mix of all three doshas, in this article, we’re going to focus on better understanding kapha.

Identifying and better understanding your dominant dosha is helpful and important. But that’s just one part of the puzzle. It’s also best to combine that information with the seasons to staying balanced, regardless of your constitution.

Late winter and spring is the kapha time of year, meaning a kapha person may have to work extra hard to keep things in balance. That’s because the qualities of each season can increase or decrease those qualities in us.

It’s this state of high mobility that tends to creates a vata derangement and need to balance in all of us, regardless of our primary dosha.

Signs of imbalance due to increased kapha include:

The great news is Ayurveda lays out a clear path of daily activities we can turn to in order to help bring the body back into balance.


What Is Kapha?

To understand kapha, it’s best to break down the physical characteristics we’re born with, the mental characteristics associated with kapha types and explore the conditions and symptoms that may rise to the surface if you’re living with excess kapha.

But first, let’s take a look at the qualities of kapha itself:

  • Moist
  • Cold
  • Heavy
  • Dull
  • Soft
  • Sticky
  • Static

When a kaphic person is in balance, he or she possesses physical strength, strong immunity and wonderful personality traits.

Physical Characteristics (Kapha Body Type)

What is the kapha body type? Often described as strong, sturdy, larger boned and more endomorphic (meaning they tend to gain weight easily and have trouble losing it), the kapha type’s body is a reflection of the heavy, dense qualities of earth. (Remember, kapha is Earth + Water elements).

Some other kapha body type and mental characteristics include:

  • Large eyes
  • Full, this, oily, luxurious hair
  • Strong stamina
  • Good memory
  • Moist, thick and soft skin

Although lots of people Google, “How do you get rid of Kapha Dosha?” The truth is, kapha types have many great characteristics, as long as things are in balance.

Here’s a really fun perk for kapha types: They tend to age more slowly and enjoy a longer life span because they’re full of “ojas,” or “juiciness,” known as the sap of life in Sanskrit.

It can also be very liberating to learn about your primary dosha body type because it provides a better understanding that we’re all born with specific body types and characteristics.

For instance, kaphas tend to have larger frames. A kapha type may never look like a very slim “airy” vata type, but bringing kapha into balance facilitates a strong, sturdy frame with a bolstered immune system, along with strong health and vitality during the aging process.

Emotional and Personality Characteristics of Kapha

I always like to say everyone should have a kapha type as a best friend. That’s because the positive qualities of a well-balanced kapha type include:

  • Compassion
  • Patience
  • Sweetness
  • Easily forgiving
  • Gentle
  • Emotionally stability
  • Loving
  • Loyal
  • Nurturing

When in balance, the kapha type is healthy, supportive, mentally stable and loyal. But what are the symptoms of kapha dosha that’s out of balance? Kapha excess tends to surface in the form of hoarding, becoming too attached to people, avoiding any change and becoming inactive. For a kapha dosha, sleep in excess is a common problem.


How to Balance Kapha

Kapha - Dr. Axe

Kapha Diet

Because kapha types are more likely to be plagued by excess moisture, which can show up in the body as mucous, sluggish bowel movements or even candida symptoms, the kapha diet focuses on reducing moisture by gravitating toward foods that are:

  • Drying
  • Light
  • Warming
  • Easily digested

That’s because in Ayurvedic medicine, “like increases like.” The point? If you’ve got a moist, congested constitution, you’ll want to add in foods with the opposite qualities of kapha, as listed above.

It’s especially important for kapha types to focus on balancing food choices during late winter and spring, since that’s the kapha time of year. (Think of all of the thawing and melting and how that relates to excess mucous and moisture in the body, too.)

Kapha-soothing spices to work into an Ayurvedic diet include ginger, garlic, clove, mustard seed, pepper and cayenne.

Also important to note: Since kapha types are prone to weight gain, it’s OK to skip breakfast if you don’t feel hungry. This type of intermittent fasting can benefit kaphas.

Kapha Food List

In general, it’s best for kapha types to enjoy their meals warm or hot.

Good food for kapha types include:

  • Cooked vegetables like kale, asparagus, broccoli, bell peppers and more
  • Foods with less oil and sugar
  • Beans (except cold tofu)
  • Mung dal
  • Split peas
  • Goat milk (only in moderation)
  • Ghee (only small amounts)
  • Limited amounts of grains like millet, quinoa, barley, buckwheat or wild or basmati rice
  • Less sweet fruits like apples, pears and strawberries (Always enjoy fruit separately and at least 30 minutes before or after a meal … it’s an Ayurvedic thing!)

Kapha Snacks

The best snacks for people with high kapha include:

  • Air-popped popcorn
  • Soaked and peeled almonds
  • Pumpkin and sunflower seeds
  • Goat’s milk cottage cheese (in moderation)

Kapha Recipes

Kapha-Reducing Mung Dal Kitchari 

A slow digestive system is common in kapha types, and this kitchari is a way to cleanse and invigorate while jump-starting the metabolism and clearing congestion with selective spices.

Sautéed Kale

Kale is an important veggie for kapha dosha types, but it is best enjoyed cooked. The pungent onion in this recipe also helps balance kapha. One note? Instead of using coconut oil like the recipe suggests, opt for a tiny amount of ghee, instead.

Baked Apple Rings

If you’ve got a lot of kapha in your constitution, it’s important to avoid excess sweets and sugar. But these baked apple rings are a great way to satisfy your sweet tooth while also incorporating warm, cooked apple with stimulating, warming spices.

Foods to Avoid

What foods should kapha avoid? Knowing that in Ayurveda, “like increases like,” someone with excess kapha should avoid foods with kapha qualities. These often include heavy, dense, wet and cold foods. If you’re dealing with high kapha, some examples of kapha foods to avoid or reduce (especially in late winter and spring) include:

  • Iced drinks
  • Excessively oily foods (fried, buttery, oily)
  • Red meat
  • Olives
  • Wheat
  • Bread containing yeast
  • Brown and white rice
  • Tofu
  • Cow’s milk
  • Butter

Precautions

Learning more about Ayurveda and your primary dosha can help transform your health, but don’t fixate on your dosha. After all, we all contain a mix of all three doshas: vata, pitta and kapha. It’s just the dominant dosha that tends to come out of balance more quickly.

Creating a daily routine based on your dosha, and working with your dosha during the seasons to maximize balance, serve as a great jumping off point for your Ayurvedic journey.


Final Thoughts on Kapha Dosha

  • The kapha type is made from Earth and Water elements.
  • Kapha dosha characteristics include having a bigger-boned, strong, larger frame; large eyes; thick, slightly oily, luxurious hair; compassion, loyalty and emotional stability.
  • Signs of a kapha imbalance include oversleeping, sluggishness, hoarding, depression, weight gain and becoming too attached to people or things.
  • According to Michele D’Agostino, an Ayurveda yoga teacher, ways to balance kapha include:
    • Adopting a kapha-reducing diet
    • Avoiding an overly leisurely lifestyle
    • Rise early
    • Avoid daytime naps
    • Opt for stimulating activity like jogging, hiking and more vigorous forms of yoga
    • Seek out variety in daily routines
    • Spend time with motivating people
  • Ayurvedic herbs for kapha dosha include triphala, punarnava and ashwagandha
  • Kapha types can benefit from using a neti pot to clear excess congestion.
  • Things like dry brushing can also help balance kapha.

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