Understanding KAPHA Dosha: Diet, Body-Type & Lifestyle

In Ayurveda, Kapha is the biological water (phlegm) humor, meaning, “that which holds things together.” It gives substance and support, and makes up the bulk of our body tissues. It also provides emotional grounding, governing traits such as love, compassion, patience and forgiveness.

So what is Kapha exactly? There are seven main attributes and they are: oily, cold, heavy, stable, viscous, dense and smooth.

 

The kapha-dominant person is blessed with strength, endurance, and stamina. Patterns and routine are the hallmarks of this dosha. While such qualities provide a sense of stability in life, they may also manifest as attachment. Because of this, they have a tendency to be stubborn, greedy, and lustful. They are usually heavyset individuals; natural athletes when exercising, but weight-gainers when sedentary. While kaphas have mild appetites they may become emotionally attached to food. They also sleep very soundly.

 

Kapha people are stable, somewhat slow, complacent, and take time to become motivated. They are attached to their habits, prefer familiarity and routine, and are averse to change.

The Characteristics of a Kapha Person

Heaviness, dampness, and cold are underlying attributes, and they manifest in the following ways:

  • Heavy skeleton with broad shoulders, chest, and hips.
  • Stout and stocky, and either short or tall, but well-proportioned overall.
  • Limbs tend to be round, big, and firm, especially the thighs and calves.
  • Athletic and well-built (think rugby player), or in the feminine case, the archetypal plump and curvy mother.
  • Weight is healthy, ample, and controllable through regular exercise. They tend to become overweight when they’re not sufficiently active or managing their diet.
  • Hands and feet tend to be large, thick, and firm, with shorter, square fingers and toes. Hands may also be cool and oily.
  • Joints are large, well lubricated, and often deeply set.
  • Skin is characteristically white, cool, soft, silky, moist, and thick, often dotted mildly with freckles. Kapha skin may burn if overexposed but tans evenly with mild sun exposure.
  • Head is big, stocky, and stable, either square or round, and with a large, broad forehead.
  • Face is large, moon-shaped, and most likely fat, with soft contours and a pale complexion. Lips are smooth and like the nose, tend to be large, thick, oily, and firm.
  • Teeth are sizable, straight, white, and well-proportioned, with large, thick, pink gums.
  • Eyes may be big, noticeably attractive, thick, and wide-spaced, with healthy, white sclera, and long, thick eyelashes.
  • They’re occasionally blue but usually a warm brown colour. Eyes are prone to itchiness and mucous discharge.
  • Tongue is large, thick, and round, and typically pale or white.
  • Hair is abundant, thick, oily, wavy, and shiny. It is typically an attractive mane that is brown, dark brown, or chocolate-colored. Body hair tends to be moderate or even excessive.
  • Nails are large, thick, white, firm, and oily.
  • Sweat is moderate and consistent even in climatic extremes.
  • Pulse is strong, full, slow, and rhythmic, and felt strongest under the ring finger. Arteries may feel cool and rubbery.

Digestion

Kaphas do not experience the intense hunger of vata or pitta. Rather, their appetite is low and steady, and they tend to eat slowly. They may become emotionally attached to food, leading to weight gain, especially if inactive. Fasting comes most easily to this dosha, even with their love of food and cooking. They prefer warm, dry, light, and spicy foods. Their digestion is slow, compared to the other doshas, and elimination is usually moderate and regular. Excessive kapha may lead to constipation.
chipmunk and peanuts

Energy Levels

Kaphas have relatively low, steady energy. With a tendency toward laziness, they are not easily motivated but usually finish what they start. Once in action, their stamina is the greatest of the three doshas. They also benefit the most from vigorous exercise. For them, yoga is more often a physical pursuit, rather than a subtle, spiritual one.

Sleep

Sleep comes easily for kaphas and they rest well. They fall quickly into a deep slumber and stay that way until they’re able to drag themselves out of bed in the morning. Their dreams are often romantic or sentimental, and symbolic of love and security. They may also involve water, and are rarely violent or involve running, which reflects their tendency to resolve conflicts peacefully.

Temperature

Cold and especially damp weather aggravate the kapha dosha. Warm, dry climates are ideal for the kapha body type. They are also over-sensitive to touch and distant or detached emotions, and affected by strong odours.

Voice

Typically melodious and pleasant, the voice is lower in pitch and intensity than other doshas. They’re are not small-talkers. They’re cautious about what they say and will often refrain from speaking much, unless they have something to say.

Work habits

Slow, methodical, and reliable workers, they are model entrepreneurs capable of resolving issues with peace and diplomacy and keeping things running smoothly. They prefer a consistent, secure, and unchanging work environment.

Financial

Because of their tendency toward attachment, kaphas love to hoard money–and anything else. They’re stubbornly determined to attain and protect what they believe they’re owed.

Lifestyle and Habits

Kapha people are most comfortable with a steady and secure source of income, the stability of a family, and consistent activities. They’re not big on change. They tend to become attached to routines, which may threaten their creativity and ability to evolve throughout life.

Sex drive

The kapha sex drive is characterized by a steady desire and they normally enjoy sex. They arouse slowly because of their innate reluctance to expend energy but they enjoy sex and remain passionate for a long time. They tend to be very fertile as well. Women usually have regular periods and are prone to water retention. Of all the doshas, their menstrual cycle is the easiest, with only mild cramps.

Mental Characteristics

The kapha mind is typically calm, slow, and receptive. They don’t worry excessively and find satisfaction easily, provided their lives include the comforts of a loving family and secure home. If they don’t feel loved, however, they may become depressed.

Emotional

Kaphas tend to feel and give love freely, but they can become easily hurt and disillusioned in relationships. They may blame themselves for problems, leading to introversion and a fragile emotional state.

They make friends slower than the other doshas and for different reasons. Unlike pittas, they don’t seek friends on a value basis. For kaphas, a friend is for life.

They have numerous positive personality traits. They tend to be calm, quiet, serious, strong, peaceful, sympathetic, courageous, loving, forgiving, steady, serene, affectionate, stable, patient, humble, committed, unshakable, generous, compassionate, and down-to-earth. However, like the other doshas, they have negative traits too. They can be clingy, possessive, overbearing, overly caring to an extremes, manipulative, quiet, withdrawn, hopeless, rigid, unable to accept change, insecure, unwanted, unloved, clingy, and greedy. They also tend to procrastinate and are often passive, inflexible, stubborn, and stagnant.

Motivations

Spiritually, kapha types don’t experience as strong an impulse to evolve as the other doshas. They’re grounded and secure by nature, owning to their close association with earth. They’re content with existing on the comfortable, material plane rather than a meta one, and aren’t fanatical about religion or spirituality. Rather, they are more likely to be firm and resolute in their beliefs. They are the most compassionate of all the doshas, due to an affinity with Mother Earth, which is also mostly kapha in nature.

Signs and Symptoms of Increased or Aggravated Kapha

An excess of this dosha in the body may manifest as the following:

  • An abundance of mucous (lungs and throat, sinuses, eyes)
  • A thick, white coating on the tongue
  • Slow, sticky bowel movements
  • Weight gain and water retention
  • An urge to overeat (emotional eating)
  • Difficulty getting out of bed in the morning
  • Sluggishness and a feeling of heaviness in the body
  • Mental dullness or fogginess, and lethargy
  • Complacency, lack of motivation, or stubbornness
  • Possessiveness and feelings of attachment to people and things
  • Overly nostalgic and sentimental
sad face

The Kapha Pacifying Diet

As with the other doshas, kapha is easily influenced by diet. Once aggravated, appropriate dietary adjustments are necessary to restore balance.

Pungent, bitter, or astringent tastes feature in the kapha diet. Foods that are sweet, sour, or salty cause aggravation and should be mostly eliminated from the diet. Food that is warm, spicy, and dry in nature–not oily–help to burn excess kapha and re-establish equilibrium. Although they’re quintessential comfort foods, oily, rich snacks and sweets may cause an imbalance and should be avoided.

Balancing this Dosha Through Diet

Ayurveda demonstrates how to mitigate disturbances and imbalances of the doshas through our diet and lifestyle, and with specific herbal remedies. See the following diet considerations to maintain a healthy and balanced state.

 

Food Guide

 TYPE GOOD BAD
Fruits Apricots, berries, cherries, dry figs, peaches, pears, raisins, etc. Sweet and sour fruits, bananas, coconut, dates, melons, oranges, lemons, etc.
Vegetables Raw, pungent and bitter vegetables, asparagus, beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, celery, garlic, green beans, lettuce, peas, etc. Sweet and juicy vegetables, butternut squash, cucumbers, pumpkin, zucchini, tomatoes, olives, artichoke, etc.
Grains Barley, buckwheat, corn, dry oats, rye, low-fat granola, oat bran, millet, quinoa, etc. Cooked oats, white and brown rice, wheat, etc.
Legumes Chick peas, beans (lima, navy, pinto, black, white), hot soya milk (and tofu) in moderation, etc. Kidney beans, lentils, cold soya milk, all soya products, mung beans, etc.
Nuts   Avoid most nuts, especially: cashews, coconuts, walnuts, brazil, peanuts, pecans pistachios, pine nuts, etc
Seeds In moderation: flax, pumpkin, sunflower Sesame
Oils In small quantities: almond, corn, sunflower Coconut, olive, sesame, safflower, soya bean, etc.
Spices Most spices, especially basil, black pepper, cardamom, cayenne, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, cumin, garlic, ginger, etc.  
Sweeteners In moderation: raw honey, fruit juice concentrates, etc. Brown rice syrup, maple syrup, jaggery, molasses, white sugar, etc.
Dairy Ghee, goat’s milk Butter, all cheeses, cow’s milk, sour cream, yogurt, etc.
Beverages Aloe vera juice, apple juice, carrot juice, hot, spicy teas and milks, grain teas, caffeinated teas and other beverages (in moderation), etc. Sour juices and teas, carbonated drinks, cold dairy drinks, icy-cold drinks, alcohol, highly salted drinks, etc.

Herbs for Kapha

In addition to a specific, dosha-friendly diet recommendations, Ayurvedic healing includes herbs that have heating and stimulating effects, decrease inflammation and congestion, and help reduce and balance the doshas. Used individually or in specially prepared formulas, there are a number of Ayurvedic herbs that benefit and help correct a kapha imbalance.
Triphala for natural detoxification and promotion of healthy digestion and elimination.

Bibhitaki is astringent in taste, and has a drying effect on the lungs, liver, and urinary tract, sinuses, ears, eyes, and throat (where kapha accumulates).

Chitrak (Plumbago zeylanica) is a heating herb that enhances digestion and removes toxins from the intestines, aiding in weight management.

Ashwagandha is a natural rejuvenator to boost energy, combat stress and help restore balance.

Brahmi, Gotu Kola, Bacopa Monniera and Shankhapushpi all help to promote circulation to the brain for improved mental clarity, to stimulate intelligence and creativity, and combat lethargy and mental dullness.

Vidanga (Embelia ribes) is hot, pungent, and bitter. It strengthens the digestive fire and helps support weight management.

Chitrak (Plumbago zeylanica) is a heating herb that kindles the digestive fire, supports a healthy metabolism, removes toxins from the intestines, reduces kapha, and helps to regulate body weight and balance body fluid levels.

Punarnava (Boerhaavia diffusa) removes excess kapha by supporting proper heart, liver, and kidney functioning, while also balancing fluid levels in the body.

Guggulu helps maintain healthy cholesterol levels and supports healthy body weight.

Tulsi is decongestant that removes an excess of this dosha from the lungs and upper respiratory tract. It helps manage healthy body weight, heightens awareness, and promotes mental clarity.

Bibhitaki effectively reduces kapha due to its astringent taste and dry and light qualities.

Bhumyamalaki is a strong cleanser and natural detoxifier with dry and light qualities that help to reduce and balance kapha.

Turmeric boosts the immune system and brain function, purifies the blood, strengthens digestion and reduces an excess of this dosha. Also supports healthy blood sugar levels.

Some common household spices like ginger, black pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, cayenne, cloves, coriander, cumin, and garlic are easily to include in the kapha diet and will help maintain a healthy constitution.

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Their Lifestyle

Kaphas are inherently idle, unmotivated beings. Engaging in social and physical activities whenever possible will encourage a healthier lifestyle than staying at home and lazing around the house watching TV every day–not a wise choice for any of us! Kaphas, in particular, need greater variation in their routine and exposure to new, healthy, and stimulating physical and mental activities on a regular basis.

Lively social scenes with stimulating music, scents, and crowds are great choices for recreation. If there’s any dosha needs a good party occasionally, it’s kapha!.

There is one type of routine that is good for kapha–a strenuous exercise routine. They should engage in a workout that includes heart-pumping, sweat-inducing activities, such as jogging, hiking, biking, or vigorous forms of yoga (Ashtanga or hot yoga), or martial arts at least four to five times a week.

Remember–they don’t respond well to cold and damp so keeping warm and dry at all times and through each season will help maintain balance and harmony.

Living Life as a Kapha Person

Because they lack motivation, cling to routine, and tend to be lethargic, kaphas must make conscious efforts to vary their activities and include spontaneity in their lives. Avoiding rich, oily, cool, and sweet foods–all things that depress the mind and make the body heavy and sluggish–and indulging in spicy, pungent, bitter, and astringent foods will encourage a kapha pacifying diet and alleviate imbalances. They need to keep warm and also make special efforts to leave their comfort zones and brave new situations. Mentally stimulating activities and plenty of intense physical exercise to control body weight will improve energy levels and maintain a balanced emotional state.
girl sleeping on coach

Because we cannot scrub our inner body we need to learn a few skills to help cleanse our tissues, organs, and mind. This is the art of Ayurveda.

– Sebastian Pole, author of Discovering the True You with Ayurveda: How to Nourish, Rejuvenate, and Transform Your Life.

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