Ayurveda, a system of medicine that encompasses everything from diet to yoga to herbal preparations, is a concept many Westerners aren’t familiar with. However, it is gaining in popularity in the United States and other countries outside of India.
Ayurveda is based on the idea of the three doshas, known as Vata, Pitta and Kapha. In Ayurveda, each person is born with a unique makeup of these three doshas known as prakriti, and keeping them in the proper balance is an essential part of the Ayurvedic diet.
When the body is unhealthy it means the doshas are out of balance, in a condition known as viktiri, which means “deviated from nature.” When the body enters this state, a balanced diet can be used to help restore the body’s natural praktiri.
While some people are hesitant to try an Ayurvedic diet, there are multiple benefits that many people experience once they mae the switch.
Greater Life Balance
The overarching idea behind the Ayurvedic diet is that it works to put your body and mind in the appropriate space – meaning an Ayurvedic diet can actually help keep your life in balance. This is reached by maintaining the three doshas:
- “Vata” is tied with the movement of the body, including the flow of blood and air in the lungs. Someone who has a predominantly Vata-prakriti is typically tall, thin, and demonstrates great bursts of energy and excitement. When out of balance, Vata types experience rough or dry or rough skin, anxiety, cold hands and feet, fatigue, and insomnia.
- Pitta is related to the body’s metabolism and digestion. People who identify most with Pitta are often of medium build and strength, with light hair and freckled skin, and are characterized by intensity and ambition. When out of balance, they experience rashes, heartburn, irritability, ulcers and compulsive behavior.
- Kapha deals with the structures of the body, the cells and tissues. Kapha types are solid and powerfully built. They are known to be relaxed, serene, content, and respectful. They enjoy better health than other dosha types, but when out of balance experience colds, allergies, and sinus issues.
No person is entirely one dosha type, but you can see that many people do identify more strongly with one type or another. In times of great stress or mental/emotional sickness, however, that type is out of balance. Eating foods that are right for you can help restore your balance, leading you to a more overall balanced life.
- To balance a Vata type, they need to stick to a daily routine and regular sleeping pattern. They should eat heavy, hearty foods such as stews and broths.
- For a Pitta type, who is an excessive worker, they should avoid skipping meals or conversely, overeating at meals. They are most well-suited to a vegetarian diet with fruits and raw vegetables. They should stay away from spicy foods.
- Kapha types require lots of sleep and have slow digestion, so they need regular exercise and should avoid rich dairy foods, meat, and fried foods.
These guidelines aren’t just for those who are out of balance. A major part of Ayurveda is sticking to a diet made mostly of healthy, unprocessed foods, which will help you maintain good health even after you have achieved a balanced prakriti.
Improved Immune Health
Eating an Ayurvedic diet may be able to improve immune health in some people, especially those with chronic conditions like diabetes, cancer and certain heart conditions. In Ayurveda, diet is believed to help restore the body’s health by providing it with foods that are strengthening, not weakening.
Eating according to your praktiri may be able to improve chronic conditions. For healthy people, it can help keep you healthy and prevent chronic conditions from appearing.
In Ayurveda, a major part of eating for your praktiri is avoiding foods that can weaken your body. For example, people who are predominantly Vata should avoid foods that are sour, like lemons, limes, vinegar and cheese.
By purging these foods from your diet, you may be able to purify your body of things that can weaken you and make you feel out of balance or ill. Eating the right foods for your body type may also help to make medicines and herbal treatments more effective when it comes to treating illness.
Ayurveda Supports the Vegetarian Diet
Eating an Ayurvedic diet is perfect for many vegetarians, many of whom struggle to find the right foods for their body type. An Ayurvedic diet can easily be tailored to a vegetarian diet, while still adhering to the principles of Ayurveda. In fact, many people who practice Ayurveda are lifelong vegetarians.
According to Ayurvedic medicine, many physical diseases are a direct response of the body to one’s mental state. In Ayurveda, eating according to your body type can help balance the mind, which can in turn help balance the body and keep it healthy.
However, an Ayurvedic diet may also be able to help ward away such things as stress, sleep disturbances and sudden changes in mood.
Following an Ayurvedic diet is relatively simple once you determine your dosha type, and using certain foods as prescribed by Ayurveda may be able to help provide you with optimal physical and mental health.
About the Author:
Marcela De Vivo is a freelance writer in the Los Angeles area. She has written everything from marketing, real estate, technology, as well as a variety of health & wellness topics.