A question that comes up often is how to eat when more than one dosha is out of balance. Most commonly, vata and pitta combine in excess in the digestive system.
It’s quite common for more than one dosha to be out of balance at the same time.
The simplest approach is to find the overlap between the healing approaches for the two doshas.
Here is an example of how I would focus on the equinox of V and P balancing diet in VP dual doshic imbalance:
warm in temperature
spiced with cooling or neutral culinary spices
avoid pungent spices
heavy, or nurturing in quality
avoid fried foods
favor foods with cooling properties: coconut, fennel bulb (anything with a slightly sweet taste (we can do this without aggravating vata if the food is cooked and spiced)
To get to this approach, I listed out all the ways I would balance V and P separately, and then selected the overlapping facets of the two approaches. There was also a bit of seeing what may really increase or aggravate V or P to see what to avoid.
If you have all 3 doshas out of balance, we recommend cleansing to reset the digestive system. Then a very middleground diet: not too heavy or light, not too spicy or bland. spices that are not too cooling or heating. We’d focus primarily on building healthy agni (digestive capacity).
So having spent the majority of my life in vata-pitta imbalance, I really know how this feels.
The fact that most of us either have a good predominance of vata or pitta in our constitutions, combined with the fact that everyone in an urban environment has a good amount of vata and pitta in their vikruti, means you probably really know how this feels too.
You just may not have the recognition of the facets of vata and pitta present.
Why does it matter?
Well, if you can recognize the vata and the pitta, you can target your solution for coming into balance.
We feel all imbalances in the mind/emotions before we do in the physical body (if we are actually in touch with our feelings). The dialogue of vata (V) and pitta (P) in the mind may look something like this:V: I feel so overwhelmed. There’s so much going on, and I don’t feel grounded in any of it. P: I want to do so much though. I’ve got to work and work out and socialize and take care of all this stuff at home. That’s not going to change. I have to get it together. I should be more on top of this life thing. Everyone else seems to handle it well. V: Well, I guess I’m not as capable as everyone else. I always seem to be overwhelmed. P: What’s going to be the solution? V: Maybe I just need a vacation… P: Stop running away and get something done. It’s not that hard. Just make a list. V: Then I’ll be overwhelmed by the list. I don’t stick to anything. P: Maybe you have a chemical imbalance? You should try some vitamins, or Google “B-12″ deficiency. V: Yeah, shopping seems like a great solution! I’ll go buy some supplements at Whole Foods.
The core of the vata-pitta dance in the mind is a fast, sometimes incessant, spiral of “something’s wrong” and a self critical analysis.
Oftentimes, this can lead to some short lived attempt at getting at the solution: sign up for a webinar, buy a self-help book, or some acupuncture treatments. The long-term game is to:
1. recognize the features of excess vata and pitta in the mind/body
2. find at least 3 ways that the vata-pitta influx is coming into your life
Look at the major energy inputs in your life: relationships, jobs, routine, food. For example, it could be the transition (vata) into summer (pitta). I could be staying up later (vata) to get more done (pitta). Maybe I had a good amount of tortilla chips (vata) and beer (pitta) in the past few days. Perhaps I’m also feeling unsettled (vata) regarding an unresolved conflict (pitta) in a key relationship in my life.
How do you know which inputs are which dosha? Well, it just takes practice. You have to identify the qualities of that input and then ask yourself which dosha must be present.
3. find a few ways that you can reduce (bring in the opposite qualities of) vata and pitta.
A quick and easy way to decrease excess of any dosha is through changing the qualities of what you eat. Here is a link to what a vata pitta reducing diet may look like.
Vata and Pitta imbalances both benefit greatly from stillness. Create time to just be at home (preferably alone). Hang out with yourself and you’ll feel the benefits.
Both vata and pitta are also diminished by water (warm preferably). A bath, jacuzzi, or steam sauna in the early am/late evening (when it’s most cool in the day so we don’t overheat pitta)
Also, using a vata-pitta reducing oil is a great way to soothe both doshas. (Yes, we carry a lovely PV oil in our online store here!)
Another powerful way to balance both is to complete your intentions. Pitta loves the feeling that things are finished or resolved and vata enjoys not having the overwhelm of that open unfulfilled intention. So pick one thing (yes, only one) and complete it. Then repeat.
One of my closest friends in college had perpetually loose and foul-smelling stools, with several bowel movements a day. It became a funny part of our collective college experience as, amongst our group of friends, we knew after every meal we had to allow time for him to run to the restroom (and then all of us had to avoid the restroom afterward, or use it before he finished his meal). He coined the phenomenon, “mushy caca syndrome.”
Today, I actually understand what was going on was pitta imbalance, or excess heat, in his digestive tract. Unsurprisingly, this is a common phenomenon amongst pitta-predominants and with anyone during the summertime.
So I smiled as July rolled around and several of my clients emailed in describing mushy caca syndrome.
How do you know if you’ve got pitta imbalance in your digestive system?
- more than 2-3 bowel movements/day
- the consistency is anywhere from “softserve” to unformed flurries
- it feels hot as it exits
- it smells unusually pungent or sulfuric
- color is greenish, reddish, orangish, or yellowish
- you see flattened or ribbon-like stool (long and skinny) indicating inflammation in the colon
- FYI, stools get looser as the day progresses usually
What can you do about it? Well, everything you do to decrease pitta will help. Here are a few tips:
- avoid fire-water (alcohol), and coffee is also quite heating (it’s vata and pitta increasing)
- avoid sour taste (sour tart berries, citrus, etc)
- avoid fermented or pickled foods (sauerkraut, kimchi, yogurt, etc.)
- avoid spicy-hot foods, aka pungent taste (jalapeno, tabasco, red pepper, garlic, ginger, etc.)
- avoid direct sunlight during peak sun hours
- avoid spicy-hot people
- decrease sex (heats things up)
- decrease the intensity of workouts (also heats things up)
- bring in lots of cooling foods: coconut, rose water, lemon (the citrus exception as it is cooling internally), anything sweet is good
- bitter greens decrease heat, so green juices and salads, and bitter herbs (neem, guduci, dandelion, etc) are great
I recently attended a workshop at an ayurvedic school. I got there early (yes, without the kids in tow I’m quite punctual) and offered to help prepare. I ended up in a beautiful kitchen with a third-year student. As I was chopping vegetables, I noticed the giant pot of chai on the stove.
As the smells of the spices filled the room, I went into my natural Indian-mother mode and almost reached out to turn off the chai. I didn’t want to take over her kitchen, so I asked “do you need help straining the tea?” Her reply was, “Yes, after it boils.” As I peeked over, I could see that there was a ring of small bubbles around the top where the liquid met the pot. A few small bubbles were surfacing in the middle. To myself, I thought, “it is coming to a boil.” I kept quiet to allow time for her to be comfortable with her version of boil. Ten minutes later, the pot was continuing to boil but the heat was on low, so it was a slow boil. Five more minutes go by and I felt the chai was going to be ruined. By then my pitta was on a slow-boil. So then I venture out a sweet, “Dear, if you let this go any longer, it may get too tannic and bitter.”
Her response was a curt, “That’s the way our teacher taught us to make it and so that’s the way I’m doing it. It has to boil.” Awkward silence filled the kitchen as the others all tuned into what now had become a confrontation. I smiled and apologized for stepping on any toes and acknowledged the importance of her doing what her teacher had asked of her.
After I left the kitchen, I had several thoughts surrounding the interaction. Indivual interpretation is inevitable. How do we define the boil we are looking for to signal the chai is ready? “Allow to come to a boil” can be ambiguous directions. I’ve described a recipe for chai in this way before. Here, her interpretation was the pot needing to come to a vigorous boil. Had her teacher discussed how to adjust chai process when making a large pot, and over different levels of heat? I’m not sure, and it didn’t matter.
What was at the core of this interaction was being closed. I decided to come to peace with how closed she was to my suggestion, and how closed I was to the possibility that this chai would taste good. We can only learn if we are open. I created space in my mind for yummy chai; maybe I would learn a better way.
The chai was bitter and the milk was overcooked. I learned an important lesson (which was, of course, facilitated by “being the observer”):
At some point, we grow beyond following directions, and develop an intuitive sense of how to do something.
I’m no authority on chai, but I’ve been making chai since I was about 6 years old. I can tell when it’s ready because of the smell and look. There are subtle differences in the various nuances of preparation, such as putting the tea in the pot while the water is too cold, or waiting too long to add the milk—I’ve made all of these mistakes. One of the most potent forms of learning is direct experience; especially, making errors to learn consequences and thereby formulate solutions. It is direct experience that allows us to develop an intuitive feel. This is why “practice makes perfect.”
Take home lessons:
- Stay open if you really want to learn. This is especially poignant for us Pitta-predominant folks. We tend to find the greatest authority and loyally stand behind that research/opinion.
- Respect authority, but give just as much respect to direct experience. Read the books and try things out for yourself.
- If you really want to be good at anything, immerse yourself in the experience until you build an intuitive feel.
- If you are learning something that comes from a foreign culture, know that someone from that culture is likely going to have some insights from their personal experience that are going to round out your education.
The heat is rising in Southern CA, and it’s so nice out that many of us are taking the opportunity to soak in the sun. For some of us, however, we already have signs of heat excess in our systems. This really applies to anyone that has a good amount of pitta in their constitution. One of the hallmarks of pitta excess is inflammation. (Check out other signs of pitta excess.)
I have a lot of clients whom, like myself, are showing signs of inflammation in their nervous and digestive systems. So let’s take some time to learn about inflamed guts and feelings. In ayurveda, the mind and digestive system are the first place you will see signs of imbalance. If left unchecked, imbalance, or doshic excess, then travels to deeper tissue systems. So if you are already seeing inflammation in your skin (acne or psoriasis) or joints, the issue has been accumulating for some time. By tuning into the first signs of inflammation in your being, you can begin pitta balancing sooner and prevent the heat from going into deeper tissues.
My kids have this playdough fun factory and the way the playdough comes out of that thing is just like classic pitta-inflammation poop. It’s flattish, ribbon-like and much narrower than a nicely formed log. It also resembles soft-serve ice cream or frozen yogurt coming out of the dispenser–somewhat sludgy in consistency. As pitta rises in the digestive tract, the stool becomes more loose and soft. When the walls of the colon are inflamed, the lumen narrows and the stool takes the shape of the narrowed intestines. Pitta excess in the colon, without inflammation, is more loose or like diarrhea and more frequent. If you are having more than 2 bowel movements a day, you likely have heat excess.
PEOPLE ARE OVERRATED
Usually concomitant with playdough poop is an easily incensed mind. So for those of us that are pitta predominant, this means being more reactive than usual (akin to the immune system’s reactivity in inflammation). More specifically, if you feel you are defending yourself more often, feeling like you need to confront others a bit more often, or finding yourself irritated at people not getting to the point or having to repeat yourself–these are all classic representations of inflamed pitta in the nervous system. Overall, like any inflamed tissue, the mind is less tolerant and more sensitive. This usually leads to a disgruntled attitude (people are overrated). Of course, on the physical level, heat in the nervous system could mean more tension in the jaw and neck, getting hot when asleep, and hot flashes for perimenopausal women.
So, as Dr. Lad would say,”what to do, what to do?” Well, all pitta reducing will help. This means cultivating the qualities of soothing and cooling in every way you can. Below are some examples of reducing pitta in the nervous and digestive systems.
- avoid confrontation
- aromatherapy with sweet cooling scents (rose, sandalwood)
- avoid over-working (e.g. evenings for relaxing)
- drink lemonade (agave and lemon decrease pitta and inflammation… a dash of rosewater is bonus)
- avoid alcohol
- avoid sour, tart, and pickled foods
- avoid spicy food
- avoid spicy people
- back off on sexual frequency (think once a week as a max)
In addition, anti-inflammatory herbs are wonderful. Turmeric is perhaps the most popularly recognized anti-inflammatory herb in ayurveda. Interestingly, it is heating in nature and I like to use this one at the end of summer/beginning of fall. At this junction of pitta and kapha season, the cooling bitters are perfect. Think dandelion, nettle, burdock, echinacea, goldenseal….these are also all liver/blood cleansers (alternatives). In ayurveda, the “house” of pitta is in the liver, so this makes sense. There are many others, but the above can be easily found in tea form at a Whole Foods or health food store.
Ultimately, the things that irritate us the most are those which reflect parts of ourselves we are uncomfortable with. See if you can dig deeper and make peace with these facets of yourself, and you’ll have less of a reaction when you encounter similar patterns externally.
Buy Turmeric in our online store: HERE
I personally overcame (it’s an ongoing process) my acne with ayurveda. I had years of antibiotics, RetinA, benzoyl peroxide and even accutane–a super frustrating issue because it’s on your face. When I first looked into ayurveda for acne, I was pretty disappointed. All I could find were some recipes for masks and pitta reducing diets…none of these yielded immediate results for me, and so I gave up on them prematurely.
It’s often not a simple issue of pitta reduction.
The type of acne you have will reveal more about the doshas involved. More dry and hard feeling blackheads (vata)? That’s different from those painful lumps deep down that may never even surface (kapha). Also, the acne can be a secondary issue to another root issue. Reducing pitta in your life (not just your diet) will help with any inflammation and ulceration. Reducing vata will help with reducing scaring. Reducing kapha will help with oiliness and swelling/ pus. So, you can see that all of the doshas may be involved, and figuring out which approach to take will depend on your individual experience.
In any case, reducing acne means cleaning the blood and circulating lymph (rasa dhatu).
If you have “nodulocystic” acne, the doshic imbalances are down into the level of the ayurvedic muscle tissue correlate, the mamsa dhatu. To reduce the level of the imbalance, start first with the digestive system and the blood–clean up your diet, hydrate, and detox. This means:
- no weird chemicals (cigarettes/ skin products/ household products),
- no processed stuff (e.g. diet coke)
- lots and lots of water
- alterative herbs (burdock, neem, dandelion are all cooling alteratives) cool and cleanse the blood.
- herbs that are rejuvinatives to the skin are helpful, as are those which build healthy hormonal flow.
- triphala helps balance all the doshas and clean up the digestive system
- follow the dosha balancing approach to your diet depending on your type of acne
- heavy foods tend to congest/ build ama, and worsen acne.
- alcohol is a big load of toxins and pitta and dehydrates, so it really worsens acne.
- maintain healthy digestive fire to decrease ama–there are herbs to help with this (dipanas, digestive teas).
- I DONT recommend any radical cleanses. Pancha Karma is helpful, but expensive and not necessary.
Reducing doshic imbalances: look at your prakruti AND your vikruti to change your lifestyle and habits
For me this means looking at you and your patterns since before the acne began, and through the experience. Someone with a predominantly kapha constitution is just as likely to have acne just as a predominantly vata constitution, especially in the pitta time of life. In other words, anyone can get acne. Your constitution is helpful when fine-tuning an ayurvedic treatment, but what has been coming into your life in the time of the acne is more important in my opinion (vikruti). This means looking at your relationships, routine, climate, etc. Herbs and diet can greatly help and even resolve acne, but ultimately the imbalance came from a lifestyle and habits that are imbalancing for you. If you want long-term acne clearance, likely your lifestyle and habits will have to change.
Your skin is a digestive system. What is it eating?
Switch out chemicals for natural options: shampoo, soap, laundry detergent, drycleaners, etc. Use natural oils instead of lotions…medicinal oils are great tools. Herbal face packs and scrubs help to address the doshic imbalance from the “outside in.” Clean your sheets and towels often. Think of what you hear and feel in your day–toxic words are absorbed too.
Now do all of that for at least a month…not easy! but not impossible either. I did it…you can too:).
Optimal bowel movements
- every morning upon rising
- not needing caffeine to happen
- easy to pass
- feels complete (and satisfying!)
- well formed log that is so long it curves
- no blood or mucus or flurries
- floats (bonus points)
Signs of Vata Imbalance
- dry or hard
- not pooping everyday or at all different times (no rhythm)
- look more like little pebbles instead of a log
- straining to get it out
- feels incomplete
- gas, bloating
Signs of Pitta Imbalance
- loose or watery
- more than 2 times a day
- burns when it comes out
- long skinny poops indicate inflammation in colon
- red/ green/ yellow in color
Signs of Kapha Imbalance
- smells like it has been sitting in the colon for a while
- comes mostly after eating
- mucous in stool (globs or stringy)
There’s a coat of stuff on my tongue! What does that mean?
- Any coating on tongue=digestive fire is too low to burn through the food you are taking in
The coating on your tongue is also coating your entire digestive tract.
- The thickness of the coating is proportional to the amount of toxic buildup in your colon.
- The color of the coating can reveal which doshas are imbalanced in your digestive tract (the first place to see doshic imbalance).
What do the colors tell us?
- White=kapha imbalance
- Brown/ Black/ Blue/ Gray= vata imbalance
- Red/ Yellow/ Green= pitta imbalance
What about all the other markings?
- “Scallops:” These are the marks of your teeth impressed along the edges of the tongue. It’s easiest to see these first thing upon waking. These mean you are not hydrated enough and there is vata in the colon.
- Deep lines in the middle: These grooves also indicate vata in the digestive tract.
- Ulcerations or cold sores/ fever blisters indicate pitta imbalance or excess heat in the digestive tract.
(The above is a good starting place without being trained in tongue diagnosis)
This morning as I drove by the ocean, I was struck by how murky and dull it looked. Usually, as I approach the Pacific on my way to work, the glimmer of the Ocean is a highlight. I take a specific route in anticipation of being greeted by the shimmering water, and begin inspired by her.
At first, I thought maybe the water was more polluted…maybe it was ore murky because of the recent rain? Then I realized that there was just enough cloud cover to block the sun.
It’s light that makes everything glimmer.
What a great reminder to shine my light to help see the best in others.
How can you shine your light–give positive energy to–movements, organizations, and loved ones?
a WEALTH of RESOURCES
AYURVEDA made ACCESSIBLE for ANYONE…
CHECK OUT MY LECTURE!
WE’RE EXCITED ABOUT…
FEB 5 Ayurvedic Living Workshop
10-3p Lunch & Ayurvedic Starter Kit
a WEALTH of RESOURCES
Svastha Health Ayurvedic Wellness
1815 Petaluma Ave
Long Beach, CA 90815
MAY 2014 ISSUE
BHAKTI FEST MIDWEST 2014
MOKSHA FESTIVAL 2013
FIRST FOR WOMEN, MARCH 2014
LA YOGA MAGAZINE
HEALTH AND WELLNESS GUIDE
at NATURAL PRODUCTS EXPO WEST
MAY ISSUE 2014
BHAKTI FEST WEST 2014