Mind-Body Health

Ask Dr. Sheila: Does My Dominant Dosha Change?

Senior woman enjoying her coffee in the city
Portrait of a senior woman sitting on the street and drinking coffee.

Every month, Dr, Sheila, Chopra’s Chief Medical Officer answers questions from our followers. If you have a general question for her around health and wellness, please send us an email to askdrsheila@chopra.com, and your question may be the one she answers next month. You can also submit questions during her Instagram Lives that take place every Wednesday at noon (PST) on our Instagram.

Dr. Sheila: Last month, I received several questions via email regarding doshas, and after my Instagram Live on 8/19, I received questions on the six tastes in Ayurvedic nutrition. I discuss all three questions here.

Question 1: I have taken a few dosha quizzes, and the result was a mix of doshas. Does my dominant dosha change? Can my mind be a different dosha than my body?

Dr. Sheila: One very important point to understand about doshas is that you have all three doshas, or mind-body energies, within you. Remember, these are simply terms that describe various qualities, or functions, in the mind and body. You need to have the movement principle of Vata, the transformation principle of Pitta, and the structure of Kapha to function. That being said, we all have different proportions of each dosha within us and wherein the mind and body they show up the most. This is what makes us all unique individuals.

Whatever dosha (or doshas) are the most prominent within you will determine your general tendencies over the course of your life, and what to expect when you are balanced. This does not change over your life but can manifest slightly differently in different times of life. Also, since you have all three doshas, the circumstances and choices can create an imbalance in any of the doshas.

In addition, as you have identified already, some people can have two dominant doshas (this is called bidosha), and one dosha can be more dominant in the mind while another is more dominant in the body. This tells you how you most likely will respond to your environment, both in personality as well as body type. Understanding your underlying nature likely explains your tendencies over the course of your life, while daily experiences, foods, climate, and choices will determine what is out of balance in the moment.

Question 2: According to the dosha quiz, I am Pitta-Vata. If I have to avoid the hot, heavy, and dry, what are the foods I have to avoid?

Dr. Sheila: Adding onto the basic understanding in the first question above, at least half of us are bidosha, or have two prominent doshas. You will see the qualities of the two doshas equally in your body and psychological tendencies. In general, there is usually one that is a little more prominent in the mind and one more prominent in the body, although you will likely have qualities of both in the mind and body.

In this situation, you make choices on a daily basis that keep both dominant doshas in balance, while leaning toward balancing the one that is most out of balance. For example, for a Pitta-Vata, avoiding hot/spicy foods is good for both of these dosha types. Then you can check in with what your body is telling you.

  • If you are dry and irregular (Vata imbalance), you should favor warm, moist foods and avoid dry foods. Choose root vegetables, soups, well-cooked greens, complex carbohydrates, healthy oils, and proteins.
  • If you are feeling hot and acidic, favor cooling foods such as salads, lightly cooked vegetables, greens, and fruits.

For both doshas, use digestive spices such as ground cumin, coriander, and fennel while cooking or sprinkled on top of food.

Question 3: Can you provide a list of the seeds, herbs, and Six Tastes?

Dr. Sheila: During my Instagram Live on 8/19, I discussed the six tastes in Ayurvedic nutrition and cooking. These six tastes are:

  • Sweet
  • Sour
  • Salty
  • Pungent
  • Bitter
  • Astringent

Each of these tastes has specific functions in your physiology, either for energy (macronutrients) or healthy information (micronutrients), so it is important to try to get each taste in every meal, or in a day while favoring the tastes that are better for your current dosha imbalance and reducing the ones that will get you more out of balance.

I spent time discussing the taste category of pungent, as it is underutilized in many diets, yet is very important for optimizing and supporting the digestion of food. Some simple tips I discussed are to try the following:

  • Cook some seeds, such as cumin or mustard seed, in a little bit of oil before cooking your veggies.
  • Add the ground spices into food to make it more flavorful and healthier.
  • Use herbs such as oregano, rosemary, and parsley, which also support the natural detoxification pathways.

Try these small adjustments to your cooking and notice the difference it makes.

Sheila Patel, M.D., is the Chief Medical Officer for Chopra Global and a board-certified family physician who is passionate about bringing holistic healing practices into the Western medical system. She earned her M.D. at the University of Wisconsin Medical School and completed her residency in family medicine at the Ventura County Medical Center in Southern California. For more than a decade, she practiced full-spectrum family medicine, from prenatal care and deliveries to ER coverage and primary care for all ages. In addition to her work at Chopra Global, she sees patients in an outpatient family medicine setting bringing integrative mind-body practices to her patients to help them achieve their best health.

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