Dealing With the Kapha in Spring

“Spring becomes what Winter was…”  This line from an ancient poet is a perfect expression of the philosophy of preventive medicine that is at the heart of Ayurveda and Chinese Medicine. It explains why we have to deal with the natural accumulation of Kapha in Spring and Late Winter.

Kapha in Spring: Natural Accumulation in Nature

In late Winter and early Spring cold wet air moved across the face of the land, penetrating the deepest layers of the soil.  Ayurveda describes this as a process of Kapha accumulation. The earth stores cool water as nutrition for the burst of growth that takes place in spring. Any gardener observes this.

And we humans are little tiny mammals on a vast terrestrial landscape, hurtling through a far vaster cosmic space on a tiny pinpoint of bedrock, soil, plants, oceans, and seas. Wouldn’t it be odd to imagine that our bodies are not affected by the seasons and their climate? Its clear our minds are. People are elated in Spring, and saddened in Autumn. And wouldn’t it be smart, then, to take a cue from nature, and live in as much harmony with it as we can?

Kapha Accumulation in Human Beings: Healthy vs. Unhealthy

Just as our Kapha is increased from the outside by cold, wet weather,  from the inside it is increased by cooling, moisture producing foods. (Like increases like in Ayurveda) Things like milk, cheese, sweets, ice cream, cucumbers, melons, bananas, excess sweet fruits, zucchini, squashes, cold and raw food,  grains in general, but wheat in particular (high in gluten), oil, fats, and just too much food in general.

Kapha is also increased by inactivity. The more Kaphic your diet and activities were during winter, the more Kapha will have accumulated in your body. In moderation this is healthy and appropriate to the natural cycle of Winter, as explained above.  The land and your body were renewing themselves in preparation for the hot dry months of summer. But if you sat around and watched T.V. all winter, and ate a plethora of heavy rich foods, you may have gone too far.

Kapha excess will cause the body to accumulate Ama, or Toxins

Ama is the natural result of overeating, or a lifestyle and diet in which food is improperly digested. Ama is considered a main source of disease in Ayurveda, as it obstructs the flow of energy in the channels and mixes with any dosha that is in imbalance, causing disease typical of that dosha.

The opposite of Ama is Agni. One form of Agni is digestive fire. Anything we do to engender Agni will consume and eliminate Ama. Anything we do to harm Agni will engender Ama. A diet inappropriate to your Dosha will harm Agni, as will any foolish dietary practices, like eating excessive amounts of cold energy or cold temp foods, like iced beverages. Likewise, eating in moderation appropriate to your doshas and the digestive tract will engender Ani and promote good health.

Symptoms of Toxin/Ama Accumulation

  • Frequent Colds, Flus, and/or Bronchitis with Abundant Phlegm
  • Frequent Sinus Infection with lots of mucus
  • Chronic Stuffy Nose
  • Chronic difficult digestion
  • Weight Gain of more than 5-10lbs
  • Thick sticky coating on your tongue
  • Chronic lethargy or fatigue
  • Groggy in the morning
  • Chronic Constipation

Dealing with Kapha Excess and Toxin Accumulation

Late Spring is the transition between the two extremes of cold Winter and hot Summer,  between Kapha and Pitta, between Yin and Yang.

To assist the natural process we follow a diet in tune with the season. This means choosing foods that both unencumber  and stimulate our digestive fire (Agni) so it can “melt” away any excess Kapha and Ama that have accumulated in Winter.

A Diet In Tune With Spring Stimulates Digestive Fire and Reduces Kapha

Young tender greens are in abundance in Spring. Dandelion greens and Nettles grow in the canyons right here in San Diego. Nature is our guide; bitter leafy greens are excellent for reducing Kapha and Ama.

Kapha Eliminating Diet: Minimize sweet tasting and fatty foods, Maximize Vegetables, especially dark hard leafy greens like Dandelion, Collard, Kale. Substitute beans and lentils for meat. Use plenty of stimulating warming spices like ginger, cumin, and black pepper.

Kapha Eliminating Herbals: Neem, Guggal, Burdock, Nettles, most Culinary Spices

Kapha Promoting Activity: Sitting on the couch, passive activity regarding little thought, like much television, smoking pot, drinking alcohol

Kapha Eliminating Activity: Aerobic and anaerobic exercise, mental aerobics: reading and discussing thoughtful topics, studying new things like foreign language.

One Week Ayurvedic Elimination Diet

A fast way to eliminate Kapha and Ama is to do a one week elimination diet during the time that Spring wildflowers are blooming. This will vary according to your local climate. This is a good guide for anyone to follow in a loose form throughout Spring.  Modify according to your dosha.. It is great to do this while taking a week off from normal work.

Even better would be to do daily Oil Bath Massage at the same time.

Note: This Should Be Modified to Suit Your Individual Dosha and Level of Wellness. Please contact me for details.

Ayurveda Elimination Diet for Detoxification

  • No sugar, no wheat, no dairy, no meat: except for unsweetened yogurt, and small amount milk.
  • Only 1 serving of fruit a day, but no melons or bananas. No fruit juice
  • Lots of lightly cooked green leafy vegetables
  • Lots of lightly cooked crunchy cruciferous and brassiferous vegetables.
  • Small amounts of starchy veggies dark green salad greens, according to your digestive fire.
  • No raw cucumber or tomato.
  • Small amounts of sea vegetables like kelp, nori, wakame, arame.
  • Whole cooked rice, millet, barley, rye, buckwheat, quinoa, amaranth grains according to your appetitie.
  • Small amounts of seeds and nuts.
  • Legumes, beans, tofu, tempeh to suit your dosha
  • Small amounts of fish if you need extra protein.
  • Drink one cup of ginger/cardomom tea each day.
  • Plenty of fresh and dried ginger, in cooking
  • Normal use of other culinary spices appropriate to your Dosha like cumin, coriander, black and white pepper.
  • Minimize salty and sour condiments and spices, except cultured foods , like raw sauerkraut, kim-chee, and sea veggies.

above material copyright eyton j. shalom, May 2008, all rights reserved

Eyton J. Shalom, M.S., L.Ac.
Ayurveda and Chinese Medicine

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