by Alina Olteanu
According to ayurveda, the 5,000-year-old healing system and philosophy from India, we all are born with a blueprint for our ideal state of balance. As we age, experience life and get sick, we get out of balance. The goal of ayurveda is to bring the body-mind-spirit back into balance every day, including for children. Ayurveda says that we are made of the same universal elements found in nature: fire, water, earth, air and ether. The different combinations of these elements, called doshas, constitute our mind-body types and personalities that make us unique. We all have one dosha that is more dominant, with some having two or even all three balanced. Dosha dominance can also be affected by the seasons. An out-of-balance dosha contributes to certain symptoms; physically, mentally and emotionally. Learning about our ayurvedic body type will give us actionable information about how to reawaken the body’s inner guidance system. The process of balancing a dosha involves accessing our “inner pharmacy” by engaging all the senses.
Vata children tend to be thin, tall, active, artistic, chatty and social butterflies.Vata is also the predominant dosha of the fall and winter season, when things in nature get windy, dry and cold. Vata, being the lightest element of air and ether—it is the first one that gets out of balance and pushes the other elements into disharmony and disease. Spending time outside in windy, cold weather can be a factor that gets vata (space/air) out of balance and makes the body more vulnerable to illness. Vata out of balance in the mind causes kids to feel anxious, restless, jumpy or distracted. In the body, it can show up as cough, nasal congestion, dry skin, cracking joints, insomnia, bloating or constipation.
Feed the vata child healthy fats, plenty of vegetables (especially root vegetables in soups and stews), fruit, rice, spices like nutmeg, cardamom and cinnamon. The vata child may also find comfort in something sweet like honey (age 1 and up). Cuddle and massage the child often. Healthy touch from mom and dad is more important and grounding for this dosha. Oil massages called abyanga use warm, sweet and sour aromas and are generally the most balancing. These aromas include orange, rose and vanilla. It’s also important to keep the vata child warm. They may be cold when the rest of the family is comfortable. Keep the thermostat a little bit warmer and bring jacket or blanket along on outings.
Pitta children are charismatic, outgoing and athletic. They have natural leadership skills and other children follow them naturally. They also enjoy a challenge and are known for their sharp intellect. The pitta child can either be the fire in the hearth warming up the house, or the out-of-control fire that burns down the whole place. While under stress, the pitta child typically gets angry, like a bubbling volcano.
Avoid spicy or hot food and opt for mild flavors. Cool foods like cucumber, watermelon, avocados and apples can help cool down the fiery pitta. Diffuse calming aromas like lavender, sandalwood and jasmine around the home. Give pitta children some alone and quiet time. Meditation is a wonderful tool to calm a pitta mind, and children as young as 6 or 7 can learn to meditate. Keep competitive sports or situations to a minimum, which can sometimes be distressing.
As a stage in life, kapha is considered the main childhood dosha. Kapha children tend to be more stocky in build, slower, very patient and easygoing. When out of balance, they can become very stubborn and have difficulty changing their minds. Think of a balanced kapha as the perfect mixture of earth and water, making a soft, malleable clay; but an out-of-balance kapha can be a dry, hard brick that would rather break than take any other shape or form.
Avoid processed and canned food, dairy products and sweets. Pungent and bitter flavors like garlic, radishes, collard greens and ginger may bring a kapha child back into balance. Limit red meat consumption and use small amounts of fats and oils. Encourage a kapha child to stay very active. Exercise is good for all children, but especially for kapha kids that have a tendency of being inactive and love their couches.
An out-of-balance vata child may need rest, lots of hugs and attention while an overwhelmed pitta child may just need quiet time for few hours and a kapha child needs to go outside and get lots of exercise. Diet is also a big component of ayurvedic healing, so what works for a pitta child may be the exact opposite than what a kapha child needs. For instance, kapha can eat spicy food, while hot, spicy food may make a pitta child angry and irritated.
Alina Olteanu, M.D., Ph.D., is an integrative pediatric physician, certified meditation instructor and owner of Whole Child Pediatrics of North Texas, located near Stonebriar Mall, in Frisco. For more information, call 214-736-1954 or visit WholeChildTexas.com.