Kapha Dosha – General introduction

By Dr Raghuram Y.S. MD (Ay) & Dr Manasa, B.A.M.S
Kapha is one among three doshas.

For all components of body, mainly cells and tissues, organs and organ systems to be mutually bound, adhered and function in an integrated way, they all need to be kept together in proximal relationship.

Introduction

For this to happen they need a binding substance. This binding substance comes in form of kapha, which is glue of body components, being water body. Kapha not only keeps these structures in close relation with each other, but also nurtures them, just like water in outside world nurtures all beings. It also provides strength, integrity, endurance and immunity to every structure in body.
Read – Understand Kapha Dosha By Its Functions

Salient features of Kapha

Kapha, coolant system of body –
Kapha is natural coolant system of human body. It is provided to buffer aggressive and damaging effect of and hyperactivity of vata and pitta. Vata, being representative of air causes excessive dryness and degeneration along with depletion of tissues when it is hyperactive.

On other hand, pitta, being a representative of fire in body, will cause burnouts and inflammatory reactions when in high proportions. To counteract these actions in body and to keep all functions of body going in a smooth way, body needs a natural buffer and neutralizer.
Read – Qualities Of Vata, Pitta and Kapha Dosha – Easy Explanation

Kapha, being a representative of water in body, does job of an effective neutralizer and buffer against vata and pitta. Kapha is protective of all cells and tissues and holds body together as a single unit.

Dependent activities, synonyms

Dependent activities of kapha in body

All activities of kapha are dependent on vata. Vata being chief controller of all activities in body, owing to its rajas quality, mobilizes kapha all through body and thus controls its activities.
Read – Manasika Doshas – Satva, Rajas, Tamas As Per Ayurveda

Other names of kapha

  • Shleshma
  • Balaasa

Definition, Prakriti

Definition of Kapha

That which has its origin and gets nurtured from water element is called kapha’.

This definition explains kapha from point of view of its origin from water element and also as having water as a predominant part of it. This also makes us understand that water component of our body is made up of and represents water body which is outside us.
Read – Kapha test – How To Know About Kapha Imbalance In Your Body

Obviously all activities of kapha are ‘water like’ including its functions like causing growth and development, supporting, nurturing and providing nutrition to body components.

Another definition of kapha states – ‘That which embraces or binds things together is called shleshma’. This is definition given for synonym of kapha. From this statement we can understand that kapha forms binding substance and matrix of body, holds all components of body together as a single mass.

Apart from water component, kapha also has earth element in it.
Read – Dosha Body Type Features As Per Master Sushruta (Prakriti Lakshana)

Kapha forms one’s body type, kapha type of constitution

Like vata and pitta, kapha too forms our body types. When kapha predominantly forms ones physical constitution, he or she is said to have kapha prakriti i.e. kapha body type. This forms at conception and never changes till last breath.

In combination with other doshas, kapha forms 4 kinds of body types.

  • Kapha
  • Kapha-vata
  • Kapha-pitta
  • Kapha-vata-pitta

Kapha type of personality is considered as best and superior type of constitution among three basic body types.
Read – Diet And Lifestyle Advice For Kapha Dosha Body Type

Kapha Vs Water

Kapha dosha v/s water outside our body

Kapha represents water element in our physical body. Kapha is also said to be representative of Moon in body. Activities of kapha in body are thus said to be similar to that of water and moon outside human body, in nature.

In outside world, water forms major component occupying earth, more than 70%. Same is case with human body. Most of human body is made up of water component represented by kapha. Water in outside world is seen to support life, being one of basic essential for survival of mankind and sustenance of life.
Read – Nourishing, Depleting and Distributing Functions Of Tridosha (Visarga, Adana And Vikshepa)

It nurtures all life, is a coolant and maintains pleasantness of creation. Kapha does exactly same in body. It is en-living, nurtures all tissues and organs, binds them together, supports life, provides nutrition, guards body components against wind and fire forces i.e. vata and pitta doshas, keeps balance of all activities in body, acts as buffer and coolant and enables growth and development.
Read – Dakshinayana or Visarga Kala (Southern Solstice) Definition, Seasons, Health Effect

It is also responsible for pleasantness of body and sereneness of mind and senses. It provides stability, endurance, strength and immunity to body and mind and contributes to comprehensive health when in a state of balance. When disturbed, same kapha acts as a disturbed water body, a tsunami, and destroys body.

Makeup of Kapha
Kapha is made up of combination of water and earth elements. Among three great qualities, kapha is made up of sattva quality when in normalcy and tamas quality when kapha is imbalanced.
Read – Relationship Between Doshas And Basic Elements (Pancha Mahabhuta)

Qualities, location, sub-types

Qualities of Kapha

  • Oily
  • Cold
  • Heavy
  • Slow
  • Smooth
  • Tender
  • Stable

Location of Kapha
Kapha is predominantly located in upper portion of body, i.e. in chest and head. This is water zone of body. In this zone are located heart and lungs, brain and sense organs.

These are structures which are working all round clock and hence need extra protection, buffer and pampering. Water body represented in form of kapha predominance in this territory enables these structures to function effortlessly.
Read – Kapha Dosha Dominant Places in Our Body

Chief seat of kapha is chest. Being located here, kapha controls other sub-types of kapha and their seats. Kapha would render these activities owing to its ‘water like activities’.

Other seats of kapha –

  • Chest
  • Throat
  • Head
  • Trachea
  • Small joints of fingers
  • Stomach
  • Lymph, plasma
  • Fat tissue
  • Nose
  • Tongue

Read – Sub Types Of Kapha – Importance, Salient Features

Sub-types of kapha, their location and functions

Kapha subtype Location Areas of movement Functions
Avalabaka Kapha Chest In between shoulder bladesSupports structures of chest and enables their smooth functioning
Tarpaka Kapha Head Brain Nourishes and supports brain and sense organs
Bodhaka kapha Tongue Tongue Perception of taste
Kledaka Kapha Stomach Stomach Moistens food and converts it into bolus, enables proper digestion of food, buffers hyperactivity of pitta
Shleshaka Kapha Joints Joints Causes lubrication and maintains integrity of bony joints

Read – Dosha Chaya, Kopa, Shamana – Accumulation, Aggravation, Auto-pacification

Normal functions, variations

Variations of Kapha

Kapha presents itself in three kinds of manifestations. They are –

  • Sthana / samya – state of balance, equilibrium state of kapha – this state contributes towards good health (discussed ahead as functions of normal kapha)
  • Vriddhi – pathological increase
  • Kshaya – pathological decrease

Read – Functions Of Doshas In Balance In The Body – Prakrita Dosha Karma

Functions of normal kapha

Below mentioned are functions of normal kapha which is in a state of balance –

  • Provides strength, stability and endurance to body, tones up physic.
  • Provides unctuousness to body, helps in flexibility and easy movements of body structures including joints and organs.
  • Strengthens bony joints, helps in locomotion and enables one to conduct activities of daily living in an easier way.
  • Enables proper growth and development of body.
  • Enhances immunity
  • Invokes enthusiasm, enables one to control stress or face stressful situations comfortably
  • Enhances sexual vigour and virility
  • Enhances knowledge and intelligence

Read – Abnormal Vitiation Of Doshas – Vaikruta Dosha Dushti

Abnorma functions of kapha

Below mentioned are abnormal functions of kapha which is in a state of imbalance.

  • Will cause flaccidity and weakness of body parts, disables a person from conducting activities of daily living
  • Causes emaciation of body
  • Causes lethargy and makes a person lazy
  • Causes loss of interest in sex, makes one impotent and sterile
  • Causes ignorance and idiocy
  • Reduces body immunity, makes one susceptible to diseases
  • Makes body joints weak, makes one prone to joint disorders
  • Causes excessive dryness of body

Read – Dosha And Vikriti, The Pathology Of Diseases 

Kapha predominance during day

Kapha is predominant during earlier part of day, early morning and before noon. At this time, environment will be cold and unctuous, favours increase of kapha. This increase will be a short lived one. By noon, once Sun is at his peak and heat is on, kapha will naturally subside giving way for pitta to dominate noon time.
Read – Relationship Of Doshas With Seasons

Kapha variations in different seasons

Accumulation of kapha takes place in late winter season.
Aggravation of kapha takes place in next season i.e. spring season.

If aggravation of kapha is addressed with proper interventions and by following seasonal regimen, kapha will get pacified by self in upcoming season i.e. summer season.

These seasonal variations of kapha occur in everyone in these seasons, as a rule. On other hand, if kapha vitiation is not taken care of in spring season, it will not get subsided in summer. In fact, kapha undergoes further vitiation with availability of etiological factors favorable for its pathological increase and absence of opposing factors.

Kapha which has not subsided and has undergone severe vitiation goes through various stages of pathogenesis and cause many diseases.
Read – Normal Vitiation of Doshas As Per Seasonal Variation

Kapha relationship with tissues and excreta

Kapha has a residence and resident relationship with lymph, muscle, fat, bone marrow, semen tissues, feces and urine. Kapha is located in these mentioned tissues and excreta.

Kapha, in its state of balance, by being endowed in these components of body enables them to function properly. When kapha is out of balance, it contaminates same tissues and exreta and cause many diseases.
Read – Ashraya Ashrayi Bhava: Relationship Between Tissues And Doshas

Kapha relationship with age of an individual

Kapha is predominant during childhood and early adolescence. Immaterial of body type of person, kapha is high during this phase of life. This is phase of life when person is in active phase of growth, development and maturity. This is also a time period wherein kid or adolescent is trying to procure knowledge and wisdom so as to create a foundation for his future life.

Kapha helps one in achieving all these virtues. Since kapha is representative of water body, there are chances that metabolic activities and other functions slow down in body. Therefore child and adolescent in this phase of life should be advocated and pushed into getting involved in physical activities and games regularly.
Read – 10 Exercise Tips To Get Fit Over 40

On other hand, surging hormones in transformation zone of childhood into adolescence would put child into emotional swings and confusions.

Kapha when in a state of balance would handle these tantrums naturally. In hyperactive kids during this phase of life, one should be encouraged to have food and activities which keep kapha high and balanced while checking surging pitta and pulling it to balance. Kapha predominant body types should be advised to balance their kapha by kapha balancing foods and activities.

Kapha relationship with digestive fire (Agni)

Digestive fire is influenced by all doshas. When kapha influences fire, fire remains mild and balanced. It does not digest even a small quantity of food. There may also be prolonged digestion i.e. this fire takes lot of time to digest food. It is called as mandagni. Appetite of person will be either less or variable.
Read – Understanding Agni: Concept, Definition, Functions, Types

When this type of fire persists for long periods and is not taken care of, it causes kapha type of indigestion, amajirna. This will further influence digestive fire in stomach and weaken it if not addressed at proper time. This weak fire will produce lot of ama i.e. immature nutritional juices due to deficit digestion of food.
Read – How To Know That Your Digestion System Is Working Fine?

This immature nutrition juices will not be capable of nourishing tissues. In fact, owing to their sticky nature, it sticks to walls of channels of transportation and cause multiple blocks. Due to this, channels cannot conduct nutrition to tissues. This leads to deficit tissue formation, accumulation of tissue toxins, blockage of cells, and disturbance of cellular metabolism, cell damage and eventually manifestation of wide array of metabolic disorders.
Read – Food habits, Indigestion – Ashtanga Hrudayam Sutrasthana 8th Chapter

Bowel movement, digestion relation

Kapha and Bowel movement

When kapha controls bowel movements, it is called madhyama koshta. Bowel movement is not as hard as in vata bowel and not as easy as in pitta bowel. There is good and moderate form of bowel movement. Other than in kapha body types, this type of bowel movement is also found in healthy people having balanced doshas.
Read – Koshta: Understanding Gut Behaviour And Gut Reactivity

Kapha relationship with phases of digestion of food, formation of kapha

One of chief sites of kapha is stomach. Kapha is formed in stomach during first part of digestion of food. Food we consume after getting masticated and mixed with salivary juices, enters stomach. Here, digestive fire present in stomach acts upon food and is digested.

Before onset of digestion in stomach, food is mixed with kledaka kapha. Kledaka kapha is one of sub-types of kapha present in stomach. It is also produced in same site. Stomach is also a seat of digestive fire, present in form of pachaka pitta. Pitta is stimulated and activated when there is need for food and when previously consumed food has been digested.
Read – How To Know That Your Digestion System Is Working Fine?

Manifestation of hunger indicates kindling of stomach fire in anticipation of fire. When there is a delay in eating food or when food is not taken in presence of hunger or when pitta is severe, pitta burns and corrodes stomach leading to its damage.

Kledaka kapha helps in buffering this action of pitta and protects stomach. Not only this, kapha produced in stomach also prepares ideal environment for reception of food. Balance of this kapha is important for health of stomach and also for digestion to take place in a smooth way.
Read – Normal Dosha Vitiation In Relation To Digestion

This kapha is produced in beginning phase of digestion from food. When food is partly digested or when digestion of food sets in stomach, immaterial of taste of food taken, it is converted into sweet taste. This sweetness in stomach produces an ideal environment for production of kapha. This phase of digestion is called madhura avasthapaka.

Kapha is regularly formed during this phase of digestion, from food we consume. This kapha supports other sub-types of kapha.

Kapha and Tastes

Pungent, bitter and astringent tastes have opposite qualities as those of kapha. Therefore they pacify kapha. Sweet, sour and salt tastes have similar qualities as those of pitta. Therefore they increase pitta.
Read – Six Tastes Of Ayurveda: Qualities, Benefits, Therapeutic Action (Shad Rasa)

Etiological factors for vitiation of Kapha

  • Excessive consumption of heavy, cold, liquid and oily foods
  • Excessive consumption of sweet, sour and salt tastes and foods predominant in these tastes
  • Excessive consumption of milk and its products like curds, ghee, butter etc
  • Sugarcane and its byproducts like jaggery, sugar etc
  • Excessive consumption of sweets, flour preparations
  • Excessive nutrition
  • Frequent eating
  • Deficit exercise, being lazy and leading sedentary life
  • Sleeping during day time
  • Immediately after taking food, early in morning, in spring season

Read – Lifestyle, Food And Factors That Cause Increase Of Kapha Dosha

Symptoms of kapha imbalance

Kapha imbalance occurs in two kinds. They are pathological decrease and pathological increase.

1. Pathological decrease of kapha
When kapha decreases, it doesn’t cause any diseases but produces symptoms of deficiency. On other hand, relative imbalance of vata and pitta may occur.

Symptoms of kapha decrease are –

  • Dryness of body
  • Burning sensation inside body
  • Feeling of emptiness in seats of kapha other than stomach, mainly feeling of heaviness in head
  • Feeling of looseness in joints of body
  • Increased thirst
  • Debility
  • Loss of sleep
  • Giddiness
  • Palpitation

Read – Kapha Decrease Symptoms, Analysis, Treatment

Other symptoms –

  • Deterioration of normal kapha functions
  • Liking towards things, food and activities which increase kapha
  • Liking towards sweet, sour and salty foods, those which are oily, heavy and cold.
  • All these qualities and tastes increase kapha.

2. Pathological increase of kapha

This takes place in six stages. All pathological stages are not formed in all people. If earlier stages are treated in proper time, further stages are not manifested.
Read – Dosha Chaya, Kopa, Shamana – Accumulation, Aggravation, Auto-pacification

Different stages of pathological presentation of kapha increase are explained below.

a. Sanchaya:
Accumulation of kapha in its own seats – produces below mentioned symptoms –

  • Low temperature (hypothermia) of body
  • Feeling of heavinesss in body
  • Laziness

b. Prakopa:
Aggravation of kapha in its own seats / liquefaction of kapha – produces below mentioned symptoms –

  • Aversion to food
  • Heaviness of chest, nausea

Read – Kapha Increase Symptoms – Kapha Vruddhi Lakshana

Below mentioned symptoms are also inclusive –

Symptoms of kapha increase / vriddhi lakshanas

  • Indigestion
  • Excessive salivation
  • Heaviness of body
  • Laziness
  • Pallor
  • Feeling of coldness
  • Extreme debility
  • Dyspnoea
  • Cough
  • Excessive sleepiness

Pathological manifestation of vitiated kapha:

  • Excessive unctuousness
  • Hardness
  • Itching
  • Coldness
  • Feeling of heaviness
  • Sticky nature
  • Coating
  • Feeling as if body is covered by a wet or damp cloth
  • Swelling
  • Indigestion
  • Excessive sleep
  • Whitish discoloration

Read – Shat Kriya Kala – ‘Stage-Wise Disease Management’

c. Prasara: Stage of spread / overflow of kapha

In this stage, kapha which has undergone aggravation in previous stage will leave its seats and spread all through body. It either spreads alone or spreads after getting mixed with vata, pitta and blood. Sushruta has considered blood also as a dosha.

Combinations in which spread of kapha takes place in this stage are as mentioned below –

  • Kapha
  • Kapha-vata
  • Kapha-pitta
  • Kapha-rakta
  • Kapha-vata-pitta
  • Kapha-vata-rakta
  • Kapha-pitta-rakta
  • Kapha-vata-pitta-rakta

Spread of kapha along with associated doshas can occur in either direction, upward, downward or side-ward. It produces diseases in whichever direction it travels.

Similarly, vitiated kapha can take three courses i.e. visceral organs, tissues or vital structures, bones and joints. Diseases are produced in whichever course kapha along with its associated doshas travel.

Below mentioned are symptoms of kapha spread –

  • Anorexia
  • Dyspepsia
  • Vomiting
  • Inactivity of organs

d. Sthanasamshraya – Stage of lodgment of kapha dosh in tissues –
Kapha should be handled with suitable interventions in its ‘stage of spread’. Or else it gets lodged in tissues available in direction of its movements. This is called sthanasamshraya of kapha in tissues.

Here, vicious mix-up of morbid kapha and weak tissues take place. This amalgamation is called dosha dushya sammurchana. This process is mandatory in production of a disease.

After getting lodged in tissues, kapha damages them and initiates disease process. Since damage of tissues has just begun, disease is not formed, but premonitory symptoms of impending disease are seen.

Depending on tissue / organ(s) in which vitiated kapha gets lodged, diseases are manifested in those tissues or organs.

Examples: kapha getting lodged in –

  • Abdomen – produces tumors and diseases of kapha origin, loss of appetite etc
  • Urinary bladder – produces kapha type urinary disorders, diabetes, urinary stones etc.
  • Anus / rectum – kapha type of fistula, piles etc
  • Skin, muscle, blood – produces kapha type of skin diseases, herpes etc
  • Feet – produces kapha type of filariasis, gout, spur, joint pain etc
  • Whole body – produces diseases like fever, tetanus etc

Note: above said manifestations are only examples for purpose of understanding. Manifestation of diseases in other organs and tissues should be understood in same lines.

e. Vyakta – stage of manifestation of disease
If disease is not treated in fourth stage, when disease is still weak, vitiated kapha further damages tissues and causes diseases. These diseases are completely formed and manifested in a strong way with their clear cut signs and symptoms. Diseases are formed in same tissues and organs wherein kapha gets lodged, in same direction and course which kapha takes.

f. Bheda – stage of complications
If disease is not treated even in vyakta stage, vitiated kapha causes severe damage to tissues leading to manifestation of complications of disease, which may be life threatening.

Pathological manifestations

Different pathological manifestations of vitiated kapha

Apart from above mentioned conditions, kapha has several other kinds of pathological manifestations. Below mentioned are those conditions of kapha.

a. Sama – Nirama stages of kapha

Kapha associated with ama is called sama kapha. Ama is a metabolic toxin formed due to incomplete digestion of food in stomach. It is formed in form of immature and unformed / semi-formed nutritional juices.

This is one of pathological manifestations of kapha. If this morbid kapha is to be removed, ama should be separated from kapha because in presence of ama association, kapha sticks to walls of channels and tissues and cannot be eliminated.
Read – Kapha With Ama – Sama, Nirama Kapha – Treatment Principle

Symptoms of Sama Kapha:

  • kapha is dirty in appearance
  • string, fiber or thread like structures are seen in kapha
  • kapha is dense, coagulated, bulky and thick in appearance
  • kapha gets adhered to throat, phlegm stuck in throat becomes difficult to expel
  • kapha emits foul smell
  • appetite gets reduced
  • kapha obstructs belching

Read – Sama and Nirama Vata: Association of Ama With Morbid Vata

Symptoms of Nirama Kapha : When kapha gets devoid of ama, it is called nirama kapha.

  • kapha is frothy in nature
  • kapha appears like a lump
  • kapha appears pale in color and appearance
  • expelling in nature, unsubstantial, semi-solid and tends to flow
  • kapha is devoid of any type of odor
  • easily gets separated, doesn’t stick to throat, easily expelled
  • it keeps throat clear, it doesn’t stick to throat

b. Samanya Kapha Vikara – General diseases or sub-type of disease caused by vitiation of Kapha

When Kapha is predominantly involved in formation of disease type, it will be named as kaphaja type of that disorder.
Read – Classification of Vyadhi (diseases) according to Ayurveda

Examples of Kaphaja Samanya Vikaras are:

  • Kaphaja Jwara – fever caused by vitiated kapha
  • Kaphaja Atisara – diarrhoea caused by vitiated kapha
  • Kaphaja Kasa – cough caused by vitiated kapha etc

Note: These diseases also have subtypes which are caused by vata and pitta, double or triple doshas.

c. Nanatmaja Kapha Vikara – diseases caused by vitiation of ‘only kapha’

These diseases are those which are caused by vitiation of only kapha. Other doshas, i.e. vata or pitta will not be involved in causation of these diseases like in general kapha diseases. They are 20 in number.

d. Kapha – as a part of samsargaja and sannipataja disease types

When two doshas are jointly vitiated, it is called dwandwa / samsarga dushti. When three doshas are vitiated together, it is called as tridoshaja / sannipataja dushti.

Kapha is vitiated along with vata and pitta in these dual and triple vitiations. proportionality of vitiation varies in each combination.
Read – Sannipataja Dosha Dushti – When All Three Doshas Are Imbalanced

Also –

Kapha is indirectly involved in –

Avarana – wherein kapha obstructs functions of vata causing related disorders

Ashayapakarsha – wherein vata vitiated due to depletion of kapha pulls pitta out of its place and causes disorders due to relative imbalances of doshas

Treatment options

Treatment options in Kapha imbalance

Prevention – keeping away causative factors of kapha vitiation is very important while handling kapha disorders.

External treatments

  • Abhyanga – Massages with herbal oils prepared with kapha mitigating herbs
  • Swedana – sudation
  • Udwarthana – herbal powder massages

Read – Effective Basti Treatments For Kapha Disorders

Internal treatments

  • Shodhana Snehapana
  • intake of medicated lipids prepared with kapha mitigating herbs in metered doses until body cells get saturated with medicinal properties is called oleation. This is administered as individual therapy or as pre-treatment procedure for emesis or purgation. This oleation is administered for purpose of cleansing.
  • Vamana / Teekshna Vamana – strong therapeutic emesis
  • Virechana – medicated purgation
  • Vasti – herbal enemas including decoction and unctuous enemas with ghee and oil prepared with kapha expelling herbs, given through anal, urethral or uterine routes

Read – Activities And Diet For Kapha Balance

Diet, lifestyle activities and exercises

  • foods that are dry in nature
  • intake of less food and light to digest food
  • intense acting foods and medicines
  • hot and fresh foods
  • foods and medicines predominant in pungent, bitter and astringent tastes
  • old fermented medicinal alcoholic drinks
  • kapha expelling soups
  • use of honey
  • indulgence in sexual activities
  • awakening late nights
  • various types of physical exercises
  • excessive thinking, worrying
  • dry massages
  • fat depleting medicines, medicines for obesity and weight gain
  • medicated smoking
  • fasting, starving
  • herbal gargles
  • rejecting all sorts of comforts

Click to Consult Dr Raghuram Y.S. MD (Ayu) – Email / Skype

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