When my new mast cell specialist told me she first trained in Ayurveda, I had no idea what that meant, but I was pretty sure it was a threat to my committed relationship with macaroni and cheese. While I braced for shaming, she asked a million questions–everything from my childhood to diet to sleep to how I like to relax.
“You’re a kapha,” she said, handing me a piece of paper detailing the three Ayurvedic doshas: Kapha, Pitta, and Vata. She explained Ayurveda is the traditional medical system of India and doshas are frameworks for understanding people’s constitutions based on five elements: ether, air, fire, water, and earth. Most people have one predominant dosha, which can provide insight into living a fuller, healthier life. Kapha types are composed of the elements of water and earth, Pitta of fire and water, and Vata air and ether.
I quickly looked to the Kapha column and read: Heavy, slow cold, oily. My face scrunched into a silent WTF, as she continued talking.
“Some patients have tons of questions, others get overwhelmed and forget easily, but Kapha types need to be pushed and motivated,” she said. “Kapha is slow to learn, but never forgets.”
As someone who takes great pride in my memory, I decided to give her the benefit of the doubt. I figured if she took the time to learn the nuances of mast cell disease, I could at least learn a little about Ayurveda.
The earth and water elements were certainly accurate. In college, I seriously considered majoring in geology, until my professor gave a lecture memorializing her friends who had fallen into volcanoes for science. I like rocks, but I don’t like fire. That day, I decided my major was political science, because I didn’t want to die in a volcano, as if there were no other geological career options.
Me: Why am I so hungry?
Nicolle: End of summer… time to fatten up for winter
Me: Apparently, I’m the overweight dosha in Ayurveda. Kapha, the heavy, oily dosha that watches lots of TV. The TV part upsets me as much as the oily part.
Nicolle: You’re not going to get fat from one meal!
Me: Kapha types are also good managers, so that’s probably why I have so much couch time
Nicolle: It is ok to watch TV and relax sometimes… probably good for you actually
Me: I’m also soft
Nicolle: Did you take your relaxi taxi?
Me: Yeah, but I don’t feel relaxed. Am I lazy?
Nicolle: Is this real? No, of course you are never lazy.
Me: Ancient India real
Nicolle sends me a link to a Kapha description which reads, “Earth and water are both by nature: dense, heavy, cold, static, and dull.”
Me: NOW I’M DULL?
Nicolle: None of that is you
Me: Maybe my social media dosha is different
Nicolle: I don’t have the mental capacity to learn about this right now
Of course, as a Kapha, I couldn’t forget those descriptors, but it took me awhile to warm up to the concept. I started noticing Kapha aspects throughout my day: how sitting in the woods relaxes me and day naps destroy me. I began paying attention to my strengths and weaknesses, not just my symptoms. Heavy and oily qualities aside, I began to understand myself in a new way.
I also began calling myself Gloppy. You know the characters from the board game, Candyland? Specifically the 1984 version?
Gloppy bio reads, “Just before you get to the Candy Castle, you’ll pass through the Molasses Swamp, where you just might meet Gloppy. Don’t be afraid, Gloppy might look like a monster, but he’s really a lovable glop of molasses goo. But Gloppy gets very lonely sitting in the swamp all by himself. So, give him a hug and you’ll have a friend forever.”
I’m pretty sure Candyland and ancient Indian medicine are mutually exclusive, but heavy and lovable Gloppy is definitely Kapha predominant. No offense to ancient Sanskrit, but saying “Gloppy” is way more fun. And now I say it A LOT. Especially around six o’clock.
Me: It’s Gloppy time! Kapha is 6-10 AM and PM, Pitta is 10-2 AM and PM, and Vata is 2-6 AM and PM.
Nicolle: So, these are supposed to be your best times of the day?
Me: Yes, which is actually true
Nicolle: What do they suggest you do during the other times?
Me: Lay in the dirt
My specialist loves to say, “Ayurveda is the original personalized genomic medicine.” This didn’t mean much to me at first, but now after several appointments, I understand Ayurveda values the individual patient. Ayurveda is not a one-size-fits-all medical system. It embraces the personalized approach that every MCAS patient dreams of, since every MCAS patient has different needs and triggers. Additionally, Ayurveda not only addresses the patient’s disease, but their whole life. I’m glad to have a doctor with additional training outside of academic medicine, which frankly has caused a lot of harm to mast cell disease patients. It is empowering to be seen as something more than a disease.
Clearly, I have a lot more to learn about how Ayurveda can support my life, and I’m grateful to have someone to teach me. For more information on Ayuverdic medicine and doshas, check out The Ayurvedic Institute. Also, I highly recommend this Podcast for Healing Neurology episode.
For this blog post, I had to review my messages with Nicolle to quote it accurately. I was reminded once again why I am so glad Nicolle is still alive. She tolerates me.
Here’s to hoping Ayurveda will help with my apparent neuroinflammation!
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