Ever wondered why little ones constantly have runny noses, why toddlers seem to pick up every passing cold and respiratory disorders are so common in young children? This is because they are in the kapha stage of life, where kapha related illnesses like congestion, colds, earaches and respiratory disorders are frequent.
Just like there are three body types – vata, pitta and kapha – in the 5000-year-old Ayurvedic philosophy of healing and life, these energies also translate to the three stage of life that we all travel through.
What is the kapha stage of life
Kapha dominantes the childhood years, from birth through until puberty when everything is growing and developing - new tissue is being built and body mass is accumulating as the body develops.
During this time kapha qualities - heavy, slow, cool, oily, smooth, dense, soft, stable, gross and cloudy - are dominant. The body needs a huge amount of kapha for this rapid growth and development, the anabolic time when the organs and tissues are being built up. Kapha also regulates body fat, which naturally accumulates to fuel this intense growth, this is why the extra layer of baby fat is so important.
Best foods to eat
Children naturally want to eat sweet foods, which support this growth. They will do better eating wholesome foods that have sweet tastes, like whole grains, legumes, root vegetables and milk. Best to stay away from processed foods - which kids love - like bread, chips, ice cream, fizzy sugar filled drinks and fried food.
Too much cheese, yoghurt and sweets is also not good during these years as it causes mucus and congestion. Young kids are better off eating ‘good’ sweets such as rice with cinnamon, fresh dates, apple, pear and melon. Mango and banana can be too sweet and they need to be avoided if there is a build up of mucus as it causes more congestion.
One of the most important things to remember is that when children say they don’t want to eat, don’t try to feed them with coercion or bribery. It’s better to listen to a child’s inner intelligence as they are really tuned into their inner body’s intelligence. Of course if you know it is because they don’t want to eat their vegetables, this is a different story.
Lifestyle factors in the kapha years
During this time of rapid growth and development children also need adequate rest. While adults only need around eight hours’ sleep a night, babies and children sleep for much longer and also need their afternoon naps which helps their body during this time of intense change.
Children also do well with a regular routine that supports their healthy development. If they have too much stimuli in their lives as they grow, this can cause restlessness, hyperactivity, anxiety or a lack of balance. This all signifies too much vata in these early years. We are seeing this more than ever before and it’s getting addressed through medication and labels, instead of balancing the individual.
A good rhythm means starting the day early, which is easy for younger children but can get more difficult in the teenage years, when sleep routines changes. Even teens should have a set bedtime routine, preferably going to sleep prior to 10pm on most nights.
Abhyanga, Ayurvedic massage, is great for babies in the morning, or in the evening with their bath. This 10-15 minutes of attention from their parents soothes all sorts of ailments from stress and anxiety to separation, restlessness and trouble sleeping. You will see the child love this time as touch is so important to the skin as this improves the immune system by showering the body with serotonin and assisting the natural removal of toxicity that we consume from the environment.
Young and old children enjoy simple stretching, or yoga exercises like Tree Pose - standing on one leg, with the other foot on the knee of their standing leg and their arms above their head. This grounds them and provides balance and stability. This can also be fun for children, especially when turning it into a game.
Health concerns during the kapha stage of life
Being a wet and heavy dosha, children in the kapha years can be vulnerable to coughs, congestion, frequent colds, runny noses and excess mucus. The kapha years are also a time when immunity is being built, which means kids are often sick in order to build their immune system. Often patients will come in to see me asking why their child is sick all the time, particularly if they are going to daycare and exposed to all the other children’s passing viruses. Even healthy children, in their kapha years, get sick more often than healthy adults - generally they get over their colds quickly and easily if they are eating healthy food and getting plenty of rest, as kapha symptoms tend to be mild.If you find that your little one seems to have a nose that is running all winter long, or a cough that lasts for weeks, make an appointment and we can look at making small diet and lifestyle changes that can quickly turn this around. When I talk with the children, and get them to understand the season and the food they should eat, in order to take care of themself, they can be very positive and on board. Using home remedies works wonders.