Why does the food you eat hold qualities of Vata, Pitta, and Kapha and how does it assimilate into the body and affect how it functions?
In Ayurveda, your body functions from its tissue system, or Dhatus. The 7 Dhatus are the essential elements that provide structure and support to the body. Food is broken down into the smallest molecules and used to nourish these tissues. We talk a lot about the food you eat and how it holds certain qualities related to the doshas. These qualities from the food pass into each level of the dhatus and increase or decrease the elements associated with the doshas, such as water, earth, fire, air, and ether. Any imbalance of these elements directly manifests into disease. This is why Ayurveda focuses so heavily on diet and that you really are what you digest!
There are 7 Dhatus (bodily tissues):
- Rasa Dhatu (Plasma)
- Rakta Dhatu (Blood)
- Mamsa Dhatu (Muscle)
- Medas Dhatu (Fat)
- Asthi Dhatu (Bone)
- Majja Dhatu (Marrow)
- Shukra Dhatua (Reproductive Fluid)
This week we are going to talk about Rasa and Rakta Dhatu and how to best provide nourishment and balance to these tissues.
Rasa and Rakta Dhatu
Rasa means plasma and this dhatu is the essence of the digested food that gets absorbed into the body. Rakta means blood, and this dhatu provides color, complexion and strength to the body.
Rasa dhatu (plasma) holds elements of water, making it moisturizing, heavy and nourishing. It is the first dhatu that is directly derived from food and forms the basis of all the other dhatus. It is supported by the Kapha dosha.
Rakta Dhatu (blood) holds the elements of fire, making it hot, flowing, sharp, and primarily supported by the Pitta dosha. This dhatu carries the fire that provides energy and vigor to the body organs and the mind.
These two Dhatus work together by providing nourishment and vibrancy to our body’s tissues creating satiation, physical and psychological satisfaction, and high levels of energy. Imbalanced levels of Rasa and Rakta dhatus cause the body to dry up, low immunity, and overall stagnation in the mind and body which can be very dangerous.
Doshas and The Dhatus
Your food holds qualities of all the earthly elements; fire, water, earth, air, and ether. Each of these correspond to one of the three doshas in Ayurveda; Vata, Pitta, Kapha.
- Vata: Ether and Air – Eating foods with cold and raw qualities increases the Vata dosha
- Pitta: Earth and Fire – Eating foods with hot and oily qualities increases the Pitta dosha
- Kapha: Water and Earth – Eating foods with sweet and dense qualities increases the Kapha dosha
In order to find wholeness, you must first balance the qualities that are in excess or depletion within your body. Previously we discussed how this can be witnessed through the fat or muscle tissues for most people. The next layer of imbalance is witnessed at the blood and plasma level as this is where the essence of life is generated. This is what makes you, you.
Proper nourishment of the body’s tissues are equally as important to one’s mental health as it is to their physical health. Healthy levels of Rasa (plasma) dhatu bring about deeper feelings and drives, such as desire, compassion, and love. Healthy levels of Rakta bring about strong and intense drives and feelings like passion, focus, reason and logic.
Rasa and Rakta work delicately in balance. Kapha, vata, and pitta all play huge roles in the health of these tissues. Since these substances of plasma and blood are so subtle, it is easy for them to experience imbalance when any of the doshas are in excess or depletion. Heat and liquid are extremely important to these tissues so vata being cold and dry, kapha being cold and wet, and pitta being hot and oily all affect these tissues in a very important way. This is the foundation and the main way we help in discovering how to heal you based on what your dosha is.
Foods to Nourish Rasa and Rakta Dhatus
To keep these tissue systems functioning, we have to ensure that the doshas are balanced. This means that we have to balance the earth, fire, water, air, and ether elements in the body, down to the very molecule.
Since Rasa and Rakta are primarily governed by the Kapha and Pitta doshas, but also having vata play into this role, foods that are equally balanced in warming, grounding, and oily qualities is how to best help build this tissue.
Sometimes, too much of one doshas is absorbed into the tissues, causing imbalance and, if untreated, disease. To figure out your current imbalance, we recommend you see an ayurvedic practitioner. However, you can start by simply taking our dosha quiz. From there you can pinpoint which dosha has gone into which dhatu, and then balance it through food, herbs, and lifestyle habits that best remove excess or increase depleted elements!
Healing rasa dhatu means restoring the proper quantity and quality of water. The proper quantity is based upon the constitution of the individual. Those with more kapha in their constitution will naturally have more rasa dhatu. Those with more of a vata constitution tend to have a lower amount of rasa dhatu and are more susceptible to depletion. Those with a pitta nature tend to have a little more rasa than kapha and vata.
The quality of the rasa dhatu is dependent upon the health of agni, or digestion, which Rakta is responsible for, thus making these two tissues virtually interconnected.
Some ways to cultivate healthy Rasa dhatu is:
- intake of sap-type fluids and juices such as maple syrup, honey, and nectars (can be used to sweeten herbal teas)
- take in heavy foods with high levels of fats and oils (nuts and seeds)
- Avoid drying foods and spices, but do not stray away from using spices in your food.
- In cooking, use ghee and spices such as cumin, coriander, nutmeg, cloves, and cinnamon
From here, you can also work on cultivating health Rakta dhatu by:
- Bolster your diet by eating on a regular schedule
- Exercise at least 30 minutes a day
- Monitor your Pitta levels and make sure agni (digestive fire) is not in excess or delpletion
Rasa dhatu provides the body and mind with sustenance. It is the sap that runs through the vessels of our bodies. It is important to take good care of it and assure that life is satisfying. This is what Ayurveda identifies as Ojas (vigor and essence).
All around, these are very simple tips on finding awareness for these tissues. It is very important to talk to your ayurvedic practitioner about what tissues need to be balanced and what diet would work best for your constitution.
If you would like to start this process, take our free dosha quiz here! From there, you can reach out with questions or book your first consultation with us so we can get you on the path to balanced health.
Textbook of Ayurveda, Vasant Lad
Art of Living