Summer has arrived, or at least the heat of summer. We are at thirty degrees Celsius today in Ottawa with mild humidity - the intense humidity has lots of time to set in. For someone like me with lots of the fire element, I need to manage my diet and activities in the heat of summer so that I don't get inflamed - physically, mentally or emotionally. Many of you will likely have relatively high levels of pitta or in the very least have to manage your pitta dosha in the summer time.
There are three doshas - vatta (air and ether elements), pitta (fire and water elements), and kapha (earth and water elements). Pitta season is summer as that is when "fire" is at its highest levels. Especially in seasonal climates like ours we need to understand how to manage the doshas as they become aggravated in their seasons. If we don't keep our doshas at the level that is our own unique combination and let them get aggravated through our lifestyle choices and diet, we end up creating an environment for disease. Maintaining your unique dosha levels will ensure that you have a better quality of life.
If you are not sure of your primary dosha(s), you can do a questionnaire at Dr. Vasant Lad's site. Dr. Lad is North America's pre-eminent Ayurveda Physician and teacher. While the questionnaire is subjective and it is best to seek the input of someone trained in Ayurveda to assist you, especially if addressing acute issues, it will help you understand your own "constitution". Also read Dr. Lad's overview of Ayurveda, it is very well written and will help you understand this ancient wisdom.
The word "dosha" is translated in many ways, but one definition is "that which has a tendency to go out of balance". Because we are a part of nature, and nature is constantly changing, so are we. Our doshas move in and out of balance. This is not a bad thing, but we do need to understand how to: a) recognize dosha imbalance, and b) what to do to prevent and/or address it.
Because pitta is fire it is pretty easy to figure out your firey parts. If you tend towards anger, rage, judgment when things get out of control, that is pitta. If you tend to have a hot body temperature, excess perspiration, firey loose stool, redness of the skin such as eczema or acne, these are examples of aggravated pitta. If the bright light of summer makes your eyes super sensitive and you get cranky in the heat (think of those firey emotions) that is pitta. If you are an intense person, that too is pitta.
And again, because pitta is fire, you can pretty much figure out the things that would aggravate it. Here are the firey characteristics of foods or food groups that would feed your pitta:
- hot, spicy
- deep fried
- fermented - vinegars, soy sauce, wines
- raw onion, garlic
- acidic foods - tomatoes, vinegars (vinaigrettes made with vinegar base)
- sharp citruses - oranges, lemons
- carbonated drinks
Any foods with the above characteristics should be avoided or taken in moderation when pitta is inflamed.
The following list includes food characteristics or food groups that are cooling to the fire of pitta:
- foods with a sweet taste (not sugar sweet, but natural sweet) - white rice, milk, coconut, dates, grains
- foods with a bitter taste - dark leafy greens, turmeric, basil, aloe vera
- foods with an astringent taste - legumes, sprouts, lentils, quinoa, apples
- lime juice in moderation
- melons - watermelon is very cooling
- foods that are easy to digest- simple carbs, vegetables, simple proteins
- aloe vera gel (in moderation) - dilute with water
Any of the foods listed above will help you to reduce excess pitta.
Lifestyle choices that may aggravate pitta:
- being overly intense - try doing whatever it is you are doing at 80%
- subjecting yourself to too much heat - running in the mid-day sunlight, attending hot yoga classes, sun bathing, sitting in saunas or hot tubs
- doing too much - allow space to do less
Lifestyle choices that will calm pitta:
- let yourself chill - the whole "chill" thing is very good for pitta-heads
- resist your cravings for things that aggravate pitta - stay away from the Indian buffet for a while until things are under control; stay away from hot yoga studios for the summer months, rather do a gentle or basic class, it will actually feel good not to be challenged
- spend more time in nature - this is a natural pitta pacifier
- go for walks at night under the moon - the moon is cooling, healing energy
- keep the body cool with coconut oil massages, cool showers, cool drinks
Once pitta is aggravated the intensity will be ratcheted up a notch so it will be a challenge to override the imbalance and do what is necessary to cool pitta. An imbalanced dosha wants to be fed, that's why it is so important to be able to understand what is going on and make the necessary steps to change.
Enjoy the pleasures of the summer without being inflamed; manage your pitta and all those around you will be grateful and you will feel much better.