“PITTA is the biological fire humor, also translated as bile. Its meaning is ‘that which digests things’. Pitta dosha is responsible for all chemical and metabolic transformations in the body. It also governs our mental digestion, our capacity to perceive reality and understand things as they are.” Dr. David Frawley
It’s that Pitta time of year again (late spring through summer) when the word HOT is front and center. According to Ayurveda we all favor one or two (or rarely three) body types, or constitutions, called doshas (Vata, Pitta, Kapha). Today I’m concentrating on the Pitta dosha, but I will include some resources at the end of this post if you are interested in learning more about the other doshas. I personally know and love lots of Pitta or semi-Pitta types (myself included!).
The elements associated with Pitta are fire and water. It is the energy of transformation, the metabolic force in our body that rules digestion. Pitta also rules our intelligence, our eyes, body temperature and skin coloration. It is seated in the stomach and small intestines.
We are all comprised of the three doshas, just to varying degrees. Hence, we all digest our food, but someone who has Pitta as their predominant dosha will digest their food most efficiently. (Pitta’s think they can eat everything!) Ayurveda is all about balance, and a healthy lifestyle thrives on balance. In the case of Pitta dosha, the two elements that comprise it–fire and water, must strive for this balance. Too much water puts out the fire just as too much fire will dry up the water!
How Pitta are you? You can take this quiz to give you an idea of your dosha. It’s important to remember to think in terms of your whole life and not just how you are today. Even better is to visit an Ayurvedic practitioner who can tell from reading your pulse what your dosha is. Pretty cool! In the meantime, see if you recognize yourself in any of these Pitta characteristics:
- Highly intelligent
- Sharp witted
- Strong athletic, medium build
- Good public speakers, leaders, politicians, teachers, writers
- Hair is smooth and shiny, often blond or red. Later in life, hair is often prematurely grey or balding.
- Highly organized and self-confident
- Warm, friendly
- Independent, courageous
- Strong digestion
And on the downside (usually an out-of-balance Pitta):
- Doesn’t like the heat (makes a Pitta tired)
- Needs regular meals (gets crabby if skips a meal)
- Sensitive skin, usually pale with freckles and moles. Prone to skin eruptions and rashes–i.e. acne, eczema, psoriasis
- Can be spiteful, jealous, angry–especially when stressed
- Excessive sweating (often pungent)
- Stubborn, hot-headed
- Prone to headaches, fever, acid reflux, heartburn, colitis
- Domineering, vain, ambitious
- Excessive hunger or thirst
- Hot flashes
- High acidity
It gets tricky when you have two almost-equal doshas. My Vata has always seemed more dominant (I get distracted easily, and though I crave organization like a true Pitta, my Vata always seems to sabotage my efforts). But when summer rolls around, boy is my Pitta front and center. My skin looks very Pitta – pale and freckled and, in fact, the skin is often where a Pitta imbalance will first show itself in the form of rashes, sunburn, eczema, acne, etc. As soon as the heat arrives, I run for the shade. A bike ride in the morning or evening with a gentle breeze blowing on me becomes my preferred form of exercise. And a hammock in the shade = bliss.
So, the best thing to do in the case of dual doshas is to pay special attention to whichever dosha is in season. In my case, I try to stay cool during Pitta season and warm during Vata season by paying close attention to the foods I eat and other lifesyle habits.
The qualities of Pitta are hot, sour, sharp, moist, pungent, slightly oily, light and fluid. In Ayurveda, like increases like, so in choosing foods to balance Pitta, choose sweet (and I don’t mean M&M’s!), bitter and astringent foods, such as fresh sweet fruits, vegetables and grains, salads, beans, legumes, etc. Here is a great resource to help you find a pitta-balancing diet: Eat-Taste-Heal
Following such a diet does not mean you can’t ever have spicy food again, but if you want to feel your best, heeding some of these suggestions can make a major difference in your health and well-being.
Here are some suggestions for my Pitta friends to make your life cooler and happier:
- THINK COOL and reduce anything that heats the body: saunas, steam rooms, hot showers, hot spicy foods and drinks. Stay out of the hot mid-day sun. Pittas already have an abundance of heat in their bodies and can damage their organs with too much heat. Find two little fun friends like I did last weekend and jump in a kiddie pool!
- Avoid excesses of foods that are salty, spicy, sour, hot or pungent.
- Avoid coffee as it is especially unbalancing for Pittas due to its acidity (I’m so sorry…)
- Cool your skin with unrefined coconut oil (I use it daily after my shower, it really helps to protect and cool the skin.) Essential oils of sandalwood, jasmine, lavender, mint and rose are also cooling.
- Don’t skip meals or let yourself get dehydrated. This is especially important for Pittas.
- Take walks in the cool morning or evening. Moonlight is especially healing for Pittas.
- Take time each day to do some slow, deep breathing and meditation. Yoga and Pranayama would be even better!
- Take lukewarm or cool showers or baths and be sure to run cool water over your head and the back of your neck before getting out.
- When it comes to exercise, especially during Pitta season, cool it! Don’t over-exert yourself, especially by running in the hot afternoon sun. I recently attended a workshop with Dr. Vasant Lad, a renowned Ayurvedic teacher and physician. When he said “No running! It’s very bad for you!” all of the Pittas groaned. It was a very Pitta group!
- 10am-2pm and 10pm-2am are Pitta times of day. It is at this time that your metabolism kicks into high hear. That is why Ayurveda recommends eating your main meal between 10am-2pm (preferably 12-2pm). Your body will be able to digest this meal the best. Remember the old adage “Eat breakfast like a queen, lunch like a king and dinner like a pauper”? Well, it’s true! As for the 10pm-2am time, it’s during these hours that the body goes to work making repairs and burning stored fat. It wants to be sleeping during this time and not digesting a heavy late dinner or snack. Metabolism is active during these hours and it’s the reason you get your second wind around 10pm (I have many pitta friends and family who love to burn the midnight oil). Getting to bed before 10pm (especially for Vatas and Pittas) will not only allow you to sleep more soundly but will let your body repair itself much more efficiently.
Lots of information, but I know how much Pittas love learning. If you would like more information, I’ve listed some resources below.
Here’s an incredibly delicious and very healthy treat that would be excellent for Pittas when they need to cool off! Luna & Larry’s Coconut Bliss Yum!
Perfect Health: The Complete Mind Body Guide by Deepak Chopra
A great free downloadable resource called Seasonal Bloom by Monica B.