The 10,000 year-old Indian medical system called Ayurveda tells us that we are all different. They differentiate us through the three doshas or constitutions: vata, kapha, and pitta. Each of the doshas correlate with different seasons, which can cause imbalance in the body and mind. The pitta dosha is in charge of transformation and regulates digestion, body temperature, and more. An imbalance in the pitta dosha can express itself as inflammation in the mind and body.
What is pitta?
Each of the doshas is composed of the elements of nature: space, air, water, fire, and earth. Pitta is comprised of fire and water and has hot, oily, sharp, light, sour, fluid, and pungent qualities. Summer heat is when pitta is most often aggravated. As the earth heats up, we heat up, and so does our pitta dosha, which puts us at more risk for inflammatory autoimmune flares.
What are the signs of pitta imbalance?
I always tell my students and patients that if it’s red, it’s pitta. In other words, if you are bleeding, if your skin is red, if you are seeing red…this is a pitta imbalance. The seat of pitta in the body is the small intestine and the stomach. Inflammation in these regions are common signs of a pitta imbalance: indigestion, heart burn, or diarrhea. However, pitta can be imbalanced anywhere in the body and the mind:
- Burning sensations anywhere in the body
- Red, irritated skin
- Putrid body odor
- Elevated heartrate and/or blood pressure
- A hypercritical, angry, resentful, or judgmental outlook
- Sensitivity to the sun
- Hot flashes
- Excessive thirst
- Impatience with those that are slower than you physically or mentally
What to do…
Cooling your pitta and calming your mind and body are going to be your first priorities. Stay out of the hot afternoon sun, stay away from heating foods and drinks, and make sure you build in self-care time and rest for yourself.
1. Eat Pitta-balancing foods
There are six tastes in Ayurveda. The tastes that pacify aggravated pitta and too much heat are bitter, sweet, and astringent. Examples of these foods would be apples, grapes, zucchini, lettuce, cucumbers, cilantro, lime, lemon, fennel, coriander, bitter greens, and fresh mint. Beans, small amounts of non-glutenous grains, coconut, and watermelon are also helpful foods for pacifying a pitta imbalance.
It’s important to stay completely away from alcohol, coffee, heavy meats, and fried, oily, salty, spicy, and sour foods if you are suffering from any kind of inflammation.
Paleo Pitta Reducing Frozen Pops
Try this yummy frozen treat if you’re overheating on a hot summer day.
Serving Size: Makes eight 4-ounce frozen pops
- 1 quart vanilla almond or macadamia milk
- 10-15 drops of liquid monk fruit
- 2 tablespoons powdered cardamom
Combine all of the ingredients and pour into popsicle forms and freeze until firm. Enjoy and beat the heat!
2. Keep Cool
Spend as much time as you can in airconditioned environments when it’s hot outside. The higher the temperatures, the sharper your temper will be. Find places to swim or shower frequently in cool water. You can put 3-4 drops of high quality mint essential oil in a bowl of water and ice cubes. Dip a washcloth in the iced mint water and wring it out. Place that cloth around your neck or on your forehead until it’s dry. Repeat as needed.
Make sure you are not engaging in high intensity exercise in the heat. It’s important to take walks in the cool forest early in the morning or practice yin or restorative yoga that helps to cool your entire being.
Surround yourself with fresh flowers or spritz your face and body with refreshing rosewater.
3. Calm Your Senses
If your primary dosha is pitta, you are likely driven and focused and quite industrious. When it’s hot outside, it’s important to temper your drive with calming intervals of soothing music, beautiful natural scenery, scents, tastes, and textures. Think blues and greens, silks, water, and relaxing music.
4. Conscious Breathing
Conscious breathing is called Pranayama in Sanskrit, the language of Ayurveda. There are therapeutic affects to different breathing practices. A tip to cool yourself down can be bowered from our canine friends. It’s called Shitali and it’s done through the use of your tongue, just like our brilliant doggie friends figured out. They cool themselves off by panting or drawing their air in over their tongue.
You can do the same, but more effectively by curling your tongue and breathing slowly (rather than by panting). Curl your tongue so it looks like a straw (vertically) and inhale through that narrowed aperture created by the curl. Exhale through your nose. Continue until you are sufficiently cooled down.
Some people cannot curl their tongue in this way. If that’s the case for you just keep your tongue flat and protrude your tongue slightly through slightly parted lips.
5. Use Your Blender
Make cilantro shots 1-3 x a day in order to cool pitta down rapidly. I call these Emergency Pitta Reducing Shots.
Ingredients and Directions:
- Take one bunch of fresh organic cilantro and divide it into 9 equal parts. This will be enough for 3 cilantro shots a day for 3 days.
- Combine in blender with ½ cup of Lily of the Desert Aloe Detox Formula and blend.
- Drink immediately.
- If you can’t stand the taste of cilantro you can use fresh mint.
6. Enjoy cooling coconut and mint chutneys with your spicy food.
- Cilantro Mint Chutney:
- 1 bunch fresh mint
- 4 oz coconut freshly grated
- 1/2 bunch fresh cilantro
- 1/2 inch piece of ginger root
- Sea salt to taste
- 2 tablespoons lime juice
- 1 date
- 2 teaspoons coriander powder
- 1/8 cup onion
- 1/4-1/2 cup water for blending
- Clean the mint leaves and cilantro leaves. Add all ingredients except the water in a blender or food processor; add water as you blend to make it the consistency of pancake batter
7. Try a Lassi
Lassis are cooling and come from the tropics of India.
- Mango Lassi:
- 1cup coconut milk yogurt
- 1 cup ice water
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1 tablespoon rose water
- 1 mango, peeled, cut from pit and cubed or 2 ripe bananas peeled and sliced
- toasted sliced almonds for serving
- Put all ingredients, except almonds, in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Sprinkle with almond and serve cold.
8. Drink young coconut water.
9. Massage your head and feet with coconut oil before bed.
10. Spearmint, Peppermint, Lavender, Rose, and Sandalwood are all wonderful essential oils for cooling the effects of an aggravated pitta nature.
11. Use aloe and coconut oil on your skin if you do get sun.
12. Meditate. Taking time to center and ground will calm anyone’s mind!
13. Visualize a peaceful place. Recall the most peaceful place in nature you have ever been to or can imagine on the planet. Direct your attention to the space between your eyebrows, known as the third eye. Imagine this spot as a circle (or like an eye). Pretend there are curtains over the circle and as you draw them aside you see this beautiful natural place you are thinking of. Engage with the place with all five senses. If it’s the ocean, feel the warm sand between your toes and the sun on your hair, smell the salt in the air, listen to the waves and gulls and swaying palm trees, see the brightness of the water and the dolphins frolicking in the ocean, taste the salt on your tongue from the spray as the waves crash upon the beach. Spend five minutes here and you will reduce your pitta!
14. Express appreciation for everyone and everything around you. Notice what is going right and try not to attach to your challenges. Your reality begins with your thoughts. Make sure those are positive.
15. Volunteer. Serving another takes you out of your own self-absorption and brings joy and emotional equanimity.