Summer is pitta season! In the Ayurvedic system, pitta is a combination of the fire and water elements and has the characteristics of being hot, sharp, oily, and light. According to Ayurveda "like increases like," thus those with abundant pitta in their constitution may want to accommodate for the bright, hot, sunny days of summer. Here are some suggestions:
- In general, avoid hot and spicy foods as well as those with sour or salty taste. Instead favor foods that are sweet or bitter in taste.
- Eat sweet fruits and avoid sour ones. Many fruits like apples, apricots, berries, cherries, plums, and oranges can be either sweet or sour, so choose carefully. Other sweet fruits include avocados, dates, figs, prunes, pears, and melons.
- Eat sweet or bitter vegetables like artichokes, asparagus, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, leafy greens, peas, celery, wheat grass, and zucchini. Minimize use of pungent vegetables like garlic, onions, chili peppers, and nightshades like tomatoes and eggplant.
- Use alcohol and caffeine (if at all) very moderately. They are both sharp and heating. If you do partake, you can take bitter herbs like those found in Liver Formula to negate their deleterious effects. Do drink plenty of cool liquids (not iced).
- Now is the time to enjoy sweets like coconut ice cream, but it is not the best time for chocolate (sorry, chocolate is best savored in the fall when it is vata season).
- Sleep on your right side to encourage breathing through the left (lunar) nostril. According to Ayurveda and Yogic science, this helps cool the system.
- When exercising, avoid midday workouts in the hot sun. Favor refreshing activities like swimming, gentle yoga, and walks in the fresh air (walks next to flowing water get you bonus pitta-soothing points).
- Minimize being in the sun during the hottest part of the day. Sunburns are definitely pitta-aggravating so wear sunscreen if you're going to be outdoors. In fact, try taking a moon bath some evening. No tan, but it can be very cooling and calming. The more moon, the better!
- Avoid hot tubs or steam rooms, instead go for a cool dip in the pool or for a swim in the ocean.
- When it comes to gems and metals during the summer, gold is heating while silver is cooling. Favor pearls, moonstones, and red coral.
- Wear light, well-ventilated clothing in cooling colors such as white, blue, and purple. Minimize wearing clothes that are black, red, and orange.
- Observe your emotions and try to reduce judgmental and overly critical thoughts. Encourage patience, tolerance, be positive, and enjoy your summer.
Ayurvedic Herbs for Reducing Pitta
According to Ayurveda, if excess pitta accumulates in the body it can eventually result in imbalances related to the excess heat and fire. Common pitta ailments include fevers, hives, rashes, acne, sore throats, acid indigestion, excessive hunger, profuse perspiration, and hot flashes. If pitta is left unchecked it may go on to manifest as stomach ulcers, hemorrhoids, inflammatory disorders, bronchitis, arthritis, colitis, cystitis, gastritis, and liver disorders. In addition to following a pitta-pacifying diet, there are several wonderful Ayurvedic herbs that can assist in removing excess pitta from the system.
For excess pitta manifesting as red, irritated skin, and rashes: Neem is an extremely bitter Ayurvedic herb traditionally used to support healthy skin. Because of its bitter nature, neem is highly effective in removing pitta from the body. It is also a very cooling herb. Neem has a particular affinity for promoting healthy skin and a clear complexion.
For excess pitta manifesting internally in the GI tract, urinary tract, or liver: Shatavari is an Ayurvedic herb traditionally used to remove excess pitta from the body. It is bitter, sweet, and cooling. Shatavari supports proper function of the liver and acts to soothe, protect, and nurture membranes of the stomach and urinary tract.
For daily maintenance, nourishing the tissues, and rejuvenation: Amalaki is traditionally used in Ayurveda to prevent the accumulation of pitta in the body and to rejuvenate the entire system. It promotes regularity and the elimination of natural toxins from the GI tract. Taken on a daily basis, amalaki works to continually remove pitta from the body, helping to balance pitta. A rich natural source of antioxidants, amalaki also promotes proper digestion and strengthens immunity.