Balancing Pitta for a More Peaceful Autumn
As we arrive once again in the final moments of summer in the Northern hemisphere, you may be noticing the days growing shorter, the light subtly shifting, and the air beginning to feel a bit more crisp. The hot summer months will soon be behind us as we move towards the beautiful and blustery fall.
One of the most important lessons I’ve learned from studying Ayurveda is that the juncture between seasons is a tenuous time for our health. The irregularity and often abrupt changes in weather can be taxing for the body, asking that we give our immune systems a little extra TLC.
And in many parts of the world, this year has been especially harsh. Record levels of extreme heat and dryness have compounded the already intense months of summertime. Because Ayurveda considers summer the season of pitta dosha, this extra dose of hot and dry can cause pitta to flare even more than it usually would.
And so, as the heat of pitta season gives way to the cold, dry, windy nature of vata season, Ayurveda’s recommendations for transitioning between the seasons become even more important. Here are a few easy and effective things we can do to come back to balance so we can stay healthy as we head towards the bounty of fall.
Expel Excess Heat from the Body
Ayurveda wisely teaches that the excesses which accumulate during each season must be cleared out in order for the body to maintain a healthy balance during the upcoming season. As pitta season begins to wane, any excess heat needs to go.
In general, pitta-type individuals need to heed this warning the most, as summer can literally leave them hot and agitated. And this year, it’s likely that you may need some of this wisdom no matter what your dosha, especially if you were affected by extreme heat, smoke, or wildfires.
Playing in the sun is great for us humans and an excellent source of natural vitamin D, but too much of it can take its toll on the body. It’s easy enough to notice external signs of pitta like red or irritated skin, but excess heat taxes our internal organs as well—especially the liver.
“According to Charaka: ‘All diseases begin at the junctions of the seasons,’ and so all types are cautioned to be especially aware during the seasonal transitions.”
Here are some signs that you may have accumulated too much heat during the summer:
- Burning or itching sensations
- Digestive issues or intense hunger
- Skin problems or irritations
- Feelings of excess heat trapped in the body
- Yellow coating on the tongue
- Excessive sweating (pungent smelling)
- Sensitive or irritated mouth and gums
- Excessive feelings of thirst
- Feelings of jealousy, criticism, anger, or impatience
All of these situations are red flags of imbalance that, left untreated, can lead to more serious problems down the road.
Vata dosha, by nature, is dry, light, and mobile. If the excess heat from the summer is not properly expelled before entering vata season, that lingering dry, hot energy will start to move upward in the body, making us more susceptible to digestive and respiratory imbalances.
So how exactly does one go about ridding the body of excess heat? Following an Ayurvedic diet is a great place to start, as it is based on Mother Nature’s wisdom and adapts with the seasons. Luckily, you need look no further than your local farmer’s market to find foods that will naturally help to balance any excess heat in your body.
So take advantage of the abundance of produce available at this time!
- Eat as many fresh fruits and vegetables as you can! A few foods that are especially effective and abundant at this time are apples, pomegranates, and beets.
- Keep in mind that eating lots of these foods may create looser stools. This is a sign that the body is releasing excess heat, so be sure to stay hydrated by sipping plenty of water and coconut water throughout the day.
- This list of pitta-balancing foods is a helpful resource to return to when you’re shopping and preparing your meals.
Pitta-Balancing Foods for Vata
Because they are already dry by nature, a hot summer can be a precursor to a particularly troubling vata season. This can be especially true of those in the vata time of life (approximately 50 years and beyond).
- People with more of a vata-type constitution can benefit from fresh-squeezed lime juice with a pinch of sea salt in water to help ward off dehydration.
- For these types, vata-balancing foods can be incorporated along with the foods that soothe and cool pitta dosha.
Pitta-Balancing Foods for Kapha
Kapha-types are cold and wet by nature, so summer and fall are generally not as problematic as they are for pitta and vata folks. Still, a hot and humid summer can leave them miserable and overheated as well.
- They need to pay particular attention to eating more diuretic-type foods because of their propensity to retain water, some of which can be found in this list of kapha-balancing foods.
Paying Attention to your Current State of Balance
Anyone, no matter their constitution, can end up with an imbalance—but in the summer, the dosha most likely to be affected is pitta. And remember that things can change more often and more quickly than you may think!
My own constitution is predominantly vata. I was always cold and I used to savor hot summers. But the past few summers of extreme heat and humidity have caused more pitta to accumulate in my system and forced me to focus on pacifying this dosha more than I ever have before.
It’s a juggling act to pacify vata and pitta at the same time, but I do my best. Shade has become my good friend and I choose foods that are easy to digest but won’t overtax my system. It has taught me how to pay attention day to day and moment to moment—and listen to what my body truly needs—rather than getting stuck in a one-dosha frame of mind.
Consider a Cleanse as the Seasons Transition
After you've worked to pull any excess heat out of the body, you might want to consider a cleanse. While eating proper foods can help us stay balanced through the transition of summer to fall, a cleanse can offer an even deeper level of detoxification and renewal.
Unlike harsh cleanses which can leave the body in a weakened state, an Ayurvedic cleanse gently clears the body and mind of toxins and brings the doshas back into balance. It then focuses on a period of rejuvenation to nourish the tissues, replenish your reserves of energy, and strengthen your immune system for the season to come.
Whether you are new to cleansing or have many cleanses under your belt, taking some time to reset your body and clear out any old toxins will allow you to step into the new season feeling fresh, vibrant, and energized.
Commit to Your Daily Routine
The quality of our daily routine and lifestyle habits can make or break how well we move from one season to the next. A consistent daily rhythm provides a sense of inner grounding and balance, even as our natural environment shifts and changes around us.
One of the beautiful things about summer is that it usually comes with more energy and opportunities to socialize, travel, and throw our rigid schedules to the wind. Especially after the last year, many of us entered this summer season ready for movement and change.
But as autumn approaches once again and brings the light, mobile qualities of vata with it, returning to some structure and routine is in our best interest. No matter what your dosha, vata imbalances can show up in the fall just as pitta tends to flare in the summer.
I say this from experience! As much as I’ve always loved autumn, even before Ayurveda came into my life, I’ve also been aware of the feelings of anxiousness and restlessness that the season brings. As the weather cools and the wind begins to blow, I can become unmoored very quickly.
And as much as the word “routine” makes me cringe, it’s been the absolute best remedy for keeping me balanced, healthy, and happy, especially during this time of the year.
Waking, sleeping, and eating at regular times (as much as possible!) and balancing pitta before vata season is underway can help make for a smooth and healthy transition into fall. When we’re not fighting off imbalance, we’re free to fully enjoy the beautiful and colorful season of autumn. Cozy sweaters and endless mugs of tea, here we come!