Tending Home Base: 4 Ways to Balance Pitta
Through Ayurveda, we learn that our body is a complex and dynamic medley of many interwoven parts and functions. Ayurveda teaches us that the panchamahabhutas—the five great elements of earth, water, fire, air, and ether—are alive in every cell of our body.
Similarly, the doshas are constantly dancing in a cyclical progression through various processes in our system, working together to support balanced health.
Ayurveda’s emphasis on the importance of digestion points to the truth that our bodies, minds, and spirits function optimally when we are processing our food and experiences well. Therefore, maintaining balanced pitta—starting at its home base—is key to our well-being.
The Doshas in the Digestive System
The nutrients we obtain from healthy digestion assist our ability to grow healthy and functioning tissues, think clearly, promote various working functions like respiration and circulation, and interact with the world around us at our highest potential.
That is why Ayurveda acknowledges a “home base” for each of the doshas in the digestive system, which follows the cyclical path of the doshas in the same way as the seasons, time of day, and stages of life.
Kapha: The processes of kapha, which build, grow, create strength, and provide stability, all occur in the early stages of spring, early day, and early life. Similarly, the early stage of digestion relies on kapha’s liquifying quality and strong muscle contractions in the stomach to process our food into absorbable nutrients. Thus, kapha's home base is in the stomach.
Pitta: Just as spring turns to summer, morning turns to midday heat, and childhood turns to our adult working years, pitta governs the second stage of the cycle. In the digestive tract, pitta governs the metabolites, digestive enzymes, and transformational aspects needed to further break down and assimilate food. These processes occur in the small intestine, which is considered the home of pitta.
Vata: Vata influences the transition into fall and late winter, afternoon and early evening, and our elderly years—the stages where things begin to fall away, retreat, slow down, and dry out. Similarly, vata completes the process of digestion by drying out and extracting nutrients from our food before elimination. Thus, vata's home is in the large intestine.
Pitta is an integral part of this entire cycle because it offers the maintaining, sustaining, transformational, digestive, and absorbing qualities necessary for all processes to take place.
Just as photosynthesis is a magical process, pitta’s ability to digest our food, sensory information, emotions, and experiences is quite miraculous.
The Small Intestine: Pitta’s Home Base
Though pitta is present in every cell of the body, it is most prevalent in its home base in the small intestine. Pitta’s affinity for the small intestine may seem surprising, but in the serendipitous way that pitta functions, it resides in what is actually the longest part of the gastrointestinal tract.
Pitta resides in the small intestine due to its proximity to the pancreas, spleen, and liver—all of which release pitta-like digestive juices that support the digestion and breakdown of food.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, the small intestine is where “95% of the carbohydrates and protein you consume are absorbed in the small intestine. It also absorbs about 90% of the water that it receives during digestion.”1
As you can see, pitta is an essential worker that is integral to the health of our entire system.
Signs of Imbalanced Pitta
Imbalances in pitta in the digestive tract are generally related to excess heat. They can include hot or burning sensations, loose or frequent stools, feeling thirsty, malabsorption of nutrients, and changes to the color of your stool.
When pitta becomes so heated that it has to leave its main home, it is common to see imbalances in its sub-doshas, or vacation homes—the other parts of the body that have an affinity with pitta. When this happens, we may notice things like redness or irritation in the eyes or skin.
4 Ways to Balance Pitta and Tend to Its Home Base
If you experience any of these imbalances, here are some basic ways that you can work to reduce pitta and maintain a healthy, balanced system.
1. Eat and Drink to Cool and Hydrate
To calm and cool the system, it can be helpful to follow a nourishing pitta-balancing diet that is rich in fruits and vegetables, healthy whole grains, and lean proteins. And because the heat of pitta can lead to dryness, make sure to hydrate with plenty of water, cooling teas, and fruit juices.
For an extra boost of hydration and cooling relief, try incorporating coconut water, coconut milk, and aloe vera into your daily diet.
2. Avoid Heating Activities and Emotions
Do your best to follow a pitta-balancing daily routine, making sure to exercise early in the day, stay out of the direct midday sun, and go to bed before 10 p.m. These practices help protect against excess pitta accumulating during the pitta times of day.
Following a pitta-balancing lifestyle also goes beyond practical daily habits. Avoiding situations and relationships that cause you to feel aggravated, frustrated, or unheard can support balance and calm in your entire system.
3. Incorporate Cooling Herbs and Spices
When pitta is out of balance, either in the digestive system or throughout the body, it’s time to turn to cooling and soothing herbs, spices, and teas.
Pitta Digest is a wonderful herbal formula for reducing excess pitta in the digestive tract. With cooling herbs like coriander and fennel, it’s a great way to support healthy, balanced digestion.
You can also make a simple digestive tea to hydrate and cool pitta in the digestive tract. Boil two cups of water with one teaspoon of coriander seeds and one teaspoon of fennel seeds for 10–15 minutes, then strain and drink.
Blood Cleanse is a powerful formula for reducing excess pitta in the blood and skin. In the case that pitta has left its home in the small intestine and manifests as red or irritated skin, try this blend for supporting a clear, calm complexion.
4. Embrace Moderation
When it comes to pitta, moderation is the name of the game. Pitta loves to work hard and play hard, but sometimes this can be to its own detriment.
Learning to embrace moderation, rest when you’re run down, and balance the intensity of life with moments of quiet and calm is integral to maintaining healthy pitta and avoiding burnout.