According to Ayurvedic practitioners, Pitta is responsible for the entire metabolism in our mind body. In its widest sense, it governs digestive function including all chemical and metabolic transformations in the body as well as processes which promote heat production.
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Pitta also governs our ability to digest ideas and impressions and to therefore perceive the true nature of reality. Pitta is often regarded as the "fire" within the body. The keywords as far as pitta is concerned are 'heat' and 'intensity' and these are reflected everywhere in the mind and body of a pitta person.
At the mental level pitta is responsible for discrimination, incisive thinking and functioning of the Intellect. On the emotional level it is concerned with courage, enthusiasm joy and passion. When aggravated or out of balance it may manifest as one of the 'hot' emotions such as rage, impatience, irritability, frustration and resentment.
When Pitta is in balance, we see:
- Strong and complete digestion
- Efficient assimilation of foods
- Good complexion; healthy facial tone and coloration
- Stimulated, open intellect.
When Pitta is out of balance, we see:
- Incomplete digestion; poor differentiation between nutrients and wastes
- Variable, blotchy skin color, inflamed; unhealthy appearance
- Dullness of reasoning faculty.
Ayurvedic texts recommend the principle of opposites for reducing the level of a dosha that has become aggravated. Since the characteristics of Pitta include sharpness, heat, and acidity, qualities that are opposite to these in diet and lifestyle help restore balance to Pitta dosha.
Pitta balancing involves certain dietary changes, as well as making sure you don't push yourself too hard. Aggression harms pitta people by causing conditions such as heartburn and ulcers. Regular meditation helps a lot, as does avoiding artificial stimulants (alcohol in particular). Coolness in any form helps pitta balance: try to keep your bedroom and (if possible) place of work a little cooler. Take plenty of fluids.
Include a few dry foods in your daily diet to balance the liquid nature of Pitta, some "heavy" foods that offer substance and sustained nourishment, and foods that are cool to balance the fiery quality of Pitta. Here are some specific dietary tips:
- If you need to balance Pitta, choose ghee, in moderate quantities, as your cooking medium. Ghee, according to the ancient Ayurvedic texts, is cooling for both mind and body. Ghee can be heated to high temperatures without affecting its nourishing, healing qualities, so use ghee to sauté vegetables, spices or other foods.
- Cooling foods are wonderful for balancing Pitta dosha. Sweet juicy fruits, especially pears, can cool a fiery Pitta quickly. Milk, sweet rice pudding, coconut and coconut juice, and milkshakes made with ripe mangoes and almonds or dates are examples of soothing Pitta-pacifying foods.
- The three Ayurvedic tastes that help balance Pitta are sweet, bitter and astringent, so include more of these tastes in your daily diet. Milk, fully ripe sweet fruits, and soaked and blanched almonds make good snack choices. Eat less of the salty, pungent and sour tastes.
- Dry cereal, crackers, granola and cereal bars, and rice cakes balance the liquid nature of Pitta dosha, and can be eaten any time hunger pangs strike during the day.
- Carrots, asparagus, bitter leafy greens, fennel, cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts, green beans and bitter gourd (in very small quantities) are good vegetable choices. They become more digestible when chopped and cooked with Pitta-pacifying spices. Vegetables can be combined with grains or mung beans for satisfying one-dish meals. Avoid nightshades.
- Basmati rice is excellent for balancing Pitta. Wheat is also good – fresh flatbreads made with whole-wheat flour (called atta or chapati flour and available at Indian grocery stores) combine well with cooked vegetables or Pitta-balancing chutneys. Oats and amaranth are other Pitta-balancing grains.
- Choose spices that are not too heating or pungent. Ayurvedic spices such as small quantities of turmeric, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, cardamom and fennel offer flavor, aroma and healing wisdom.
- Drink sweet lassi with lunch to help enhance digestion and cool, not ice-cold, water to quench thirst.
Suggested Food Choices for Pitta dosha
The following list of suggested foods is by no means all-inclusive, but offers starting guidelines if you are new to Ayurvedic dietary principles.
- Grains: Rice, wheat, barley, oats, amaranth, sago, all cooked until tender
- Vegetables: Asparagus, tender and bitter greens, bitter gourd, carrots, fennel, peas, green beans, zucchini, lauki squash, artichoke, parsnips, okra, celery, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, beets, sweet potatoes, all cooked, small quantities of raw lettuce, carrots or cucumber
- Fruits: Avocado, pineapple, peaches, plums, grapes, mangoes, melons, pears, pomegranates, cherries, all kinds of berries, apples, coconut, dates, fresh and dried figs, raisins (soaked), all ripe and sweet
- Lentils: Mung beans, mung dhal, red or brown lentils, small portions of garbanzos, lima beans, black beans, all cooked until butter-soft
- Dairy: Whole milk, cream, butter, fresh yogurt (cooked into foods), lassi, cottage cheese, fresh paneer cheese
- Oils: Ghee, olive oil, walnut oil
- Herbs: Cilantro, curry leaves, parsley, fresh basil, fresh fennel, fresh mint
- Nuts and Seeds: Almonds (soaked and blanched), sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds
- Spices: Turmeric, cumin, cardamom, coriander, fennel, small quantities of black pepper, Chinese cinnamon, mint, saffron, dill, sweet orange zest
- Other: Rice milk, soy milk, Sucanat, turbinado sugar, date sugar, and tofu in moderation (diced small and cooked with spices).
- The primary lifestyle recommendation for balancing Pitta is to stay cool – both physically and emotionally. Avoid going out in the heat of the day, especially on an empty stomach or after you have eaten tangy or spicy foods. Avoid exercising when it's hot. Walk away from situations that make you see red.
- Do not skip meals, do not fast and do not wait to eat until you are ravenously hungry. Start your day with cooked fruit, followed by some cereal. Eat a sustaining meal at lunch, and a lighter meal for dinner. For snacking, sweet juicy fruits – fully ripe mangoes, sweet pears and sweet juicy grapes – are excellent Pitta-pacifying choices. Delaying meals can cause excess acidity, so eat on time every day. The Amalaki Rasayana helps enhance digestion without aggravating Pitta dosha. It also helps balance stomach acid.
- Daily elimination is very important to prevent ama from accumulating in the body. Triphala Rasayana helps promote regularity as well as toning the digestive system. Since Triphala is gentle, not habit forming and not depleting, it can be taken indefinitely to maintain regularity.
- To soothe sensitive skin, to balance the emotions and to nourish and tone muscles and nerves, indulge in an Ayurvedic massage every morning before you bathe or shower. Use coconut oil for your massage. If you like, you can add 3-4 drops of a pure essential oil such as lavender or rose to 2 oz. of massage oil. Mix well before use. Two or three time a week, massage your scalp with warm oil, and let the oil stay for an hour or two before you shampoo. After your shower or bath, apply a pure, gentle moisturizer all over your body or spray your skin with pure rose or sandalwood water to keep your skin feeling cool all day long.
- Protect yourself from the heat. Stay cool in warm weather by wearing loose cotton clothing. Wear a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses to protect your eyes when you go out. Drink lots of room temperature water.
- Water-based activities are ideal exercise for Pitta-dominant people. Try swimming or aqua-aerobics to stay fit but cool. Strolling after sunset, especially along a waterfront, is also a soothing way to fit some leisurely activity into your day.
- If Pitta dosha is out of balance, you may find that you can fall asleep without much trouble, but you wake up in the very early hours and find it difficult to get back to sleep. It is important to get to bed early, so that you can get adequate rest each night. A cup of warm milk, with some cardamom, can be helpful before bedtime.
- Balance work and play. Set aside some time for relaxation every day, and do not get so absorbed in a project that you are unable to detach from it.
- Set aside about 30 minutes each day for meditation, to help balance the heart and emotions and to enhance body-mind-spirit coordination.