Have you ever felt heat in your body despite cold weather outside? Have you felt annoyed and agitated for seemingly no reason? Has your skin’s texture or quality changed after eating certain kinds of foods, or have you felt queasy after trying a new meal? You may have been suffering from an excess of heat, or Pitta dosha, in the body.
My Own Experience Dealing With an Excess of Heat in the Body
I recently returned from a 12-day trip to Newfoundland, Canada, where I hiked difficult cliffs, took close-up photos of puffins, and saw whales and bluefin tuna dance in the ocean. The benefits of remote working and sun setting at 9pm during the month of August—you get to play tourist and work at your job.
During this trip, despite being in a cool climate, I felt a lot of heat in my mind and body. Newfoundland was brilliantly breezy, so why was I feeling hot in every cell and pore of my body?
There was nagging agitation in my mind and rashes on my neck. I was overstimulated despite all the grounding lifestyle choices I was making by spending time in nature. I felt rigid about certain things that I wasn’t even consciously thinking about, and kept getting this feeling that my period was going to start early because of all the accumulated heat. A woman knows her body.
Ayurveda revealed that these were signs that my Pitta dosha was aggravated, and that my mind and body were accumulating heat. In Ayurveda, Pitta is one of the three doshas. The other two are called Vata and Kapha. Pitta is made up of fire and water elements. Summer is considered Pitta season in Ayurveda.
How the Diet Can Assist in Lowering Heat in the Body
One of the important pillars of health in Ayurveda is the diet. In Ayurvedic cooking, a balanced dish combines elements of sweet, salty, sour, bitter, pungent, and astringent. Depending on the season and an individual’s doshic imbalances, the proportion of the tastes are altered. For instance, Pitta is characterized by sour, pungent, and salty tastes. Ayurveda teaches us that like increases like. So, in the summer season (especially if you are a Pitta-dominant person), you will use more bitter, astringent, and sweet tastes in your cooking—the opposite tastes.
Because of the landscape and climate of Newfoundland, residents can’t grow very many fruits and vegetables. As a result, the locals, not to mention grocery stores and restaurants, face a paucity of fresh produce. Cod is in abundance at this time of the year, followed by salmon. From an Ayurvedic perspective, the locals eat a lot of sour, salty, and fried foods. Think fried fish, seafood, pork, beef, fried chicken, and french fries. Alcohol. Everything is extremely salty (the old tradition of using salt as a preservative to store meat for the colder months lingers in the local palate).
Because I am primarily a plant-based eater and don’t enjoy fried foods, there was often nothing healthy on the menu for me to eat—even the local fruit, partridgeberry, is tart. First the sour and salty amplified my natural inclination towards Pitta dosha. Then moving around with barely any food in my stomach increased it even more. I love fasting, but here I was hiking 10 to 15 miles a day with poor nutrition. And Pittas don’t handle an empty stomach very well.
Methods for Lowering Heat Ayurvedically
Now that I knew what was going wrong, I leaned on Ayurveda to help fix the situation. And it worked. Here are my tips for when you are experiencing excessive Pitta.
Enjoy sweets. While we were staying at a hotel, I split a small dessert every other day for lunch with my husband because madhura rasa (sweet taste) lowers Pitta. This is because I couldn’t find basmati rice or sweet potatoes (my preferred choice for sweet taste) when eating out. Eat the dessert before 2 pm in small portions. According to the Ayurvedic clock, 10 am to 2 pm is Pitta time, and Pitta is responsible for digestion and transformation. You are more likely to burn and digest the dessert if you eat it at the time when our digestive fire (agni) is strong.
Cook with bitter, astringent foods. Once we moved to our first Airbnb, I found a grocery store. Now that I had access to Pitta-pacifying produce rich in sweet taste (rice), bitter taste (Swiss chard), and astringent taste (pomegranate and chickpeas), I could cook meals to lower heat in the body. Slowly things started to return to a healthy state of balance.
Use cooling pranayama. I practiced cooling pranayamas of Chandra Bhedana as well as Sitali. These yogic breathing techniques cool the body, calm the mind, and nourish the nervous system. They also reduce stress and agitation. I don’t have high blood pressure, but both these pranayamas are known to lower high blood pressure, if that’s an issue. Ayurveda teaches us that high blood pressure might be a sign of Pitta imbalance. For me, Sitali also creates a cooling effect in my gut.
Avoid sun salutations. Like many others, I have a daily yoga practice, which involves at least a few rounds of surya namaskar. It was easy to think that because it was cold outside, I needed warming salutations. Pitta imbalance needs us to tap into our lunar side (ida nadi) or Chandra (moon) aspect, which is cooling. Sun salutations fire up the masculine/solar side. On some days, I did moon salutations. But on most days, I did heart openers, backbends, twists, and side body openers at a moderate pace. They release heat and toxins. The room was cool, the pace was moderate, and the attitude was less-is-more.
Take a break from alcoholic drinks. Alcohol aggravates Pitta dosha. Alcohol also negatively impacts your liver. The liver is said to be one of the main seats of Pitta and can be one of the hottest organs in the body. So, the summer or Pitta season can take a particular toll on the liver. Throw alcohol into this mix, and we can’t keep the liver cool and refreshed. Both alcohol and Pitta share similar qualities, and we know like increases like in Ayurveda.
Disclaimer: The content is purely informative and educational in nature and should not be construed as medical advice. The information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure, or prevention of any disease. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical or healthcare professional. If you are looking for advice from a trained Ayurvedic coach, contact Sweta here.
If you're still overheating, try these nine Pitta-balancing asanas and pranayamas.