Pitta is made up of the two elements fire and water and can be compared to gasoline – it is not hot to the touch, but it can be the source of flame. They cannot change into each other, but they modulate or control each other and are vitally required for life processes to occur. (For example, too much fire and too little water will result in the evaporation of the water. The opposite will result in the fire being put out.) Pitta is the principle of transformation represented in our digestion of ideas, sensory experiences, emotions, and food.
People with a predominance of Pitta in their nature tend to be muscular, smart, fiery and determined. If balanced, a Pitta is warm, intelligent, and a good leader. If out of balance, Pitta can make us critical, irritable, and aggressive.
Qualities of Pitta: Hot, light, intense, penetrating, pungent, sharp, acidic.
Pitta dosha governs all transformations in the physiology, from the digestion of food to energy production and to the metabolizing of feelings, emotions and sensory perceptions. Pitta governs digestion, absorption, assimilation , nutrition, metabolism, body temperature, skin coloration, the luster of the eyes, intelligence, and understanding. The small intestine, stomach, sweat glands, blood, fat, eyes, and skin are the seats of Pitta.
Pitta functions in the:
- eye region and governs vision.
- skin and regulates the biochemical processes that occur in the skin regulating complexion and skin glow.
- heart and the brain balancing emotions, contentment, intelligence and memory.
- duodenum and small intestine governing the rransformation of food into nutrients and wastes through the process of digestion.
- liver and the spleen and is responsible for blood composition and the distribution of nutrients to cells and tissues through the blood.
The Characteristics of Pitta
Mind: Sharp, intellectual, direct, precise, discerning
Body: Medium build, warm, muscular
Skin: Sensitive, flush, acne-prone
Hair: Tendency towards early graying or thinning
Appetite: Strong, can eat just about anything, anytime
Routine: Very precise and organized
Temperament: Passionate, driven, courageous, strong sex drive, good leader
Conversation: Speaks to convey a point
Shopping Style: Spends on luxury items
Stress Response: Irritable, tendency to blame others.
Physical Characteristics of Pitta
People with more Pitta in their constitutions tend to be of medium proportions, with a frame that is neither petite nor heavy, warm skin that is very fair or ruddy and may be sensitive, and fine hair that tends towards premature graying or thinning. They have excellent digestion, which sometimes leads them to believe they can eat anything. They have a warm body temperature and thus gravitate towards cooler environments. They sleep soundly for short periods of time and have a strong sex drive. When in balance, Pittas have a lustrous complexion, perfect digestion, abundant energy, and a strong appetite. When out of balance, Pittas may suffer from skin rashes, burning sensations, peptic ulcers, excessive body heat, heartburn, and indigestion.
Emotional Characteristics of Pitta
Pittas have a powerful intellect and a strong ability to concentrate. They are sharp and determined in thought, speech and action. There is an element of purpose to their step, an intensity to their voice. Ambition is usually their second name. Self-confidence and an entrepreneurial spirit are hallmarks of balanced Pitta. When they’re in balance, they are good decision makers, teachers, and speakers. They are precise, sharp-witted, direct, and often outspoken. Out-of-balance Pittas can be short-tempered and argumentative. When Pittas are overstressed, their typical response is “What did you do wrong?”
Psychologically, Pitta has a good power of comprehension; they are very intelligent and sharp and tend to be good orators. They have emotional tendencies toward hate, anger and jealousy. They are ambitious and generally like to be leaders. Pitta appreciates material prosperity. They tend to be moderately well-off financially. They enjoy exhibiting their wealth and luxurious possessions.
Signs that You Need to Balance Pitta
Factors that can cause Pitta dosha to increase include a diet that contains too many hot or spicy foods, fasting, skipping meals, over-exposure to the sun or to hot temperatures, and emotional trauma.
- Are you constantly critical, impatient, irritable?
- Do you feel obsessed by work or a project, unable to stop for a break?
- Do you wake up in the very early hours of the morning and find it difficult to get back to sleep?
- Is your skin feeling irritated or more sensitive than usual, breaking out or feeling inflamed?
- Is your hair falling out when you shampoo or comb it?
- Do you have problems with heartburn or excess stomach acid?
- Is your tolerance of other people or provoking situations lower than usual? Do you have temper outbursts over minor aggravations? Do you often feel frustrated?
- Do you feel hot even when you are indoors? Do you feel thirsty all the time? Are your eyes red?
- Is your speech often biting and sarcastic? Do you find yourself getting into arguments easily?
If you answered yes to many of the questions above, following a Pitta-balancing diet and lifestyle can help restore balance to Pitta.
Dietary Recommendations for Pitta
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 or warm but not steaming to balance the fiery quality of Pitta.
- 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.
- Cooling foods are wonderful for balancing Pitta dosha. Sweet juicy fruits, especially pears, can cool a fiery Pitta quickly. Favor cooling foods such as cucumbers, sweet fruits and melons.
- 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 sweeter fruits such as grapes, melons, cherries, coconuts, avocados, mangoes, pomegranates, fully ripe pineapples, oranges, and plums are recommended. Reduce sour fruits such as grapefruits, apricots, and berries.
- All sweeteners may be taken in moderation except molasses and honey.
- Olive, sunflower, and coconut oils are the best oils to pacify Pitta. Use less sesame, almond, and corn oil, which are more heating.
- Sour, fermented products such as yogurt, sour cream and cheese should be used sparingly as sour tastes aggravate Pitta.
- Avoid vinegar in salad dressing; use lemon juice instead. Alcoholic and fermented foods should be avoided. Their sour Rasa aggravates Pitta. Coffee is also pitta aggravating due to the acid in coffee. Herb tea is good. Prefer mint, licorice root or other pitta pacifying tea.
- Eat plenty of vegetables and grains and less red meat as it tends to heat the body from the fat.
- For non-vegetarians, chicken, pheasant and turkey are preferable; beef, seafood, and eggs increase Pitta and should be minimized.
- 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.
- Choose spices that are not too heating or pungent but soothing and cooling. These include coriander, cilantro, cardamom, saffron, and fennel. Hotter spices such as ginger, cumin, black pepper, fenugreek, clove, salt, and mustard seed should be used sparingly. Very hot seasonings such as chili peppers, and cayenne are best avoided. Chew on fennel seeds after meals to cool down acid in the stomach.
- Drink sweet beverages to help enhance digestion and cool, not ice-cold, water to quench thirst.
- Avoid oily, hot, salty, and heavy foods such as fried food. Instead consume starchy foods such as vegetables, grains and beans. Avoid the tendency to overeat under stress.
- If you can have dairy, use Ghee (clarified butter) to bring down aggravated Piita. It is cooling for both mind and body.
Suggested Food Choices for Pitta
The following list of suggested foods is by no means all-inclusive, but offers starting guidelines if you are new to ayurvedic dietary principles.
Foods listed as “Best” can be eaten without reservation on a daily basis. Foods listed as “Small Amounts” can be eaten in small portions fairly often or in larger portions once or twice per week. Foods listed as “Avoid” should be eaten only on rare occasions. Remember, it is not what you do once in a while that matters. Choose sweet, bitter and astringent foods and avoid pungent, sour and salt foods.
It is best to eat these as a cooked grain or an unyeasted bread. Small amounts of yeast breads are all right however. Grains should make a large portion of the diet.
Best: Barley, white basmati rice, millet, oats, white rice, wheat, whole wheat;
Small Amounts: Brown rice (only in acute pitta conditions, otherwise it can be used often);
Avoid: Buckwheat, corn flour.
It is best to use raw or organic milk. Milk should be taken warm with a small amount of ginger and cardamom.
Best: Unsalted butter, cottage cheese, cream cheese, ghee, milk;
Small Amounts: Hard, non-salted cheeses;
Avoid: Buttermilk, salted cheeses, sour cream, kefir, cultured milks, yogurt.
Best: Maltose, maple syrup, rice syrup;
Small Amounts: Dextrose, fructose, honey, table sugar;
Avoid: Molasses and raw sugar.
Best: Ghee, olive oil;
Small Amounts: Avocado, corn, coconut, soy, sunflower;
Avoid: Almond, castor, flaxseed, margarine, mustard, peanut, safflower, sesame.
Sweet and ripe fruits are best. Avoid sour fruit.
Best: Apples, avocados, blackberries, blueberries, cantaloupe, coconut, cranberries, dates, dried fruit, figs, grapes, lemons, limes, nectarines, pineapple, prunes, raisins, raspberries, strawberries;
Small Amounts: Apricots, bananas (very ripe only), cherries, grapefruit, oranges, pineapple;
Avoid: All sour fruits, such as sour oranges (mandarin), sour pineapple, sour plums, papaya, olives, tangerines, and all unripe fruit.
Vegetables are best eaten fresh. You may eat large amounts. Eat them cooked in the winter or if digestion is weak. Eat them raw in the summer if your digestion is strong. Fresh green vegetable juices are very good. Those with arthritis should avoid all nightshades.
Best: Alfalfa sprouts, artichoke, asparagus, bean sprouts, bell peppers, bitter melon, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, cilantro, cress, cucumber,green peppers, kale, leafy greens, lettuce, mushrooms, well cooked onions, peas, pumpkin, seaweed, squash, zucchini;
Small Amounts: Avocado, beets, carrots, eggplant, well cooked garlic, corn, parsley, potatoes, spinach, sweet potatoes, vine-ripened tomatoes;
Avoid: Chilies, hot peppers, mustard greens, radishes, raw onion, tomato paste, tomato sauce and any other hot or pungent vegetable.
Nuts and Seeds
Best: Coconut, sunflower, pumpkin seeds;
Small Amounts: Pinon nuts, sesame seeds;
Avoid: Almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, filberts, macadamia nuts, pecans, pistachio, peanuts, and any other not mentioned.
If you choose to eat meat, limit consumption to 2-3 times per week.
Best: Chicken, turkey, fresh water fish (trout) and egg whites;
Small Amounts: Beef, duck, egg yolk, lamb, pork, sea fish, venison, any other red meat;
Best: Black lentils, chickpeas, mung beans, split peas, soybeans (soy products), tofu;
Small Amounts: Aduki beans, kidney beans, navy beans, pinto beans;
Avoid: Red and yellow lentils.
When spicing, the overall spiciness is more important than individual spices. Even some “ Avoid” spices can be used if balanced with other spices on the “Best” list. For pitta, food should be spiced mild to moderate and never very hot or bland.
Best: Cardamom, catnip, chamomile, coconut, coriander, dill, fennel, lemon verbeba, peppermint, saffron, spearmint, turmeric;
Small Amounts: Bay leaf, basil, black pepper, caraway, cinnamon, cumin, ginger (fresh), oregano, rosemary, thyme;
Avoid: Anise, asafetida, calamus, Cayenne pepper, cloves, fenugreek, raw garlic, ginger (dry), horseradish, hyssop, marjoram, mustard seeds, nutmeg, poppy seeds, sage, star anise.
Best: Carob sweetened with the best sweeteners noted above;
Small Amounts: Mayonnaise, sweet mustards;
Avoid: Chocolate, salt, vinegar.
Best: Five cups of water per day. Bitter and astringent herb teas such as alfalfa, chicory, dandelion, hibiscus, and strawberry leaf. These can be found in grain beverages such as Pero, Inka, and Caffix. Milk, wheat grass juice;
Small Amounts: Chai tea or black tea, diluted fruit juice with on half water;
Avoid: Alcohol, coffee, sweet fruit juices, spicy herb teas, carbonated water, soft drinks, tomato juice.
Lifestyle Recommendations for Pitta
- Because Pitta is hot, sharp, sour, pungent, and penetrating, the primary lifestyle recommendation for balancing Pitta is to stay cool and stable both physically and emotionally.
- Follow a regular daily routine allowing some free time everyday. Be careful not to create unnecessary time pressures for yourself. Walk away from situations that make you see red.
- Laugh many times each day!
- Avoid going out in the heat of the day, especially on an empty stomach or after you have eaten tangy or spicy foods. Wear a hat and sunglasses to protect your eyes when you go out.
- Avoid exercising when it’s hot. Regularly spend time in nature. Take walks in the woods and along natural bodies of water. Keep plants and fresh flowers in your home and office. Walk in the moonlight. 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.
- Do not skip meals, do not fast and do not wait to eat until you are ravenously hungry. Start your day with fruit, followed by some cereal. Eat a sustaining meal at lunch, and a lighter meal for dinner. For snacking, choose sweet juicy fruit: 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. Amla helps enhance digestion without aggravating Pitta dosha. It also helps balance stomach acid.
- Daily elimination is very important to prevent undigested food particles from accumulating in the body. Incorporate digestive enzymes, probiotics and herbs to help promote regularity as well as toning the digestive system.
- 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 or olive 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. 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 to keep your skin feeling cool all day long.
- Favor aromas that are cooling and sweet. Sandalwood, rose, jasmine, mint, lavender, fennel, and chamomile are recommended.
- Protect yourself from the heat. Stay cool in warm weather by wearing loose cotton clothing. Favor cooler colors in your clothing and environment such as blues, greens, and silver.
- Drink lots of room temperature water.
- 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 R&R everyday, 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.