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Pitta Dosha

What is Pitta?

Pitta is made up of the two elements fire and water.

Pitta contains fire, but it also contains water. It is the source of the flame, but not the flame itself. Compare Pitta to petrol–it is not hot to the touch, but it can be the source of flames.

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 greying or thinning. They are sharp and determined in thought, speech and action. There is an element of purpose to their step, intensity to their voice. Ambition is usually their second name. They are moderate sleepers and gravitate towards cooler environments. Self-confidence and an entrepreneurial spirit are hallmarks of balanced Pitta.

If your prakriti or original constitution has more Pitta in it, you will exhibit many of the characteristics and qualities of Pitta when you are in balance than people who have more Vata or Kapha in their make-up. And that’s natural. But if the qualities become extreme, or more pronounced than usual at a given time, then the Pitta in you has in all likelihood become aggravated or imbalanced, and needs to be brought back into balance. Also if a predominantly Kapha or Vata person starts exhibiting many Pitta qualities that also indicates a Pitta imbalance in that Kapha or Vata body type. In both cases, it is then time to follow a Pitta-balancing diet and lifestyle to help restore the level of Pitta in the physiology to its normal proportion.

Factors that can cause Pitta dosha to increase in the physiology include a diet that contains too many hot or spicy foods, fasting or skipping meals, over-exposure to the sun or to hot temperatures, and emotional trauma.

Signs that you need to balance Pitta

Are you constantly critical, impatient, and 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 then 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 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?


Balancing Pitta Dosha


Ayurvedic texts recommend the principle of opposites for reducing the level of a dosha that has become aggravated. Since the characteristics of Pitta include lightness, heat, sourness, sharpness, slight unctuousness and mobile, qualities that are opposite to these in diet and lifestyle help restore balance to Pitta dosha.


Dietary recommendations

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. So what exactly does this mean in terms of foods you should choose and foods you should stay away from? Here are some specific dietary tips:

1. 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.

2. 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.

3. 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.

4. 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.

5. Carrots, asparagus, bitter leafy greens, fennel, cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts, green beans and bitter gourd 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.

6. Basmati rice is excellent for balancing Pitta. Wheat is also good; fresh flatbreads made with whole-wheat flour combine well with cooked vegetables or Pitta-balancing chutneys. Oats and amaranth are other Pitta-balancing grains.

7. Choose spices that are not too heating or pungent. Ayurvedic spices such as small quantities of turmeric, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, cardamom and fennel offer flavour, aroma and healing wisdom.

8. Drink sweet lassi with lunch to help enhance digestion and cool, not ice-cold, water to quench thirst.

Lifestyle recommendations

1. 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.

2. 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, 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. Triphala helps enhance digestion without aggravating Pitta dosha. It also helps balance stomach acid.

3. 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.

4. 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.

5. 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.

6. 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.

7. 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.

8. Balance work and play. Set aside some time for R&R every day, and do not get so absorbed in a project that you are unable to detach from it.

9. Set aside about 30 minutes each day for meditation, to help balance the heart and emotions and to enhance body-mind-spirit coordination.