Balance your Fire Element, Pitta Dosha
This post dives deeper into the symptoms of imbalances in your fire element or Pitta dosha. Just as in my previous post, I present how you can use nutrition and lifestyle to bring the body and the mind back to balance.
The physicians who developed Ayurveda observed nature very thoroughly and they came to understand the fundamental five forces of creation: solid matter, liquid matter, radiant energy, gaseous substance, and the space or field in which they are manifested. These forces create three basic forms of energy: propulsion (Vata), conversion (Pitta) and cohesion (Kapha).
For a better understanding of the five fundamental forces also known as the five elements, and the tridosha please refer to my previous posts: What is Ayurveda, Vata Pitta Kapha your nature explained, and Air element balance Vata dosha.
The primary function of Pitta dosha is metabolic activity in the body which is related to hunger, thirst, body temperature, visual perception, digestion, skin quality, the endocrine function, and hormonal levels. Mentally it plays a role in understanding and in digesting sensory impressions.
Pitta dosha is hot, penetrating, greasy, sharp, liquid, and sour. It is made up of predominantly the fire element combined with some water, which provides the oily aspect. Those born with a dominance of pitta dosha have the tendency to easily over accumulate these qualities in the body and mind when the wrong diet and lifestyle is followed.
Excess of Pitta dosha manifests as the following symptoms:
Heartburn or burning sensation in the stomach
Rashes and acne
Yellowish/reddish skin or irritation
Diarrhea or loose stools
Frequent urinary infections
Uncontrollably anger or frustration (short tempered)
Headaches with sensitivity to light
Hemorrhoids or piles
Burning sensation in the eyes
Skin disorders like psoriasis, eczema,
High blood pressure
Liver diseases like cirrhosis, jaundice
Aversion to temperatures above 25 degrees celsius
Excess thirst and appetite
Craving for alcohol, pickles, cold substances and spicy food
Causes of Pitta imbalance include:
Excessive consumption of oily, spicy, sour and salty foods
Over exposure to heat
Excessive ambition and competition
Too much physical exercise
Excessive fear and anger
Consumption of alcohol and cold drinks
General Nutrition Recommendation:
Bitter, sweet and astringent should be the main tastes in food.
Avoid eating too much spicy/spiced food, red meat and salty dairy products.
Raw foods, salads and cooling foods should be eaten mainly, especially during summer (warm temperatures). Maximum 70% of total intake.
During autumn and winter include more warm and cooked foods.
Start the day with a warm breakfast like whole grain/oats porridge with warm milk or an avocado or hummus spread with toasted bread.
Include lots if beans, lentils and leafy green vegetables in your diet.
Eat three main meals a day at the same times every day and do not skip meals leaving at least 4 hours between meals.
Finish dinner by 8pm. If this is not possible, eat only fruit after 8pm.
Minimise the use of oils and fats by grilling, steaming or cooking foods.
Avoid all deep fried and refined foods.
Those with pitta dominant constitution tend to have a constant appetite. Especially when there are issues with hemorrhoids, it is important not to overeat. Fist sized portions is the general guideline.
Eat fresh and if possible organic whole foods.
Try to add a small salad to your meals twice a day. Include sprouted greens like alfalfa.
Always sit down in a relaxed atmosphere when eating. Do not get up during meals!
Eat slowly and mindfully. Don't rush!
Drinks: min 1.5 to 2 liters a day
Always consume warm or room temperature drinks/water. Never ice cold!
Do not drink water immediately after eating. Wait at least half an hour.
Before eating anything in the morning, drink a cup (500ml) of warm water.
Avoid carbonated drinks, coffee and alcohol (beer is best option if unavoidable).
Drink a cup of green or black tea or sweet herbal teas daily
Always consume ripe sweet fruit (2 to 5 pieces a day)
Recommended: Pineapple, apples, cranberries, strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, dates, grapes, raspberries, pomegranate, persimmons, bananas, mango, melons, pear, prunes, raisins, figs, and oranges.
Limit consumption of sour fruits like lemons, grapefruits, papaya, peaches and sour cherries.
Recommended: (Slightly Cooked/steamed/raw) white potatoes, alfalfa, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, celery, asparagus, peas, aubergines, sweet paprika, spinach zucchini, pumpkin (butternut), carrot, beetroot, okra, black olives, cucumbers, onions, garlic, yams, sweet potato, avocados, fresh coriander, and parsnip.
Limit consumption of the following vegetables to once or twice a week: chili peppers, parsley, leeks, green olives, onions, garlic, fennel, radishes, tomato, corn, carrots,
40 % of the daily food intake should consist of fresh fruits and vegetables.
Limit consumption of: Amaranth, rye, white rice, buckwheat, and corn.
30 % of the daily food intake should consist of whole grains.
Meat, Fish and Legumes
Vegetarianism is highly recommended to balance pitta dosha. All beans and legumes are suitable substitutes for meat.
Recommended: Organic/wild chicken, turkey, eggs and (white) fish (wild salmon or organically farmed, tuna, mackerel)
Avoid: red meat (beef, lamb, pork), smoked meats or chicken or fish, duck, and crustaceans.
It is advised to consume fish high in omega 3 fatty acids at least once or twice a week.
Nuts & seeds:
Most nuts are not recommended since they are oily and heating.
Recommended: Coconuts, flaxseeds, unsalted organic popcorn, sunflower seeds.
Limit consumption of: Almonds, cashew, hazelnuts, macademia, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, brazil nuts, pecans, pistachios, pine nuts, sesame seeds (tahini).
Recommended: Ghee, unsalted butter, cottage cheese, unsalted cheeses, cow milk (coconut or rice milk is a good alternative if you are sensitive to lactose), young cheese (kwark, paneer), butter, cream, and eggs.
Avoid consumption of: Ice cream, salted cheeses, old cheeses, sour cream, kefir, yogurt, and buttermilk.
Ghee helps to improve skin tone, hair growth, and memory. Milk should be consumed warm with spices like turmeric, black pepper, saffron, nutmeg, ginger, cinnamon, cardamom and cloves to reduce the formation of mucus.
Ayurveda recommends fresh, organic and non-homogenised dairy products in very small quantities daily.
Herbs and Spices
Most spices are not recommended to balance pitta dosha because they increase the already high fire element.
Recommended: Fresh basil, dill, cardamom, curry powder (without dry ginger), cumin, fresh coriander, coriander seed, curcuma/turmeric, mint, saffron, vanilla, fennel seeds.
Limit consumption of: Anise, hing (asafetida), dry basil, cayenne pepper, fenugreek, dry ginger (small amounts of fresh ginger is ok), cinnamon, caraway, nutmeg, thyme, oregano, marjoram, bay leaf, paprika, salt, poppy seeds, black pepper.
Oil is generally not advised to balance pitta dosha. Use in very small quantities (maximum 2 tablespoons a day.)
Recommended: Ghee, butter, sunflower, coconut, flaxseed and olive oil
Avoid: almond, apricot, avocado, sesame, peanut, and safflower. All vegetables oils used in deep fried products, soya, rapeseed, and canola.
Avoid: white sugar, (raw) honey lactose and all other refined sugars.
Seasonings and snacks:
Recommended (in very small quantities only): Carob, baking soda/powder.
Limit consumption of: vinegar, brewer's yeast, raw unprocessed chocolate, processed chocolate, mayonnaise, miso, mustard, pickles, sojasauce, shoyu, tahini, tamari, potato chips, and ketchup.
Those with pitta dosha dominance tend to have a strong drive to set and achieve goals. When there is an excess of pitta in the body and mind, it is important to slow down and rest. Take time to do something that relaxes you.
Massage the body with coconut oil 2 to 3 times a week.
Diffuse essential oils like jasmine, lotus, rose, sandalwood and camphor.
Avoid all stimulating substances like nicotine and other recreational drugs.
Do not perform strenuous exercise. Stick to swimming, slow walking, or cycling in nature. For example take a walk by the sea or lake.
Do everything slowly and do not rush.
Get adequate rest and sleep at least 7 hours daily.
Be asleep by 10pm ideally and latest by 11pm.
Stay away from hot temperatures during midday and go out when there is a cool breeze.
Fast for one day, one to four times per month.
Practice a gentle form of Yoga and meditation daily. Iyengar or Ashtanga Yoga is not recommended.
Recommended Ayurvedic Herbs:
Amalaki: cools the heat of pitta dosha and improves immunity.
Aloe Vera juice: It may be useful to take organic aloe vera juice (Aloe barbadensis) (50ml/day) throughout the summer to clear pitta from the digestive system. Take it first thing in the morning.
Guduchi: immune booster and general tonic
For a more accurate analysis of your specific situation and treatment plan, please contact me for a one on one consultation. Of course you may also contact any other qualified practitioner of Ayurvedic medicine.
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Frawley, D., and Atreya (2000) “Practical Ayurveda : Secrets for Physical and Spiritual Health”
Mehta, A.K., (2011) "Ayurvedische voedingsleer in de praktijk"
Sebastian Pole (2012) “Ayurvedic Medicine: The Principles of Traditional Practice”