We have definitely entered summer here in the Northern Hemisphere. Now that we have passed the Summer Solstice, all the qualities of pitta dosha are evident in the natural world around us: heat (obviously), sharpness (of sunlight AND tempers!), humidity, and oiliness, to name a few.
When these qualities go up in the natural environment, they tend to go up within us, which can lead to discomfort like acid indigestion, loose stool, hot flashes, impatience, or irritation. When pitta dosha remains elevated, it can create symptoms or outright disease like ulcers, inflammation, infections, rashes/hives, and anger.
So given the natural increase in pitta dosha in summer, what can we do to keep pitta from getting out of hand this month? Here are 5 ideas…
1. Eat lighter food – and less of it. In some ways, it seems like hot weather ought to increase our digestive fire, but the opposite is true. In the body’s effort to decrease internal heat when it’s hot outside, the heat at our core spreads out to the extremities. Consequently, everyone’s appetite usually diminishes a bit and we can’t digest as much. It becomes even more important, therefore, to really notice how hungry you are and not to overpower your appetite with piles of food.
2. Cool off from the inside out. Fresh veggies and fruits are abundant in the summer – another case of nature giving us just what we need, exactly when we need it. Now that we know digestive fire is weaker in hot weather, it makes sense to avoid heavier meats and cheeses. Seek out the naturally cooling flavors of sweet (like peaches, fennel, rice, yams, beets, carrots), bitter (like turmeric, kale, radicchio, arugula and other bitter greens) and astringent/drying (like beans, quinoa, broccoli, cranberry, sharp green apple, pomegranate). Avoid flavors that heat us up: sour, salty and pungent. Some particularly effective cooling foods are cucumber, watermelon, coconut milk or coconut water, avocado, cilantro, and mint.
3. Calm the mind at bedtime. Pitta tends to be a bit accomplishment-driven. Longer days can make it tempting to stay up late and get more done. Therefore, rest is even more important in the summer so we don’t burn out. One excellent way to quiet the mind AND give your body some love before bed is to massage your feet with cooling coconut oil. The stimulation of marma points on the feet leads to deeper relaxation, and the cooling oil helps lower your temperature. (You may want to cover your feet with cotton socks to protect your sheets, or put a towel under your top sheet.)
4. Wear sunglasses AND a hat. There is a high concentration of pitta in the eyes, called alochaka pitta. This makes the eyes vulnerable to pitta aggravation in high heat or bright light. So wear your shades, and keep the eyes shaded with a hat or visor – you’ll be surprised how much this simple habit can reduce your tendency towards mental irritation. A spritz of pure rose water over the eyes is also beneficial. A simple cold water compress on the eyes can be very nourishing after a day of computer work.
5. Find a swimming hole. Immersing the body in cool water is balancing to pitta dosha in every way. Aside from cooling the body, it helps pull the mind out of the “get it done” mindset, and brings it to an elemental experience. Getting outside in nature also benefits Pitta, and reminds us that we belong, that we have a place in the wider web, and that our place is not dependent on our productivity or performance. It is a gift of our birth. What better medicine is there?