Its summertime! Clear blue skies, longer days of extended sunlight, outdoor activities, and finding fun ways of cooling down with swimming, evening walks, bike rides and late evening barbeques with friends and family. Time to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables, drink cool summer drinks, wear light bright clothes. Things we all naturally do to stay cool from the intensity of summer.
The difference we may have noticed is whilst the Vata’s and Kapha’s amongst us, love it and cannot get enough of the warm temperatures, Pitta’s (the hotter types) will crave for cooler days and comfortable nights.
Whatever your preference, summer is the season for Pitta, the heat is on and for us to flourish we need to bear in mind the choices we make to stay in balance and enjoy the summer heat.
Ritu Charya (seasonal routines) is one of the fundamental principles of Ayurveda, where our dietary choices, habits and routines should ebb and flow with the seasons. A simple yet powerful form of medicine to maintain good health.
To read more on Ritu Charya and importance of seasonal changes read our previous blog on Seasonal tips on Spring health.
Understanding Pitta and Summer
Pitta is the energy of transformation, made of the elements Fire and Water. It is responsible for transforming our food, thoughts, and emotions into energy. It is our discrimination, judgements, organisation, analysing and sharp precision.
The striking qualities of summer, the dryness from the heat, the longer days of bright sun, the sharp intensity and its transformative nature of summer are the same qualities reflected in Pitta. Therefore, Summer is Pitta season, where Pitta and its qualities of hot, sharp, dry, and intense, increases in nature and within us.
One of the main rules of Ayurveda is like increases like, so we look at the qualities of Pitta and use the exact opposite qualities to create balance.
Signs of Heat (Pitta) Aggravation
The primary focus for summer is to keep Pitta balanced by staying cool, mellowing the intensity with relaxation, and staying grounded. Recognizing early signs of Pitta aggravation is important so you can address them quickly by reviewing your dietary and lifestyle choices.
Some common early signs of Pitta imbalance over summer are:
Skin can be red, inflamed rash, acne, and cold sores.
Increased inflammation in body or joints.
Digestive issues such as acid reflux, gastric or peptic ulcers, heartburn with nausea or discomfort if missing meals, loose stools, or frequent bowel movements.
An uncomfortable feeling of heat in the body, with high emotions such as increased frustration, anger, irritability, impatience, criticism, intolerance
Eyes can become red, inflamed, or light-sensitive especially those suffering from Hay Fever.
In clinical practice, in blogs and posts I talk about the importance of Agni (our digestive fire) and understanding how our digestion capacity changes with each season as well as what and how we eat.
In summer, our Agni is naturally low and therefore we must favour lighter foods and smaller meals that are easy to digest. Choose foods that are primarily sweet in taste mixed with some bitter, and astringent foods. Pitta is most pacified by the sweet taste and to combat the heat and dryness of summer add foods that are cooling and a little unctuous.
Salads are great for summer as they are cooling, best eaten for lunch as they can be hard to digest due to their raw nature, add some olive oil dressing to reduce its drying quality.
Cooling beverages and drinks such as water infused with mint or lime, watermelon, and lime juice, a sweet yogurt drink called lassi, cooling herbal teas such as mint, peppermint, liquorice, fennel or rose are ideal during the summer months.
Watch out for sour, citrus and unripe fruits, garlic, onions, chillies, beets, carrots, tomatoes, red meat, sour cream, and salted cheeses as they are heating. Try and avoid spicy foods altogether as spicy, sour, and salty foods aggravate Pitta.
Some excellent summer foods are:
Fruits: Apples, Avocadoes, Berries, Cherries, Coconut, Cranberries, Grapes, Limes, Mangoes, Melons, Pears, Pineapples, Plums, Pomegranates and Prunes.
Vegetables: Artichokes, Asparagus, Beet Greens, Broccoli, Brussel sprouts, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Celery, Chard, Collard Greens, Cucumbers, Green Beans, Kale, Lettuce, Okra, Potatoes, Watercress and Zucchini.
Grains and Legumes to favour: Barley, Basmati Rice, Wheat, Adzuki beans, Black beans, Garbanzo beans, Mung beans, Soybeans and Split peas
Oils to favour are coconut oil, olive oil and Sunflower oil.
Spices and garnishes ideal for summer: Basil, Cardamom, Coriander, Fennel, Lime, Mint and Parsley, Dill
If you eat meat favour the lighter meats such as chicken, turkey or fish or shrimp, once or twice a week.
Sweet Lassi: My favourite summertime drink
Summertime is to only exception I make to having some sweetened diluted yogurt, its light, refreshing and mostly cooling!
Mix 1 part Greek yogurt (or ideally homemade yogurt) with 4 parts waters, blend till its creamy. Add ¼ teaspoon of roasted cumin and coriander seeds powder and some fresh finely chopped coriander.
For a sweet flavoured Lassi add 2 tablespoons Sucanat or other sweetener of your choice and 1 drop of rose water.
Summer Lifestyle Choices
To keep the body cool, use, use coconut oil or a Pitta pacifying cooling oil to the body, as part of your daily routine (Dina Charya) abhyanga before you shower.
Wear cotton or silk which is cooling, light and allows the skin to breathe. Wear lighter colours and avoid darker colours which absorb and retain heat.
Avoid strenuous exercise. If you are a runner or accustomed to high intensity exercise, then do this early in the morning or late evening which are the coolest part of the day. Avoid exercising between 10 am and 2 pm when the heat is most intense and during Pitta hours. Mild and cooling form of exercising such as swimming, Yoga, meditation, and walking (especially evenings) are the best form of exercising.
Rub some Bhringraj oil (our Health Hair Oil) or coconut oil on your scalp and the soles of your feet for cooling before bedtime. Keep windows ajar or open to circulate and cool the air before sleeping. Add a few drops of Sandalwood oil on your pillow for inducing deep calm sleep.
Sandalwood, Jasmine and Lavender are cooling essential oils for fragrance or use a Rosewater spritzer to keep cool during the day.
Your Herbal Allies this Summer.
Some of the common herbs for calming and cooling Pitta related issues are:
Blood Cleanse: For Pitta aggravated skin related issues the best herbs are Neem, Manjista and Sariva, which work on the Liver and cool the blood, found in our formula Blood Cleanse. Also supports peri menopausal hot flushes.
Gotukola Plus Brahmi are ideal for cooling the Pitta mind and keep it calm and focused when there is irritability and frustration.
Avipattikara our digestive formula which is best for heat related digestive issues such as heart burn and indigestion, nausea, and discomfort after eating. Its aide’s digestion and helps remove excess heat from the body.
Guduchi is ideal for boosting immune system and pacifying hay fever symptoms such as red itchy eyes. It also aide’s digestion, supports inflammation in the joints and body and is a good tonic for both Vata and Pitta. Guduchi is also the main ingredient in our formulation Kaishora Guggulu.
The key to balancing fiery Pitta is moderation, Keep Pitta in check with these simple dietary and lifestyle tips. Stay cool, stay calm and most of all enjoy the blue skies and summer sunshine!
Photo by Engin Akyurt from Pexels