The three fundamental concepts in Ayurveda are:
- Food is medicine.
- Disease can be prevented and eradicated by changing one’s daily habits.
- Lifestyle recommendations are based on an individual’s physical-mental-emotional blueprint, or dosha.
The ancient texts of Ayurveda identify three fundamental physical-mental-emotional types, or doshas, that are present in everyone. Each person has characteristics of all three doshas, but one dosha is usually most dominant, one secondary, and the third least prominent. The original Sanskrit words for the three doshas are Vata, Pitta, and Kapha.
Disease is caused by either an excess or deficiency of Vata, Pitta, or Kapha.
Pitta represents digestion and metabolism. Pitta individuals have many of the qualities of fire—hot, intense, penetrating, sharp, and agitated. They additionally have the characteristics of being oily and sour. Pitta people have penetrating ideas and sharp intellects. When Pitta people get out of balance, they can become angry and short tempered. On a seasonal basis, Pitta is most dominant during the hot, summer months. Because the tendency of Pitta is to get overheated, the basic principle for keeping Pitta in balance is to keep it cool—physically and emotionally.
Pitta individuals are mentally alert, intelligent, and have strong comprehension. However, they are easily agitated and can become aggressive, angry and jealous when they are out of balance. Pitta people like to be leaders and planners and often seek prosperity. They like to exhibit their wealth and possessions through the purchase of material objects. Success, accomplishment, and satisfaction in one’s activity are important for Pitta individuals. When in balance, Pitta types tend to find contentment easily. When out of balance, they have a tendency to be perfectionists.
Pitta individuals are typically of medium height and build with well-defined muscle tone. Their skin tends to be oily, warm, and reddish or copper colored with many moles and freckles. Their nose is often sharp and complexions tend to be ruddy. Their hair tends to be silky soft and they often experience premature graying or hair loss.
Pitta people tend to have diseases that involve inflammation due to the presence of the fire principle in their body. They have a propensity for acid reflux, skin rashes, migraine headaches, ulcers, burning pain, fever, conjunctivitis, colitis, and heart disease. Pitta people often cannot tolerate the sun or excessive heat. Although they tend to enjoy exercise, excessive physical exercise can aggravate Pitta. People with excessive Pitta need to exercise at the coolest times of the day and avoid steam baths and saunas. Pitta people tend to perspire easily and make large amounts of urine and stools. When in balance, they have abundant energy and often need less sleep than the other two doshas. However, when Pitta people are out of balance, their sleep can become disrupted in the middle of the night.
Pitta predominant individuals have a strong metabolism and strong appetite. They like to consume large amounts of food and liquids. They tend to love hot spices and cold drinks. However, a Pitta balancing diet requires the reduction of hot spices, sour foods (such as tomatoes and citrus), and sour beverages (such as alcohol, coffee, and sodas). Because of their strong digestion, Pitta individuals tend to have poor eating habits. However, if they continue their poor eating habits over long periods of time, they lose their strong digestive abilities and begin to accumulate toxins in the body.
Dietary Recommendations for Pitta
To balance Pitta, one should avoid sour, salty, oily, and spicy foods. Example of the types of foods they should avoid are tomatoes, radishes, chilies, garlic, onions, and citrus fruits. Pitta people do best when they are vegetarian. However, if they choose to eat meat, the preferred sources of animal proteins are chicken, turkey, egg whites, and fresh water fish. Almost all legumes are good for Pitta. To help reduce their natural aggressiveness, Pitta types should eat sweet, astringent, and bitter foods. Sweet, fresh fruits are especially cooling for Pitta. Pitta types can eat almost any natural sweeteners except for honey and molasses, which are both heating.
Barley, rice, oats, and wheat are good grains for Pitta individuals. However, if they have a significant amount of inflammation in their digestive tract they may be gluten intolerant. Vegetables should be the main part of their diets. Pitta people can tolerate moderate amounts of salads and raw vegetables because of their strong digestion. Pitta individuals should strictly avoid coffee, alcohol, and tobacco since each one of these substances strongly aggravates Pitta.
Most nuts and seeds have too much oil and are therefore too heating for Pitta individuals. Unsalted or lightly salted sunflower and pumpkins seeds can be taken in moderation.
Coconut is cooling for Pitta—it can be consumed on a regular basis as coconut water, oil, or as fruit. Pitta people should use oils in small quantities. The best oils are coconut oil, olive oil, sunflower oil, and ghee (clarified butter).
Sweet dairy products (such as milk, unsalted butter, ghee, and soft cheeses) are OK for Pitta people in moderation. Yogurt can be blended with water and sugar to make a sweet lassi, but otherwise the consumption of yogurt should be limited. Spices such as cardamom, cinnamon, coriander, fennel, and turmeric are balancing for Pitta.