Our entire physical body is made up of the food we eat. So it makes sense that we look to the diet for answers to how to optimise our overall health, taking our bodily constitution into account.
Pitta is characterised by the qualities: oily, light, hot, sharp, spreading, and wet. Symptoms of pitta imbalance in the digestion include:
- Loose stool
- Acid reflux
- Gastric or peptic ulcers
- Excessive thirst
- Red and inflamed rashes, acne, cold sores
Here are five things you can do to pacify pitta and restore balance to your system:
1. Develop Awareness by Tracking Symptoms
Symptoms of pitta imbalance commonly appear in the digestive system. Before making dramatic changes to your diet, it is wise to first “get to know” your digestion. Here are some key things to note:
- What times of day do you feel hungry / thirsty? How intense are these feelings?
- Do you have cravings for specific foods / types of foods?
- How do you feel after a meal? Do you experience any negative symptoms, such as gas, heartburn, indigestion, or acid reflux?
- Do you notice any specific spices, foods, or types of food which aggravate these symptoms?
- Are you experiencing any other areas of disease in your body or mind, such as anger, stress, or eczema?
Once you are able to pinpoint specific details of your body’s unique response to the dominance of pitta, you will be able to make intelligent dietary choices and improve your overall health.
2. Favour Qualities that Oppose Pitta
Eating foods that are cooling, both in temperature and energetically, will pacify the hot, sharp quality of pitta. Cooling digestive spices and herbs should be used generously. The majority of spices are in fact heating, so pay close attention to pitta pacifying spices, such as:
- Fresh basil
Turmeric is also very supportive for pitta dosha due to its strong anti-inflammatory properties.
In addition to cooling spices, eating plenty of raw fruits and vegetables can also pacify pitta. Pitta people are much better able to digest raw foods than the other two doshas. Eating raw foods during the hotter months of the year is particularly supportive for pitta.
Nourishing and Grounding Foods
It is important not to confuse grounding foods with “heavy” foods, such as deep-fried foods or other treats. Pitta needs grounding foods that are booth nourishing and stabilizing, such as:
- Ghee and other healthy cooking oils
- Sweet potatoes
- Zucchini and other types of squash
It is important to keep in mind, however, that pitta has a strong agni (digestive fire) and therefore may be inclined to overeat. Steer clear of excessively heavy, highly-processed ready-meals or canned goods.
Dry and Dense Foods
To counterbalance the oily and light qualities of pitta, it is best to favor foods that are drier and have a little more substance to them. Some examples of dry and dense foods include:
Only use a moderate amount of high quality oil or ghee when cooking.
3. Avoid Qualities that Increase Pitta
To pacify pitta, minimize intake of spicy, fiery hot food, or foods with a sharp and heating energy. Pitta is easily aggravated by an increase in body temperature, which can result in burning sensations, acid reflux, inflammation, and skin disturbance.
Avoid hot spices, such as:
- Mustard seeds
- Excessive salt
Alcohol and caffeine are best omitted entirely due to their deeply heating and sharp energy.
Pitta is naturally wet, spreading, and oily. Therefore, it is best to limit the consumption of meals with similar qualities. Pitta also has a strong metabolism, requiring more stabilizing sources of energy as opposed to soups, smoothies, or other lighter-weight foods.
Sharp flavours are best replaced by milder tastes, as pitta is aggravated by excess heat and sharpness in the system. Sharp doesn’t simply mean spicy, but instead refers to foods such as:
- Fermented items
Gentler and less penetrating flavours will aid in the pacification of pitta.
4. Gravitate Towards Balancing Tastes
Favor Sweet, Bitter and Astringent
Sweet taste (called madhura in Sanskrit) is composed of the earth and water elements. It is heavy and cooling in quality—ideal for combatting the hot, sharp, and light qualities of pitta. The sweet taste is also anti-inflammatory and satiates thirst. Naturally sweet foods should not be confused with refined sugars, which are in fact aggravating to pitta.
Examples of naturally sweet foods are:
- Sweet potatoes
- Most fruits
- Cooked grains
- Root vegetables
- Nuts and seeds
- Fresh dairy products
Bitter taste (tikta) is made up of the air and ether elements, resulting in drying and deeply cooling effects on the body, pacifying pitta’s heat and oiliness.
Bitter foods are particularly beneficial for pitta imbalance of the skin. They are both toning and cooling, which relieves burning and itching symptoms. In addition, they cleanse the blood, support the digestive system, satisfy thirst, and aid in the absorption of excess liquid and sweat.
Examples of bitter foods and spices are:
- Collard greens
- Bitter melon
- Jerusalem artichoke
- Dark chocolate
Astringent taste (Kashaya) is recognised by the dry, chalky feeling it leaves in the mouth after consumption. It is composed of the air and earth elements. Its qualities are heavy, cold, and dry, and it is therefore very balancing to pitta’s hot, moist, and light characteristics.
The astringent taste’s strong absorption of fluid is very beneficial for symptoms such as profuse sweating and diarrhea, as well as bleeding disorders.
Examples of astringent foods are:
- Most legumes
- Rice cakes
- Brassicas (kale, broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower)
Minimize Pungent, Sour, and Salty
Pungent taste (katu) is composed of the fire and water elements (the same composition as pitta dosha), and it is hot and light in quality. The heat and lightness are especially disturbing to pitta. Too much of the pungent taste can cause burning sensations, heavy thirst, dizziness, and intestinal inflammation.
Pungent foods are recognised by their spicy, hot taste, such as:
- Heating spices
Sour taste (amla) is made up of the fire and earth elements. It is aggravating to pitta due to its light, hot, and oily quality. It increases internal heat, which can cause burning sensations, disturbance of the blood, excessive thirst, and pus formation.
It is said that eating too much sour food can result in a sour mood—jealousy, envy, etc. Examples of sour foods include:
- Lemons and limes
- Green grapes, oranges, and pineapple
- Sour cream
Salty taste (lavana) is composed of the fire and water elements. It’s light, hot, and oily nature is aggravating to pitta. Salt increases the internal heat resulting in blood disturbance, skin aggravation, inflammation, water retention, symptoms of premature aging, and high blood pressure.
The salty taste is almost exclusively derived from salt itself. Be careful to check the packaging when buying canned, or premade ingredients, as much of our store-bought food contains added salt—even the things you would least expect!
5. Stick to Regular Meal Times
All bodies are composed of systems, and all systems thrive on routine and regularity. By having meals at the same time each day, the body is better prepared to digest and assimilate the food you eat. Pitta dominant people benefit from making lunch the biggest meal of the day, having a nutritious breakfast, and a smaller evening meal.
Every now and then, the pitta type body may also benefit from a cleanse. This could either be a short fruit or juice fast (one or two days) or a longer mono-diet, such as a week-long kitchari cleanse.
Overall, pitta thrives on a fresh, cooling, yet nourishing diet, with plenty of earthy vegetables and a limited use of cooking oils. The most important step in finding the optimal diet for you is to develop an awareness of how and what you eat, and the effects your diet has on your physical and mental health.