Pitta dosha encompasses the transformation, digestion, and assimilation that takes place within the mind and body. It is associated with the energy of the fire element, which has the power to transform through its heat and brightness. The flame of pitta dosha nurtures our intelligence and understanding, and it also provides the means of digestion of food and experience. It governs the digestive system, metabolism, and the light of understanding.
By appreciating the individual characteristics and tendencies of each of the doshas, we are able to choose a diet and lifestyle that is optimal for our personal constitution. We become sensitized to the qualities and symptoms of imbalance within the system and learn how to maintain or restore harmonious equilibrium.
The five elements are the most basic building blocks of the entire material universe. Each dosha is composed of a pair of elements, which then dictates its characteristics and role in the body. Pitta is composed of the fire + water elements.
Qualities of Pitta (gunas)
The qualities of pitta are reflective of the fire and water elements. Becoming familiar with these gunas helps make balancing pitta dosha an intuitive process.
The two key rules of Ayurveda are that like increases like, and opposites balance. In other words, we can promote the restoration of balance by reducing pitta’s qualities and promoting the opposite qualities. For example, reducing exposure to things that are hot and favouring coolness can balance pitta. The qualities of Pitta are as follows:
Each dosha will share qualities with specific seasons. This results in an increasing chance of imbalance of a particular dosha type during their associated season. Pitta predominates during summer.
At this time of the year the environment and weather mirrors pitta’s qualities of heat, sharpness, and lightness. During the summer months we are more susceptible to aggravation of pitta dosha. We should therefore favour opposing qualities during this time to maintain a healthy internal balance.
Main Site in the Body
Although all three of the doshas are distributed throughout the body, each has a main seat where they predominate. Pitta dosha is most in evidence in the central third of the body. Its main site is in the small intestine. This is the home of digestive absorption and the transformation of food into life sustaining energy. When pitta is healthy we experience strong digestion and a powerful metabolism. However, when pitta becomes aggravated this can result in excess heat within the digestive system, resulting in symptoms such as diarrhea.
Time of Life
All three of the doshas are present within the body at all times. However, at certain stages of life we have a tendency towards a particular dosha and its associated qualities. Pitta is most evident during the active middle years of life, approximately age 30-60.
During this stage of life, we may notice an increase in symptoms of pitta aggravation, such as increased internal heat, which may manifest as high-efficiency, or slip over into anger and frustration. This stage of life is when we are most likely to be very busy, hold stressful jobs, or take on a lot of responsibility. A healthy and balanced pitta supports effective handling of these situations. Excess pitta, on the other hand, can cause burn out.
Towards the end of the pitta stage, at the juncture of the pitta and vata stages of life, many women will experience an explosion of internal heat. This is the menopause period, which for many women is characterised by mood swings and intense hot flashes—both symptoms of aggravated pitta dosha.
Time of Day
Just as each dosha is associated with different times of life, they each are also heightened at specific times throughout the day.
Pitta is dominant between 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. and 10 p.m. – 2 a.m. In order to maximize our efficiency and use of time, it is recommended that we structure our daily routine according to the qualities of the presiding dosha.
As pitta is responsible for agni (digestive fire), it is recommended that we eat our largest meal of the day during the pitta hours of 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. to optimize our digestive capacity.
Pitta is also associated with the liver and detoxification. During the night, when the body is at rest, pitta actively begins detoxifying our entire psycho-physical system. Therefore, it is important that our body can rest during this time, between the hours of 10 p.m. and 2 a.m.
Physical and Mental Attributes
- Intelligent, quick-witted
- Organized, efficient, focused, and self-disciplined
- A good memory
- Quick to learn
- Courageous, passionate
- Competitive, goal-orientated
- Clear and sharp communication
- A medium-sized frame
- Develops muscle well
- Strong digestion
- Sensitive eyes, intense gaze
Causes of Imbalance
- Strong and intensive exercise, competitive sports
- An overly-full schedule, or ‘workaholic’ mentality
- Excessive exposure to hot and humid environments
- Confrontational communication, debates or arguments
- Intense interactions, gossip, or manipulation
- A diet consisting of too many hot or spicy foods
- Caffeine or other stimulants
- Complications or excess stress in personal life
- No boundary between work and personal life
Internal imbalance usually arises due to unsupportive diet and lifestyle choices, or emotional stress such as trauma or grief. Once an imbalance has occurred, the natural equilibrium of the whole bodily system has been disturbed.
We all have a proclivity towards imbalance in a particular dosha. Generally this is the dosha that predominates our constitution, although it may not always be the case. When aggravated, each dosha disrupts the body in its own unique way and initiates a chain reaction of imbalance in the mind and body. Therefore, the sooner we recognise and address imbalance the better.
Pitta imbalance can be recognised by the following symptoms:
- Excessive anger, irritation, or impatience
- Agitation or frustration
- Becoming overly competitive, critical, or judgemental
- Skin rashes, acne, hives, or hot and itchy eczema
- Acid reflux, heartburn, or indigestion
- Loose stool or diarrhoea
- Hot flashes or burning sensations
- Major fallouts with friends or colleagues
Ways to Balance Pitta
- Eat a supportive diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables. Choose foods that are nourishing, cooling, simple, and fresh. Favor qualities that oppose pitta: sweet, bitter, and astringent.
- Avoid stimulants such as caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine.
- Significantly reduce consumption of hot, spicy, oily, or fried foods
- Practice moderate-intensity or gentle yoga during the cooler parts of the day
- Go swimming, hiking, or engage in other forms of exercise that aren’t overly heating
- Spend more time in nature, particularly during the cooler parts of the day
- Make strict work/personal life boundaries and respect your time off
- Don’t overbook yourself; schedule time for relaxation
- Keep a daily meditation practice
- Try cooling, calming, and balancing breathing practices (pranayama, such as alternate nostril breathing, or śītalī (cooling breath)
- Experiment with dry brushing or self-massage with coconut oil.
Pitta is the potent fire of transformation and assimilation. Pitta predominant people are excellent speakers, leaders and educators. They hold key roles within society and as such are often highly respected.
Problems arise when pitta is allowed to ‘overheat’ and become aggravated, resulting in anger, frustration, irritability, stubbornness, as well as all of the physical symptoms of excess fire within the body.
To maintain and support a healthy, functioning pitta, it is essential to have a clear understanding of its nature and range of fluctuations. Learning to recognise the causes and symptoms of imbalance allows you to avoid lifestyle or dietary choices that may cause internal discord. Furthermore, by the health benefits that come along with a healthy pitta, you’ll have plenty of incentive to strive for a harmonious balance that will support your overall well-being.