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Guide to Ayurveda: pitta dosha diet, lifestyle and herbs

Karen Evennett
Article written by Karen Evennett

Date published 27 July 2021

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Ayurveda is based on a belief that everything in the universe is composed of five elements: earth, ether, fire, water and air. These combine to form three internal forces, or doshas: pitta, kapha and vata.

Here's what you need to know about the fiery pitta dosha. Want to know which dosha you are? Take our quiz.

Understanding pitta

Pitta is known as a fiery, intense dosha. It predominantly governs metabolism - controlling hormones, digestion, appetite and skin condition.

Physical traits of pitta

Looks-wise, an extreme example of pitta is someone with bright red hair, and if not red, then likely to be fine and prone to greying prematurely. Pittas often have skin that is likely to be sensitive and easily irritated, and can burn easily.

Pittas are usually medium-built and well-proportioned. You can maintain a fairly even weight without too much trouble - if you gain a few pounds, you can usually lose them very easily.

You're someone who walks in a determined, strident manner, although you have medium strength and endurance, and you're naturally inclined towards a moderate lifestyle.

The pitta personality

The picture of a balanced pitta is someone who is warm, loving and content. To glow with happiness is considered 'very pitta'. You're also ambitious, sharp-witted, and often outspoken.

You speak clearly and articulately, and are upset by irregularity in your routine. You live by your watch and resent having your time wasted. You can't skip meals and feel ravenously hungry if a meal is even half an hour late.

With an innate desire to live an orderly and controlled life which you efficiently manage, being thrown off balance can trigger stress that brings out the negative sides to your pitta personality: demanding perfectionism, anger, irritability and impatience.

When Pitta is in excess your naturally articulate tongue and sharp wit can also turn sour - leading to a cutting and abrasive manner. And your naturally good leadership qualities can become autocratic and alienating.

Pitfalls of pitta

The fiery, easily stressed and irritated side of Pitta makes this the dosha that is closest to the classic type A personality in psychology: ambitious, rigidly organised, anxious, and overly concerned with time-management.

In line with this personality type, pittas are also at higher risk of stress-induced conditions, as well as inflammatory skin conditions like eczema, or - especially in adolescence - acne.

Pitta is naturally inclined towards a moderate life - and moderation is what keeps you healthy and happy if pitta is your predominant dosha. But, despite your natural moderacy, you can inadvertently push Pitta to excess - usually when stress is a trigger - by becoming over-ambitious or over perfectionist, and placing excessive demands on yourself.

Hot and humid summer weather is another stressor for pitta. Becoming sunburned, or fatigued from too much heat exposure, tips pitta into an imbalance - and pitta can easily run out of control on a hot summer's day.

The pitta diet

Pittas need to eat regularly. Going without food does not go down well. If you're predominantly pitta, you're blessed with a naturally strong digestive system - but this doesn't mean you can abuse your gut by overeating and becoming complacent about nutrition.

Digestive acidity and IBS are signs that pitta is out of balance. To maintain your equilibrium, aim to eat regularly, healthily and moderately. Make the most of cooling salads, cucumber, coconut, coriander, and fennel, and go easy on coffee, alcohol, chilli, salty and sour foods, and red meat, which are all linked to inflammation.

Particularly in the summer, when pitta is at risk of igniting, top up with cooling aloe vera juice, rose water and anti-inflammatory peppermint tea.

Cucumber and radish salad

Pitta does best with cooling salads, cucumber, coriander, fennel and coconut.

The pitta sleep cycle

Being a moderate dosha, a pitta-type is more likely to wake up refreshed than a vata (who sleeps restlessly) or a kapha (who sleeps too much), but don't take your good sleep for granted. Insomnia is most likely to be linked to an overactive mind - when you are wrestling with ideas or making ambitious plans - a sign of pitta getting out of balance, especially if you've been under stress.

To modify pitta and cool your inherent heat, sleep in a cool room. As with all three doshas, aim to stick to a healthy bedtime routine: going to bed and waking at the same regular times. This ties in well with the pitta love of orderliness and should be easy to achieve when you are in balance.

Pitta lifestyle

Pittas do well when they spend time around nature - for example taking in a sunset, watching the full moon, and walking by lakes and rivers. Exercising outdoors is great if you're a pitta - you're naturally sporty and competitive, and, though you get bored easily, being in nice surroundings will help you stay engaged. However, avoid exercising in heat - it could ignite your pitta fire!

Pitta-balancing herbs

"Pitta is balanced by sweet, bitter and astringent tastes, including the herbs fenugreek, cardamom, shatavari, turmeric, and fresh ginger (in moderation)," says Dr Prasanna Kerur, Ayurvedic physician at the Ayush Wellness Spa in Jersey. Boswellia is also known to pacify pitta.

Read more about Ayurveda here.

"Always seek medical advice before taking a herbal remedy if you have a known medical condition, or you are taking other medicines."

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Karen Evennett

About Karen Evennett

Karen is a freelance health journalist and author/editor of 14 health books. She is a member of the Medical Journalists' Association and her features have appeared in various publications including Woman's Own and the Guardian.