If you aren’t familiar with the ancient science of Ayurveda by now, a quick internet search will lead you to a large amount of invaluable knowledge of this 5000 year old practice. The wisdom of this old medicine is impressive and could teach western society some new perspectives on what health actually entails. Ayurveda also has a unique way of describing how health is not only a physical practice, but takes mental discernment and spiritual grounding into account for a more complete health assessment.
Just to review the basics, there are three doshas or mind-body types. We all have all three constitutions, but often times we mirror the world we live in. The world is polluted and chaotic, so our bodies follow suit. Our minds become polluted with judgments and anger while our body holds onto toxic chemicals and heavy metals representative of the industrial society we live in. It is hard to say whether the thoughts cause disease in the body or the physical degradation leads to negative thought patterns. Think which came first-the chicken or the egg? No matter the case, once this process has started it is a steep decline unless we can become AWARE. Depending on our family history, past and present life trauma, genes, or unique weaknesses in the body/mind, our doshas can become imbalanced. One or two may dominate while another is lacking. This imbalance eventually manifests into physical disease as the body is only trying to alert us that there is a problem that needs attention. It’s a bit like ignoring the check engine light on your car’s dashboard!
So what are the three Doshas?
There are pitta, vata and kapha. This is a three part blog series which will explain each dosha in detail and then elaborate on what you can do to prevent or correct an imbalance.
Pitta is a mind body type that aligns with the summer. It is lively, competitive, first responder, spicy, and fire based. Pitta predominant constitutions usually have a muscular build, oilier skin, are prone to bleeding or ulcers and are very intelligent and quick witted. When imbalanced, this competitive drive can often overtake the softer parts of the personality. “Winning” and being right can lead to stagnation of prana, or energy, causing emotional blockages that then affect certain organs. The organs most affected by a pitta excess include the liver, skin, eyes, and some digestive organs. Since the liver filters all of the blood in the entire body, the blood is also subject to toxicity if the liver is diseased. To pacify pitta imbalances, one must eat a pitta satisfying diet of astringent/bitter herbs and cooling foods/spices. There are also some easier than expected lifestyle changes that one can adopt if they are truly ready to be the captain of their own health ship. Keep reading as this blog is about Pitta!
vata is a mind body type that aligns with autumn and winter. It is sweet, airy, fluid, expressive and movement based. Vata predominant constitutions usually have long extremities, drier skin, large eyes, are prone to anxiety and distractibility, and are grounded by heavier or sweeter foods. When imbalanced, this air based dosha can become too stimulated and lean towards anxiety, flightiness and shallowness. This leads to a different energy blockage and stagnation of proper prana flow. The organs most affected by a vata excess include the colon and nervous system. To pacify vata imbalances, one must eat a vata pacifying diet to include sweeter and more grounding foods.
kapha is a mind body type that aligns with spring and winter. It is loyal, caring, grounded, and water/earth based. Kapha predominant constitutions usually have heavier set builds, glowing skin and lustrous hair, are prone to emotional eating and clinginess, and are supported by social interaction and exercise. Emotional eating and coveting can lead to stagnation of prana that causes heaviness and depression, affected certain organs. The organs most affected by a kapha imbalance include the sinus cavities, stomach, and lungs. Eating heavy foods can predispose one to water accumulation, depression and weight gain. To pacify kapha imbalances, one must eat a kapha satisfying diet that avoids heavy or sweet foods. should be light/spicy and easily digestible.
The Pitta Dosha: How Do I Know If I Have an Imbalance
So if you are pitta predominant, some of the things I listed above may have really resonated with you. I think it’s quite easy to become overly competitive and egotistically imbalanced as society promotes this. We are rewarded for hard work at the expense of self-care. Stepping on others to get what we want seems like a normal behavior. This type of behavior and belief patterns exacerbate the pitta dosha and can lead to an excess that then affects our happiness. If you have found yourself to be overly reactive, impatient, envious, or overly analytical/judgmental (especially about yourself), then your liver may be suffering from too much heat from an over exhausted pitta predominance.
Symotoms of excessive pitta imbalance:
-fever, ulcers, acid reflux, skin issues like eczema or other eruptions, oily skin/hair, cellulite, hives, anger, reactivity, frustration, envy, inflammation, nausea if meals are skipped, sweating, perfectionism, or impatience
-symptoms may worsen in heat or the summer. This is pitta’s season overall.
How Do I Help To Correct a Pitta Imbalance?
Once you recognize the problem, awareness is key to resolving it! There are lots of solutions I speak from personal experience here! I had a diseased liver due to overworking in a competitive field and ignoring my inner guidance. I become angry and reactive (this is often how doctors are prepared and trained to be first responders). The liver, which is the seat of the pitta Dosha, had caused toxicity in my blood and the lymph is filtered by the blood. Lymph carries all our “waste” from the blood including heavy metals or endocrine disrupters. Since the liver wasn’t doing it’s job adequately, my circulation and lymph suffered. Therefore I had cellulite all over my thighs that never seemed to go away with all my hard work dieting and exercising. What’s a girl to do?
1. Indian Triphala-this herb is wonderful at balancing all three doshas. I still take it! It is a gentle and natural laxative that also contains some of the highest vitamin C content. It helped my liver wade through and process all the junk I was exposed to while providing regular bowel movements which eliminated that waste. Regularity is health! If not you are holding onto toxins that are not meant to be stored in the body.
2. Dry Brushing-dry brushing is a staple in Ayurvedic medicine. It is recommended to dry brush first thing upon rising before you shower. It’s purpose is to stimulate sluggish lymph, often caused by blood toxicity and liver dysfunction. It helps to stimulate immunity by circulating white blood cells and if done consistently, helps to improve or eliminate cellulite (which is really only toxins stored inside fat cells). The method is done by using a natural bristled brush and using long, sweeping movements starting at the ankles and moving in an upwards motion towards the heart. If you are brushing on the arms or above the heart, you will brush downwards towards the heart. The general gist is to always be moving the lymph back to the heart where it can eventually be flushed out. If you err on the side of reactivity or frustration, you should consider dry brushing daily as this is a sign of liver heat.
3. Finding Peace and Forgiveness-Anger is deceptive. We hold grudges believing we are protecting ourselves, but ultimately that is a poison that we end up drinking. Prolonged anger eats away at the one who holds it and disrupts our internal peace. Meditation or silencing the brain is a great way to find peace. Exploring new perspectives and finding time to destress is imperative if you are on overworked overachiever!
4. Gentle Exercise-the last thing someone with excess pitta needs is competition during their workouts. Even highly competitive workouts like cross fit can release the stress hormone, cortisol which is already being overly produced due to pitta’s flight or fight response. Yoga, Qi-Gong and Tai Chi are more suitable choices for overexhausted pitta predominant people. The spinal twists of yoga help to rinse out the liver and spleen that then work to purify and protect the blood.
5. Regular Eating and Sleeping Patterns-Again, due to a sluggish liver, Pittas often do not have stores of glucose, known as glycogen, being held for quick release. For this reason, they often feel dizzy in between meals due to low blood sugars. Regularly scheduled meals throughout the day helps to stabilize the blood sugar drops and moods. The same goes for sleeping patterns. Pittas are infamous for staying up and eating past their bedtime. From 10pm to 2am is the liver’s time to rest and rejuvenate. If you awake and eating during this time, however, you are impeding this healing. Pittas do best if in bed, preferably before 10pm, and rise with the sun. Avoid spicy, hot, fried or oily foods.
6. Raw, Cooling Foods and Spices-Raw, organic fruits and veggies like melons or peaches and cooling spices like fennel, neem and coriander help to lessen the blazing pitta fire. Eating around noon, when the the sun is at its highest, also promotes good digestion as the digestive fire burns the brightest at this time too. Drink room temperature or slightly cool liquids but never too hot or too cold as this stagnates digestion.
7. Take Cold or Lukewarm Showers-morning showers that aren’t too hot is also advantageous for pitta predominant types. The cool water helps to calm the mind, reset immunity and calm any inflamed skin issues. Always try to dry brush beforehand.
8. Decrease Alcohol and Caffeine Intake-Both substances are sharp and hot, qualities that are already in excess in pitta. Indulging can result in anger explosions and frustration as heat is added to the body.
9. Daily Massage-Also known as Abhyanga, involves anointing the body with oil to soothe imbalanced doshas. Besides rejuvenating the skin, decreasing the signs of aging and stimulating the internal organs, daily oil massages help to soothe the mind, which is very important for the perfectionist pitta. Try cooling oils like coconut, neem or sunflower oil.
10. Seek out sweet rather than competitive friendships-Pitta personalities are likely to place themselves in demanding, stressful and competitive jobs so the last thing that should seek out is that same type of relationship in their personal lives. Look for friendly, trustworthy company that does not engage any competitive or resentful behavior.
My Liver Master, which you can find in my store, is also an excellent choice of liver purging and calming herbs that will accentuate pitta imbalances and is made just for this purpose!
Happy Pitta balancing!
Dr. Jess (MD)
Dr. Jess (Dr. Jessica Peatross) is a western trained medical doctor who began her journey into healing in 2009.
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