It’s July in Los Angeles and it is HOT. I live for this time of year. I’m one of those weird creatures of the sun that loves the drastic transition of walking out from the air conditioning into a big, sweet wall of humidity. This is the time of year when our days are the longest, sunlight is abundant and pitta is at its peak. We flock to the beach and ice cream stands in search of ways to cool down, our bedtimes naturally grow a little later, and we feel more inspired to pursue the things we’re passionate about.
If you’re a worshipper of the sun and a lover of the heat like me, you might be in danger of getting a little too much. From an Ayurvedic perspective, summer is the time of year when our pitta can potentially run rampant and burn everything in its path.
Here are some signs that you might be getting overheated: You feel irritable, angry and easily stressed. When pitta is high, our fiery emotions tend to get the best of us. This includes extreme or explosive reactions to things that normally don’t bother us.
- Inflammation. Pitta governs your heat and metabolism so watch your body for any signs of redness and swelling. In the skin this looks like red, hot irritation, including acne, hives, and the most obvious: sunburn. In the body, it feels like puffiness and bloating.
- Your digestive system is processing everything a little too quickly. This manifests as loose stools, heartburn, and the feeling that no matter how much you eat, you’re never satisfied.
If any of these feel relevant, it’s time to find ways to cool down. According to Ayurveda, we can use a combination of diet and lifestyle choices to find our way back into balance.
Balancing Pitta in Summer
Here are a few of my favorite tips for balancing Pitta in summer:
- Find water. Drink it. Hydrate yourself. Make sure it’s not too cold and try not to add ice as this makes it a little too shocking to your digestive system and weakens your digestive fire. Stay away from drinks that increase the heat in your body, like coffee and alcohol. You can definitely still enjoy a warm tea, just make sure they utilize herbs that are cooling, like mint, or Chyawanprash, that is perfect for balancing all of your doshas.
- More water! There’s a reason why we gravitate towards beaches in the summer. This is the perfect time of year to go for a swim, preferably in a natural body of water, like rivers, lakes and oceans. Try to avoid the peak hours of sunlight from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. This is the time of day when the UV rays of the sun are strongest and we have the highest risk of getting overheated and burnt.
- Eat sweet and cooling foods. Note that cooling does not literally mean cold. This includes watermelon, coconut water and spices, such as cilantro, cumin, coriander, and fennel. These herbs help balance pitta by calming the digestive tract and reducing inflammation. Avoid foods that are really hot and salty. Spices like cayenne and chili can aggravate pitta and get your digestion moving so quickly that you can’t actually absorb any nutrients. While salt is necessary in a well balanced diet, over-salted foods can be extremely dehydrating and increase your blood pressure. If you already tend to have a lot of fire in your constitution, you definitely don’t need any more of that!
- Aloe Vera everywhere! On your skin and in your drinks. Aloe Vera is great for your digestive system and calming inflammation inside your body and on your skin. Most health food stores sell the leaves, but if you’re really aiming for sustainability, try growing it yourself or getting a potted one from your local farmer’s market. They’re super easy to take care of and make great house plants. Cut off a piece of the leaf and open it, scoop the jelly out and blend it into your smoothies and drinks, or rub it all over your face for a DIY face mask. In the summer, I always keep some in my fridge and use it every day to prepare my skin before going in the sun and as skin recovery after.
- Take mid-day naps. The ancient Spaniards were onto something with their siestas. In some southern European cultures, this is still a big part of daily life. Since the sun is rising earlier and setting later, our circadian rhythms are acclimating to shorter sleep schedules. Afternoon tends to be the hottest time of day. We can avoid overheating by staying inside during the afternoons and proactively choosing to rest.
When pitta is out of balance, it pushes to the surface our aggression, anger, ambition and need for control. By making a conscious effort to relax and find refreshment, through all of your senses, you can stay cool as a cucumber all summer long.
Written by Alex Nashton