Kulreet Chaudhary, M.D., is a pioneer in the field of integrative medicine and an Ayurveda expert. In this piece, she explains how to use ancient practices to keep your gut healthy all summer long. To learn more, check out her class How to Use Ayurveda to Heal Your Gut & Achieve Long-Lasting Weight Loss.
In ancient texts of Ayurveda, there are three fundamental doshas, or mind-body types, that are present in everyone: Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. Each person has characteristics of all three doshas, but one dosha is usually the most dominant.
In Ayurveda, disease is caused by either an excess or deficiency of Vata, Pitta, or Kapha, which results in cellular dysfunction. Creating total physical, mental, and emotional balance requires an understanding of how these three doshas work together in the body.
Why your dosha matters for summer health:
Each of the three doshas is more dominant at different phases of our lives, different times of the day, and different times of the year. Knowing these rhythms and your own dosha allows you to prepare for these fluctuations—rather than just being at the mercy of these changes.
Each of the doshas is a unique combination of the basic five elements that comprise all of life: space, air, fire, water, and earth. Pitta is a combination of fire and water and represents digestion and metabolism. Pitta governs digestion, absorption, assimilation, and body temperature. When Pitta is in balance it promotes intelligence, contentment, and abundant energy. When Pitta is out of balance, it arouses anger, jealousy, inflammation, and impatience.
Pitta is most dominant during the middle stage of life, from puberty to about the age of 50. It's also strongest during summertime, when the sun is creating the greatest amount of heat. Pitta time is from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m., and it represents the most metabolically active times of the day.
Summertime can represent challenges to a Pitta individual’s already overheated digestion, leading to symptoms such as hyperacidity, GERD, and diarrhea. It can also trigger irritability, impatience, and skin conditions like acne and psoriasis, if the excess heat from digestion is distributed throughout the body.
To keep your cool and make sure your digestion is working optimally, Pitta individuals should follow these three summer rules:
1. Limit alcohol.
There's a reason alcohol was referred to as “fire water.” Alcohol increases Pitta—so even though a cold beer seems like the perfect beverage to cool down at a summer BBQ, you’re actually frying your gut with each sip.
If you can't resist, follow the alcohol with a nice tall glass of organic coconut water. Coconut is nature's antidote to Pitta's fiery nature.
2. Stay out of the sun from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
This doesn't mean you can't enjoy a fun day at the beach. It just means that during the peak Pitta hours of the day, you should try to stay in the shade to prevent yourself from overheating. This is a great time to go indoors and get a snack.
Once the peak of Pitta hour is over, you can head back outdoors with confidence.
3. Avoid spicy foods and eat cooling foods.
Again, Pitta is already full of heat—so all those Buffalo wings and that spicy salsa just adds gas to the fire. Instead, opt for some cooling foods like melons, pears, mangoes, kale, and cucumber. Your gut will thank you for helping it put out the fire that's naturally blazing in Pitta.
Summer is supposed to be an energetic and social time of the year. The long days and warm weather pull people out of their homes in the spirit of socialization. Taking a few precautions in the summer to keep your Pitta in balance ensures that you spend it outside with friends, not inside the bathroom.
To learn more about your dosha and other ways to balance your gut year-round, check out my course, How to Use Ayurveda to Heal Your Gut & Achieve Long-Lasting Weight Loss.