Creating Summer Vitality: Recommendations for Pitta Season

May 12, 2020

Days are getting longer and warmer- Alaskan summers, here we come! Do you love long days of bright sunlight, or do you end up feeling agitated, hot or bothered come solstice?

Summer, like each season, arrives with its own distinct personality. Depending on your constitution, (your unique representation of the 3 doshas- vata, pitta & kapha) summer can leave you feeling energized, renewed and light or potentially aggravate your innate doshic tendencies.

Ayurveda suggests that  hot-natured people (those a lot of pitta in their constitution), usually prefer cooler winter weather over hot summers.  Pitta types often feel hotter than most—to the point of agitation or discomfort as the Alaskan summer intensifies. On the other hand, someone who finds long, cold winters to be a challenge tend to love the heat of summer.

A fundamental principle of Ayurveda is that our daily habits, routines, and food choices should change with the seasons. Seasonal living involves consciously making an effort to live in harmony with the cycles of nature and adjusting our lifestyles to accommodate the arrival of each new season.

An Ayurvedic tenet is that like increases like & opposites balance; as summer is the time of pitta, or fire; Ayurvedic wisdom encourages cooling measures to keep summer heat at bay.  Manage the excess heat with cooling qualities.

Summers most obvious characteristic is the heat: long Alaskan days of non-stop sunlight are an intense and dramatic shift in nature. This heat and intensity increase and often aggravate pitta dosha.  Summer is also drying to some degree, as a result of the relentless sunlight; affecting vata dosha in some individuals.

A summer seasonal routine is aimed at cooling diet and lifestyle habits to help reduce the over-accumulation of these hot & dry summer qualities while enabling you to enjoy the sunshine, energy & bliss that Alaskan summers are famous for.

General Recommendations for Pitta Season

The primary focus from mid May-mid August is to keep pitta balanced by staying physically & mentally cool while countering summer intensity with relaxation and grounding practices. But as this time also has some vata characteristics as well, it’s just as important stay hydrated and have some sort of daily routine and diurnal rhythm to support your bodies biological clock.

Summer Diet

This is the time to favor the sweet, bitter, and astringent tastes. Summer is the best time of year to enjoy fresh fruits and salads; also a great time to enjoy sweet dairy products like milk, ghee, soft white cheeses like cottage cheese, paneer or mozzarella & plain yogurt. Small amounts of unrefined sweeteners (except for honey and molasses) are considered cooling and can be enjoyed in moderation during pitta season.

Stay hydrated with cool or room temperature water to beat heat- but avoid ice water as this upsets the digestive fire.  Try infusing water with mint, cucumber or lime.  Drink cooling herbal teas such as peppermint, licorice, fennel, hibiscus, nettle or rose.

Consider reducing sour or unripe fruits, aged or sharp cheeses, red meats, and heating vegetables and spices such as onions, peppers, radishes, onions, garlic, ginger, curries, chilies & cayenne.   Ayurveda considers these foods heating and aggravating to pitta dosha. Remember that like increases like & opposites balance– this is why Ayurveda recommends to not consume hot spicy foods when it’s hot out, but to instead favor cooling ones.

Here are some summer time foods to favor!  (best eaten fresh or cooked but not dried)

Fruits

  • Apples
  • Avocados
  • Berries
  • Coconut
  • Plums
  • Grapes
  • Limes
  • Mangoes
  • Melons
  • Pears
  • Pomegranates

Vegetables (more green, mo’ beta 😉 )  Summer is the best time to favor the bitter taste- that’s most leafy green veggies!

  • Artichoke
  • Asparagus
  • Beet Greens
  • Broccoli
  • Brussel Sprouts
  • Cauliflower
  • Celery
  • Collard Green
  • Cucumber
  • Green Bean
  • Kale
  • Lettuce
  • Okra
  • Watercress
  • Zucchini

Grains (minimize yeasted breads, pastries, etc)

  • Barley
  • Basmati Rice
  • Wheat
  • Quinoa

Oils to Favor

  • Coconut Oil
  • Olive Oil
  • Ghee
  • Avocado Oil
  • Sunflower Oil

Spices

  • Basil
  • Cardamom
  • Cilantro
  • Coriander
  • Dill
  • Turmeric
  • Fennel
  • Mint
  • Parsley
  • Lime

Animal Products

  • Fish (freshwater)
  • Poultry (white)
  • Eggs
  • Plain yogurt
  • Cottage cheese
  • Paneer cheese
  • Mozzarella cheese

Ayurveda is Lifestyle Medicine

These Ayurvedic seasonal lifestyle adjustments for summer create experiences of grounding, cool, calmness, clarity & heightened energy vs. feeling excessive urgency, being overheated, intense, manic or agitated.

Morning Routines

Wake up early, ideally between 5-7am.  Early rising is a healthy rhythm to embrace in the summer.  Scrape your tongue and drink plenty of water to flush your digestive system before any food.

Before showering, massage the skin with a small amount of cooling oil, like coconut or sunflower, to help ground the nervous system, encourage healthy lymph and blood circulation while cooling the body.

Before jumping into the day, take time for introspective activities.  This can be exercise, yoga, meditation, walking in nature, breathing exercises, journaling or intention setting.

Exercise

Summer usually motivates us and improves physical fitness; this is a great time to be active provided you exercise at appropriate times and at an appropriate intensity.

Exercise is very heating; Ayurveda suggests to avoid exercise during the heat of the day, especially from 12-4pm Alaska time. Instead, try exercising earlier in the morning, when the air temperature is cooler.  Summer is an ideal time to be active in nature, but when you do go outside, but be sure to protect your eyes and face from the sunlight.

It’s also important not to push too hard. Ayurveda suggests to exercise at about 50–70% of your capacity.  Try to exercise in a way that gives you energy and doesn’t leave you feeling exhausted or depleted.

Mid-Day Routines

Try to make lunch your biggest meal.  Ayurveda suggests that when the earth’s fire (sun) is at it’s strongest…midday…then our digestive fire (our agni) is also at it’s strongest.  Ayurveda suggests whatever mother nature is doing, we probably are too in some way, as we are a part of the environment as well.  Aim to have lunch between 11-2pm.  Take a short walk, or at least 100 steps after eating to encourage healthy digestion.

On especially hot days, if you feel sluggish, worn down or dead in the afternoon, take a short nap to rest the mind (under 30 minutes).

Evening Routines

Try to eat dinner before 7pm.  This is hard in Alaska, I know.  The sun keeps us awake and energized, there is just so much to do!!  As tempting as it is to ‘GO FOR IT’ and keep going, going, going into the night, I strongly encourage people to resist the temptation.  This Ayurvedic lifestyle change- winding down around 8 or 9pm has personally transformed the quality of my summer.  I no longer feel wired late into the night, manic during the day and have plenty of energy all summer long.

When we engage in active or stimulating activities later into the night, it affects our bodies biological clock and reduces our overall sleep quality.  This eventually leads to feeling MORE tired and rundown later in the summer.  If you can establish a healthy routine around sleep now, you’ll save yourself feeling “tired and wired” later in the summer.

To help wind down in the evening try washing your feet before massaging them with coconut brahmi oil; this helps to ground energy, calm the nervous system and draw heat down.  Drink a relaxing herbal sedative tea like chamomile, lavender or skullcap.  Put away any electronic device, as the artificial light affects your bodies ability to make melatonin.  Do a few calming yoga poses or breathing exercises.  Listen to a guided meditation.

Aromatherapy & Color Therapy

Essential oils of jasmine, sandalwood, rose, ylang ylang, lavender and most flowers are good anti-pitta fragrances to calm, cool, and refresh the mind.

Wear cooling colors like whites, grays, blues, purples, turquoise and greens.  Avoid wearing firey or intense colors like red, orange, yellow, bright neons, pastels or 100% black.