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According to the dosha based seasonal cycles, summer is said to be a Pitta season, where the energies of fire and water are most dominant. During the phase of to and fro movement into the Summer solstice, the earth receives searing, harsh, penetrating rays from the sun.
Intrinsically propelled by the power of the sun, during these months Pitta dosha expresses itself in the most beaming form in our bodies and the universe at large. Ayurveda considers summer to be a time of dehydration both inside and outside the body. It recommends a Pitta dosha pacifying lifestyle including foods that suppress the same. Hence making changes in diet and living is always fruitful. Then one can take benefits of the season’s cycles.
Pitta affects the body in several ways. People become prone to conditions such as excessive body heat, rashes, acne, peptic ulcers, heartburn, hyperactivity, diarrhea, premature greying and other mental and emotional issues like irritation, annoyance, anger, frustration etc. Following Ayurveda dietary suggestions will make us mellow and pacify the body state as well as our temperamental outbursts.
Pitta is a hot, forceful, light and sharp substance, which can quickly spread across the body. It is also slightly oily and fleshy smelling. These qualities build up in the body due to improper food intake and lifestyle habits. The Charaka Samhita Sutrashtana 6.6 states that during the summer months there is the enhancement of the pungent tastes and the roughness and weakness factors in the body tend to become grave. Hence, care must be taken in terms of what goes into the system. Due to the weather as well as our lifestyle and food habits, Pitta can accumulate excessively in the body and manifest in the form of many imbalances. These effects can happen to anyone in summer, whether or not one has a Pitta dominant constitution naturally. But those with Pitta body type are particularly sensitive to the heat factor in nature and food. Hence they must take note of making changes in their food habits.
According to Ayurveda, the ancient Indian practice of balancing energy for health, certain ingredients have qualities that enable one to beat the heat. During summer one must eat cooling foods that help the body stay refreshed. Light and smaller meals are most advisable. In fact even the inner digestive fires or Agni retreats, while trying to keep the body cool and therefore the functioning of the digestive tract gets weakened. This is the reason why in summer we lose our appetite and are less hungry even during meal times. One must increase the intake of sweet, bitter and astringent foods during these months. Some great suggestions include bitter salads with greens such as arugula, lettuce, basil, radicchio, cilantro, coriander and endive among others. These are very helpful in balancing the Pitta aspect in our bodies. Fresh salads with raw fruits and veggies are also ideal. Must have options include water melon, mango, apples, pomegranates, cucumber and various berries like cranberry. One must suitably reduce the consumption of foods that are salty, sour or pungent in taste. Leafy greens, zucchini, asparagus, kale, broccoli, okra have positive effects on the body. Herbs like dill, fennel, and saffron must also be used for spicing dishes. Soaked and peel almonds are good for the body too. Oils such as olive oil, sunflower oil, coconut oil and ghee can be used in moderate proportions.
There is an entire range of must avoid foods. The list includes most foods that aggravate the Pitta dosha element. This includes chili peppers, eggplants, tomatoes, garlic, dry ginger, black pepper, as well as sours fruits, fermented foods, highly spicy and hot items, heavy proteins, mustard oil, coffee and molasses among others.
Breakfast is the first meal of the day that breaks the overnight fast, and so one must make sure that it’s soothing on the digestive system. This is very important especially in summer. A great option is oats simmered in almond milk until they are of a silky texture are gentle on digestion. A mild coconut pudding is also good for the system. Even a combination of sweet stone fruits like nectarines, peaches, and apricots are good as topping for the pudding. One can sauté them in coconut for a tropical touch. For lunch one can try whole wheat bread whole-wheat flatbreads stuffed with a lightly crisped mix of cauliflower, peas, and spinach. The digestion in our body starts waning, so dinner should ideally be the lightest meal. Steaming veggies for a couple of minutes renders great taste without losing the crunch. One can use fresh herbs to dress the same due to their anti-inflammatory and healing qualities, and also lend an extra cooling boost. One can also enjoy cool custards during summer. Lacing them with the exotic flavor of cardamom and fresh berries (great cleansers) are a good idea.
It’s important to keep drinking water in order to hydrate the body. One must also opt for natural juices like coconut water, melon juices without sugar. Mint tea, basil or cardamom infused tea and other herbal teas are great too.
Cooling drinks don’t mean just packing on the ice. In fact ice can shock the system and even snuff the digestive fires causing certain problematic issues. There are alternative Ayurveda recipes which are very popular in terms of cooling. One such is hibiscus tea with lime, as is melon, mint and cucumber smoothie. Apart from infusing drinks with herbs one can also use them as humidifiers. A rose water mister is also a great refresher for the body and face. Essential oil massages are also recommended in tandem with diet choices. This includes lavender, sandalwood, jasmine, lotus, khus, and gardenia among others.
Thus right food can help maintain one’s pitta balance during the hot summer. It’s an important aspect of Ayurveda’s seasonal rules during summer time.