Pitta

pitta

Pitta is one of the three doshas that form the tridoshas of the Ayurvedic philosophy. Pitta, along with kapha, and vata, are made up of the five elements that form material existence in the universe. These elements are earth, water, fire, wind, and ether (space). Each dosha contains two of these five elements, with each element governing the person’s personality, physical characteristics, health, and the mind.(1)

Pitta, for example, has the elements of water (cohesion) and fire (radiance). If you are a pitta, you may be labeled as brilliant, enthusiastic, or charismatic.(2) The pitta is also hungry, both regarding food, and success. However, the pitta must never miss meal time. If the pitta goes hungry, works too hard, or overheats, they quickly become critical, overbearing, addictive, and may wind up going on a power trip. The pitta may also lose their drive during opportune times, leaving them to appear dull, lazy, and antisocial.

The contrast between the positive and the negative aspects of the pitta is understood as their current state of balance and imbalance. The shift between balance and imbalance can occur gradually or sharply as a result of foods the pitta eats, their interactions with others, or the outside temperature.

A pitta must also understand that that upbringing, ethnicity, social status, and gender have no influence on the tridoshas. This is because each person is a product of the world they inhabit, so once born, each person will live with their combination of elements for as long as they have a material body. Of course, being a pitta does not mean an absence of vata (earth and air) or kapha (water and earth); rather, it means pitta is your dominant trait, but kapha and vata will exert some influence.

pitta infographic

What Qualities Govern The Pitta?

In the body, the pitta dosha is responsible for governing metabolism, internal temperature, energy homeostasis, pigmentation, vision, and intelligence. When in balance, these biological processes will be in a positive state and will lead to you making good decisions, demonstrate intelligence, and digest food well. When out of balance, a negative state may affect these same processes, and as a result the pitta can become demanding, irritable, and experience stomach or gastrointestinal distress.

A pitta may also express these qualities:

  • Hot
  • Light
  • Intense (sour)
  • Penetrating
  • Pungent
  • Sharp
  • Acidic

When thinking about the above qualities, consider how each trait might affect the health of the body, or personal mood.(3) For example, the acidic quality may represent heartburn because pitta plays a role in metabolism, which involves the entire digestive system, including the mouth, throat, stomach, and gastrointestinal tract. Meanwhile, the pungent quality speaks to the pitta’s oily skin, and heat that can cause sweating and odors; therefore, take time to pace yourself and avoid days that are too hot.

Appearance Of A Pitta

The pitta has a number of unique physical characteristics, such as a slender frame, medium height and average build.(4) The pitta may also have trouble giving blood because their veins have less prominence. Other physical attributes of the pitta include:

  • Skin: light, oily, soft and warm; prone to sunburn, moles, and freckles
  • Hair: blond or red; fine and smooth; premature greying
  • Face: heart shape; balanced features; tapering chin
  • Eyes: distinct and bright; sensitive to light
  • Nose: pointed and even
  • Mouth: average size and shape; sensitive teeth
  • Medium weight; muscular

Additionally, the pitta dosha is guided by the principle of transformation. This transformation is revealed in their need to comprehend the world around them. This contemplation affects the pitta’s physical appearance in several ways. First, the pitta’s skin and eyes are highly sensitive to light. This sensitivity can result in head pain if they forget their sunglasses, or sunburns when they go without sunscreen. They may also develop moles and freckles as a result of sun exposure, if these physical characteristics aren’t already present from a young age. Lastly, the pitta is more likely to undergo a major transformation of hair when they begin to lose their natural color from a young age.

Health of the Pitta

Ayurvedic practitioners state that the pitta dosha has five sub types that govern the different areas of the body.(5) When in balance, each of the five types will support the pitta’s feelings of health and wellness, as noted below.

  • Alochaka Pitta: Governs the visual system that gives us perspective on the world, including color, shape, object detail, and the dilation and contraction of the pupil.
  • Bhrajaka Pitta: Governs the complexion of skin, supports the warmth of skin, including skin tone and texture, and the production of vitamin D.
  • Sadhaka Pitta: Governs the mind, including desire, drive, decisiveness, spirituality, support for homeostasis in the whole body, hormone production and balance, cognition, learning, and memory.
  • Pachaka Pitta: Governs the digestive system, including the breakdown of nutrients in the stomach and gastrointestinal tract, assimilation of nutrients into tissue, and metabolism for energy production in cells of the body.
  • Ranjaka Pitta: Governs the liver and spleen, and supports the detoxification process that includes blood filtration, and the removal of toxins.

As a result of the characteristics that guide the pitta, such as exposure to the sun, summer heat, fasting, exercise that lasts for an extended period, and competition, an imbalance can occur and can cause an adverse effect on the pitta’s feelings of health and wellness.

  • Alochaka Pitta: An imbalance may result in reddening of the eyes, blurry visions or other visual challenges.
  • Bhrajaka Pitta: An imbalance may result in skin discoloration, bumps, itching, or other challenges of the skin.
  • Sadhaka Pitta: An imbalance may result in overly demanding behavior, a need for perfection, longer hours at work, poor concentration, a dull mind, and lack of sleep.
  • Pachaka Pitta: An imbalance may result in elevated body temperatures, nausea, poor appetite, poor digestion, water retention, and irregular bowel movements.
  • Ranjaka Pitta: An imbalance may result in graying of the hair, toxins in blood, and yellowing of skin.

Currently, there is very little scientific research to verify claims that an unbalanced pitta can result in any negative effects in the body. Likewise, research into the subject of a balanced pitta is also limited. However, some researchers are looking into the validity of the tridoshas by identifying individuals with traits associated with, for example, the pitta dosha.(6) In these studies, researchers are conducting biological analyses of pittas and to see whether they can find a connection between the person’s health and their dosha.

The Pitta Mind

The pitta is said to be characterized by dynamism, meaning their mind is fast and they respond with passion to challenges of the brain and nervous system.(7) When their pitta is in balance, the mind can switch on and quickly develop new ideas or complete a difficult task with efficiency. Alternatively, an imbalanced pitta can switch off just as fast. In Ayurvedic medicine, it is the three “Gunas,” also known as the three grades or the ego, that affect the mental state of the doshas.(8)

The first guna, sattva, also known as “the mode of goodness,” is believed to give the pitta clean thoughts, provide them the tools to be a good leader or teacher, and provide perceptive abilities to read their surroundings. The second guna, rajas, also known as “the mode of passion,” can make the pitta angry, irritated, judgemental, controlling, jealous, and resentful. The third guna, tamas, also known as “the mode of ignorance,” can make the pitta hateful, hurtful, or violent.

When the three gunas are in balance, the pitta will exhibit one more more of the following traits:

  • Warm friends and fierce opponents
  • A strong will
  • Passion
  • Intelligence
  • Charisma
  • A healthy appetite
  • Strong reaction to challenges

The three gunas are connected and influence each other. They are also qualities in food. In Ayurveda, practitioners encourage foods that promote sattva because it provides the ideal state of mind. If you are looking at a food pyramid, imagine foods in the sattvic category filling the base of the pyrimad and eaten in the largest quantity. Foods in the rajas and tamas categories are at the the top and should be eaten in lesser amounts or avoided altogether.

How To Balance Your Dosha With Food And Herbs

The pitta can take many different steps to help balance their dosha.(9) This includes choosing foods and herbs that have cooling properties, are sweet, bitter, astringent, dull, dry, or heavy.(10) Use the following guide to see examples of foods that will contribute towards balance in the pitta’s life.

Oils

  • Coconut
  • Olive
  • Canola
  • Sesame

Dairy

  • Whole milk
  • Unsalted cheese
  • Cottage cheese
  • Ghee

Grains

  • Wheat
  • Rice
  • Barley
  • Oats
  • Couscous
  • Oat bran

Sweet Fruit

  • Apple
  • Grape
  • Melon
  • Cherry
  • Avocado
  • Mango
  • Pomegranate
  • Pineapple
  • Orange
  • Plum

Vegetables

  • Bitter leafy greens
  • Asparagus
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Celery
  • Cucumber
  • Mushroom
  • Okra
  • Pears
  • Sweet Peppers
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Pumpkin
  • Sprouts
  • Squash
  • Green beans
  • Zucchini

Beans And Legumes

  • Black beans
  • Chickpeas
  • Kidney beans
  • Lentils
  • Peas
  • Soy products

Seasonings

  • Honey
  • Coriander
  • Cilantro
  • Saffron
  • Fennel
  • Basil
  • Dill
  • Turmeric
  • Cumin
  • Ginger

Essential Oils

  • Sandalwood
  • Rose
  • Jasmine
  • Mint
  • Lavender
  • Chamomile

Non-Vegetarian

  • Chicken
  • Pheasant
  • Turkey

The pitta should avoid foods that create heat or add too much moisture in the body.(11) Garlic, pickles, vinegar, salted nuts, sour cream, corn, refined sugar, hard alcohols, and bitter teas should all be avoided. Also avoid spicy foods, hot sauces, and anything that can aggravate the gastrointestinal tract. Remember that digestion is very important to the pitta, and disrupting the digestive process can lead to many hours or days of imbalance.

Dual Type Doshas

The pitta is made from all of the elements, so they also have traits of both vata and kapha. These are known as dual types, and they reflect a combination of both doshas. When an individual expresses both types, they may display an equal number of traits from both doshas, including the traits that have a negative effect on health and wellness.

Vata-Pitta

The vata-pitta has some traits that may shift the characteristics of a pitta more towards a vata.(12) The vata-pitta therefore is thinner, may have cold skin, and although they are possibly less intelligent, they make up for this diminished trait with innovation and creativity. The vata tends to be energetic, sociable, and does well in business. The pitta’s determination mixes well with vata, because it helps with motivation towards the pursuit of education and knowledge. Likewise, the vata’s indecisiveness, insecurity, and frustration can get in the way of the pitta. Other vata traits can result in aggressive behavior, weakness, restlessness, and gastrointestinal challenges.

Kapha-Pitta

The kapha-pitta has many ideal physical characteristics that build upon the pitta’s average build to make them the ideal competitor in sports and other physically demanding activities.(13) The kapha is mentally driven, while the pitta thrives on competition and is willing to put up a fight to win. The kapha-pitta dosha also runs hotter than a pitta, yet the kapha will not overheat, nor does the kapha have the acidic trait that can cause digestive issues. However, this dual type is prone to a sedentary lifestyle if they lack a challenge or are unhappy with life. They also risk congestion as a result of poor eating habits, specifically when choosing too many fried foods. Additionally, the kapha-pitta may find that once in their thirties, they quickly lose their physical advantage when they fall into a structured family life.

Find Balance As A Pitta

For thousands of years, practitioners of Ayurveda have worked to help spread knowledge about the doshas with the hope of helping people address emotional and personal issues. As a pitta, always begin the day with meditation and short bursts of exercise. Follow this with a breakfast that follows the above dietary suggestions. Additionally, the pitta should work in an environment that is free of too many distractions, but they should take advantage of quick bursts of enthusiasm and creativity to accomplish tasks. Likewise, the pitta should find time to teach or share a bit of knowledge. Also, don’t forget lunch, dinner, and make sure to find time to cool down throughout the day and before bedtime.

Use these suggestions and find what works for you as your journey to find balance in life.

Sources

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3215408/
  2. https://www.joyfulbelly.com/Ayurveda/article/Pitta-Dosha/67
  3. http://everydayayurveda.org/ayurveda-basics-qualities-of-pitta/
  4. http://ayurvedadosha.org/doshas/pitta-dosha#axzz4n6EDTdyk
  5. http://healthy-ojas.com/systems/pitta-types.html
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3336287/pdf/ASL-29-6.pdf
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4719489/
  8. http://ayurvedadosha.org/ayurveda-diet/three-gunas#axzz4n6EDTdyk
  9. http://www.chopra.com/article/understanding-pitta-how-feed-your-inner-fire#sm.0000g1dk8vyp6d1vzzl1s0y0u0g75
  10. http://www.ayur.com/dosha/pitta.html
  11. https://yogainternational.com/article/view/about-pitta
  12. http://www.ayurvedicnutrition.com/course/Vata-Pitta-mixed-or-dual-type.html
  13. http://www.ayurvedicnutrition.com/course/Pitta-Kapha-mixed-or-dual-type.html