Pitta’s elemental makeup consists of fire and water. The common translation of pitta is “that which digests things.” According to ayurveda, this is the dosha responsible for our ability to mentally digest our life experiences and biologically digest our food. Pitta is responsible for all of our chemical and metabolic transformations.
Qualities or Attributes of Pitta Dosha
- Sharp or penetrating
- A little oily or “unctuous” (some ayurvedic texts describe it as moist)
Characteristics of Pitta Dosha
The classic ayurvedic text Charaka Samhita says that when pitta is in balance within any individual, according to their prakruti or constitution, their blood will be healthy and the acid secretions in their intestines and stomach optimal for digestion. Mental digestion, sound judgment, and discernment are functions of balanced pitta. Our ability to clearly perceive what the body senses (sees, hears, smells, etc.) is governed by pitta. Regarding transformation, pitta governs the ability of the body to combust, or digest, the materials needed to bring warmth and color to the body. The body’s ability to maintain warmth and absorb sunlight as well as our ability to mentally digest our thoughts and emotions are governed by pitta dosha. The Charaka says that the “light of awareness” is governed by pitta as well.
Actions of pitta dosha in the body and mind are:
- Color and complexion
- Visual perception
- All digestion
- All heat in the body and mind
- Softness and health of the skin
- Regulation of the liver
- Proper function of the small intestine
Characteristics of Pitta Dominance in Appearance
- Sharp, almond-shaped eyes (often green or hazel)
- Little body hair or soft, light body hair
- High hairline, with medium amount of soft hair; in aging process thinning hair to male pattern baldness
- Early to grey
- Sharp nose, teeth, and chin
- Freckles (red hair is also pitta quality)
- Medium to small frame
- Flexible yet stable joints
- Symmetry of hips to shoulders
- Red colored tongue
- Rosy cheeks and lips
Examples of Pitta Dosha in Excess or in an Imbalanced State
- Easily sunburns
- Strong anger
- Agitation as a stress response
- Teeth sensitivity
- Burning sensation in eyes, skin, mouth, or with urination
- Yellow, smelly urine, or excess urine
- Excess sweat
- Flushed nose, cheeks, or ears
- Bloodshot eyes or yellow in eyes (and skin)
- Acne or skin rashes
- Nosebleeds or excess bleeding when cut
- Smelly feet, armpits, or a general sour smell to the body
- Tunnel vision with goal-orientated behavior
- Obsessive or compulsive thinking
- Desire to seek revenge
- Liver issues
- Blood issues
- Inflammation in general
- Heat and agitation with sleep
- Small intestine/digestive acid issues
Dietary Tips to Support Pitta Balance
Foods that are great to balance pitta are, in general, sweet, bitter, and astringent in taste. Ayurveda considers these tastes to be medicine for cooling, drying, and calming excess pitta. Generally, all six tastes (sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter, and astringent) are recommended for healthy digestion.
Foods that help to balance pitta:
Fruits and Vegetables
- Cantaloupe and honeydew melon
- Basmati rice
- Barley pasta
Nuts, seeds, and legumes
- Almonds (peeled)
- Sunflower seeds
Dairy and fats/oils
- Whole milk from a happy cow
- Unsalted cheeses
- Cottage cheese (in moderation)
- Sunflower oil
- Coconut oil
- Honey (in moderation)
- Teas: mint, rose hips, chamomile, black tea with steamed milk and a little honey
- Beer (in small amounts)
If necessary to eat meat, white meats and freshwater fish are best for pitta as they are considered less heating to digestion.
Foods to avoid or consume only moderately if your constitution is predominantly pitta:
Foods that can increase pitta are, in general, sour, pungent, and salty in taste. These tastes, in excess for the pitta in your prakruti (constitution), can create heat, too much moisture, and intensify pitta, disrupting its balance.
Examples of foods that can aggravate pitta include:
Fruits and Vegetables
- Sour fruits: grapefruit, sour cherries, pineapple, lemons
- Sour or heating veggies and some nightshades: mustard greens, tomatoes, garlic, radishes, eggplant, raw onions, olives, jalapeno peppers, pickles
Nuts, Seeds, and Legumes
- All salted nuts
Dairy and Fats/Oils
- Sour cream
- Hard cheeses
- Peanut oil
- Mustard oil
Condiments and Seasonings
- Salt (a little is okay!)
- Refined sugar
- Hard alcohol
- Teas: chicory root, ginger, and lemon
- Red meat
- Saltwater fish
Lifestyle Tips for Balancing Pitta
- Wake with gratitude.
- Smile, laugh, and sing out loud for at least one minute every day.
- Wear or decorate with blue, green, white, purple, or brown.
- Eat three meals a day, the largest around noon.
- Try to get all six tastes (sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent, and astringent) into each meal.
- Eat while sitting and away from your desk (work).
- Walk in nature to feel more spacious and relaxed.
- Engage in group sports vs. individual sports.
- Practice gentle hatha yoga, tai chi, and meditation, which support pitta.
- Take cool showers or baths.
- Join a club or group that meets socially without a specific goal.
- Body oil, (abhyanga), with coconut oil in the summer. Add rose, sandalwood, or bergamot to your oil or as a perfume.
- Go off screens one hour before bedtime.
- Journal or listen to calming, harmonious music before bed.
Yoga for Balancing Pitta
- Shitali pranayama (cooling breath)
- Bhramari pranayama (bee breath)
- Nadi shodhana (alternate nostril breathing)
- Three-part breath
- Sama vritti breath (even breath)
- Downward facing dog to child’s pose
- Moon salutations, (moving gently on the breath)
- Lunge with the back knee on the ground, (maybe adding in a gentle twist)
- Triangle pose
- Half moon and revolved half moon
- Side plank
- Standing wide-legged forward bend
- Chair pose with gentle twist
- Seated twist
- Seated forward fold
- Janu sirsasana, adding in a gentle twist
- Bridge pose
- Shoulderstand variations
- Fish pose with legs on the ground
- Supine twists with arms extended out wide
Are You Pitta?
Take our dosha quiz here.
Kathryn Templeton, MA, RDT/MT, E-RYT 500, is an Ayurvedic practitioner who has devoted her life to the health of others. A psychotherapist for more than 30 years, Kathryn is a master teacher in the field of Drama Therapy and continues to work both clinically and as an educator specializing in the treatment of individuals with complex trauma. As an E-RYT 500, NAMA Certified Ayurvedic practitioner and senior Para Yoga teacher, Kathryn has worked to develop specialized treatments integrating the... Read more>>