Did you ever wonder, why there are so many people yelling at each other in the city traffic in summer? Their pitta is too high! Pitta is the ayurvedic principle of heat, action and transformation. If you tend to get angry now, your pitta is probably out of whack! You are overheated and need to cool down. Don’t worry! Just find yourself a nice spot in the shade, relax and see what ayurveda can do for you…
In summer, due to the dry heat the ayurvedic priciples of vata (air, space) and pitta (fire, water) accumulate in the body. Depending on your body type, current life situation, habits, diet and resulting imbalances, especially pitta can become aggravated by the heat (but also vata if its hot and drafty) and cause physical, psychological and/or emotional problems.
At the same time the digestive force, agni, is low in this season. So we need to take it easy on the digestion and counter the hegemonic vata and pitta with softly cooling and hydrating food and activities.
1. Fresh Fruits and Veggies
Eat light food that is easy to digest. Drink much water to stay hydrated. Consume lots of seasonal fresh fruits and vegetables. Sweet fruits such as grapes, cherries, mangoes, oranges, pineapples and plums reduce pitta.
Now is the season to indulge in raw food, but only if you have a strong digestion. If it is too hard to digest for you, rather shortly boil or steam your veggies! Cauliflower, asparagus, cucumber, zucchini, pumpkin are hydrating.
Leafy greens, green and yellow vegetables, green beans, kale, celery, broccoli, lettuce and sprouts detoxify the system, but also increase vata. Combine them with some vata-balancing legumes, starchy vegetables, rice and pasta.
Some beans are very hard to digest. Red lentils have a heating effect. Prefer chickpeas, mung beans, soybeans and kidney beans in the summer.
2. Stay hydrated
Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. Sip water throughout the day. Coconut water is a powerful and refreshing re-hydrator as well. Try to resist the temptation of ice-cold, chilled drinks. Their cooling effect is too extreme and they slow down the digestion.
3. Counter the Vata Dryness
To counter the drying effect of vata also incorporate some „snigdha“ food in your summer diet. Snigdha is a Sanskrit term and means “lubricated”. For instance ghee (clarified butter), milk and rice are snigdha.
Nut and soy milk alternatives are not as snighda as animal milk. If you are a pure vegan, make sure you also consume some food that is lubricating (=snighda): e.g. avocados, okras, coconut milk, fresh dates and rice.
In general, use very little oil now. Oil in every form is pitta increasing. Take coconut oil, sunflower oil or olive oil instead of sesame, almond and corn oil. They have cooler qualities. Reduce nuts in your summer diet, they are very heavy in oil. Except coconuts which are cooling and very beneficial now. Coconut and rice milk are the best milk alternatives in the summer.
4. Foods to Avoid in Summer
Avoid fried food, spicy food (peppers, chilies, onions, garlic, cloves, cumin, ginger, mustard…). Acceptable summer spices are cardamom, fennel, cinnamon, coriander, black pepper in moderation. Even better: use fresh herbs to spice up your meals!
Reduce salty (salt and soy sauce, meat, fish) and sour foods (citrus fruits, sour berries, tomatoes, pickles, vinegar, cheese). Reduce eggs, beaf and seafood as they increase pitta. Yoghurt, cheese and sour cream also increase pitta, just as radishes, spinach, carrots and beets.
Avoid coffee and black tea; both is heating. Drink green tea instead to wake you up in the morning and keep you going after lunch. Alcohol is also not a good idea now, especially if you are a pitta type. A light white wine spritzer or an alcohol-free beer are better alternatives.
5. Sugar, Sugar, Honey
Honey has a heatening effect, so it’s not the best choice in summer. By the way, there is one thing about honey that is crucial to know, yet very few people seem to be aware of it:
It changes its molecular structure. Never, ever cook with honey! If you want to use it to sweeten your tea, wait until the tea is luke warm. Or use agave syrup, coconut sugar or stevia.
6. I scream: icecream
Crave some icescream? Only have it when your digestion is excellent! Seriously! Plus; it’s better to have it during the day. In the evening it might give you a stuffy nose the next day. It is extremely cooling and will slow down your digestion and your body will have a hard time to digest whatever you ate before.
You can reduce the extremely cooling, mucus-increasing effect of icecream a little bit by using heating spices in the preparation of icescream. Here is a recipe for home made ayurvedic ice-cream.
7. No Fan of the Fan
AC and fans are not recommended by Ayurveda. They increase vata and can give you a cold or a restless and lightheaded feeling.
8. Chill Out in Nature
Spend as much time as possible in nature and especially near fountains and lakes to cool down. Take a swim in the lake every morning before you go to work if possible.
The „Charaka Sahimta“, one of the old ayurvedic texts recommends to “sit in gardens with lot of flowers” and to „take a bath in the moonlight“ at night to cool you down in summer. You can even sleep underneath the stars. Try it!
9. Take A Nap
Day time naps are strongly kapha increasing. While this is usually an ayurvedic no-go, summer day-naps are allowed, yes, even encouraged by Ayurveda, to counter-balance the aggravated pitta and vata. So take a nap in the afternoon if possible. Some work places have special nap rooms. If yours doesn’t, don’t worry. Take a little walk during your lunch break instead or sit down and relax somewhere in the shade.
10. Take it Easy on the Exercize
Hard exercise and quick moving increases vata and pitta. So move slowly now. Don’t rush on your bike, skip the hot yoga for a slower-paced class (especially if you are a pitta body type) and generally take it easy now.
11. Flirt, Don’t F***
Yes, I know, there is sex in the air in summer, even in Germany! Everybody is smiling and half-naked now, summer is flirt season… However, ayurveda warns not to engage overly in sexual activities during the hot season. Simply because it heats you up too much. But you know how it is with ayurveda: you can do whatever you want – IF you find a good way to balance it… (See e.g. 8, 9)
12. Coconut Oil Body Massage
Give yourself a nice massage with coconut oil every morning! If you have time, gently massage the whole body with the oil. If time is scarce, just rub the soles of the feet and the scalp before you shower. The coconut oil nourishes and calms at the same time. It is cooling and pacifys pitta.
Enjoy your summer!