This post was last updated on February 7, 2020 by Preethi Sukumaran
If you are suffering from a visible Pitta imbalance like premature greying, acne outbreaks, then a Pitta balancing diet can help holistically heal your condition. Ayurveda believes in following a holistic approach to understanding skin and hair issues. Hair and skin reflects the body’s state of balance. Diet, emotional well being, quality of sleep, quality of daily Vyayama (exercise) all affect the body. These factors create changes in the subtle alignment of doshas in our body. This reflects in the quality of our skin or hair.
Pitta dosha: qualities and life stage
Pitta is “snigdha” (oily), “teekshna” (sharp), “ushna” (hot), “laghu” (light) “vishra” (mal-odourous), “sara“ ( flowing / laxative), and “drava” (liquid).
Hence when we have Pitta aggravation in our body, we could experience sharp discomfort in the abdomen, diarrhea, gastritis, temper flares, strong body odour, high sweating, oiliness on hair and skin, etc. We could also develop acne flare ups, experience premature greying & also hair thinning.
Ayurveda tells us that every lifestage is dominant in a certain dosha. Middle age, i.e. 30 – 60 years is considered Pitta dominant lifestage. In this age period, we naturally tend to harness and utilise Pitta’s qualities to help us focus on our career, manage our responsibilities, etc. Hence at this stage, we become even more sensitive to Pitta aggravation.
Pitta aggravating foods:
We had written earlier in detail about foods that trigger or aggravate Pitta in the body. This includes fermented foods, salty foods, spicy foods, and sour foods. We have a pretty detailed list of don’ts in the earlier blog post. This list includes commercial packaged RTE foods which are high in hidden salts and imported delicacies like Greek yoghurt, tahini sauce and hummus.
Consumption of these foods is tolerable when our doshas in balance. At this time, Pitta drayvyas help stimulate appetite, aid digestion and allow for appropriately timed digestion in the body. The problem occurs when we have already aggravated Pitta dosha.
In a Pitta aggravated person, a single helping of curd or 2 meals with idlis and dosas in them can act like a lit match on a petrol doused bundle. Pitta sharply flares up and you will notice an increase in rage issues, skin oiliness, breakouts and inability to switch off and sleep on time.
Basics of a Pitta balancing diet:
The Pitta balancing diet is based on 3 principles to help balance aggravated Pitta:
- Introduce Tastes (Rasas) that are opposite to Pitta to bring Pitta down
- Introduce Agni balancing dravyas and Spices
- Ensure Pitta is not spiked by controlling meal timings
Each of these work in a slightly different way to harmonise aggravated Agni. In this post , we will explore the use of Rasa (tastes) to help balance aggravated Pitta dosha.
Using Opposing Tastes (Rasas) to balance Pitta
A Pitta balancing diet uses “bitter”, “sweet” and “astringent” tastes that act like a countermeasure to Pitta which is “amla” (sour), “lavana” (salty) and “katu” (spicy) in taste. The tastes are added in this order: Bitter, Sweet and Astringent for best effect on aggravated Pitta.
Using Bitter taste “Tikta Rasa” to balance excess Pitta:
Bitter taste (Tikta rasa) is very pitta balancing. Bitter taste has the quality of “dryness”, coolness” and “lightness”. Hence it helps balance the oiliness and heat caused by aggravated Pitta dosha. Therefore, including foods, herbs and seasonings which are rich in Tikta rasa, is an essential part of a Pitta balancing diet.
Many local vegetables and greens are inherently “Tikta” in rasa. For example, parwal, lauki, ridge gourd, ash gourd are native gourds. All of these gourds have an inherent “tikta” or bitter rasa. These vegetables can be added to vegetable / dal dishes to impart a bitter taste to food.
“Shukto” and Vempampoo-rasam (Neem flower rasam) are also examples of bitter rasa found in traditional cuisine. Neem flower rasam is introduced in Indian cuisine at the beginning of the onset of Summer, when Pitta is high.
Certain spices and seasonings also have a “tikta rasa”. An example is fenugreek seed which is recommended to be eaten by diabetics and pre-diabetics in Ayurveda. Bitter rasa in moderate amounts is useful to control Pitta aggravation and Kapha aggravation. Similarly, rosemary, oregano and parsley seasoning also has a mild Tikta rasa.
Tikta dravyas can aggravate Vata dosha when eaten in excess and cause dryness in the body. Hence, as always, please follow moderation when planning your meals.
Some examples of Tikta Rasa dravyas:
- Bitter gourd
- Methi greens
- Lauki (Bottle gourd)
- Ash gourd (white pumpkin)
- Ridge gourd
- Non sour locally available greens
- Spices & seasonings
- Fenugreek seed (Methi Dana)
- Ayurvedic Tikta Herbs used in Krya products
- Neem flower
Meal plan suggestions:
From this list, we can look at including the following naturally Tikta (bitter) foods to craft a Pitta balancing diet :
- Local gourds added to liquid / gravy dishes in a rotational basis like Lauki, Parwal, etc
- Use of Tikta herbs in cooking to season food like turmeric, Fenugreek, etc
- Occasional use of Tikta dried herbs to flavour food like Rosemary, Thyme, etc wherever appropriate
Using Sweet taste “Madhura Rasa” to balance excess Pitta:
Madhura Rasa is “guru” (heavy), “sheetya” (cold), “snigdha” (oily) and is nourishing and grounding due to the predominance of Prithvi Panchamahabootha. Hence it helps calm down and ground aggravated Pitta. This does not mean that we should gorge on desserts and sweets. These are artificially sweet due to the presence of sugar in them. In Ayurveda, when we say “Sweet” or “Madhura rasa”, we mean that the tongue recognises the substance as “sweet” (Rasa) and that its taste post digestion in the body (Vipaka) is also sweet.
An example of this is Milk. A2 cows milk when freshly boiled has Madhura Rasa (tongue taste) and Madhura vipaka (taste post digestion). Hence it is used to balance Pitta aggravation in the diet.
As Madhura Rasa is also “snigdha”, eating too much of this can trigger excess oiliness and heaviness in the body. Hence do not eat artificially sweet substances, or eat too much of Madhura rasa.
Some other examples of Madhura dravya / Substances are the following:
- Aged rice
- Aged Wheat
- Mishri (unprocessed sugar candy)
- Guda (jaggery)
- Fresh coconut pulp, milk and water
- Naturally sweet Vegetables like sweet potato, beetroot, Kaddu (yellow pumpkin), carrot
- Dried Black Raisins (draksha) – Munakka variety
- Seasonal Sweet, juicy fruits
- Freshly boiled , unpasteurised A2 cow milk
- A2 ghee
- Ayurvedic Madhura Herbs used in Krya products
- Guda (Jaggery)
- Guduchi (Madhura vipaka only)
Meal plan suggestions:
From this list, we can look at including the following naturally Madhura (sweet) foods in our diet to help balance aggravated Pitta.
- Melted A2 cow ghee – across all meals in small amounts
- A2 cows milk – unpasteurised and freshly boiled – one small glass everyday
- Seasonal sweet, juicy fruits
- Rotation of Natural sweet vegetables
- Carefully sourced Aged organic Rice and wheat
- 2 – 3 soaked Munakka (large black grape) raisins 3 – 4 times a week
Using Astringent taste “Kashaya Rasa” to balance excess Pitta:
Kashaya rasa is a taste that is most often missing in modern-day foods. This is an important rasa which is vital to our health. Foods rich in Kashaya rasa usually have a lekhaniya (scraping effect) and are very useful in healing the body of excess fat, fluid collection, inflammation, etc. Kashaya rasa has “rooksha” (drying), “sheetya” (cold) and “laghu” (light) qualities- hence it helps balance Pitta dosha.
Kashaya rasa is wound healing, absorbs excess secretions and clears mucous. It helps clarify the tongue and skin and is calming and healing to the body. It is also a good blood clarifier.
In excess, Kashaya rasa can be excessively drying and vata aggravating on the body. Please do not overindulge in this taste.
Some examples of Kashaya Rasa dravyas:
- Banana flower
- Amla (Indian gooseberry)
- Pomegranates (choose well ripened, sweet fruits and not sour)
- Indian Date – Kharik
- Herbs & seasonings
- Ayurvedic Kashaya herbs used in Krya products
- Triphala(combination of above 3 herbs)
- Arjuna Twak (bark)
- Lodhra Twak (bark)
Meal plan suggestions to include Kashaya rasa:
From this list, we can look at including the following naturally Astringent (sweet) foods in our diet to create a Pitta balancing diet .
- Amla made in different methods 2 – 3 times a week: Can be made as a raita (using buttermilk or thin curd), Chutney, Preserve, or as a souring agent into Dal / Sambhar
- Pomegranates – 2 times a week – choose sweet fruits only
- Chutneys / Dips / Pesto made from Basil / Coriander – twice a week
- Overnight soaked Khajoora eaten once / twice a week
To sum up:
In part 1 of our post describing the Pitta balancing diet, we explored how using specific Rasas (tastes) in your meals can help bring down aggravated Pitta. Using rasas which have opposing qualities as that of Pitta help balance spiked Pitta levels and also bring in better nourishment and satiety to the body, improving health.
In the next part of our blog post, we will explore how using specific dravyas and spices like milk, ghee, coriander seeds, etc help counter excess Agni in the body. In the case of certain dravyas, we will also explore how different prakritis (body types) should have these dravyas for optimal health.