Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Keep Cool this Summer - Ayurveda Tips

Do you look forward to summer, and then find yourself feeling irritable and exhausted once the temperatures rise? Does your skin breakout with the heat? Do you crave air conditioning and cool drinks? If so, your Pitta may be out of balance.

According to Ayurveda, of the three bio-energies (ie. doshas) that exist in nature (Vata, Pitta, Kapha), Pitta is highest in the summer as it holds the energy of fire and water.  Dosha bio-energies are composed of the 5 elements and not only exist in the environment, but also within you. If your constitution is dominant in Pitta, summer heat can further cause Pitta to accumulate – on the physical, mental and emotional levels.

Summer is the season of sun, heat, intensity and fire – a celebration after the cold winter months. Depending on your constitution, summer may either aggravate your innate tendencies or compensate for your imbalances.  For example, if you struggle with cold hands and feet in the winters, you will likely enjoy warm summer temperatures.  If your body generally heats up quickly, you may find it challenging to tolerate summer heat.

How Do I Identify if my Pitta is imbalanced?

You need to first understand your original constitution before understanding what is out of balance.  Everyone is born with a unique constitution and needs individualized care to regain their original state of balance.  Online dosha quizzes can be a fun tool. However, they do not reveal the complete picture of your constitution.  A Naturopathic intake incorporating Ayurvedic assessment includes physical exam (including tongue & pulse diagnosis) and complete health history to identify your balance of Vata, Pitta & Kapha. Furthermore, skilled practitioners can identify which organ system or tissue is being impacted by Pitta.  For example, if Pitta accumulates in the mind, you may feel more angry or short-tempered, but if Pitta has increases in the blood, you may experience high blood pressure. Once a proper diagnosis has been made, tailored treatments can target the root cause of your health concern and assist in restoring balance.

Pitta can accumulate in the mind, specific organ systems, channels or tissues and can manifest as health concerns such as:

What Can You Do?

While increased Pitta is not life-threatening, if left unattended, chronic disease can develop over time.  For example, if you consistently eat spicy and acidic food (which increases Pitta), occasional heart burn may develop into daily heartburn and progress into a painful ulcer. The good news is that Pitta imbalance is easy to detect in the early stages with tongue & pulse diagnosis, and can be addressed with diet & lifestyle, herbs and therapies.  Summer is the ideal time to address Pitta-related imbalances before they develop into more severe conditions.

During the summer months, your focus should be to balance Pitta. Below are some general tips that can help keep your Pitta in check.

Tips to Stay Cool this Summer and Pacify Pitta:
  • Choose foods that are cooling energetically such as: cucumbers, dark leafy greens, mint and melons.
  • Choose flavours that are bitter, astringent & naturally sweet – fresh local greens make great salads and ripe, juicy fruits make a delicious summer snack.  Minimize flavours that are excessively spicy, sour and salty.
  • Try incorporating coconut into your diet (coconut water, oil, cream etc.)
  • Stay hydrated & avoid ice cold drinks. As counter-intuitive as it may seem, cold drinks are not advised to help you cool down.
  • Avoid overexerting yourself and plan your exercise away from the hottest time of the day
  • Be sun smart and stay out of direct sun during peak hours (~11 a.m. - 3 p.m.)
  • Observe situations where you are controlling or pushing yourself or others.  Bring awareness into surrendering and allowing.
  • Enjoy essential oils with floral tones such as jasmine, rose or lavender.

If you think you may have a Pitta imbalance, summer is the best time to address it. Once you understand your unique constitution, steps can be taken to harmonize yourself with the changing seasons under the guidance of your naturopathic doctor and Ayurvedic practitioner.  Making simple but consistent changes to your lifestyle and diet, in correlation with the change of seasons will allow you to experience your full energy and vitality this summer.

Dr. Leena Athparia is a naturopathic doctor with specialized training in Ayurveda and can help you identify your constitution to guide you on a customized health plan – whether you have specific health concerns or just want to promote general wellness. Please contact Naturopathic Foundations at 905-940-2727 or email lathparia@naturopathicfoundations.ca to book an appointment with Dr. Leena Athparia ND.