Pitta Dosha: The 5 Sub-Doshas And Cooling Heated Digestion
In Ayurveda, each human being is made up of a unique mix of three universal energies – Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. These energetic building blocks, called doshas, influence everything from our body shapes, to our temperaments, sleep patterns, and metabolisms. With warmer days approaching, it’s important to understand Pitta, which rules the summer months. Pitta dosha is associated with fire and water and governs how these elements manifest within us. Think of Pitta doshas as an unctuous oily-water quality. There are five sub-doshas, and these energetic sub-divisions each have a special job. While Pitta dosha is most commonly linked to agni, primarily we think of this as our digestive fire. And it plays an important role in our other body and mind functions as well.
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Alochaka Pitta: Vision and Discernment
Alochaka Pitta influences how we see the world, both physically and psychologically. It governs visual functions, like our eyes and retina – but also our inner vision and discernment.
Balanced Alochaka Pitta powers Pitta dosha’s keen awareness. When balanced, this aspect of Pitta dosha accurately perceives the external world, judges right from wrong, and makes sense of our inner and outer realities. Out of balance, we may have trouble analyzing or interpreting people and situations. We may also experience physical issues like eye infections and degraded vision.
Sadhaka Pitta: Heart and Consciousness
Another important Pitta subdosha governs our brains and hearts. Sadhaka Pitta controls how we metabolize emotions and stress – and acts as a direct line to our inner consciousness. The saying, “She’s all heart” means that person has a kind and generous disposition or nature–in other words, balanced Pitta dosha, specifically Sadhaka Pitta.
Balanced Sadhaka Pitta keeps our minds in tune, alert, and connected. It clears tamas, or darkness of the heart, so we can bloom into our most awakened and radiant selves. Out of balance, we may have trouble letting go, ruminate on negative thoughts, or experience mood swings.
Bhrajaka Pitta: Skin & Touch
Bhrajaka Pitta subdosha rules our skin – our largest organ – and sense of touch. We don’t think of our skin as a vehicle for ingesting and digesting, yet skin metabolizes such things as touch, sunlight, and air. Our skin covers and protects our entire body and everything within it. It is through this complex organ that we encounter and experience the physical world. We may say an experience gave us goosebumps or made our hair stand on end–responses that result from intense fear, anxiety, excitement, or delight. Through Bhrajaka Pitta, we are taking in and assimilating experiences.
Like Pitta dosha, Bhrajaka Pitta is associated with how we absorb and disperse heat and moisture. In balance, our skin is supple, hydrated, and bright. Out of balance, we may develop rashes, discoloration, and even cancers of the skin.
Ranjaka Pitta: Blood & Circulation
Ranjaka Pitta governs how blood forms and circulates through our body and organs. In Sanskrit, the word Ranjaka means “coloring agent.” Accordingly, Ranajaka Pitta colors our inner and outer physiology. In balance, Ranjaka Pitta maintains healthy pigmentation – from our hair and skin tone to our bowel movements and urine – and optimal blood function. Out of balance, we may experience issues of the blood, such as liver malfunction or anemia. We may also experience discoloration of our hair, skin, and bowel movements.
Pachaka Pitta: Stomach & Digestion
Pachaka Pitta governs digestion from within the small intestine. In Ayurveda, digestion is considered the bedrock of our health. Plus, Pitta dosha is deeply associated with agni, our digestive fire. Thus, Pachaka Pitta has a profound influence on all other forms of Pitta.
Pachaka Pitta enables proper digestion and absorption of the foods that nourish our entire being. As Pachaka Pitta is a foundational subdosha, Pitta imbalances are often first observed as digestive issues. There comes a day if Pachaka Pitta begins to aggravate that we may notice, or not, a general sense of heat in our belly, we may pass it off as something we ate or drank. Left unchecked, Pitta dosha continues to aggravate in the lower stomach and small intestine. It may manifest as hyperacidity or looser stools. Check out our article on Poo Analysis with Ayurveda: What Your Poop Says About Your Health to learn more.
If we still have not taken notice or steps to care for aggravated Pitta dosha, it continues to burn. Clients often have one heated digestive issue and then another and if Pitta dosha overflows from it’s home in the digestive tract, it travels into general circulation and may manifest as heat flashes, flushing, and skin conditions. Depending on the individual, Pitta is not properly pacified, it will continue to spread to other parts of the body and mind, and Pitta dosha will establish itself here, there, and in time, possibly everywhere.
Clients tell me, “I feel inflamed all over, and the doctors can’t find what’s wrong. From Ayurveda’s view, yes–clients know what they feel–they feel Pitta that has spread. They will start their consultation with a list of 6-12 chief concerns, all with one root-Pitta dosha. Seeing that so many health concerns come from one root provides clients with immediate relief and hope. Read their stories and see how clients put out the wildfire of Pitta dosha” -Veena
Thanks to modern dietary and lifestyle stressors, fiery Pitta dosha is prone to overheating – particularly in the summer months and during periods of stress. One of the most common symptoms of heated Pitta is Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), also known as heartburn or acid reflux.
Cooling Heated Pitta Dosha for Digestive Relief
If something you eat manifests with a fiery vengeance, you may be experiencing symptoms of GERD. Over 20% of Americans have heartburn at least once a week, and it’s not just uncomfortable – it can cause serious health issues if left untreated. In Ayurveda, digestive issues like GERD are caused by an imbalance in Pitta dosha. To remedy these ailments, we must cool Pitta in the body.
There’s never just one symptom of high Pitta
You may think heartburn, loose bowel movements, and migraines are unrelated ailments – but they stem from the same root cause, aggravated Pitta dosha. Ayurveda connects the dots, and allows us to see how digestive function manifests as a multitude of bothersome issues. In general, GERD and other digestive symptoms of Pitta dosha – such as ulcerative colitis, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), inflammation, migraines, eczema, and liver concerns– may be considered, in part, lifestyle ailments. Thus, our diet, herbal remedies, and lifestyle practices can provide relief.
Food as Medicine for Pitta Dosha Digestion
Water helps soothe heated Pitta. Drinking plenty of warm or room temperature water. Water pacifies Pitta, which can alleviate gastric issues such as heartburn and loose bowel movements. Better yet is to drink herbalized tea specific to your constitution and needs. Avoid drinking coffee, soda, or alcohol – which can have the opposite effect.
Ayurvedic Diet for Acid Reflux
Processed foods are harder to digest – and spicy or oily foods aggravate inflamed Pitta. Incorporate mild, cooling foods to decrease internal heat. Eat meals when you’re relaxed, at the same time every day, to help your digestive system find a healthy rhythm.
Herbs for Pitta Dosha Digestion
Herbal remedies that reduce inflammation and balance digestion can soothe GERD, loose stools, IBS, and other symptoms of heated Pitta dosha.
- Licorice and Neem: These extremely valuable gastroprotective herbs help regulate digestion problems.
- Shatavari and Vidari: Both mucilaginous herbs, these help balance pitta dosha, soothe GERD symptoms, and improve gastric functioning.
While herbal remedies can be truly life-changing, they must always be consumed properly–what herb is correct for each person varies. An Ayurvedic professional can develop a personalized plan for your unique body, composition, and life situation.
Lifestyle for Pitta Dosha Digestion
Our lifestyle habits affect how we feel mentally and physically – and how we digest food. Release pressure by taking moments of meditation throughout the day. Listen to this 2-minute guided meditation, or this 11-minute systemic relaxation meditation, twice daily for a quick reset. As Pitta dosha is ruled by fire and water, we can harness the latter to soothe the heat. Spend time by the water (preferably flowing water) to tap into its cooling and nourishing properties. Even a few minutes will help.
“When it comes to our lifestyles, what we don’t do is just as important as what we do.” -Veena
Give yourself a break, and don’t overdo it. Pitta can be intense and fiery – take time to breathe, rest, and cool down throughout your busy day. Also important don’t take things too seriously. Humor and laughter can keep us from getting stressed or hot-headed, so queue up the funny cat videos.
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