Pitta: Understanding your inner fire

Significance of bile and its role in body were acknowledged by many ancient health systems. The Greek physician Hippocrates who lived in 5th century BC also included bile in his theory of four humors. The concept of Pitta dosh in Ayurveda is somewhat parallel to bile, however, it is a much broader concept. While the role of bile is mostly confined to the digestive system, Pitta dosh plays larger role on physical as well as mental well-being of an individual. The way Ayurveda experts explored this concept is simply amazing.

What is Pitta?

The Sanskrit root of word Pitta means ‘something that is hot’. So the name itself clarifies that Pitta has something to do with heat. Pitta happens to be the only hot bioenergy in body and it is this heat in Pitta that carries out the process of digestion. Liver is one of the important functional areas of Pitta dosh. Because bile is also involved in digestion of food and is secreted in liver, Pitta dosh is many times equated with bile. However, Pitta dosha’s presence and role are not limited to liver or digestive system. Like other two Doshas, Pitta dosh too exists everywhere in body and performs a variety of functions.

What does Pitta dosha do?

Ayurveda says – what the sun does in natures, Pitta dosh does in body. The sun happens to be the only source of heat in the universe. Plants need sunlight for photosynthesis and other living beings including man, need plants for their own survival. So in a way, survival is impossible without sun. That’s why, great importance has been attached to the sun in Vedic literature. The famous Gayatri Mantra from Rigveda is actually a prayer of sun which begs for sun’s glory & power. Pitta dosh is the representative of sun in body. Though it consists of five elements, fire element dominates Pitta dosha. For example, raw fruits mature and get ripe when they are exposed to sun. Exposure to sun brings about so many changes in the fruit. The fruit that might be tasting bitter or sour when raw, starts tasting sweet after ripening. Similarly, there are changes in its colour, size and external appearance. This conversion is however impossible without sun’s heat. In the same way, whatever body receives from outside, Pitta dosh converts it into a usable form so that body can absorb it. Unless this conversion occurs, body cannot absorb anything. Everything is considered as raw until Pitta acts on it and brings about a change or conversion in it. Not just the food but even information grasped by five sense organs is processed by Pitta so that brain can absorb it, intelligence can analyse it and memory may store it. Just as hot sun dries out everything in nature, especially the water reservoirs, the aggravated Pitta dosh can be also destructive and cause deficiency of water element in body.

Where is Pitta dosha present in our body?

Actually every cell in body contains Pitta dosh which digests the food received by the cell. But main process of food digestion takes place in stomach & intestines which are considered as main abode of Pitta dosh. The area below chest and above umbilicus belongs to Pitta dosh. Medicated purgation, which is a part of Panchakarma, cleans up this area. Therefore, it is regarded as a chief treatment against Pitta dosh. Apart from its main abode, Pitta dosh also resides in eyes, skin, liver and gallbladder. The vision in eyes is due to presence of fire element from Pitta dosh. Any plaster or lotion applied on skin dries up or gets absorbed after some time due to presence of Pitta dosh in skin.

What are the properties of Pitta dosha?

Like Vata and Kapha, Pitta dosh too has its own properties which have certain effects on body, mind and personality of an individual. Because of these properties Pitta is able to carry out its own functions. Getting familiar with these properties is therefore essential.

Ushna means hot. This is a unique property of Pitta dosh which no other dosh has. The dominance of fire element accords Pitta with this property. It is because of this property that Pitta dosh is capable of digesting substances and convert them into usable forms. The same property is responsible for maintaining normal body temperature. Abnormal reduction of this property can disturb or slow down the process of food digestion or cause hypothermia of body. Abnormal rise in this property generates hot feeling or burning sensation. Fever also indicates surge of this property. Body of Pitta-constitution individuals is usually warm. They can’t tolerate hot season and surrounding but feel comfortable in cool climate and surrounding. They faint easily or suffer from headache if get exposed to hot sun but can swim in water for long time without any problem. They are more prone to suffer from heat stroke, burning micturition, burning of eyes, soles & skin. Their digestion capacity and speed are quite high which enables them to digest large amount of foods & drinks in relatively shorter time. Their hunger and thirst are intense and they can’t withhold them for long. They need to eat & drink regularly. Because of having so much heat in body, such persons sweat profusely and their hair start greying or falling relatively early. If they don’t maintain sufficient water level in body and moisture in skin, their skin soon becomes dry and rough. They are usually hot-tempered and find it hard to control their anger. They can’t tolerate injustice or insult.

Teekshna means sharp or penetrating. This is yet another unique property of Pitta dosh which no other dosh has. Because of this property, Pitta dosh can penetrate into any food item and break down its molecules. Abnormal reduction in this property can hamper this process and leave some food in undigested state. Abnormal escalation of this property can however prove very dangerous as Pitta then acts almost like a knife and injures blood vessels, muscles, organs and other soft tissue. This results in internal or external bleeding and formation of fistulae & sinuses. Because of this property, Pitta-constitution persons generally have very sharp language, intellect and memory. They talk in a straightforward manner and in pertinent words. Their criticism is sharp and precise. They are good at mathematical calculations and minute observations. They don’t easily forget or miss out important details. They are brave and courageous in nature and don’t hesitate to rebel and fight. They make an impact in armed forces and law enforcement agencies.

Drav means liquid. Pitta dosh is usually in liquid state and therefore can readily mix with any food item. Solid food gets converted into a semisolid state when Pitta mixes with it. If this property increases abnormally, then stools are poorly formed and have more liquid content. As against this, abnormal decrease in this property can make the stool more hard or sticky requiring more force to pass. Due to this property, Pitta-constitution persons produce more quantity of urine, sweat & stools.

Sar means flowing. This property is often associated with above property. Because of this property, Pitta dosh can flow easily in digestive system and other body parts. This property of Pitta dosh plays an important role in effortless defaecation. Decrease in this property of Pitta dosh slows down movement of stools and leads to constipation like situations where the person needs to push hard to defaecate. This decrease can also lead to stagnation of Pitta dosh resulting in formation of bile stones. Abnormal increase of this property results in loose motions. It is because of this property that Pitta-constitution persons quickly suffer from diarrhoea and claim to have ‘sensitive bowels’.

Visra means foul. This property gives foul odour to Pitta dosh. The usual foul odour of stools, urine and sweat is attributed to the presence of Pitta dosh in them. Abnormal rise in this property of Pitta dosh increases intensity of foul odour of these waste products. Due to this property, waste products of a Pitta-constitution person usually have strong unpleasant smell. They need to flush toilet without forgetting and use deodorants & perfumes regularly to overcome these unpleasant smells. Their sweating often creates awkward moments for themselves as well as for others.

Laghu means small. Due to this property, molecules of Pitta dosh are small in size and easily penetrate into every food molecule. It is because of this property that Pitta-constitution persons have medium size figure. They require medium sizes of clothes, undergarments, hosieries and shoes.

What can aggravate Pitta dosha?

Substances and activities having above properties readily aggravate Pitta dosh. Here are few examples:

  • Exposure to hot weather, hot surrounding, hot working conditions, acids, chemicals & petroleum

  • Working near furnace or kitchen stove

  • Keeping awake at night, working in night shift

  • Smoking tobacco & drugs

  • Frequent intake of pungent, sour, salty, spicy, oily items, black tea, coffee & alcohol

  • Anger & fear

How to keep Pitta dosh in balance?

Pitta dosh can be controlled by applying properties antagonistic to above mentioned properties. Some important ones are as follows:

  • Staying in cool weather & surrounding

  • Swimming in water

  • Application of cooling pastes, lotions & creams

  • Consumption of sweet, bitter & astringent items.

  • Intake of cooling items like cucumber, beet root, milk products, honey, sweet fruits, fruit juices, pure ghee

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