Ayurveda believes that the human body is a replica of the cosmos. Whatever happens in the cosmos is also replicated inside the human body. Our body is constantly interacting with the environment around us. Ayurveda puts lots of emphasis on this phenomenon and has detailed the effect of seasons on the human body. It directs what a person should do to ward off the negative effect/s of seasons in terms of lifestyle and dietary changes to remain healthy.
The seasons basically have two major effects on the body. For 6 months in a calendar year the Sun is predominant (Northern Solstice) and during that time, the strength and energy of humans is low. While the next six months are progressively dominated by the Moon (Southern Solstice) and that increases strength and energy. The summer season belongs to the Sun dominant period of the year1.
Harsher Sun and hot weather herald the arrival of Summers. The Sun with its intense rays depletes the earth of water and similarly affects humans and all living beings2. The digestive fire is also weak in this season.3
Summers is a season when the Pitta dosha starts accumulating along with depletion of unctuous Kapha dosha, leading to aggravation of Vata dosha. So, Ayurveda directs to avoid the use of food dominated by pungent, sour, and salty tastes along with those which are ‘hot’ by nature4. All of these either aggravate Pitta or Vata.
Here are some foods that should primarily be avoided to curtail the accumulation of Pitta dosha and aggravation of Vata dosha. Know your dosha by taking this quick 3-minute test.
Avoid spicy (they aggravate Pitta and Vata), deep-fried food items as they make the thirst more intense, leading to more intake of water and fluids. It makes the already weak digestive fire weaker, leading to indigestion. However, the intake of fatty milk particularly Buffalo’s milk (if available) and ghee in small quantities is advised.
Further, sour and fermented foods are to be avoided as they aggravate Pitta.
Avoid dry grains. Instead, use powder of roasted grains like barley, black gram mixed with sugar and water as a drink, called “Sattu” in India)
Heavy to digest foods are best avoided as the digestive power is not at its peak in this season.
Do not consume stale food as it also deranges the already weak digestion.
Avoid consuming excessive amount of garlic, onion, ginger, peppers, lemons, chilis, tomatoes, carrots, and beets as they aggravate Pitta.
Avoid having hot water and drinks, particularly when the Sun is at its peak to avoid further aggravation of Pitta.
On the other hand, even chilled drinks and foods need to be avoided as they impair digestion, aggravate Vata, and create an unwanted product of a deranged digestive process called ‘ama’ which is a root cause for many diseases as per Ayurveda (drinks at room temperature or just cool are OK)
Ayurveda discourages the use of alcoholic beverages, particularly hard spirits, as they aggravate Pitta. In case they are to be taken, they should be taken in very small quantities, with lots of water to negate its bad effects on Pitta Dosha. This is advised for people having Kapha dominant bodies or who are habitual to drinking alcohol. Not following this instruction can lead to emaciation, burning sensation, and delirium5.
Red meat, thick meat soups are to be avoided as they are Pitta aggravating. Instead, intake of very thin soups should be preferred.
Nuts like Almonds and walnuts which are ‘hot’ by nature as per Ayurveda are to be avoided but a popular drink made with paste of pre-soaked and peeled almonds, milk, and sugar, is a summer heat buster. It helps to balance both Pitta and Vata.
Avoiding these food items in one’s diet, are bound to help tide over the bad effects of Summers, keep Pitta and Vata pacified, maintaining strength and energy during this period.
Written by: Dr Upasana Bhanot. She completed her bachelor's degree in Ayurveda (BAMS) from Kurukshetra University, Haryana, India and has been practicing since 25 years. She endeavors to simplify the complex concept of Ayurveda through her writings, practical solutions for promotion of health, through Ayurvedic diet, herbs and lifestyle interventions.
She has been recently awarded for her contributions to the Ayurvedic world, by a prestigious association of Ayurvedic practitioners in India.