Pitta is the firebrand dosha. The Sanskrit word pitta signifies heat creation, burning up, or color change. In short, any kind of change in the quality of the substance is a result of pitta action. Unlike vata dosha, pitta does not cause any movement, but it transforms the very nature of the substance.
It is the second most important dosha in the body. You may wonder why pitta is the second most important dosha, and not the first one or the last one. Because dosha is a polluting factor and the most powerful polluting factor inside the body is vata dosha and not pitta.
Pitta has some unique characteristics that make it indispensable for the body.
What is Pitta Made of?
Pitta emerges from the fire element. It embodies all the qualities of the fire element. This statement signifies that pitta is a metabolic pattern that produces and regulates heat in the body.
The fiery nature of pitta comes from its unique set of properties.
What are Pitta qualities?
• Slightly oily
• Hot/Heat producing
• Light • Distinct Odour
• With sweeping motion
The oiliness of pitta dosha is not like the oiliness of sesame or coconut oil. All oils are inflammable, but the oiliness of pitta resembles that of petrol. Petrol has a mild oiliness that adds to its extreme flammability.
According to my experience, petrol comes out as one of the best examples to describe the effect of pitta on the body. This quality combines with others like lightness, heat production, etc to create an inflammatory or transformative effect inside the body.
Pitta is responsible for the production of all kinds of sharp acidic fluids in the body, for example – digestive juices from the stomach, pancreas, intestines, or sweat. Its capacity to produce sharpness in the body fluids (acidic or basic) is the foundation for the process of digestion.
Besides, all kinds of catabolic (breaking down) activity in the body happens due to penetrating pitta activity. Not only catabolism, but absorption of nutrients is also a factor of healthy pitta activity.
Therefore, a hyperactive pitta may lead to an overall acidic environment, whether it is the acidity in the stomach or the blood.
On the other hand, a deficient pitta function may not be able to break down the food or kill the pathogens. Thus, it may negatively affect both digestion and immunity.
Born of fire, pitta produces heat in the body. This heat is the basis of the entire metabolism. Our body requires to maintain a constant temperature to maintain the homeostasis inside the body. All the enzymes in the body become active at an optimal temperature.
All chemical transformation results in heat exchange, whether it is inside an organ or a cell. The transformation of ingested food into nutrients and waste matter, or transformation of electrical signals to chemical signals and vice versa, everything is controlled by the pitta dosha.
An excess of pitta dosha can trigger inflammatory and autoimmune disorders. Ayurveda says that fever is nothing but retention of body heat due to blocked sweat glands.
The fire burns heavier matter like wood to produce something light, the ash. Similarly, pitta metabolism also reduces the matter in the body due to its burning effect. For example, the heavy food is broken down to produce lighter constituents – nutrients that are easier to absorb. That’s why we feel light after good digestion. Conversely, we feel heavy when the pitta digestion is improper.
A more visible example is pitta work on the fat. If an obese person goes fasting, the digestive fire burns down the excess fat to release energy. And the person becomes lighter (loses weight).
Heat-based transformation is the cause of any odor. Therefore, pitta is the dosha that produces a distinct odor. All kinds of odors in the body are a result of pitta functioning.
For example, sweat glands are sites of pitta dominance. That’s why gateway for heat exchange in the body. Our body cools itself by evaporating sweat. These glands also produce slightly acidic liquid sweat. The sharp action of sweat prevents pathogenic and fungal growth on the skin.
At the same time, pitta gives a distinct body odor through sweat. According to Ayurveda, body odor is a diagnostic factor for pitta activity. For example:
A person with a pitta dominant body naturally has a very sharp body odor.
Under hyperactivity of pitta, sweat glands produce a voluminous amount of extremely foul-smelling sweat. Therefore, people suffering from foul odor should try to balance their pitta dosha.
With sweeping motion
Pitta metabolism has the property to spread, just like wildfire. Fire consumes everything on the way, grows, and keeps spreading unless something wet and cool hinders its path.
This fact is visible in the case of inflammatory response. It spreads like fire in the body till the time the effect of heat is exhausted.
In combination with sharpness, heat, etc; the sweeping action of pitta helps the hormones, digestive juices, oxygen, etc to spread rapidly throughout the body.
Pitta is the dominant dosha that rules over all body liquids. And it’s a very important function as more than 60% of the human body constitutes water.
Vata effect may dry a liquid, Kapha effect may lead to solidification of a liquid. But the burning/melting effect of pitta helps to maintain the liquidity inside the body.
For example, melted butter flows and spreads. This pitta-endowed liquidity also helps in a smooth flow of blood (with cholesterol) throughout the body. It helps in the maintenance of tissue fluid.
Pitta dosha is a complex bio-physical pattern that works to balance the heat-based transformative processes inside the body. All chemical reactions, minor or major are a part of pitta metabolism. Ayurveda groups all heat exchange and chemical reactions together as a single metabolic pattern -pitta as they all share the fundamental principles.
Pitta dosha has many other properties, functions, special sites inside the body, and subtypes too. Let me know if you want to read more about pitta and I will get back to you with elaborate information.
I hope this blog helps to gain useful insight into Ayurvedic dosha principles. In the next blog, let us explore more about Kapha dosha.