10 Tips to cope with the heat of the summer


Summer is the season of hot weather, which relates to the fire element and Pitta Dosha.

The light, heat, and dryness of this season reflect the color in nature: Intense red, orange, and yellows, not just in the environment, also in our body.

During the summer, Pitta dosha can easily go out of balance. It is important to note that the blood, small intestine, stomach, liver, spleen, and gallbladder, skin (sebaceous gland and sweat) and eyes are some of the main sites of Pitta dosha and they too can become stressed and out of balance.

The heat and the sun can cause the skin to get red, irritated and even burn. People with skin conditions such as eczema will probably experience a worsening of their condition. The eyes too can become dry and irritated.

Your digestion is also affected, you will feel less hungry and more thirsty, especially at lunchtime, the peak of the heat of the day.  

Due to the heat, the capillaries become dilated and filled with blood which release body heat and sweat, as a result, your body cools down. Your heart works really hard in the process of maintaining your body temperature from rising, which takes priority over eating and digestion (this too requires as a lot of blood and fluids). This explains the feeling of nausea or even being sick if you have a heavy meal (this also happens when you are in a "fight or flight" situation or when you are doing sports). While a cold meal is appealing, you might not have enough blood and weak Agni (digestive fire) to digest it.

Tips and remedies for the summer:

  1. stay cool, do not exercise when you are already hot, do not sunbathe when the sun is at its peak (11am-4pm generally).
  2. wear clothing made with naturally breathable fibers with a cooling effect, such as linen and cotton. 
  3. eat light meals, in particular vegetables like dark leafy greens and cooling herbs such as coriander, fennel seeds, and fenugreek. Eat what is in season, snack on fresh seasonal fruit and smoothies (no milk).
  4. drink plenty of water, you could add a drop of lime juice or some mint leaves which have cooling properties. Ayurveda suggests drinking buttermilk, or chaas, during the summer. You can find some recipes here and Ayurvedic recipes for the doshas in my e-book.
  5. Avoid alcohol which will increase heat and stress to the liver (Pitta organ).
  6. Avoid iced drinks especially with your meal as this will weaken your digestive fire even further.
  7. Cool your senses:
    1. Smell:  Apply cooling, sweet, bitter essential oils like natural rose, vetiver (khus), or sandalwood to your neck, palms, and solar plexus and adorn your home with fresh, fragrant flowers. Instead of perfume (most are synthetics) you can try blending some cooling diluted essential oil that will calm Pitta:  Rose, Fennel, and Sandalwood, with smaller amounts of soothing oils such as Ylang Ylang and Frankincense and some uplifting oils such as Lemon or Peppermint. 
    2. Taste: balance excess pitta with bitter, astringent, sweet, and cooling foods (milk and ghee) and herbs including anti-inflammatory herbs like amalaki. Cut down on sour, salty, or spicy foods.
    3. Sight: give your eyes (site of Pitta) a rest from electronic equipment, books, and tv; instead look at colling colors in nature: white, blue, green, silver, and gray. To relieve burning eyes, before bedtime massage coconut oil into the scalp and sole of the feet and place a drop of castor oil in each eye. 
    4. Touch: the skin is already working hard and soaps can irritate and dry the skin further, use only natural cooling soaps such as coconut or sandalwood soaps/body wash. Massage your skin with cooking oils such as coconut oil. Rose water is also very refreshing and is an herb for the liver (Pitta organ).
  8. instead of using suntan lotion which contains large amounts of chemicals, you could opt for natural sunblock by mixing castor oil and neem oil in equal parts and apply to the exposed skin. While it will protect and nurture the skin, you can still get sunburn hence do not stay out in the sun for too long. 
  9. If you do get sunburn mix aloe vera and coconut oil in equal parts and apply onto the irritated skin. Aloe vera is great for sunburn and burns in general.
  10. Finally, practice meditation, cooling pranayama such as Sitali and listen to soft ambient music and devotional songs to calm your heart and soothe your spirit.