Pitta Dosha – General Introduction

By Dr Raghuram Y.S. MD (Ay) & Dr Manasa, B.A.M.S

Pitta Dosha is one among three doshas.

Introduction, salient features

We, human beings are hot blooded. Absence of heat is said to be absence of life. When body heat gets depleted, person no longer lives; it is a sign of death. Body heat is produced and maintained by pitta. This pitta is responsible for digestion and all metabolic activities in body. Cellular metabolism is also maintained by pitta. Read – Understand Pitta Dosha By Its Functions

Salient features of Pitta

Pitta, heat manager of body – Pitta is heat production unit of body. It not only produces heat but also regularizes heat. Every cell in body needs heat for smooth functioning. Functions of pitta are compared to functions of fire. Sushruta has mentioned word agni, which means fire, with each sub-type of pitta. It is this heat of pitta which makes stomach digests food. Same pitta located in cells in form of tissue and elemental fires helps in transformation of food into nutrition, building blocks and heat. Read – Understanding Digestion Process From An Ayurveda View

Definition, activities, body-type

Dependent activities of pitta in body

All activities of pitta are dependent on vata. Vata being chief controller of all activities in body, owing to its rajas quality, mobilizes pitta all through body and thus controls its activities. Read – Qualities Of Vata, Pitta and Kapha Dosha – Easy Explanation

Definition of Pitta

That which ‘heats up’ or ‘produces heat in body’ is called pitta.

That which ‘digests things consumed in form of food’ is called pitta.

That which protects body when in a state of balance and destroys body when aggravated is called pitta.

Pitta forms one’s body type, pitta type of constitution

Like other doshas, pitta too forms our body types. When pitta predominantly forms ones physical constitution, he or she is said to have pitta prakriti i.e. pitta body type. This forms at conception and never changes till last breath. Read – Prakriti – Ayurveda Body Types, Importance In Treatment And Remedies

In combination with other doshas, pitta forms 4 kinds of body types. They are –

  • Pitta
  • Pitta-vata
  • Pitta-kapha
  • Pitta-vata-kapha

Pitta type of personality is considered as moderate type of constitution among three basic body types.

Pitta Vs fire

Pitta dosh v/s fire outside our body

Pitta represents fire element in our physical body. Pitta is also said to be a representative of Sun in body. Activities of pitta are said to be similar to that of fire and Sun outside human body, in nature.

Fire burns and heats up things in outside world, it produces warmth and is responsible for combustion. Pitta also digests food owing to its hot property, transforms it into nutritive juices, segregates excreta from nutrients, enables availability of nutrients to entire body and produces warmth and heat which are signs of life. Sun consumes watery part from Earth through evaporation apart from providing light and heat. Pitta too consumes water and food, digests them and provides heat, energy, knowledge, vision, color and luster. Read – Nourishing, Depleting and Distributing Functions Of Tridosha (Visarga, Adana And Vikshepa)

Makeup, Qualities, Sites

Makeup of Pitta – Pitta is made up of combination of fire and water elements. Among three great qualities, pitta is made up of sattva quality when in normalcy and rajas quality when pitta is aggravated. Read – Relationship Between Doshas And Basic Elements (Pancha Mahabhuta)

Qualities of Pitta

  • Unctuousness
  • Intense, deep penetrating
  • Hot
  • Light
  • Foul smelling
  • Flowing
  • Liquid

Location of Pitta – Pitta is predominantly located in middle portion of body, between heart and navel. This is hot zone of body where digestive fire is located. It includes digestive structures including stomach, duodenum small intestine and pancreas. Chief seat of pitta is navel. Being located here, pitta controls other pittas and their seats. Pitta would render these activities owing to its ‘fire like activities’. Read – Pitta Dosha Dominance In Different Body Parts – 8 Things To Know

Other seats of pitta –

  • Stomach
  • Sweat
  • Plasma
  • Blood
  • Lymph
  • Eye
  • Skin

Read – Sub Types Of Pitta Dosha – Importance, Salient Features

Sub-types, functions, variations

Sub-types of pitta, their location and functions

Pitta subtypeLocationAreas of movementFunctions
Pachaka VayuStomach, intestine, duodenumStomach, intestineDigestion of food, bifurcation of digested food into nutritive juices and excreta
Sadhaka VayuBrain / Head, heartBrainAchievement of one’s aspiration through his intellect, discriminating power and zeal,
RanjakaLiver, spleen, stomachLiver, stomachProvides color to lymph / nutritive juices and converts it into blood
AlochakaEyeEyeEnables perception of vision, provides good eyesight, promotes memory, instincts introspection
BhrajakaSkinSkinGives complexion to skin, promotes types of complexion

Variations of pitta

Pitta presents itself in three kinds of manifestations. They are –

  • Sthana / samya – state of balance, equilibrium state of pitta – this state contributes towards good health
  • Vriddhi – pathological increase
  • Kshaya – pathological decrease

Read – Normal Dosha Vitiation In Relation To Digestion

Functions of normal pitta

Below mentioned are functions of normal pitta which is in a state of balance –

  • Enables proper digestion of food, when food is digested properly, nutritional juices too are formed in a good way. These nutritive juices are distributed to all cells of body, help in tissue buildup, and are responsible for good health, immunity and endurance.
  • Enables proper perception of visual objects by eye
  • Helps in maintaining normal temperature of body
  • Provides normal complexion to an individual
  • Responsible for manifestation of boldness, pleasure and tranquillity

Read – Types Of Doshas And Their Functions

Abnormality

Abnorma functions of Pitta

  • Will cause improper digestion of food and production of toxic byproducts in form of ama. Ama produces blocks in all channels of body, deplete tissues of nutrition, get accumulated in tissues and channels and damage them over a period of time and becomes responsible for many disorders.
  • Causes improper perception of visual objects by eye, causes visual errors, eye diseases and blindness
  • Responsible for sub-normal or abnormal body temperature which in turn is cause of low metabolism in body and root for many systemic illnesses
  • Provides impaired color and complexion to an individual
  • Responsible for manifestation of fear, delusion and worry

Read – Ayurvedic Pitta Diet – Food Suitable For Pitta Body Type

Pitta predominance during day

Pitta is predominant during noon part of day. At noon time we can find Sun at his summit. Extreme heat is present in that part of day. This favors increase of pitta since pitta too is hot in nature. Pitta gradually subsides naturally by evening when coldness sets in, giving way for vata to dominate later part of day. Read – Normal Vitiation of Doshas As Per Seasonal Variation

Pitta variations in different seasons

Accumulation of pitta takes place in rainy season. Aggravation of pitta takes place in next season i.e. autumn season. If aggravation of pitta is handled with proper seasonal interventions and regimen, pitta gets pacified all by itself in upcoming season i.e. early winter season. These events related to pitta happen in everyone in these seasons. But on other hand if pitta aggravation is not addressed, it doesn’t get subsided in winter. In fact it undergoes further vitiation with help of available etiological factors favourable for its pathological increase and absence of antagonising factors. Such pitta will cause many diseases after having gone through various stages of pathogenesis. Read – Ayurvedic Winter Regimen – 75 Diet And Lifestyle Tips

Pitta relationship with tissues and excreta

Pitta has a residence and resident relationship with blood tissue and sweat. Pitta is located in blood and sweat. Pitta helps in managing these functions when it is in a state of balance. When pitta is off balance, it can contaminate blood and sweat and cause many diseases. Read – Ashraya Ashrayi Bhava: Relationship Between Tissues And Doshas

Pitta relationship with age of an individual

Pitta is predominant during middle age of a person. Immaterial of body type of person, pitta is high during this part of life. This is phase of life when person is very active. This is also a time of productivity, active working and earning. Energy and enthusiasm provided by pitta enables person to handle this part of life with ease. Pitta phase of life is preceded by kapha phase during childhood and early adolescence and is followed by vata phase in old age. If pitta is not handled with care, person may undergo many physical and mental burnouts and suffer from many inflammatory disorders and emotional turmoil.

Kapha body types tolerate this pitta surge well since they have more endurance than other constitutions. Kapha, being a water body also buffers and antagonizes extreme heat of pitta and helps in balancing it. Pitta and vata types may be victims of pitta surge during this part of life. Vata and pitta form lethal combination as that of wind and fire.

Learning art of handling life in a sensible way, avoiding stress and extreme emotions and keeping away foods and activities which further aggravate pitta helps one in handling pitta tantrums in middle phase of life.

Read – Understanding Agni: Concept, Definition, Functions, Types

Digestion, bowels relation

Pitta relationship with digestive fire

Digestive fire is influenced by all doshas. When pitta influences fire, fire becomes intense, strong and all consuming. It is called teekshnagni. This type of fire quickly digests any kind of food offered to it. Therefore person has frequent hunger pangs. When this type of fire persists for long periods and is not taken care of, it causes pitta type of indigestion, vidagdhajirna. Here, vitiated pitta and fire enhanced by it will burn food to ashes rather than digesting it. This will lead to insufficient nutrition to body cells consequentially leading to many diseases of pitta origin. Burnouts in body and inflammatory diseases are evident in these pathological conditions. Read – Relationship Between Doshas And Digestive Fire

Pitta and Bowel movement

When bowel movements are dominated and governed by pitta, it is called as mrudu koshta. These people can pass their bowel easily and effortlessly. Stools are generally soft and smooth in consistency. Person may also have loose stools. Bowel movement may begin even after drinking warm water or milk. Read – Koshta: Understanding Gut Behaviour And Gut Reactivity

Pitta formation

Pitta relationship with phases of digestion of food, formation of pitta

Pitta, especially digestive pitta called as pachaka pitta, located in stomach is responsible for digestion of food. Pachaka pitta is located in stomach and small intestine, especially duodenum. It is said to be a representative of fire, all subtypes of pitta too. It is responsible for reception of food, digesting it and bifurcating it into nutritional juices and excreta.

This pitta is formed at middle phase of digestion, from food. When food which is partly digested in stomach is propelled to intestine, food is digested completely here by action of digestive pitta. Food loses its sweetness it had carried from stomach and gains sourness. An environment of sourness is produced in intestine due to action of pitta on food. This environment is favorable for production of pitta. This phase of digestion is called amla avasthapaka. Pitta is regularly formed during this stage, from food, and supports other sub-types of pitta. Read – Formation Of Doshas In Avastha Paka?

Pitta and tastes

, bitter and astringent tastes have opposite qualities as those of pitta. Therefore they pacify pitta. Pungent, sour and salt tastes have similar qualities as those of pitta. Therefore they increase pitta. Read – Six Tastes Of Ayurveda: Qualities, Benefits, Therapeutic Action (Shad Rasa)

Etiological factors for vitiation of pitta

  • Excessive consumption of hot, corrosive and irritant foods
  • Excessive consumption of pungent, sour and salt tastes, foods predominant in these tastes
  • Excessive consumption of chillies, sour curds, fermented drinks
  • Excessive exposure to heat of fun or fire
  • Excessive anger
  • Excessive starvation
  • Excessive indulgence in sex
  • During autumn season, middle part of day and digestion

Read – Lifestyle, Food And Factors That Cause Pitta Dosha Increase

Symptoms of pitta imbalance

Pitta imbalance occurs in two kinds. They are pathological decrease and pathological increase.

1. Pathological decrease of pitta – When pitta decreases, it doesn’t cause any diseases but produces symptoms of deficiency. On other hand, relative imbalance of vata and kapha may occur. Read – Pitta Kshaya Lakshana – Signs And Symptoms Of Pitta Decrease Symptoms of pitta decrease are –

  • Weakness of digestive fire, sluggish digestion, indigestion,
  • Decrease of body temperature (hypothermia)
  • Feeling of excessive coldness in body
  • Lack of body luster, lusterless appearance, pathetic

Other symptoms –

  • Deterioration of normal pitta
  • Liking towards things, food and activities which increase pitta
  • Liking towards pungent, sour and salty foods, those which are oily, light and hot. All these qualities and tastes increase pitta.

Read – Pitta Increase Symptoms – Pitta Vriddhi Lakshana

2. Pathological increase of pitta

This takes place in six stages. All pathological stages are not formed in all people. If earlier stages are treated in proper time, further stages are not manifested.

Stages of pathology

Different stages of pathological presentation of pitta increase are explained below.

a. Sanchaya: Accumulation of pitta in its own seats – produces below mentioned symptoms –

  • Yellowish tinge of skin

b. Prakopa: Aggravation of pitta in its own seats – produces below mentioned symptoms –

  • Sour or acidic belching, heart burn
  • Thirst
  • Burning sensation

Symptoms of pitta increase / Vriddhi lakshanas

  • Yellowish discoloration of stools, urine, skin and eyes
  • Excessive hunger, bulimia
  • Polydypsia, excessive thirst
  • Insomnia
  • Burning sensation

Read – Shat Kriya Kala – ‘Stage-Wise Disease Management’

Pathological manifestation of vitiated Pitta:

  • Burning sensation
  • Reddish discoloration in afflicted parts of body
  • Excessive heat
  • Inflammation
  • Increased sweating
  • Excessive moisture
  • Discharges
  • Gangrene
  • Dysfunction
  • Exhaustion
  • Stupor
  • Feeling of pungent and sour tastes in mouth
  • Yellow and red discoloration

c. Prasara: Stage of spread

In this stage, pitta which has undergone aggravation in previous stage will leave its seats and spread all through body. It either spreads alone or spreads after getting mixed with vata, kapha and blood. Sushruta has considered blood also as a dosha. Combinations in which spread of pitta takes place in this stage are as mentioned below –

  • Pitta
  • Pitta-vata
  • Pitta-kapha
  • Pitta-rakta
  • Pitta-vata-kapha
  • Pitta-vata-rakta
  • Pitta-kapha-rakta
  • Pitta-vata-kapha-rakta

Spread of pitta along with associated doshas can occur in either direction, upward, downward or side-ward. It produces diseases in whichever direction it travels. Similarly, vitiated doshas can take three courses i.e. visceral organs, tissues or vital structures, bones and joints. Diseases are produces in whichever course pitta along with its associated doshas travel. Read – Relationship between Samprapti and Shat Kriya Kala

Below mentioned are symptoms of pitta spread –

  • Sense of boiling
  • Squeezing sensation
  • Burning sensation
  • Feeling as if body is boiling

d. Sthanasamshraya Stage of lodgment of pitta dosh in tissues – If pittha is not taken care of in its stage of spread, it gets lodged in one or other tissues in direction or course of its movements. This lodgment is called sthanasamshraya of pitta in tissues. Here, amalgamation of morbid pitha with weak and susceptible tissues takes place. This vicious mix up is called dosha dushya sammurchana. This process is mandatory for a disease to be produced.

After getting lodged in tissues, pitta damages them. With this damage, disease process starts. Since damage of tissues has just begun, disease is not formed, but premonitory symptoms of impending disease are seen.

Depending on tissue / organ / organs in which vitiated pitta gets lodged, diseases are manifested in those tissues or organs.

Examples: Pitta getting lodged in –

  • Abdomen – produces tumors and diseases of pitta origin, loss of appetite etc
  • Urinary bladder – produces pitta type urinary disorders, diabetes, urinary stones etc.
  • Anus / rectum – pitta type of fistula, piles etc
  • Skin, muscle, blood – produces pitta type of skin diseases, herpes etc
  • Feet – produces pitta type of filariasis, gout, spur, joint pain etc
  • Whole body – produces diseases like fever, tetanus etc

Note: above said manifestations are only examples for purpose of understanding. Manifestation of diseases in other organs and tissues should be understood in same lines. Read – Roopa – Symptoms: Definition, Types, Benefits of its knowledge

e. Vyakta – stage of manifestation of disease – When disease is not addressed in fourth stage of pathogenesis, when disease is still weak and in budding stage, vitiated pitta further continues to damage tissues and causes diseases. These diseases are completely formed, strong and manifest with their characteristic signs and symptoms. Diseases are formed in same tissues or organs wherein pitta gets lodged, in same direction of its flow and same course in which it moves. Read – Samprapti Ghatakas – Components Of Manifestation Of Disease

f. Bheda – stage of complications – If disease is not treated even if disease is completely manifested, pitta causes severe damage to tissues leading to manifestation of complications of disease, which may be life threatening. Read – Upadrava: Complications of diseases, Definition, Examples

Pathological manifestations

Different pathological manifestations of vitiated pitta

Apart from above mentioned conditions, pitta has several other kinds of pathological manifestations. Below mentioned are those conditions of pitta.

a. Sama – Nirama stages of pitta

When pitta is associated with ama, it is called sama pitta. Ama is a metabolic toxin formed due to incomplete digestion of food in stomach. It is formed in form of immature and unformed nutritional juices.

This is one of pathological manifestations of pitta. If this morbid pitta is to be removed, ama should be separated from pitta because in presence of ama association, pitta sticks to walls of channels and tissues and cannot be eliminated. Read – Pitta Associated With Ama – Symptoms And Treatment

Symptoms of Sama pitta:

  • foul smelling due to association with ama
  • pitta gains greenish color
  • appearance of blackish or bluish black color in pitta
  • pitta acquires sour taste
  • pitta becomes denser and stable
  • heaviness develops in pitta in contrast to its light nature
  • manifestation of sour belching
  • causes burning sensation in throat
  • causes burning sensation in heart or cardiac region

Symptoms of Nirama pitta : When pitha gets devoid of ama, it is called nirama pitta.

  • pitta acquires coppery, yellow color
  • excessive heat
  • pittha acquires bitter taste
  • pitta is instable i.e. breaks into fragments and scatters on water
  • absence of foul smell in pitta
  • enhances taste in food
  • enhances digestion capacity of an individual by kindling digestive fire
  • increases strength and immunity of an individual

Read – Classification of Vyadhi (diseases) according to Ayurveda

b. Samanya Pitta Vikara – General diseases or sub-type of disease caused by vitiation of Pitta

When Pitta is predominantly involved in formation of disease type, it will be named as pittaja type of that disorder.

Examples of Pittaja Samanya Vikaras are:

  • Pittaja Jwara – fever caused by vitiated pitta
  • Pittaja Atisara – diarrhoea caused by vitiated pitta
  • Pittaja Kasa – cough caused by vitiated pitta etc

Note: These diseases also have sub-types which are caused by vata and kapha, double or triple doshas.

c. Nanatmaja Pitta Vikara – diseases caused by vitiation of ‘only pitta’

These diseases are those which are caused by vitiation of only pitta. other doshas, i.e. vata or kapha will not be involved in causation of these diseases like in general pitta diseases. They are 40 in number.

Read – Involvement of Multiple Doshas In The Disease process

d. Pitta – as a part of samsargaja and sannipataja disease types

When two doshas are jointly vitiated, it is called dwandwa / samsarga dushti. When three doshas are vitiated together, it is called as tridoshaja / sannipataja dushti.

Pitta is vitiated along with vata and kapha in these dual and triple vitiations. proportionality of vitiation varies in each combination. Read – Sannipataja Dosha Dushti – When All Three Doshas Are Imbalanced

Also –

Pitta is indirectly involved in –

Avarana – wherein pitta obstructs functions of vata causing related disorders

Ashayapakarsha – wherein vata vitiated due to depletion of kapha pulls pitta out of its place and causes disorders due to relative imbalances of doshas

Treatment, diet

Treatment options in pitta imbalance

Prevention – keeping away causative factors of pitta vitiation is very important while handling pitta disorders. Read – How To Balance Pitta Dosha? Line Of Treatment

External treatments

  • Abhyanga – Massages with herbal oils prepared with pitta mitigating herbs
  • Samvahana – delicate massage with herbal pitta mitigating oils
  • Sarvanga dhara – stream pouring of medicated oils, ghee and milk prepared with pitta mitigating herbs all over body
  • Shiro dhara – stream pouring of medicated oils, ghee and milk prepared with pitta alleviating herbs over head
  • Sugandha, gandha, hara, mani hara – application of fragrances, scents and perfumes, garland of flowers, necklaces made up of pearls etc
  • Anulepa – regular and frequent application of pastes of camphor, sandalwood and other coolant herbs

Read – Six Basic Ayurvedic Therapies – Shat Upakrama – Charaka Sutrasthana 22

Internal treatments

  • Snehapana – intake of medicated lipids prepared with pitta mitigating herbs in metered doses until body cells get saturated with medicinal properties is called oleation. This is administered as individual therapy or as pre-treatment procedure for purgation.
  • Virechana – medicated purgation
  • Vamana – therapeutic emesis
  • Vasti – herbal enemas including decoction and unctuous enemas with ghee and oil prepared with pitta alleviating herbs, given through anal, urethral or uterine routes

Diet, lifestyle activities and exercises

  • Consumption of ghee / medicated ghee
  • Consumption of milk
  • Foods which are cold and conducive to heart
  • Foods and medicines which have sweet, bitter and astringent taste should be consumed
  • One should avoid pungent, sour and salty foods, hot foods
  • Getting exposed to moonlight and cool breeze, hearing pleasant music, cold comforts,
  • One should avoid being anger, stressful and anxious
  • Indulging in likeable and lovable activities
  • Wholesome and friendly talks with friends, relatives and kids
  • Company of loving wife who has adorned herself with coolant pastes of herbs, garlands and wet clothes
  • Spending time near sprinklers or fountains, staying in underground homes or rooms, walking in gardens, walking on sand on banks of water

Click to Consult Dr Raghuram Y.S. MD (Ayu) – Email / Skype

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