Heat Intolerance: Ayurveda Understanding

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

What is heat intolerance? Things to know about,

Heat intolerance is a condition in which the body finds it difficult to cope up with heat or hot weather. One may feel dizzy, weak or nauseous. In short, the body struggles to handle high temperatures and adjust to the same.

A range of uncomfortable symptoms including dehydration, fatigue and excessive sweating are caused due to heat intolerance.

Heat intolerance is an effect or symptom of many health conditions like thyrotoxicosis, Grave’s disease, high blood pressure, infections, psoriasis, mental illness, anxiety disorders etc. It may also be caused due to the effect of many medications and substances including antibiotics, blood pressure medicines, antipsychotics, caffeine etc.

Symptoms of heat intolerance are different in different individuals and may generally include general weakness, mood fluctuations, immense fatigue, headaches, increased heartbeat, nausea, vomiting, excessive or absence of sweating, muscle cramps etc.

Related Reading – Heat Intolerance

Heat Intolerance: Ayurveda Understanding

Here, we shall discuss Ayurveda understanding of heat intolerance from the point of view of what causes this condition from outside as well as inside of the body.

Extrinsic factors for heat intolerance

Adana Kala – Hot climate and seasons are the main causes for heat intolerance. This happens when the seasons and their impact are on the higher side of extremes. Therefore, the extrinsic factors can be the adana kala – the heat predominant seasons – Summer Solstice and the inability of the body to adjust to the same.

Body can tolerate temperature to an extent and to limited extremes. Similarly, the tolerance levels and limits may be different for different individuals. Therefore, intolerance may not show up in everyone.

The person who has heat intolerance may feel even a mild increase of heat to be extremely intolerable while the others around are extremely comfortable with it.

Heat intolerance may be a response and reaction of the body to variations occurring in the adana kala – summer solstice. Adana Kala comprises three seasons which are predominantly hot in nature. Sun is predominant in three seasons according to Ayurveda – Shishira – late winter season, Vasanta – spring season and Greeshma – summer season.

Sharad Rtu is the season for aggravation of pitta. Pitta too is hot in nature. So, there will obviously be heat intolerance to an extent in this season. But we need to see that this season does not fall in the adana kala. In fact, it falls in visarga kala. So, Sharad Rtu basically falls in between the end of Varsha Rtu rainy season (wherein the sun glows after the clouds disappear and rain stops) and beginning of Hemanta Rtu i.e. early winter (wherein once again the heat of the Sun fades with onset of cold season) The rise and decrease of heat in between two seasons of visarga kala is the season for pitta increase. In this season, there is accumulation of heat in the body as an effect of the outside heat along with increasing pitta inside the body.

Likewise, Varsha Rtu – monsoon / rainy season favours of accumulation of pitta, which when not monitored through seasonal regimen can cross barriers of increase and go to the stage of aggravation in the following season i.e. Sharad Rtu. It is interesting to see that Varsha Rtu too falls under Visarga Kala.

Also, in Sharad Rtu there is natural decrease of vata, so the coldness in the body reduces which also facilitates increase in pitta and heat.

Whatever happens in Sharad and Varsha Rtu is due to the impact of nature / season on pitta and relative influence on other doshas.

Coming to Adana Kala – summer solstice, the six months included here and comprising 3 seasons of two months each, as mentioned above, are basically hot seasons. They too will definitely have an impact on pitta and heat. In Greeshma Rtu – which is a part of adana kala, there is depletion of kapha and accumulation of vata (but not aggravation of vata) which once again favours increase of pitta and consequent heat.

Consumption of pitta aggravating foods and activities in seasons favouring their increase i.e. Varsha and Sharad Rtus, may add up to abnormal increase of pitta dosha, leading to manifestation of heat intolerance.

Regular consumption of hot foods and exposure to heat or working in hot and humid conditions for long time periods may make one increasingly intolerant to the heat.

Habituated consumption of pitta aggravating foods and lifestyle activities for longer duration are also the extrinsic factors which can contribute towards heat intolerance.

One should learn how to adapt to different seasons. This adaptation will come naturally to one, with ageing and training. This is called Rutucharya – seasonal regimen.

Rutu Sandhi is the transitional period between two seasons. Ayurveda explains about seasonal transition and advocates one to train self during the transitional period. This includes right seasonal choices of foods and activities and behaviours.

Related Reading – Rutucharya

Related Reading – Rutusandhi

Intrinsic factors for heat intolerance

Pitta is a dosha which is basically hot in nature. It is also the main intrinsic factor for heat intolerance.

According to Ayurveda, excessive heat in the body is mainly due to abnormal increase or aggravation of pitta.

Increase in pitta can build up heat in the body and when it hits extreme, it would cause heat intolerance. When there is heat intolerance, it also reflects that there is a relative decrease in the ‘cold’ doshas of the body i.e. vata and kapha and their subtypes.

Fire and pitta are closely and inseparably associated. Fire naturally resides in the pitta and in a state of balance, it helps in maintaining and regulating heat in the body. When this pitta goes beyond its state of balance it builds up heat in the body beyond the levels of tolerance, thus causing heat intolerance.

This increased heat would overshadow the coldness of vata and kapha, which are the antagonist doshas for pitta.

Excessive heat in the body is also caused by the diseases caused by morbid pitta. These diseases when not treated properly or when pitta is not controlled in time may lead to heat intolerance.

This increased heat in pitta disorders will be associated with symptoms of those diseases. These symptoms include burning sensation, raised heat and redness caused by increased pitta.

The pitta factor – In short, Pitta is the intrinsic factor responsible for heat intolerance. Heat is in fact the representative of fire and Sun inside the body. The body heat is regulated and maintained by ‘pitta in a state of balance’. When pitta goes off balance, towards higher extremes, the person will not be able to tolerate heat.

So, abnormal pitta increase (excitation, vitiation or aggravation) is the main cause responsible for heat intolerance. Pitta aggravating foods and activities are responsible for abnormal pitta hike in the body.

Pitta aggravating mind entities like ‘excessive anger’ is responsible for abnormal increase of heat in the body and mind, which is responsible for many health conditions. Pitta increase in the long term is responsible for many inflammatory reactions and changes in the body.

Rakta and Sweda factor – Pitta is located in the blood tissue and sweat. Abnormal increase in rakta – blood and non-elimination of sweda – sweat may build up heat in the body and put the tissues and body components to heat exhaustion to a point of intolerance.

Combined factors – The combination of intrinsic and extrinsic factors is also responsible for heat intolerance.

Likewise, teekshnagni – severe and abnormal increase in intensity of digestive fire / strength at the gut level will influence the entire body and all dhatus – tissues. This will cause burn outs at various levels of the body. This will also overshadow even the minimum coldness needed to buffer the heat in the body, as contributed by vata and kapha and their coldness. Putting it the other way, teekshnagni would dominate and overrule vata and kapha and their actions in the body.

The seasons, foods and activities which aggravate pitta and produce related symptoms are direct causes for heat intolerance apart from the natural increase of the dosha beyond the level of auto-pacification.

The Vata Factor – Vata and Pitta i.e. air and fire form a deadly combination when they are severely aggravated and associated. Aggravated vata ignites and aggravates pitta and the fire in it. So, the association of vata should be identified and addressed.

Ayurveda Treatment Principles for Heat Intolerance

Principles – Treatment and management would include pitta balancing foods, lifestyle changes, seasonal adaptations and behaviours. Virechana would be the best therapy to expel morbid pitta out of the body and to bring about its balance. Likewise, medicated ghee for internal consumption is advised for pitta balancing.

Nidana Parivarjana – Avoidance, isolation or keeping away the causative factors of the disease is the chief principle of prevention or cure of all diseases. The same shall be followed in management of heat intolerance.

The main causative factors of heat intolerance, be it intrinsic or extrinsic should be identified and isolated (kept away). This will help in putting brakes to the progression of pathogenesis leading to heat intolerance, to get relief from the symptoms of the same and also to prevent the recurrence of symptoms. The extrinsic factors ultimately imbalances the doshas and cause diseases. Therefore, the body should not be exposed to these factors.

Specific management of doshas – This includes balancing pitta which is aggravated in case of heat intolerance or treating pittaja diseases promptly.

The other remedies include –

–        Using cold comforts, foods and medicines – when there is excessive heat in the body or heat intolerance, there will obviously be a desire for cold foods and comforts. Sheetakamitva i.e. liking towards cold things reflects abnormal increase of pitta in the body.
–        Treating pitta and rakta vriddhi – pathological increase of pitta and rakta – blood (in which pitta is located) since both contribute towards heat of the body
–        Treating vata and kapha kshaya – pathological decrease of vata and kapha since they contribute towards increase of pitta and heat and consequent intolerance to heat.
–        Properly following the seasonal regimen of sharad rtu – autumn season, varsha rtu – monsoon or rainy season and Greeshma rtu – summer season.
–        Addressing teekshnagni – abnormal increase of agni in the gut and tissues.  
–        Administering Virechana – therapeutic purgation and Vamana – therapeutic emesis for expelling from the body the morbid pitta
–        Administering Vasti – to bring vata to a state of balance and administer vata balancing medicines and diet.
–        Vyadhi Pratyanika – treating those diseases promptly which are causing heat intolerance – like jwara – fever etc.

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