How to thrive in summer

Late summer leads up to the onset of autumn, and is when the scorching, driest days fall – it begins at a point when Pitta is at its highest and during this time Vata is also increased (the dry heat, as opposed to monsoon-like, humid weather, sparks Vata within us). Ayurvedic advice focuses on cooling Pitta down to prevent ourselves getting irritable, aggravated and unwell. Though many of us feel naturally healthier and more vital in summer, Pitta types are especially prone to getting flustered, and suffering the consequent heat and skin rashes and stomach upsets.Get things on track by waking with the sunshine. Unlike in spring you needn’t get up at sunrise, but listen to your body and try to wake yourself at a time when you feel most energized, which should be between 6.30 and 7.30am. If you have the opportunity for a short daytime nap (which would be blissful), sleep with windows open, in a light warm room, and if you know you’ll be getting a good period of restful sleep at night, you can then fall into bed later in the summer without upsetting your body’s balance – 11pm up to midnight is fine.

In summer, we can eat more salads than at any other time without it taxing our digestive system (as you know, I’m not a fan of all-raw all the time). It’s best to eat them at lunchtime, though, and to make them up of the vegetables that best support your dosha. Too much raw food at night can imbalance Vata.

Look for Sweet, Bitter and Astringent flavours, which are naturally lighter and easier to digest. Naturally water-rich, sweet and cooling foods – particularly coconut – are wonderful at cooling the internal fire of the body. Mild coconut-spiced curries with basmati rice are excellent. Consuming your water via your food will help hydrate you on a far deeper cellular level than simply drinking gallons of water from a bottle (when it will often pass through your system without being adequately processed). Likewise, hydrating nut and grain milks such as almond and rice balance Pitta well and also offer supplementary minerals and vitamins. Adding a squeeze of lime to your water is another great way of cooling Pitta in the summer, as well as helping the body rehydrate faster.

In terms of alcohol, a beer is fine, as is wine, cider and vodka. But rum, brandy, whisky and red wine are all notoriously heating, and best forgone until autumn comes around again. In general, eating light and easily digestible foods is most important. Fruits and vegetables are at their greatest nutritional peak, giving us an abundance of choices that support healthy eating. It is particularly important to avoid overeating, especially as the summer gets later.

Foods that are cooling in nature are what the body craves, but don’t have ice-cold drinks. If they are too cold, although the initial relief is pleasant, your system will get a shock – eating too much cold or raw food can actually injure the spleen and stomach, cause headaches, upset digestion and slow metabolism. Stick to room temperature if you can. Too hot won’t help matters either, so tea and coffee drinkers, give your beverage a chance to cool, drinking it when it is warm rather than hot.

Meat-eaters should look for lighter flesh – in both colour and flavour – so chicken and both white and oily fish are best in summer. Red meat will very quickly imbalance Pitta further. It’s also best to avoid citrus fruits – partly because they aggravate Pitta, but also because they’re not summer fruits (they’re harvested in late autumn and winter). Also avoid having too much tomato, chilli, onion and garlic, all of which will raise Pitta.

Aloe vera, as a morning drink before food, is recommended in summer as it both calms the stomach and helps cool the entire system. Similarly, teas made with rose, fennel and peppermint will help soothe you, and reduce Pitta too.

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