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Q. I have always loved spicy foods, but recently, I get congested and aggravated after eating them...I don’t understand why this is happening. I have been able to enjoy them just fine my whole life. Why would it be a problem for me now?
A. It sounds like what you are experiencing is some Pitta aggravation. You likely have been having some accumulation of Pitta dosha in your body that has finally reached a tipping point where the consumption of something spicy tips the scales and you get a response, or symptom, from your body. There are many factors that could have gone in to this buildup of Pitta in your system. Number one: it is the peak of summer season and if your climate experiences many days/weeks of 100-degree heat, it can aggravate Pitta symptoms. It is advised to counter balance these hot days of summer with cooling herbs, foods, and practices.
Here are some practical things you can try to reduce the Pitta accumulation in your body, so that later you can enjoy some spicy foods again without aggravation.
Cooling Herbs for Pitta
Include cooling herbs like Neem, Brahmi, and Amalaki.
- Neem is great to help cleanse your blood of excess heat build up.
- Brahmi helps to keep your mind cool and calm.
- Amalaki cleanses and soothes the digestive tract from heat irritation.
Include plenty of cooling foods throughout the day. In general, that means emphasizing summer fruits and vegetables and foods that have the sweet taste. Think lightly cooked vegetables with the sweet, bitter, and/or astringent taste. Raw dairy and whole grains can also be good.
- Eat less of foods that are pungent, sour, and salty -- that means less fried foods, caffeine, alcohol, red meat, and hot spices.
- Use cooling oils like coconut oil and olive oil.
- Use cooling herbs and spices in your meals like fennel, coriander, cilantro, cumin, dill, saffron, parsley, mint.
- Make lunch your biggest meal. This is when your digestive fire is at its peak strength.
- Try some daily breathing exercises like left nostril breathing or Sitali pranayama.
- Take some rest time each day and try not to push yourself in intense physical activity during the midday heat.
By using these strategies, especially during the hot summer months -- but also whenever you feel Pitta accumulation or imbalance in your body -- you can calm your internal heat and inflammation. After some time, when you are feeling back in balance, you can then try a small amount of spicy foods again and see how you respond.