Are all natural foods good for all of us all of the time? Ayurveda, the science of life, says no because each food has qualities and actions that affect us differently, depending on our natural constitution, imbalances, the season and other factors. The ideal way to choose your diet for each season is to know your constitution and imbalances. However, if you aren’t sure of your constitution or imbalances, then a few key guidelines still exist that can help you to avoid toxin formation caused by improper digestion.

With summer right around the corner, it’s time to start adjusting our diets for the seasonal change. The rise in heat and humidity influences our normal digestive powers and can reduce the strong appetites that we developed during winter. In Ayurveda, summer is the peak season of Pitta, the body’s component responsible for all digestive, metabolic and transformative actions. Pitta is mostly made up of the fire element and affected by heat, sourness, oiliness and sharpness. It builds up within the body over the course of the summer and, at the end of the season, Ayurveda recommends a systematic detoxification called Virechana to expel the accumulated toxins.

The build-up of these toxins can be avoided by staying away from summertime foods that increase Pitta. Some of the most important ones to avoid are listed below.

1. Garlic

Top 5 Foods To Avoid This Summer GarlicRegarded as “The #1 Anti-Cancer Vegetable,” garlic packs a punch with its long list of health benefits. However, it can be just as dangerous when used injudiciously. Ayurveda provides a list of restrictions for garlic — the most important being to avoid it wherever there is a heat imbalance as it will increase Pitta and quickly pollute the blood. When used excessively in the summer or by people with an existing Pitta or blood imbalance, it can cause sudden skin outbreaks, heat rashes, acne, ulcerations, a burning sensation and liver damage.

Instead of using garlic, you can use a small amount of mild ginger, green fennel seed or peppermint.

2. Lemon

Summertime lemonade is a favorite drink for many, but it also increases Pitta due to its excessive sourness. Although it may feel refreshing, it actually causes an imbalance in the water elements by increasing one’s gastric juices. As such, it can lead to indigestion, heartburn, acid reflux, upper GI ulcers and GERD.

Instead of using lemon, try hibiscus juice or fresh, tender coconut water.

3. Honey

Honey is another powerful healing food with very specific restrictions. It should always be avoided in hot food, by hot people (i.e., those people with a Pitta constitution) and in hot seasons, such as summer. When honey is exposed to heat, its innate metabolic processes activate, which generate a wide range of toxins. These toxins can spread throughout the body causing innumerable diseases, such as cancer, auto-immune disorders, neurological problems and degeneration.

Raw cane sugar, in moderation, is ideal for summer as a natural sweetener.

4. Yogurt

Another problematic summertime treat is yogurt. As a fermented food, it naturally contains acidic and sour qualities — both of which increase Pitta. When combined with fresh fruit, it becomes even worse and completely obstructs normal digestion. Yogurt is a major channel blocker and can immediately pollute the blood, leading to skin conditions, anorectal disorders, gastric diseases, edema and indigestion.

5. Cold drinks

Top 5 Foods To Avoid This Summer - Cold DrinksAlthough cold drinks feel refreshing on a hot day, they do not provide a lasting, cooling, healthy effect. Instead, they halt digestion and metabolism, creating a breeding ground for the generation of internal toxins. They should always be avoided at meal times and replaced with pure, room temperature water.

These are general guidelines and will have certain exceptions. For details specific to your situation, please consult an Ayurvedic practitioner.


Sources for this article include:

Sharma, R.K., and Dash, Bhagawan. Charaka Samhita, Sutra sthana & Chikitsa sthana.Varanasi: Chowkhamba Sanskrit Series Office, 2006. Print.Murthy, Srikantha.

Murthy, Srikantha. Ashtanga Hrdaya, Sutra sthana. Varanasi: Krishnadas Academy, 2004. Print.


Originally published on on May 15, 2014.