If you suffer from inflammation and irritation, psoriasis, eczema, itchiness, acne or rashes from time to time, it’s important to look beyond the skin’s surface at what the cause is. In Ayurveda a skin condition is a reflection of what is happening inside our bodies. The best way to clear your complexion and re-ignite your radiance is by looking more than skin-deep.
While in Western medicine skin issues are often treated with creams (even strong antibiotics or steroids) in Ayurveda we know that skin conditions are rarely just on the surface, rather they reflect what is happening within our bodies. Since skin problems are a result of a deeper imbalance, it’s not enough to treat the symptoms alone, rather, we need to look at things more holistically to clear up the problem for good.
Trying to treat a skin issue with cortisone steroids will dampen the symptoms, but it won’t stop the problem. What happens is the imbalance moves within the body and migrates to another area, ultimately causing more serious issues the longer it’s left.
The first step is treating the digestive system, when digestion is clear it cleans the rest of your body – that’s why the food you eat is really your first line of defence when it comes to healing. If you don’t clean the blood, it can’t fix the problem. If you don’t change your diet, you will never fix your skin problem.
This is where many people don’t want to put in the effort. I always ask: ‘If you saw a child suffering with a skin condition would you change their diet?’ I personally had my daughter suffer with severe eczema after her two-year old vaccination. It took me two years to build her immune system up. It was not her diet, in this case, but how her immune system was dealing with the food. It wasn’t easy, but I have a daughter who is now 11 years old, with beautiful skin. She can also now eat everything, as her gut healed. Did it take effort? Yes, but the short term pain was better than her long term pain.
Often what’s happening is that the food you’re eating isn’t being digested properly, or your immune system is reacting to what you are eating. Maybe you’re eating the wrong foods for your body type (if you don’t know your body type and want to find out where you are on the Health Spectrum, you can find out here or read more about body types in this informative article I wrote recently). What’s happening is the toxins in your body (ama) is building up, meanwhile the life force (agni) dulls. As time goes by, your body will spread the toxins through the lymphatic system and there will be excess heat and inflammation. Skin conditions tend to often be pitta problems – but they can come in the form of imbalances.
Vata skin problems
Vata, which is ruled by the elements space and air, tends to show up in dryness. You might have dry skin or cracked heels, maybe your scalp will be dry and itchy. Skin problems will often move around the body because vata is constantly moving. They are at their worst during winter and autumn, when it’s cold and dry.
The best treatment for vata imbalances is to settle the vata down, settle the nervous system and calm the whole body so it is more grounded. We treat this toxic inflammation with nourishing things like ghee and nice, warming oils. Normally when there is a vata problem, the body is vata depleted so giving it what it needs will improve digestion.
Eat plenty of warm moist and grounding foods such as avocado, ghee, root vegetables and cooked grains. Food that should be avoided are drying foods, like popcorn, crackers, coffee and nicotine as well as too much raw food, like salads.
If you want to read more about vata body types and imbalances, this article is a good start.
Pitta skin problems
Governed by the element of fire, pitta imbalances tend to be aggravated by heat. Skin issues are centred around inflammation – like psoriasis, acne or rosacea (redness on cheeks, chin, nose and forehead). They will be at the worst in summer.
To treat pitta skin issues, we start by cooling the digestive system. This means cutting back, or avoiding, foods which aggravate pitta – so that’s hot and spicy, as well as fermented and sour foods; red meat; cheeses; oily foods; alcohol and coffee. These types of foods are heavy on the digestive system and irritate pitta.
Often the toxicity will be deep in the organ by now, so with pitta issues we often need to clean the gut and the liver. We also work on cleaning the blood, so the liver will function better.
Cooling herbs will settle the skin and break down the toxins. We also eat cooling fruits and vegetables, like zucchini, broccoli and beetroot; rice and egg whites will also be good for you. Dairy will help reduce the heat of pitta – in particular butter milk and ghee. Grains like rice, barley and oats will nourish your body and get it back on track.
When there’s a pitta imbalance it’s important to stay out of the sun and avoid getting too hot, so exercise will be better in the early morning or evening (absolutely not in the heat of the day). Activities like walking barefoot on green grass early in the morning will also be beneficial.
Check out this article I wrote recently to find out more about pitta imbalances and how to treat them.
Kapha skin problems
Kapha imbalances in the skin tend to represent as more of an infection than the other two – so there may be open sores that are oozing with pus or mucus.
Even the dandruff may be sticky (rather than dry or hot). Here the body channels are getting clogged and feel sticky, and often manifest as infections which are slow to heal.
Kapha skin problems may be candida, athlete’s foot or general itchiness which is hard to control.
Looking deeper than the skin, we often find that there are problem is with heavy digestion and the body has become sticky and heavy because of toxins (ama) and clogged tissues. These imbalances tend to be the result of a longer period of time than the other two, as it takes longer to manifest; it naturally often takes longer to treat.
When treating a kapha imbalance it’s important to avoid dairy, sweet foods and foods which are high in carbohydrates and often a detox will be necessary because it completely cleans out the digestive system.
You’ll do well eating vegetables and dahl soups with black pepper, fresh ginger and turmeric (which is now recognised in the West as a super food because it helps with digestion, metabolises fat and reduces cholesterol and allergies). Green leafy vegetables, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, apples, pears, pomegranates, cranberries, apricots, quinoa and basmati rice are great for you.
The worst times for kapha imbalances are when the weather is humid, hot and sticky. Sores and irritations will inflame and be at their worst, the best time will be when it’s cold and dry.
This article goes into a lot more depth on kapha imbalances and how to treat them.
The next step
I’m really straight with my patients when it comes to treating skin problems. If they want a quick fix, I suggest that they are better off seeing their doctor, as drugs are the only option normally, but if they want to treat the root cause of the problem, then I can help. Unfortunately there’s no quick fix, this can take time.
The results are worth it though, I’ve seen clients have a complete turn-around in three months. You know it only takes six weeks to get a brand-new liver? Then the liver does its job to clean the blood.
With skin irritations you just need to get to the root cause before you can put it behind you.
Get in touch if you, or someone you know, would like help clearing up a skin irritation for good. You can call the clinic on 07) 3255 0671 or email email@example.com