Ayurvedic Diet & Digestion Made Easy
IntroductionThe skin is like a window to the rest of the body. It can reveal what is happening on a much deeper level. Ayurveda considers the quality and appearance of the skin to be a reflection of the health of the body as a whole. The quality of the skin is closely related to the quality of the blood. In Ayurveda, the skin is considered to be the cream of the blood. The foundation of good skin, therefore, is balanced blood chemistry. Toxins (ama) in the blood can manifest as disorders of the skin. Inflamed skin, acne and a gray, lifeless appearance all indicate there is a buildup of of toxins circulating through the blood. If the blood is thick, stagnant or congested, the skin will likely look pallor and puffy. Ayurveda excels in the assessment of the skin. By learning to recognize and decipher an imbalance of the skin, you will be able to understand and rectify its root cause.
The Role of the SkinThe skin is an organ of protection. It is the body's physical barrier between the outside world. It keeps you safe from harmful radiation, microorganisms and temperature fluctuations. The skin is the organ of sensation and enables you to experience your surroundings through sensory perception. Highly enervated, it allows you to experience pressure, pain, hot and cold. The skin also serves an important role of maintaining body temperature. It keeps you warm through body hair and contracting blood vessels (shivering) when cold. It cools you down by sweating and dilating blood vessels in the heat. It maintains essential fluids within the body, and assists in the removal of waste products through sweat, and also regulates the production of and stores vitamin D in the fat tissue.
The Ayurvedic ApproachWestern science categorizes the skin into three main layers: the epidermis (the outermost layer that provides tone to the skin and acts as a barrier), the dermis (thick layer of tough connective tissue, sweat glands and hair follicles) and the subcutaneous layer (fatty layer that helps regulate body temperature). Ayurveda, on the other hand, breaks the skin down into seven layers. Sushruta, the ancient Ayurvedic physician, outlines these layers in his seminal text, Sushruta Samhita. Each layer has its own role and, when out of balance, leads to certain disorders. Ayurveda views skin disorders as a symptom of a deeper imbalance. Treating a skin disorder topically is rarely the first step in Ayurveda. Why treat the skin if the problem is actually stemming from another place? Ayurveda looks to uncover the root cause of the skin problem and resolving it at the source. Most commonly, the root cause of skin disorders can be traced back to the blood. The quality of the blood is a direct result of the strength of digestion. The stronger the digestive system, the cleaner the blood will be and in turn, the healthier the skin. The weaker the digestive system, the more toxins will be present in the blood and the more likely a skin condition will be. This is why, when looking to improve the skin, Ayurveda looks to the digestive system first. Topical treatments may be used thereafter, but only as additional support. Topical treatments often reduce the symptoms of a skin condition initially and can be quite effective. But unless the cause is removed, the disorder is likely to return at one point or another.
What Causes a Skin ImbalanceThe skin is a sensitive organ and must be treated with care. It is a powerful absorber, which means environmental and chemical toxins can enter the body through the skin and disrupt the balance of the blood. As noted above, digestive toxins are a contributing factor to skin disorders. A diet that is laden with highly processed foods, containing chemicals and preservatives, will also disrupt blood chemistry and lead to skin issues. Continually eating an unwholesome diet, one that is improper diet for your body type, and leading an irregular lifestyle can cause aggravations on the skin. Stress is another factor that can disrupt the blood chemistry, and many people notice the symptom of their skin condition worsen when stressed. When the liver is under stress, the skin is more likely to become imbalanced as the blood may not be filtered adequately. Dehydration, lack of sleep and no routine also weakens the skin, leaving it thin and brittle. The skin can also be easily damaged from overexposure to the sun, or physical trauma like an open wound which can lead to infection.
Thin, Dry, Weak SkinSensitive people are often claimed to have a "thin skin." In Ayurveda, thin skin is a disorder associated with Vata dosha. Physically, the skin is dry, thin and weak. It is prone to cracking and dehydration as a result of excess Vata and low vitality and immunity (ojas). As the skin is a protective barrier, it's no wonder those with a so called "thin skin" are often fearful and anxious. To nourish and build thicker skin, follow an ojas building diet which will nourish the whole body and build strength, including golden milk with ashwaghanda. Sesame oil self massage coats the skin in warm and unctuous oil, hydrating and softens a brittle thin skin. If dry skin is most aggravated on the scalp, perform a head massage with bhringaraj oil. Generally, this thin, dry, weak skin is teamed with a cold feeling in the skin. The use of diaphoretic like Holy Basil will dilate blood capillaries, increase circulation and bring warmth to the whole body, including cold hands and feet.
Lusterless ComplexionThe healthy glow of a skin is a reflection of good overall health. Lustreless, gray skin, on the on the other hand, indicates there is Vata ama accumulating in the colon as a result of poor digestion. A diet of easy to digest foods, such as well cooked, warm soups and stews, will pacify Vata, gas, bloating and promote more efficient digestion. In some cases, if there is a high accumulation of toxins or constipation is causing stagnation in the colon, triphala can be used to cleanse the entire digestive tract and tone the colon.
Inflamed SkinInflammatory conditions of the skin are incredibly common. These are related to an excess of Pitta dosha and ama circulating in the bloodstream. The symptoms of these conditions, like eczema, psoriasis and itchy, irritated skin, are often exacerbated when you're stressed. Start by bringing Pitta dosha back into balance with a Pitta pacifying diet, making sure to include bitters like turmeric and leafy greens. The liver must also be cared for when there is toxins in the blood. Alternatives like amalaki act as a blood cleanser. Bhumyamalaki supports healthy liver function as it is a cholagogue, meaning it stimulates the release of bile from the liver and assists in efficient digestion.
Oily SkinOily skin can be a result of an excess of both Pitta and Kapha. This manifests on the skin as whiteheads, blackheads, cysts, acne and generalized oily skin. Remedies that are dry and light in nature, such as turmeric and Liver & Lymph Cleanse Tea, will combat the heaviness of oily skin. Externally, anti-bacterial neem cleanses the skin and dries excess oil. Add a drop of neem oil to a coconut oil massage. This combination is also a powerful anti-inflammatory.
Puffy SkinPuffy skin is often teamed with a clammy feeling in the hands. This skin condition is associated with Kapha dosha and excess water retention. To relieve the uncomfortable, puffy feeling in the skin, diuretics, such as punarnava and gokshura, are used to help clear the excess water weight. Taking in excessive amounts of water, sour and salty foods will all increase water retention, so are best avoided if you are experiencing puffy skin.
Liver Spots & MolesIn Ayurveda, liver spots may appear on the skin as a deficiency in the liver, or the liver's ability to move blood to the skin. In some cases, moles may also be a sign of liver stress. To keep the skin pigmentation balanced, the liver needs to be nourished and the blood cleansed. Blood quality can be improved by the use of alternatives like majishtha. This herb clears the blood of excess Pitta heat and ama. It stimulates blood circulation, so is known for its ability to remove stubborn lesions. It also rejuvenates the skin and supports a healthy, glowing complexion.
Skin TonicsCertain Ayurvedic tonics rejuvenate the skin. They keep your skin firm, toned, strong and leave you with a glowing complexion. Tonics can be categorized depending on your unique body type.
VataVata types should perform a daily self massage with sesame oil or Vata oil. The oil can be applied liberally to hydrate and replenish weaker skin. It's also important for Vatas to maintain hydration by sipping warm to hot water throughout the day, or they are likely to experience dry and cracking skin. Shatavari and dashamoola are suitable general tonics for pacifying Vata and promoting ojas.
PittaPittas need to keep the skin cool and calm to reduce inflammatory outbreaks. A coconut oil massage or Pitta oil can be performed daily. Aloe vera juice is a suitable tonic for Pitta which coats and soothes the lining of the digestive tract and keeps inflammation at bay. It also supports a healthy liver which is essential for maintaining clean blood. Used externally, aloe vera gel heals abrasions and soothes inflammatory conditions like psoriasis, ulcers and eczema. A word of warning, Pitta skin is the most sensitive to the sun, so take care to stay out of the midday rays!
KaphaKapha skin only requires a little bit of oil, as it is naturally the most oily skin type. A heating option like mustard oil or Kapha oil will help stimulate any lymphatic or circulatory stagnation beneath the skin. Kapha types can skip the oil massage every other day and practice dry brushing instead. This is a powerful lymphatic simulator that breaks down accumulations and promotes strong circulation. Kaphas also need to be more aware of their likelihood to retain water, so a diuretic like cumin, coriander & fennel tea can keep water levels balanced, while also stimulating a sluggish digestive system.
ConclusionThe skin is a sensitive and exposed organ that should be treated with care. It is designed to be a strong and protective barrier, and has the ability to shield you from harmful pathogens. However, it can be prone to a variety of disorders depending on your age, diet, lifestyle and individual body type. Ayurveda provides a unique outlook on how to care for your skin. Not only is the skin treated externally, the internal imbalance that causes the condition is the first priority. The skin reflects the health of the blood and the digestive system. These systems are closely intertwined, so healthy blood chemistry and strong digestion are essential components for healthy skin. By supporting digestion and cleaning toxins from the blood, the skin will be soft, supple and strong and able to carry out its important roles. Skin can lose tone and strength over time, but you can care for it with rejuvenative tonics specific to your body type to keep your skin clear, smooth and bright.
Find Ayurvedic health tips In these main areas:Skin Color