Sixty percent of British people currently suffer or have suffered from a skin condition at some point during their lifetime (British Skin Foundation). Eczema being one of the most prevalent in the UK, where one in five children and one in twelve adults have eczema.(National Eczema Society).
30% of my clients each year are eczema sufferers, either recently diagnosed or have been battling with flare ups since childhood. This changes seasonally too as winter can contribute to flare ups when the skin becomes dry, inflamed and itchy.
Conventionally there is little that can be done, besides steroid based creams which most clients are reluctant to use long term as they only provide short term relief.
I have found Ayurveda to be very effective for skin conditions. Samantha first came to my clinic when she had tried various treatments for her eczema, all giving her short term relief.
She had been suffering from eczema for over 6 years. It had started in the creases of her elbows and knees but has now spread to her back and abdomen. The skin was red and inflamed, oozing in places with excessive dryness. It was thicker and darker with a scaly appearance, making her conscious and unable to wear certain clothes. The itching was giving her sleepless nights making her tired and anxious.
The psychological effects were immense too. Samantha felt depressed and helpless as the eczema kept getting worse and she was unable to find a solution to her issues.
Treating the root cause
Skin conditions such as eczema are rarely caused by an issue on the surface of the skin, they are far more likely to be the result of a deeper imbalance. The strength of Ayurveda is diagnosing and treating the underlying cause, an approach that can take time but offers longer sustainable results.
According to Ayurveda, the skin is one of the vital areas that Pitta resides in the body and is responsible for the colour, texture, temperature and its lustre and glow. Pitta also governs the blood, liver and our digestion – all of which have a direct impact on the skin.
Most skin conditions originate from deep within the body – from digestive imbalances, excessive heat and toxicity circulating in the blood, weakness in related organs such as liver and bone marrow, all of which are exacerbated by seasonal changes and emotional stress.
With Samantha we first treated her weakened digestion and cleansed the body of the aggravated Doshas mainly Pitta Dosha. Next step was to improve the 3 parts of the immune system; the Gut, Liver and bone marrow using some Ayurvedic herbs. We devised a healthier diet by eliminating foods that would aggravate the skin further. Stress can also be a trigger, so simple but effective lifestyle adjustments made a big difference to calming the central nervous system.
Within 2 months Samantha’s skin had improved, the inflammation and itching had reduced, allowing her to sleep better and feel less tired and anxious. In 4 months the skin resumed its natural moisture balance and after 8 months the eczema healed completely.
Diet to Support Pitta and associated Doshas
In all eczema cases, diet and lifestyle are a key factor in reducing inflammation and itching which are the most distressing symptoms for sufferers.
As eczema can be Vata, Pitta or Kapha dominant, this has first to be identified before providing a specific diet. In most cases, all 3 Doshas are involved to some degree, however Pitta is always involved due to the involvement of Liver and Blood.
So start with foods that pacify Pitta and which are cooling; avoid spicy, oily, fried and fatty foods; cut out Red Meat, Alcohol, Eggs, sour foods including pickles and citrus fruits or juices.
If there is severe itching involved which suggests Kapha involvement then reduce all sugars and Dairy including milk is a good starting point to get some relief.
For all types of eczema reduce the nightshade vegetables mainly Tomatoes, Potatoes, Peppers and Aubergine, which contain nicotine and clog and inflame the channels in the body.
Stress can be a trigger as well as a contributing factor to flare ups. Take a more holistic approach to stress; mental, emotional and physical. Be more aware of all aspects of your wellbeing and this includes your relationships not just with others, also with yourself.
Our lives today are more focused on external factors; work, social networks and going through each day and week on auto pilot, leading to us neglecting our own selves. Make some “ME” time and take time out from your daily routine. Meditation might not be for everyone, so finding that one thing that makes us feel nurtured is important to get some respite from everyday stresses.
Sleeping early and waking early seems to be simplistic; however our bodies run in circadian rhythms, our diurnal rhythms and hormonal fluctuations are tied to nature’s natural cycle. Understanding how to connect to a daily routine, including sleep to these cycles is a powerful medicine in Ayurveda.
Bedtime should in this respect be no later than 10pm which is the beginning of Pitta time. The liver (Pitta) engages in detoxification, sleeping late can disturb this function.
Protecting the Skin
As dryness of the skin is also a major issue, moisturise the body, especially areas that are affected by eczema before a shower. This not only creates a barrier for eczema skin which gets aggravated by dampness and water, it also reduces the itching and inflammation that can get worse after a shower.
Keep showers short using lukewarm water (not hot).Using cooling body oil such as coconut oil or medicated oils such as Neem oil helps not just to lubricate the skin but also to heal.
Wearing cotton as much as possible as it helps absorb sweat, which can increase itching due to the dampness created, especially at night time when the body temperature gets elevated. Just keeping these few lifestyle adjustments in mind can help alleviate the eczema and reduce some of the stress associated with it.
Herbs to Support the Skin
Treating the 3 essential parts of the immune system; the Gut, Liver and bone marrow are key to treating the root cause of skin conditions. Here are some herbs that can be used where you need the right support.
Good digestion and Gut health are the basic pillars for a healthy skin, so supporting the digestive system is vital to correcting the root cause.
Neem and Patola are bitter (Tikta) herbs are known for improving digestion, breaking down toxins and cleansing the blood and liver. These bitter and cooling herbs for the skin, both having an affinity for the lymph, blood and skin and are two of the essential 5 bitter herbs in our Panchaktiktam Ghrita Guggulu formulation which is used classically with ghee (clarified butter) to purify the blood and reduce toxins. Neem is also a key ingredient in our Blood Cleanse formulation
Manjistha and Sariva are two of the main herbs used for cleansing the blood and liver; to reset the lymphatic system. Both potent blood purifying herbs are the main ingredients in our Blood Cleanse formulation. This formulation has all the ingredients for purifying the blood and liver, removing excess heat from the body, soothes itchy inflamed skin conditions and balances pigmentation. This formulation also has turmeric and liquorice which help relieve itchy aggravated skin.
Gotukola Plus Brahmi:
This herbal formulation pacifies Pitta in the skin and boosts the skin’s natural capacity to heal by strengthening its protective quality. It is a tonic for Pitta, reduces excessive Kapha and calms Vata, Its tridoshic nature makes it an essential nervine tonic to strengthen the immune system and provide adrenal support where stress is involved
Known as Amruta or divine nectar, Guduchi is one of the most important herbs for improving the immune system and bone marrow, both essential for treating skin conditions. Being a tonic for Pitta as it removes toxins; helps soothe the skin without creating excessive heat. It can be taken as a single herb or as part of our Kaishora Guggulu formulation
Treating the Root cause
The key to treating eczema is to find the root cause, whether it is excessive heat in the body; your digestion needs a reset or undergoing a liver cleanse, starting with a few changes to diet and lifestyle can make a big difference. Taking a holistic approach will pay off as the use of antihistamines and topical steroid creams decreases and the frequency of flare ups reduces till you can manage your eczema with just dietary and lifestyle changes.
Now I see Samantha only twice a year, at the change of seasons to cleanse the body to prevent her eczema from returning and to maintain her digestion and gut health whilst keeping the Doshas in balance.
For a more tailored approach it’s always best to find an Ayurvedic Practitioner who can diagnose your type of eczema and formulate a personalised plan for you. Contact us or to find a Practitioner close to you contact the Ayurvedic Practitioners Association https://apa.uk.com/
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