Whether we’ve just finished an exercise class, have spent all day working and taking care of errands, or simply haven’t bathed in several days; we’ve all experienced the discomfort of smelling the sweaty stink of our body odor at one time or another. The common misconception about body odor is that it’s caused by the perspiration we generate when we sweat. In fact, Western medicine reports that body odor is the product of the perspiration mixing with bacteria on the skin. In many instances, body odor can be reversed by simply washing the body with water and soap. However, some people suffer from a chronic condition in which they smell no matter how often they wash themselves.
Western culture’s response to body odor is primarily for the sufferer to use deodorant and antiperspirant to both reverse the odor and prevent excessive perspiration from combining with bacteria. If standard over-the-counter antiperspirants aren’t effective, some sufferers may be told to use prescription strength antiperspirants that try to accomplish this goal. People in the West with body odors are also instructed to bathe on a regular basis and avoid foods and beverages that cause odor (such as garlic and alcohol).
Ayurveda considers body odor to be the result of toxic matter building up in the body. The consumption of difficult to digest foods, acidic drinks, ingesting chemicals such as medication, and continuous stressful negative thoughts will make the body go from its natural smell to a more acrid, pungent odor.
As the skin is the largest organ of the body and one of its jobs is to expel toxins, it does this by bringing this toxic matter to the surface for expulsion. Ayurveda relates the presence of what Western culture considers bacteria to be a manifestation of this toxic matter, and more toxicity equals more bacteria. To assess which doshas are triggering the body odor, it is important to observe which symptoms are also accompanying it.
If the body odor is accompanied by constipation, dryness, anxiety, and insomnia, then it is likely being caused by an aggravation of Vata energy. This is indicative of faulty elimination of feces causing toxicity to spread throughout the body.
If the body odor is accompanied by profuse sweating, indigestion, hyperacidity, irritability, and anger, then it is likely being caused by an aggravation of Pitta energy. This is indicative of the digestive fire being too strong and toxicity being spread throughout the body via the bloodstream.
If the body odor is accompanied by congestion, a feeling of being bloated, and lethargic, then it is likely being caused by an aggravation of Kapha energy. This is indicative of the digestive fire being too weak to metabolize the food being consumed.
The goal of Ayurveda’s treatment of body odor is to stabilize the digestive fire and decrease the amount of toxic matter in the body. As noted above, toxicity can stem from an imbalance from whichever dosha or doshas are most aggravated. Similar to how body pain is a warning sign for a person to investigate the cause of the pain, excess body odor is a signal that its root cause must be investigated and treated. The treatment then consists of eating a dosha-balancing
diet for Vata, Pitta, or Kapha aggravation, taking herbs that likewise balance the doshas, and utilizing other lifestyle choices and therapies to create balance. With a strong but not aggravated digestive fire, as well as proper and healthy elimination of stool and urine, the body will be better equipped to detoxify itself and relieve the symptoms of body odor.
When we neglect to establish the root cause of one illness, it can turn into another, stronger illness in the future. The first step in resolving a specific ailment or disease in the body is to assess the nature of our lifestyle and make general modifications. Living our day-to-day life with a deliberate intention to improve our health will help us to both resolve the disease we are suffering from and prevent further incidence of it and other diseases in the future. The following changes include both general tasks to prevent body odor and to help resolve imbalances of each of the respective doshas.
Bathe regularly with soap, especially after physically exerting exercises that cause perspiration. This will only take care of the surface of the body.
Avoid the use of antiperspirants. Perspiration is a natural bodily function, and stifling it will exacerbate imbalances in the body. The toxins that should be expelled will likely find another avenue, such as a headache or a rash on the skin.
Avoid dense and difficult-to-digest foods, such as fried foods, packaged foods, cheeses, meats and other animal proteins, leftovers, microwaved foods, packaged foods, and rich desserts. Consuming these will challenge the digestive fire and cause unhealthy digestion, which will in turn lead to health issues.
Ayurveda teaches us that disease and sickness are derived from poor digestion and inappropriate food choices. We then have the opportunity to make deliberate and more conscious decisions as to what foods we do and do not put in our body which increases the chance of resolving the body’s imbalance.
Food needs to be in season, in moderate combinations of one or two food groups, not too hot or cold, in a modest enough quantity to allow for room in the stomach later, consumed without too much liquid which hinders digestive power, and should be fresh and not left over for more than a few hours. The general intention of responding to vaginal yeast infections with food is to eat items that help to reduce the aggravation of whatever dosha is manifesting in associated symptoms (constipation for Vata, etc.).
Whole wheat (unbleached)
Rice (white basmati)
Rice (white basmati)
While some foods can help to balance an aggravated dosha, other foods can cause further imbalance. Dry and cold foods as well as pungent, bitter and astringent tastes will dry out the body and aggravate the Vata dosha. Sour, salty and pungent tastes as well as spicy foods will add more heat to the body and aggravate the Pitta dosha. Sweet, sour and salty tasting foods will add heaviness to the body and aggravate the Kapha dosha.
The following foods are organized generally and by dosha and should be avoided in response to whichever type of symptoms manifest along with the vaginal yeast infection:
General (avoided by all sufferers)
Most legumes including green lentils and garbanzo beans
Raw and cold foods
Sour foods (like yogurt, sour cream, and pickles)
Sweets and candies
Dairy products (except goat milk, in moderation)
Generally, Ayurveda discourages the consumption of too many cold beverages, as doing so hinders the strength of the body’s digestive fire. Instead, favors room temperature or hot beverages to encourage the strength of the digestive fire:
Hot water, especially during meals and first thing in the morning.
Avoid cold and frozen drinks.
Avoid sugary or fizzy drinks that blend with the digestive juice and make it weak.
Avoid alcohol, coffee, and black tea.
Avoid fruit juice from concentrate.
Herbal tea of cinnamon, cloves, and fresh ginger.
Take hot milk with honey before going to bed. (Add honey when milk is warm but not hot–honey should never be overheated as it becomes toxic.)
Herbal tea of coriander, cumin, licorice, fresh ginger, and turmeric.
Sour drinks after meals, including lassi (it should be very light and diluted well).
Herbal tea of cinnamon, licorice, nutmeg, and cloves.
Herbs are used in the Ayurvedic system much like Western medicine utilizes drugs and vitamins and can be taken like tea 2 to 3 times a day. Herbs aid in the digestion of food, the breakdown and elimination of toxins, and help to strengthen the cellular structure of our system for greater vitality. Herbs become more potent once mixed with other herbs of similar properties. Mix together 2 to 4 different herbs from the below list by adding a quarter to a half teaspoon full of each, for a total of 1 teaspoon. Drink these in half cup of hot water.
Aloe vera with a pinch of turmeric
When applied therapeutically to specific ailments, yoga postures provide an opportunity to strengthen the body, rid it of toxic matter, and restore balance. The postures included in this section can be practiced as part of a more general sequence or can be focused on in short sessions. When first exploring yoga postures, it is best to only practice them for twenty minutes or so per day and build up from there once the body becomes more flexible.
Knee to chest
Knee to chest
Aromatherapy utilizes the fragrances of essential oils when applied to the skin. Essential oils can burn the skin and therefore must be diluted with a base oil such as sesame, coconut, sunflower, canola, or mustard oil. Mix 1 fluid ounce of base oil with about 12 drops of essential oil before applying to skin. You can also just mix 5 drops of base oil to one drop of essential oil if using on one spot.
Vata-related body odor can be treated with basil, camphor, cedar, eucalyptus, frankincense, ginger, lavender, lily, lotus, musk, myrrh, patchouli, sandalwood, or cinnamon oil.
Use a sesame oil base.
Apply oil on the forehead or on the back of the neck.
Pitta-related body odor can be treated with sandalwood, tea tree, rose, honeysuckle, gardenia, lily, iris, mint, or lavender oil.
Use a coconut or sunflower oil base.
Apply oil in the center of the chest in front of the heart.
Kapha-related body odor can be treated with cinnamon, eucalyptus, sage, basil, musk, cedar, frankincense, or myrrh oil.
Use a canola or mustard oil base.
Apply oil on the skin between the navel and pubic bone.
Ayurvedic tradition suggests that repeating certain words or sounds can help a person suffering from an ailment to restore subtle balance to nerve tissue and enhance one’s mental clarity. Different sounds are prescribed to either repeat mentally or chant outwardly. These sounds are also used and repeated in the mind for the purpose of spiritual growth.
For Vata-related body odor, repeat the syllable “Lam” for several minutes a few times a day and build more practice over time.
As a Vata-related disorder, it is helpful to inwardly repeat this syllable for the duration of time it is practiced.
For Pitta-related body odor, repeat the syllable “Aum” (pronounced ohm) for several minutes a few times a day and build more practice over time.
As a Pitta-related disorder, it is helpful to both outwardly chant and inwardly repeat this syllable for the duration of time it is practiced.
For Kapha-related body odor, repeat the syllable “Ham” (pronounced hahm) for several minutes a few times a day and build more practice over time.
As a Kapha-related disorder, it is helpful to outwardly chant this syllable for the duration of time it is practiced.
Controlling the breath is a central practice toward developing peace and stillness in the mind and body. When the breath is under our control, we are no longer at the mercy of the senses that are stimulated by everything and lead to greater fluctuations of the mind. When applied to the context of resolving specific ailments, the breath is used as a tool for developing lung capacity, heating and cooling the body, and resolving mental afflictions like anxiety and stress.
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