Eczema is a condition of the skin. Though many of us get skin rashes of one kind or another, an eczema sufferer’s skin gets so inflamed that they develop dry, scaly patches of blisters that are accompanied by intense itching sensations. This not only leads to a displeasing appearance, but the scratching that the sufferer does in response to the symptoms can further irritate the skin and cause it to be susceptible to oozing and bacterial infection.
Eczema is most common in young children and infants under the age of two, but when it manifests in adults it most often occurs in the elbow area and behind the knee.
Western medicine makes no specific claim as to the cause of eczema, though it is speculated that it is related to a deficiency of the immune system and is often associated with allergic reactions to foods like peanuts and soy, which in recent years have been genetically modified. Western treatment of eczema is predominantly medicinal in nature, and includes oral medicines like corticosteroids to reduce inflammation, antihistamines to reduce itching, immunomodulators like Elidel to improve immune function, and antibiotics to resolve infections brought about by scratching. It also includes topical medications such as corticosteroid creams and calamine lotion to reduce itching, and taking an oatmeal bath to reduce itching as well.
Ayurveda relates most problems of the skin with the Pitta dosha, as this energy is responsible for metabolizing energy through digestion.Faulty digestion can lead to a decreased immune function, which in turn can lead to skin complaints (allergic reactions, hives, etc.). Vata and Kapha energy can be of significance as well but given the redness, inflammation, and oozing qualities of eczema, this is a condition most predominantly associated with a Pitta imbalance. This suggests excessive amounts of heat, which have lead to irritation in the body.
Though its Western counterpart assigns no specific cause to eczema, Ayurveda considers this disease to be caused by excessive heat in the body. The response, therefore, is to reduce the amount of heat through a Pitta-balancing diet and herbal regimen, apply preparations that similarly reduce heat in the specifically problematic areas of the skin, and administer other treatments that help to stabilize digestion and build immune function. As a build up of toxins in the blood and colon hinders the immune and digestive functions, herbs and treatments are also necessary to clean out these two areas.
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 lifestyle changes will help to reduce heat in the body and lessen the inflammation of the skin associated with eczema:
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 following foods will help settle heat in the body and therefore resolve symptoms of eczema:
White basmati rice
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 will aggravate the fiery Pitta element in the body and will therefore intensify eczema symptoms:
Allergenic foods like peanuts and soy
Sour foods (like yogurt, sour cream, and pickles)
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, first thing in the morning, and a few cups during the day.
Herbal tea of neem, echinacea, golden seal, and gotu kola.
Avoid cold and frozen drinks
Avoid sugary or fizzy drinks that blend with the digestive juice and make it weak.
Avoid alcohol, black tea and coffee, which are too stimulating to the blood.
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. The following herbs will help resolve the heat in the body associated with eczema:
Sandalwood (white for internal use and red for external application)
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.
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.
Acid reflux disease can be treated with eucalyptus, lavender, chamomile, sandalwood, tea tree, rose, honeysuckle, gardenia, lily, iris, mint, lavender, lotus, or camphor oil.
Use a coconut or sunflower oil base.
Apply oil on the skin in the center of the chest. When applying oil to affected areas of the skin, use only coconut oil.
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.
To help control and resolve acid reflux disease, 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 this syllable and internally repeat it 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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