Anyone who has experienced a severe allergic reaction to something has likely experienced an outbreak of hives. Hives (also known as urticaria) are a series of raised, red welts on the skin that most often itch but can sometimes be a source of burning or stinging sensations as well.
Hives are considered by Western medical tradition to be the result of an allergic reaction to pollen, pet dander, certain medications, or certain foods like nuts or shellfish. When the sufferer is exposed to an allergen he or she is sensitive to, their body produces histamines (the protein that increases the permeability of blood vessels) and causes inflammation in affected areas.
This inflammation leads to the outbreak of hives, and a sufferer is said to have a chronic condition if it lasts for more than six weeks. Hives is also said to be caused by exposure to extreme temperatures, excessive amounts of perspiration, stress, and other factors in day-to-day life.
Hives is a condition that can often resolve itself without any treatment within a few days. Western medicine instructs sufferers to avoid whatever allergens may be causing outbreaks, to avoid hot baths and showers while experiencing symptoms, and to take antihistamines to relieve the symptoms. If a patient’s symptoms aren’t alleviated by taking antihistamines, they may be prescribed oral corticosteroids instead.
Ayurveda identifies numerous conditions and diseases as potentially being an imbalance of any of the three doshas. For example, a cough might be dry and a Vata imbalance, filled with white mucus and a Kapha imbalance, or filled with yellow-green mucus and a Pitta imbalance. This also holds true for Ayurveda’s approach to hives, in that the formation of these welts on the skin can be itchy and indicative of a Kapha imbalance or sharp and painful and indicative of a Vata imbalance. However, as a condition of the skin, hives are most often associated with a Pitta imbalance.
Even with itchy or sharp sensations, the presence of the hives is indicative that certain factors(be they food allergens or extreme environmental conditions) can disturb the digestive balance in the stomach and lead to the inflammation of the blood vessels associated with outbreaks
In a Western medical practice there is often a significant process to determine what sort of lifestyle factors are contributing to the hives.A chronic sufferer will benefit from the comparably sophisticated process of diagnosis under the supervision of an experienced Ayurvedic practitioner. This problem may also come from certain heated thought patterns which manifest in the body and become a physical ailment.
Much of the Ayurvedic regimen administered to hives sufferers involves both oral and topical herbal remedies. These herbs are used to balance the aggravated Pitta energy that commonly affects most sufferers. Ayurveda practitioners also advise their patients to avoid whatever may be causing a reaction (foods, environmental factors, etc.) and to also avoid improper food combinations that irritate the digestive tract.
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. Central to resolving hives through lifestyle is reducing the sufferer’s exposure to whatever is causing the outbreaks.
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 are useful in helping to balance an aggravated Pitta dosha, but a hives sufferer’s known allergies to any one food should, of course, be avoided:
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. As noted above, the hives sufferer benefits from avoiding whatever specific foods are contributing to outbreaks, and avoiding the following foods can help settle aggravated Pitta energy in general:
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.
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. Herbal therapy is a fundamental aspect of resolving hives, as noted above.
Black pepper (a pinch can also be mixed with ghee and applied externally to areas with the outbreak)
Turmeric (when mixed with a little Aloe Vera can be applied externally to the area)
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 buildup from there once the body becomes more flexible.
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.
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.
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. Like with the yoga postures above, breathing exercises are likely to be of significant benefit to those who suffer from considerable amounts of stress.
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