Food as Medicine for Cystic Acne-Prone Skin
Cystic acne is one of the most stubborn types of acne. The cysts are large and sit deep in the skin, making them difficult to treat. Getting rid of cystic acne requires significant effort and changes in home care routine, diet, and lifestyle.
According to Ayurveda, cystic acne occurs when sticky, oily Kapha meets with hot Pitta energy. This combination can lead to various skin problems, including inflamed cystic acne with blackheads and whiteheads, burning and itching lesions of eczema and psoriasis, and allergic skin reactions.
Healthy, balanced Kapha skin is characterized by being soft, supple, moist, and cool to the touch. This is due to the earth and water elements that make up Kapha energy, which imbue it with qualities such as coolness, heaviness, stability, moisture, smoothness, and dullness.
Healthy, balanced Pitta skin is characterized by a rosy complexion and a beautiful glow, thanks to the fire element. This skin is soft, moist, warm, and of medium thickness. Pitta energy is composed of the fire element and a small amount of water, which gives qualities such as hotness, lightness (although not as light as in Vata), slight moisture, and sharpness.
However, when the fire of Pitta becomes excessive, it can lead to inflammation in the body. Initially, it accumulates in the liver, the main organ of Pitta, but then it can circulate through the bloodstream and settle in other organs, including the skin.
When a person has a balanced combination of Pitta and Kapha in their skin, the result is firm and radiant skin - something that everyone desires.
However, when Kapha energy becomes aggravated, it can lead to congestion due to the heaviness and stagnancy of the earth element in Kapha. If excess fire is also present, this can lead to an imbalance of Kapha and Pitta in the skin, resulting in inflamed deep acne cysts.
According to Ayurveda, all health problems originate in the digestive tract, and it is essential to maintain a healthy digestive system. For individuals with excess Kapha and Pitta, it is recommended to reduce the intake of foods that increase these energies and consume more foods that help decrease them.
Basic Ayurvedic Diet Principles for reducing mixed Kapha and Pitta
As mentioned earlier, the combination of heavy, sticky, oily, and hot properties in mixed Kapha and Pitta can cause skin problems. In Ayurveda, it is recommended to use opposite qualities to balance them out. For example, hot qualities should be counteracted with cold, heavy with light, sticky with flowing, and oily with dry.
One of the basic concepts in Ayurvedic nutrition is the concept of six tastes that include sweet, salty, sour, pungent, astringent, and bitter.
The ideal tastes for balancing combined Kapha-Pitta doshas are bitter and astringent.
The bitter taste is the first aid when Pitta and Kapha are very high. The bitter taste comprises air and ether elements with qualities of coldness, lightness, mobility, and dryness. The bitter taste is the coldest among other tastes; thus, this taste is the best to counter the heat of elevated Pitta. So, almost all anti-inflammatory substances have a bitter taste. These substances clean the liver, improve bile flow, and clean blood vessels and blood, thus reducing inflammation. Bitter foods are our best choice for inflamed acne lesions and redness. The bitter taste is also drying, and this helps when acne skin is oily. Kapha causes the oiliness. So, bitter taste is best for both Pitta and Kapha. However, we have to be careful with the amounts taken when there is much more Kapha than Pitta, as the bitter taste is the coldest taste among others, and this decreases digestion. Examples of bitter taste include spinach, cilantro, kale, lettuce, and dandelion.
The astringent taste is composed of the earth and air elements, giving it dry and cold qualities, although not as dry and cold as the bitter taste. It is important to remember that moderation is key when it comes to consuming any taste. Some examples of astringent foods include beans, celery, cranberries, and pomegranate.
Pungent and sweet-tasting foods should be consumed in moderate amounts.
The pungent taste is composed of fire and air elements and possesses the qualities of being hot, light, mobile, and dry. It is considered to be the hottest among all other tastes. Consuming excessively spicy food can lead to an increase in Pitta or inflammation in the gut, which can interfere with digestion and nutrient absorption, resulting in the accumulation of toxins. When combined with fire, these toxins can cause inflammation in different organs, including the skin.
If you have Pitta-Kapha imbalance (where Pitta is dominant), it is recommended to consume pungent taste in very small amounts. On the other hand, if you have more Kapha than Pitta, you still require the fire of pungent taste, but in limited quantities, to burn toxins and congestion, thereby improving your body and skin's metabolism.
Some examples of pungent taste include cayenne pepper, black pepper, ginger, raw garlic, and raw onion.
Sweet taste is made up of the earth and water elements. Thus, the sweet taste is heavy, moist, cool, smooth, soft, and nourishing. Pitta energy benefits the cool and soft qualities to calm and cool down Pitta's hot and sharp attributes. But the sweet taste aggravates Kapha, and it is the leading cause of congestion and blocked pores. I understand that this can be confusing, and you may wonder what to do if you have both Pitta and Kapha aggravation in your skin. To determine the dominance of the doshas, pay attention to the symptoms. If you experience burning indigestion, diarrhea, heartburn, or very inflamed acne, it is likely that you have more Pitta than Kapha.
On the other hand, if inflammation is not severe, but you experience excess weight, lung congestion, and lethargy, it is likely that you have more Kapha than Pitta.
It is important to notice that refined sugar and a high dosage of natural sugars are not good even for Pitta. Moreover, they seriously aggravate Pitta energy by creating inflammation in the body. And you know that Pitta is the energy causing any inflammation. Healthy examples of sweet taste include most grains, chicken meat, seeds and nuts, oils.
Tastes that should be taken in very small amounts are sour and salty.
Sour taste primarily consists of fire, earth elements, and a little water. These elements make the sour taste heavy and stable due to the earth element and hot due to the fire element. Too much sour taste increases both Kapha and Pitta as it increases fire and earth that are already in excess in the Pitta-Kapha imbalance. The sour taste includes sour fruits, tomatoes, fermented foods such as yogurt, sauerkraut, kombucha, and wines.
Salty taste is primarily made up of water and fire elements (elements that belong to Kapha and Pitta respectively). Due to this, the qualities of the salty taste are moist, warm, and relatively heavy (though not as heavy as the sweet taste). Examples of the salty taste are salt, seaweed, and seafood.