Monthly Archives: March 2011

Does Food Really Affect Our Skin?

I think most would agree that an unhealthy diet is a huge factor in the cause of imbalance and disease, however, when it comes to skin care, there is a bit more debate on whether the foods we eat really have an effect.

Woman trying to choose between five different food options in front of her

What is your skin telling you?

Ayurveda believes that everything we put into and onto the body (this includes the foods we eat, the thoughts we think, and the skin care products we use) is ingested as food and transformed into our physical body, which is also known as annamaya kosha or quite literally, the food sheath.

Every thought we think, emotion we feel, food we eat, and environmental atmosphere we exist within, shows up on the skin. And this relationship is also reciprocal. Food not only builds, fuels, and repairs every cell in the body, but it also fuels and effects our thoughts and emotions. As you probably have experienced or witnessed, different types of food, or the lack of it, can make or break a mood. Indeed, what you eat is important to both your physical condition and your mental/emotional health.

Ayurveda is not a one-size-fits-all approach

Ayurveda does not believe there is one perfect menu suitable for everyone. Orange juice, cold cereal and skim milk, the staples of an all-American breakfast, may give energy and a “Special K” figure to some types of people, but Ayurveda predicts that the same meal will leave others with an upset stomach or late morning fatigue. No food is intrinsically good or bad according to Ayurveda, but each person depending on his or her constitution reacts differently to it.

Ok, so if no food is intrinsically bad, why do some people claim to breakout just by looking at french fries or chocolate? Ayurveda classifies all foods (and herbs) according to six tastes: sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter, and astringent. Like all of nature, the animals, vegetables and minerals we eat each contain their own unique proportion of space, air, fire, water, and earth and this is where the taste of each food is derived from, the balance of its elements. Foods with more earth and water, like grains, naturally taste more sweet; those with more air and space, like green leafy vegetables, naturally taste more bitter. Each taste affects the mind and body according to the attributes of the elements within it. Sweet tastes soothe, lubricate, ground, and nourish the psychophysiology, just as you would expect the dense, viscous earth to do. Bitter tastes lighten, stimulate and dehydrate, just as you would expect a burst of cold air to do.

So what should I eat?

According to the law of “like increases like,” the best diet for you is one that compensates for your particular dominating elements. Pitta types, for example, are better off to reduce the consumption of sour, salty, and pungent foods, all of which contain fire and aggravate sensitive, reactive skin types that are prone to allergies, rashes, and breakouts in the t-zone. The Kapha person, with a sweet, heavy earth constitution and oily skin type tends to get breakouts from anything chocolate or greasy, but can delight in hot, spicy salsa with pretzels (with relative abandon). Dry-skinned Vata types can indulge in oily foods without breaking out, although too much spice or dry, cold dishes can cause a great deal of imbalance. Keep in mind, that if the skin is in relative balance, a little bit of anything is ok – the need to eliminate something entirely from your diet comes when there is already a health or skin condition present. We can use food to regain balance and then enjoy just about anything in moderation.

Unsure of your dosha? Take our What’s your dosha? quiz to find out.

You are both flower and gardener

To look at our health and skin conditions without careful regard to diet is, in Ayurvedic terms, equivalent to tending a garden without checking soil quality or the amount of moisture and sunshine it receives. Even in the West, we would instantly fire a gardener who failed to attend such a basic principle of life. Yet for many years, we have continued to support a medical system that regularly ignores it. Thanks to the work of many people, one of them being Dr. Dean Ornish, the cardiologist who reversed the symptoms of advanced heart disease in 40 patients through non-pharmaceutical treatment, including meditation and diet, the broader medical community is beginning to recognize the therapeutic potential contained in ‘ordinary’ foods. Nevertheless, modern science still seems to be wiser about how to grow perfect flowers, than how to grow healthy, happy beautiful people.

Money…

…or the lack of!  It seems to be the #1 hot topic these days. When we spoke with Dr. Raichur about it, she had a lot to say, including the story of when the King got sick…

When the King got sick, Ayurvedic doctors from far and wide came to find out why the King was ailing and to help bring him back into health. Each doctor had a different theory and after this medicine and that, one remedy right after the next, none proved to be the proper antidote.

One day an old wise doctor came to see the King and after their visit together, he said that the King only needed one thing… He needs the shirt of the man who is truly happy. All the King’s servants found delight in this seemingly simple solution and went off to find just what the doctor ordered.

So they began by asking each person in the kingdom, Are you happy?… Are you happy?… Knowing that the King’s health was dire, the people of the kingdom helped in this quest by asking one another, Are you happy?… Are you happy?… Soon enough, everyone was asking one another if they were happy, but to all’s surprise, there was not a single person in the kingdom who could say ‘yes, I am truly happy’.

In dismay, the King’s closest servant found himself sulking under a tree about to relinquish his quest, when a stranger to the kingdom passed by. The servant was desperate to help the King, he went up to the man and explained what he was in search of and what the King needed in order to get better… When the servant finally asked the man, So, are you happy?, the man said, Yes, I AM happy! But unfortunately I do not own a shirt for which to give.

The servant had an idea; he took the man to the King’s house and gave him a beautiful shirt to wear and some other clothes to call his own. A week later, the servant asked the man if he would give his shirt to the King… And somewhat jokingly, the man said, Yes I can give my shirt to the King, but unfortunately, this makes me a little unhappy.

Why do we need money?

Certainly we need to provide ourselves with the daily essentials, but nowadays it seems like the more we have, the more we need, like a “keeping up with the Jones” epidemic. For example, we need transportation, to be able to go from point A to point B. Perhaps we need a car. We always have choices, we could buy the simplest and most efficient car or we could buy a really expensive, souped-up car. Now we’re not trying to say that life isn’t to be enjoyed or that life isn’t full of desires! Cars may be one of life’s true joys for you. Well, life is for the living and should be lived to the fullest! But to have a preference or desire for something does not mean that you have to be unhappy with what it is you already have or that you’re happiness is dependent on attaining your desires. And confusing the expensive, souped-up car as something that you need is the first step in the unhappiness rabbit-hole. It is not something you need, it is a preference.

I Prefer

Learn to say I prefer… There is a big difference between need and preference. The “I prefer” mentality will keep you having a healthy intention behind your money and lifestyle goals and will attract more of what you want in the long run. In the car example, try to get in tune with this mentality… I am truly grateful for the car I have, a lot of work went into this car and it takes me from one place to another, but I would prefer to have that one! Preferences and desires are healthy and natural and good! Money desires should always be backed with good, healthy intentions or it will otherwise bring happiness. Think less about the money and more about what you want to do with the money and it will come. Good intentions are always met and fulfilled. Spend more of your time thinking about your good intentions and desires that comes from the ‘I prefer’ place and the money will come.

Owning

It’s not the amount that we have, but the way we think about it, that makes us rich or poor. We think if we buy something, that it belongs to me; I own it; I am rich. This new thing somehow says something about me — I am successful; I am fun; I am this or that. This type of desire fulfills for as long as a child’s attention span — a few minutes until the void comes back and new, malnourished desires arise. When you accept the fact that you really do not own anything except your intentions and your actions, you’ll realize that fulfillment, happiness and richness cannot be bought. Peace has to come from inside — if you are peaceful from within, your life will feel fulfilling and truly abundant.