by Matthew Richardson, R. Ac.
Is your skin determining what you wear, what you do or how you feel? Skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, rashes, acne and dry skin are incredibly common. The discomfort that goes with them can have a large impact on how we live and how we feel about ourselves. Many people spend a lot of time and money on creams and medicines that are partially effective and are limited to treating the symptoms – instead of the underlying condition.
Skin conditions don’t start and stop with the skin! They are a reflection of our internal health.
There is another solution to problem skin that addresses your internal health. But it cannot be found in your local pharmacy! Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and acupuncture have been effectively curing skin conditions for thousands of years.
TCM answers the oh so important question “Why is this happening to my body!?” or “Why won’t this go away!?” From a TCM perspective, the most common cause of skin problems arise from Heat and Dampness. Yes! Internal heat and dampness often combine together to create many common skin problems like eczema or acne.
In TCM, heat is called a ‘Yang Pathogen’, which means it is very active, expansive, and easily rises or moves outward (towards the skin). As heat moves outwards it causes the skin to become red, hot, and itchy as it spreads.
Causes of Heat:
- Weather and Environment
- Improper diet of alcohol, spicy and greasy foods
- Emotional stress, frustration and overwork
Dampness is a ‘Yin Pathogen’, which means it is persistent, heavy and difficult to move. Dampness is not a common term used in western medicine. Think of it as similar to environmental dampness, which is sticky, wet and generally uncomfortable. Our bodies literally become sticky, wet and uncomfortable when dampness sets in. Dampness often shows as blistering type of rash or swelling of the skin as the body tries to release the dampness.
Causes of Dampness:
- An improper diet of greasy or sweet foods that create dampness and impair proper digestion within the body. Such foods impair digestion and the body can no longer move the nutrients or transform them into the biologically necessary substances. Instead it creates dampness that accumulates and further impairs proper organ functions.
Damp Heat Combination:
The final result of emotional stress and improper diet is often the combination of Yin (Dampness) and Yang (Heat). Nothing like a well balanced disease right!? Damp-Heat manifests in the skin as red, itchy, swollen or blistering rashes that spread and are difficult to cure.
If you have a stubborn skin condition that won’t resolve you may want to consider a Traditional Chinese Medicine assessment and acupuncture. A proper TCM diagnosis, acupuncture and herbal medicine protocol can quickly resolve dampness and release excess heat. This means the redness will go away, the itching will stop, and most importantly you will have a better understanding of the underlying cause so your skin condition will be less likely to return.
Matthew is a Registered Acupuncturist with the Collage of Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioners and Acupuncturists of Ontario (CTCMPAO). He has experience treating many different syndromes including sports injuries, chronic illness, severe pain and infertility. In addition to his practice at Innate Wellness, he provides TCM care at Dorothy Ley Hospice, is an instructor at the Toronto School of Traditional Chinese Medicine, as well as an instructor of Russian Systema and Yang Style Tai Chi C’huan.