Acne and larger pus-filled pimples that are sometimes even painful and itchy can indicate a profound imbalance in the body. The specific areas of the face and body where the acne is found, can indicate precisely which organs have fallen into disharmony. The most affected areas are the face, chest and upper back.
Periods of hormonal changes, stressful times, bad nutrition, climate and lifestyle changes or inner emotional conflicts can all lead to outbreaks. As a result, women and men who are affected often experience shame, low self-esteem and despair when the acne and blemishes persist long-term.
Even humidity and hot weather can create skin issues and a new outbreak of pimples.
Sometimes, skin care products help to reduce the severity however, improvement in nutrition and other internal factors is essential for profound healing of acne and pimples.
Your emotional health affects acne
Acne is most commonly present during adolescence, a period with psychological instability. But, also after this life span it can affect women and men in all kinds of ages.
Jacques Martel explains in his book “Le grand dictionnaire des malaises et des maladies” the related emotions and inner conflicts that are often seen with acne.
According to him, the face relates to our individuality and the harmony between what I live internally and what is happening externally. The face is that part of us that faces others first, the one that allows us to be accepted or rejected. Thus, acne is often associated with a lack of acceptance of oneself. It can relate to feelings about ourself or others of: irritation, criticism, resentment, rejection, fear, shame or insecurity. In some cases the affected person may even find herself ugly or disgusting. The inner lived conflict is manifested by a revolution of pimples. Instead of experiencing liberty and movement in life, the person withdraws herself in her inner world, feels stuck and frustrated. She may even be afraid of losing her face when telling someone what she feels and fears the judgments someone could make about her.
The back represents our past, habits, old fears and anxieties. When it is on the upper back, it represents repressed anger or irritation that needs to be relieved. On the chest, it represents the future and what is planned for me.
As a result, we need to give our inner emotional wellbeing as well the needed attention for healing our skin.
Acne as seen by TCM
According to Chinese medicine, acne results from heat in the lung or stomach meridian and / or blood heat and stagnation in different energy pathways. As more heat is present, pimples can become redder, itchier and more inflamed.
Another important factor can be phlegm. A clear sign of phlegm is seen if the skin shows thick pimples, boils, swellings and fluid-filled blisters.
In this article, I would like to show you which symptoms can be seen at the different disharmonies of acne and blemishes and which simple nutrition changes can help to relieve symptoms.
Lung heat symptoms
- dryness of mouth and nose
- predominance of acne near the nose and lower cheeks
- sometimes slight itching
- often red tongue in the first third with a thin yellow coat, pulse may be rapid and floating
Disorder in the chong- and ren mai with blood heat
- excessive emotional disturbances
- chin, jaw and chest area are mostly affected
- sometimes excessive hair growth
- skin gets worse before menstruation and better when period sets in
- may experience fullness of stomach or nausea
- may experience premenstrual symptoms (PMS)
Stomach heat symptoms
- constipation or dry stools
- foul breath
- aversion to heat
- pimples around the mouth, shoulders and back
- slight sweating
- large appetite
- increased thirst and a preference for cold drinks
- normal or redder in the centre of the tongue with yellow, sometimes sticky coating, pulse may be rapid and forceful
Blood heat and blood and qi stagnation symptoms
- emotional trauma and disturbances
- long persisting severe acne with often scar tissue
- dark red and inflamed eruptions which resemble pustules
- flushed face
- strong aversion to heat
- dark urine and dry stools
- red tongue with often redder tip and dry yellow coating, rapid pulse
All of these imbalances can be seen as well with dampness-phlegm. If this is the case you will also see:
- deep, thick and fluid-filled pimples
- swollen pimples
- oily skin
- thirst with no desire to drink
- purple or red tongue with a greasy or sticky coating
- pulse may be slippery or wiry
Diet and lifestyle changes for relieving acne and pimples
Most importantly when suffering from acne is to change the nutrition and lifestyle habits to reduce heat in the body. As seen above, heat and sometimes in combination with dampness are the causing reasons for acne. Consequently, you need to avoid foods that produce heat and eat more foods that cool down the heat. In addition to that dampness-phlegm causing foods need to be cut out. Luckily, there is a variety of foods that can be easily consumed every day.
Avoid foods that produce heat
- chocolate and cacao
- spices like cinnamon, pepper, piment, chilli, ginger and ginseng root, anise, rosemary, muscat, fennel seeds, fenugreek seeds, tabasco
- onions and garlic
- lamb, mutton, sheep, goat, deer, sausage
- overconsumption of meat
- deep-fried, grilled and smoked foods
- foods containing sulfur
- shellfish especially shrimp
- horseradish and leek
- chai tea
- alcohol especially red wine and high-percentage alcohols
- coffee – also see my article “Coffee – Is it good or bad for your health?”
The best results are seen when you cut off these foods for at least 10 weeks and then continue to eat them very scarcely.
Other heat producing factors
- stress and time pressure
- suppressed and excessive emotions produce heat especially anger, frustration, sadness and dissatisfaction affect the skin health
- eating too quickly
- lack of sleep and going to bed too late (after 11pm)
- hot weather
Foods that help to reduce heat
- steamed and cooked dishes, soups and stews
- rice, also see my article and recipe for a “Congee”
- amaranth, quinoa, millet (high content of silicon), polenta
- small quantities of duck
- steamed and cooked vegetables
- watercress, radishes
- sage, melissa
- chamomile, orange flower and rose flower tea
- peppermint and dandelion (be careful when suffering from digestive problems and a general feeling of cold)
- apple and pear compote
- berries like strawberry, blueberry, currant, cranberry, gooseberry
- fresh sprouts such as nasturtium
- small amounts of quark, sour milk, sour cream and kefir
- legumes (be careful if you suffer from digestive problems)
If you suffer besides heat symptoms as well from dampness-phlegm you need to
Reduce foods that produce phlegm-dampness
- overconsumption of raw foods esp. salads
- drinking while eating
- excessive drinking without thirst
- white sugar and sweets (one of the most seen reasons!)
- honey, sweets and ice-cream
- noodles and bread
- wheat bran, wheat sprouts
- tomato, cucumber
- yogurt, cheese and other milk products
- cold drinks, soft drinks, fruit juice
- pineapple, kiwi, rhubarb, lemon, banana, kaki, mango, papaya, watermelon, honey melon
- dried fruits
- soy sauce, tofu and other soy products
- mineral water, wheat beer
- too many eggs (more than 4 per week)
- overconsumption of coconut milk
- greasy foods
- red meat
Other dampness-phlegm producing factors
- fast food
- drugs especially marijuana
- humid and hot weather
Eat more reducing dampness-phlegm foods
- eat small quantities of bitter salads like arugula, chicory, radicchio
- basil, parsley, cardamom, curcuma, caraway seed, oregano and majoram
- celery, black radish and cabbage
- adzuki beans, kidney beans
- all mushrooms especially mu-err and shiitake
- apple and apricot
Clients who are suffering from acne and pimples are often very impatient to see quick results. It’s important to mention here that the longer the acne already persists the longer it will take to see results. Therefore, when the acne already exists for more than six months and has entered deeper layers, I use in my practice Chinese herbs and acupuncture to relieve symptoms quicker.
Many people suffering from acne and pimples have deep emotional conflicts which produce heat in the body. Besides the emotional aspect, stress and constant time pressure can lead to excessive heat in the body as well. Consequently, it should be looked for relaxation exercises or therapist and coaches who can help to adequately express emotions.
Do you have more questions?
Please contact me if you are interested in an individual consultation and treatment. You can also leave a comment below if you have further questions and feel free to share your experience. Do you have other tips for improving acne? Then let us know about it!
Acupuncture Case Histories from China; Chen Jirui, M.D. and Nissi Wang, M.Sc.;
Le grand dictionnaire des malaises et des maladies; Jacques Martel;
Mit der 5-Elemente-Ernährung zur Wohlfühlfigur; Barbara Temelie;
Die 8 außerordentlichen Gefäße in der traditionellen Medizin; Barbara Kirschbaum;