The ancient Chinese believe that the skin has a distinct function that directly affects certain internal organs pathologically and physically. It also considered the largest organ of the body. Some of the internal organs associated with the skin include:
The Large Intestine
A strong relationship exists between the Large Intestine and the skin. Toxins may accumulate in the Large Intestine if the person consumes too much food (such as spicy and hot foods) and drinks fluids that contain toxins. The signs of toxin accumulation may show in the skin and manifest as itchiness, rash, pimples or boils. Symptoms such as bloating, pungent flatulence and constipation may also be a sign of toxin build up in the Large Intestine.
This very important internal organ governs the primal Yin and Yang energy of the body. These two forces are the ones in charge of all the phases of the skin and body. A problem in the Yin and Yang of the Kidney may result in excessive perspiration, hot flushes usually felt in the face and neck, and dry skin among others.
The Liver and Heart
These two major internal organs are responsible for the emotions and circulation of the body. The state of health of the emotions and circulation can directly impact the skin. So if the Liver and Heart have functional deficiencies it can result in toxins and heat remaining in the bloodstream leading to skin flare-ups such as rashes, eczema or pimples.
In Traditional Chinese medicine theory, the Lungs govern the skin and enable the skin pores to open and close. If the Lungs do not function healthily, skin becomes affected leading to situations like these:
If you have been smoking for several years, your Lungs’ health may have been considerably weakened leading to frequent production of phlegm and cough; moreover, the poor health of your Lungs may also manifest as dry skin.
Smoking weakens the Lungs that when the body is invaded by external Heat and Wind, symptoms such as sore throat or sneezing and skin problems such as shingles, rashes or itch may arise.
Dry Skin Symptoms
Depending on its cause dry skin can be a sudden momentary problem or may last for a considerable period of time that gradually deteriorates over time. The skin can turn painful, irritated, itchy, cracked or scaly. The condition may even affect the heels of the feet, elbows, nails, lips and mouth. Chronic skin dryness can leave the skin prone to eczema, itchiness, rash or infection. Depending on the underlying cause of the person’s dry skin problem, the symptoms can be severe, mild or intermittent.
Dry Skin – Its Causes
The type of dry skin that may arise in a person may depend on his/her lifestyle, past medical history and constitution. There may be various reasons for dry skin and so it is important to determine the underlying reason for it in order to apply the proper treatment. In traditional Chinese medicine, there are different patterns of disharmony for dry skin. They include:
Lung and Liver Heat
Heat in the Lung and Liver may stem from several causes including certain drugs, spicy and hot foods, longstanding alcohol drinking, pneumonia, cold, flu or Heat coming from other body organs. Too much heat in the Lung or Liver can affect the health of the skin causing it to dry out. This type of dry skin leads to symptoms such as constipation, insomnia, problems falling asleep, extreme emotions, dry and/or red eyes, dry throat and dry cough. Sufferers of this form of condition can also experience illnesses such as hay fever, eczema or asthma.
Blood and Liver Yin Deficiency
This pattern of disharmony is the most common cause of dry skin. Skin dryness due to this type of deficiency occurs more in women than in men, but nowhere is this condition more common than in women after menopause, after labor or those who are past the age of 40. This does not mean that only women are affected by dry skin due to deficiency in Blood and Liver Yin. Men can also be affected, as well
Blood and Liver Yin deficiency may be caused by a weakened Blood and Yin that, in turn, leads to a lack of moisture and nutrition in the body. Sufferers may not only experience from dry skin but have other problems like insomnia, extreme emotions, interrupted sleep, anxiety, hot flushes (especially while sleeping or during mornings), thirst, sensation of hotness in the body, dry stools, unhealthy looking nails, cracks around the nails, poor quality of hair, or hair loss, as well.
Other Reasons for Dry Skin
Besides the aforementioned factors, other causes of dry skin can include certain foods or drugs, longstanding illness or injury, or poor blood flow among others.
Proper Management and Treatment of Dry skin
Changes in Diet & Lifestyle
A proper diet – This may include eating cooling foods and green leafy vegetables. These foods may include pear, lemon, eggplant, mung beans, peppermint tea, green tea, spinach, carrots, cucumber, and celery. You also should refrain from eating lamb, shellfish, chives, garlic, ginger and onions as they can generate Heat in the digestive system, Lung or Liver and affect the skin. You also need to avoid alcohol.
Relax – Alter your work and lifestyle in a way that it generates as minimal stress as possible. Do not become too high strung or too emotional as they can imbalance the Liver energy resulting in Heat Liver excess. Sleep is a great way to relax. Get adequate quality sleep and do not go to be bed late in the night (be sure you’re in bed before 11pm)
Exercise – When you exercise, do it in a cool comfortable setting. Avoid strong sunlight and do not perform exercises that are too intense or fast as they can generate excess Heat. Swimming, slow bike riding, gentle walking slow biking and yoga are great activities to help treat dry skin.
If you’ve been hiving dry skin for several years, you may be suffering from a far more serious underlying condition. If this is the case, you need to consult with your doctor as soon as possible.
Traditional Chinese Medicine
If conventional treatments fail to treat your dry skin, you can always try traditional Chinese medicine treatments. Besides being safer than conventional modalities, traditional Chinese medicine is one form of natural therapy that has been proven to work for dry skin.
Treatment of your dry skin will depend on the type of underlying problem you have. Therefore, a proper diagnosis is essential to come up with the right solution to your problem.
Galina Semyonova is a licensed acupuncturist and massage therapist in New York City. She has studied extensively in the fields of biofeedback therapy, SCENAR therapy, Chinese herbal treatments and Chinese and Western nutrition.