The term ‘gut health’ is gaining popularity in today’s health industry. The importance of gut health is not just proper digestion and assimilation but a lot more than that. The gut micro biome does help to generate a healthy eco system by breaking down the food we eat and absorbing the nutrients from it. In addition, recent researches have proved the importance of gut health in reducing stress and depression, providing immunity, preventing acne and providing a healthy skin, reducing inflammation and obesity. 1

In this article, we will discuss the Ayurveda perspective on relationship between gut health and skin, classification of digestive fire and Pitta, Tips to keep your gut health in balance for radiant skin.

Relationship between Gut health and skin – An Ayurveda perspective

Ayurveda, the ancient Indian system of healing has implied on the importance of gut health more than 5000 years ago. You might have heard of Pitta dosha. The word Pitta has originated from the Sanskrit root ‘tap-santaape’ meaning to heat, to burn or warm up. Pitta is described as Agni (fire) as its function resembles that of fire.

The functions of Pitta can be attributed to those of digestion, assimilation, thermos-genesis and metabolism.

Ancient Ayurveda scholars have also mentioned that though the doshas are omnipresent, each of the doshas have a specific location in the body. In this case also, the location of Pitta is in between the navel and epigastrium. 2

Classification of Agni (Digestive Fire)

1.       Jatharagni/Kayagni This refers to various physio-chemical processes involved in the breakdown of food materials in the GI tract.
2.       Bhutagni It refers to the faculty of agni which breaks splits up the product of digestion in to subtle bhautik components for easy assimilation of dhathus (tissues) with the help of concerned dhatvagnis
3.       Dhatvagni It prepares each dhathu (tissue) to assimilate the appropriate nutrients from the circulation ~intermediate metabolism

 

When Pitta gets vitiated, the raktha dhathu (blood tissue) also gets affected. Ayurveda has described about seven kinds of basic tissues in the body. Blood tissue is one among them. There is a direct relation between Pitta and raktha. This direct relation is called as Ashraya-ashrayi-sambandha. It means the inseparable relationship between the abode and resident. Here the blood tissue is the abode, and Pitta dosha is the resident. If the dosha is in a healthy state, the dhathu (tissue) will also be healthy and vice versa.

Suppose there is an increase in Pitta, there will be vitiation of blood tissue resulting in blood borne and inflammatory diseases.

Appropriate knowledge of this concept of Ashraya-ashrayi-bhava helps in providing a proper treatment protocol as well. When there a vitiation of Pitta in the body, the best Panchakarma or detox procedure advised is Virechana or purgation. That means from the gut the morbid doshas are thrown out of the body by purgation.

Types of Pitta

Pitta is of five types – Pachaka, Ranjaka, Sadhaka, Alochaka and Bhrajaka.

The below table specifies the functions of each of the Pitta.

1.       Pachaka Pitta Located between Colon and stomach Involved in Transformative process – digests food, separates the essence from excrement and provides strength to the other forms of Pitta. In short, the gastro intestinal functions.
2.       Ranjaka Pitta Located in the intestine Imparts red color to plasma
3.       Sadhaka Pitta Located in heart and associated areas of cerebral cortex Responsible for Intellect, discriminative ability, self esteem
4.       Alochaka Pitta Located in the eyes Provides the power of visual perception wih discrimination of objects that are seen
5.       Bhrajaka Pitta Located in the skin Provides natural luster to the skin.

 

The bhrajaka Pitta located in the skin provides natural luster to the skin. Ayurveda scholar Chakrapani Dutta has mentioned that the production of normal and abnormal temperature of the body as well as normal and abnormal color of the skin is due to bhrajaka Pitta. In short health and ominous ill health are reflected upon the skin3. Health and healthy metabolism makes skin radiant, ill health makes it dull and dusky.

How can you keep your gut health for a healthier beautiful skin?

  • The proper observance of food and sleep can support the gut health. Like the quality of food, the quantity is also important. The quantity is that which maintain proper digestive power.
  • How to determine the quantity of food to be taken? This depends on heaviness and lightness properties of the food stuff. If you are taking food with guru guna (heaviness as quality). Half the amount of satiety should be taken. If the property of the food taken is laghu guna (lightness) it can be taken so that much satiety is not caused to ensure proper digestion.
  • Much importance has been given in the proper intake of healthy food in Ayurveda classics. There is a list of food items which are mentioned as desirable for daily use and which are not desirable for daily use.
  • Food items which should not be used daily – Yoghurt, cheese, alkaline preparations, vinegar, uncooked radish, meat of emaciated animals, dried meat, bacon, fish and red meat. In addition, black gram, bean, tuberous roots, lotus fiber, sweets prepared by grinding cereals sprouted seeds, dried leaves, should not be taken on regular basis.
  • Food items which can be used on daily basis – Rice, wheat, barley, amaranthus, Jivanthi (Holostemma adakodien), Immature radish, Harithaki (Terminalia chebula), Amalaka (Indian goose berry), grapes, snake gourd, and green gram are desirable for daily use. Sugar, ghee, rain water, milk, honey, pomegranate and rock salt can also be taken on daily basis. In short, the dishes that are capable of promoting health and curing diseases are suitable for regular use.
  • Triphala research has found the formula to be potentially effective for several clinical uses such as appetite stimulation, reduction of hype racidity, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, immuno-modulating, antibacterial, antimutagenic, adaptogenic, hypoglycemic, antineoplastic, chemoprotective, and radioprotective effects, and prevention of dental caries. Polyphenols in Triphala modulate the human gut microbiome and thereby promote the growth of beneficial Bifidobacteria and Lactobacillus while inhibiting the growth of undesirable gut microbes. 4

 

Therefore, take Triphala on a daily basis for a healthy gut and healthy skin.

  • Always adopt measures to keep your Pitta in balance for a healthy gut. Unvitiated Pitta blesses the body with functions such as digestive and metabolic processes, generation of body heat, vision, hunger, thirst, taste, luster, retention of memory, intellect and perception, strength and softness of body. Diseases arising due to an increased Pitta can be managed well with a Virechana (therapeutic purgation).
  • Intake of ghee, taking food and medicines with taste sweet, bitter and astringent, enjoying the fragrances which are cool and heartening, external application of sandal, camphor etc. in the body, intake of milk etc. are considered as best therapies for pacifying

Next time when you plan for junk food, remember that your gut health and skin is going to be affected.

 

References –

  1. Perspective: Stabilizing the Microbiome Skin-gut-brain axis with Natural Plant botanical ingredients in cosmetics – Dr Kavita Beri MD
  2. Principles of Ayurveda – Ashtanga Hridaya Translation by T. Sreekumar MD,PhD
  3. Ashtanga Hridaya – Chapter 12 – Doshabhediya verses 10-14
  4. Therapeutic uses of Triphala in AYurveda Medicine

Article prepared by : Dr Arya Krishna, BAMS