Whether you were troubled by them during (and after) puberty or suffer a pesky occurrence every now and then in your adult life, acne is no stranger to anyone. The first concern for anyone suffering it is almost usually to find a way to cover it up. And while it may not be an immediate need, the far more important thing, however, would be to look into what is causing them. We’re sure you’ve heard the usual ‘avoid fried food,’ ‘junk that junk food,’ ‘ditch the sugar,’ etc. While there is some truth to all these ‘tips,’ there is a much deeper understanding of food in the ancient science of Ayurveda.
Ayurveda doesn’t look at food simply from a quantitative context as modern science does, such as caloric content, fat, and sugar. It looks at food with a more qualitative lens, i.e., how each food behaves and affects the body after digestion. As per Ayurveda, all foods are assessed by the way they cools or heat the body, the way it impacts the energies known as the doshas, namely Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. And that pimple sitting on your nose is usually caused by an aggravated pitta, which in turn builds toxins (or ama) in the gut and spreads to the rest of the body.
We’ll look at some food that cause acne, but as a general rule of thumb, you want to avoid food that aggravates pitta in your body, i.e., anything overly spicy, salty, and sour, and instead consume food that is more cooling, bitter, and naturally sweet.
Often mistaken as a cooling food, yogurt’s sourness increases pitta in the body. Over-consumption of yogurt can clog body channels and dampen the ‘Agni’ (or digestive fire) in the body and lead to an accumulation of ama. Any fermented food should be avoided to prevent acne and yogurt is one of them. If you can’t live without your daily cup of curd though, it’s best to consume it before 5 pm and avoid combining it with meats, fruits, and other dairy products.
While this may be surprising to many, especially since Indian cooking relies so heavily on them, raw tomatoes are considered hard to digest by Ayurveda (the skin and seed are indigestible). And since we’re looking at healing an aggravated pitta, even cooked tomatoes aren’t all that perfect for those pimples. You can try eliminating them for a few days; if you see an improvement in your skin condition, try substituting tomatoes in your dishes with lemon juice or dried mango powder.
According to Ayurveda, wheat is sweet, cold, and astringent —all in all a fantastic grain. However, the modern-day wheat has a high content of gluten, which leads to the production of mucus in the system, leading to sluggishness and allergies, aside from acne. It’s best to avoid eating too many refined wheat products and bread, and instead incorporate other grains such as quinoa, ragi, and cornmeal into your diet.
This one is no surprise—alcohol negatively impacts the body in many ways, but talking specifically in Ayurvedic terms, alcohol is quite sharp and heating in nature, which leads to an imbalanced pitta, which can cause acne.
Consumption of refined sugars in your diet leads to a heavy accumulation of ama over a period and must be avoided at all costs. That means you’ve got to give out all the sugary biscuits in your kitchen cupboard and give the dessert a miss when you’re out for dinner. You can easily find much healthier alternatives though—try jaggery, palm sugar, and honey instead.
Coffee, Tea, & Carbonated Drinks
This one is going to be hard for a lot of people, we know. Most of us mortals cannot start our day without a cup of masala chai or hot coffee in the morning, but this very compulsive habit does more harm than good. Coffees, teas, or any caffeine drinks are nervous stimulants and significantly impact the hormone levels in the body (a catalyst for pimples) and worse, lead you to crave more sugar to make up for the loss of energy that you feel once the effect of caffeine wears off.
Pickles & Processed Food
Any preserve or pickle is super sour, which can easily imbalance pitta, so it should be avoided. This includes any store-bought pickle and sadly even homemade ones. Unfortunately, much of the store-bought bottles of peanut butter, soy, mayo, and ketchup are equally bad, due to the high amounts of salts, sugars, and preservatives in them.
Ayurveda is weary of the consumption of animal protein for most people, though it was used medicinally for undernourished people. From the dosha point of view, Pitta is aggravated by the heating and heavy properties of meat. Some meats are worse than others—red meats, pork, and shellfish particularly. If the thought of leaving non-vegetarian food horrifies you, we suggest sticking to chicken and fish only.
Milk in its raw form is believed to be incredibly nourishing according to Ayurveda. Traditionally in India, even today, milk is delivered raw and then boiled at home. The properties of this kind of milk are sweet and cool—perfect for acne-free skin. But many modern Ayurvedic doctors agree that pasteurizing milk changes its energies, making it much harder to digest. The heaviness does nothing good for digestion and rather causes congestion and mucus in the body. Alternatives? Try almond milk or rice milk.
Ask an Indian to stop putting chili in their food and be prepared to face expressions of disbelief. But unfortunately, any spicy, hot food can cause heartburn, ulcers, and intestinal inflammation, and yes, acne. While a little bit of chili in your curry for seasoning might be alright, it would be a good idea to slowly put down that whole chili if you want flawless skin.