If you have eczema or topical steroid withdrawal, nighttime can be tough. Some people notice an increased feeling of warmth that then leads to increased itching and even sweating. Many people think the heat is caused from the day’s accumulated activities or because their minds are less distracted at the end of day allowing them to focus more on their uncomfortable symptoms.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), we explain this phenomenon very differently.
How TCM Views Hot Nights
To simplify the TCM view, the Chinese believe that body temperature is regulated by a combination of heat and moisture. Heat warms your body. Moisture cools your body. When you have a chronic skin condition that promotes inflammation and redness, your body tends to generate heat. The more heat produced, the odds increase that the amount of moisture your body can retain, produce and mobilize becomes compromised. The more intense the heat and the longer duration of said heat, the more challenging it becomes to cool your body and skin. Let’s unpack this further.
Yang & Yin
Heat is considered a “Yang” quality. During the day, your body is more active, both externally and internally. This creates heat. Because of this, the Chinese say morning to mid-afternoon is the Yang portion of the day. Moisture, on the other hand is considered a “Yin” quality. From late afternoon thru the night, our body tends to cool down. As such, this is the “Yin” portion of the day.
But if we do not have enough Yin (moisture) or the mechanism to regulate the proper flow of Yin is obstructed, we cannot cool the Yang (heat). Therefore, the body continues to generate heat past the Yang part of day. With compromised Yin, you will not be able to cool down. In fact, because your body is struggling so hard to produce and mobilize Yin, you now create something called Yin Deficiency Heat.
To complicate matters, if your skin barrier is also compromised, you’ll be unable to vent this heat through your pores like normal skin. So, with high levels of heat due to your skin condition which now compromises your cooling ability which now generates Yin deficiency heat coupled with no place for any of the heat to go; the heat stays trapped in your body into the Yin part of the day. And as you can guess, this creates an unending cycle that becomes more and more intense.
The idea of Yin and Yang may seem exotic but keep in mind that these observations were made by the Chinese well before microscopes, cadaver labs and technology allowed scientists to study the bio mechanisms of the body. Interestingly, these ideas hold up in modern times. Recent studies on circadian rhythm confer that the human body increases in body temperature from 4 am to 7 pm (Yang) and cool from 7 pm to 4 am (Yin). So, the concept of Yin and Yang times of day are very real and not dependent upon external activity or mental distractions.
What to do?
Many people ask, “Can I just drink more water, so I have more Yin?” Unfortunately, it’s not that simple for people with chronic skin conditions. For one, the issue is not just about re-hydrating your system, it’s also about rebuilding your body’s ability to retain moisture and restoring the mechanisms that allow your body to respond appropriately to all levels/forms of heat. To do this, your eczema and TSW riddled skin usually needs some help.
TCM herbal formulas include ingredients that: 1) reduce the heat in your body created from inflammation; 2) reduce the heat generated by your body because of Yin deficiency Heat; 3) restore the actual fluids and dysfunctional mechanisms that created Yin deficiency, and 4) restore basic functions of your skin barrier and body systems for smooth operation. When all these facets are addressed, your body and skin can return to normal function allowing your nights to be cool, relaxing and pleasant once again.
Depending upon how your eczema and TSW has affected your skin and body, you may find yourself with hot, itchy and/or sweaty nights. If you address each of the contributing factors that create this scenario, you can get your nights and sleep, back!
Need Help with Eczema or TSW?
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About the Author
Dr. Olivia Hsu Friedman, LAc, DACM, Cert. TCM Dermatology is the owner of Amethyst Holistic Skin Solutions and treats eczema patients via video conferencing using only herbal medicine. Olivia serves on the Advisory Board of LearnSkin, is the Chair of the American Society of Acupuncturists Board of Directors, and is a faculty member of the Chicago Integrative Eczema Support Group sponsored by The National Eczema Association.