Dry Lips | Causes + How to make them smooth again April 26 2017
When our lips get dry, our first reaction is to moisten them with our saliva – frequently licking our lips due to general discomfort – which only leads to more dryness. Understanding the true cause of this dehydration is key to healing from the inside-out.
This time of year can be tricky when it comes to maintaining hydrated skin, especially smooth kissable lips. With cold dry winds in the winter, and a general lack of humidity in the air, our skin can get really dry, especially our lips! In the summer months, our lips can also suffer due to sun exposure. Believe it or not, lips can burn and blister, and need just as much protection as the rest of our skin.
However, it’s not always the weather that causes dry, dull lips. There could be a few different reasons and a different method for solving each. Hydration, low stomach acid, diet and internal imbalances can all lead to chapped lips.
Did you know that dry lips are commonly a sign of problems in the digestive tract? When you are dehydrated, your body pulls water from other parts of the body (like the intestines) to hydrate the cells. This can cause dryness in the colon leading to constipation, and dryness in the rest of the body - lips and skin!
Drinking water alone may not be enough to replenish and rehydrate your body. Try to add electrolytes to your water, especially when you have chapped lips. I like to add lemon juice with a pinch of sea salt when I'm at home. When I'm out and about, grabbing a coconut water is very hydrating because it contains natural amounts of sodium and potassium (what your cells needs to bring water into the body).
Another cause of dry lips is (believe it or not) from excessive saliva. This can happen when we have low grade heartburn from problems with stomach acid. There is a gate between the stomach and the esophagus which should always remain closed, except when eating. When our stomachs produce enough acid, this "gate" can close. Many people believe heartburn is from high stomach acid, but it is usually the exact opposite. Low stomach acid causes that "gate" to stay open, leading to heartburn after eating, and then excessive saliva at night while we sleep. This can give us dry and cracked lips in the morning.
One easy way to reduce heartburn and boost stomach acid is to practice mindfullness before having a meal. When we take a bit of time to think about our food, and smell it before we eat - our stomachs release acid and it primes us for optimal digestion. Another trick would be to consume something bitter 10 minutes before your meal - anything from lemon water in the morning, to apple cider vinegar at dinner time can really do the trick!
An additional way to look at dry lips is by understanding a little bit of Chinese Medicine. According to TCM theory, the health of our lips and mouth depend on the Chinese Spleen. Unlike our true spleen (which houses dead red blood cells), the TCM Spleen is responsible for the transformation of water and food into the qi and blood of the body. Dry and cracked lips is a sign that there are issues with fluid metabolism. Lips can also become pale when spleen qi is weak. The spleen can be affected when we have irregular eating patterns, and when we are stressed. High amounts of stress will attack our “Spleen Qi”, which can lead to bloating, fatigue, loose stools, and dry lips.
One way to improve this condition is to get weekly acupuncture treatments that can be focused on nourishing the spleen and qi through stimulation of points along the spleen meridian in the body. (getting acupuncture along the lower legs and abdomen).
Another thing you can do for your lips is to consume foods that nourish the TCM spleen – this means warm cooked foods, broths, stews, and warming spices like ginger and turmeric. Foods that can damage the TCM spleen are usually colder foods like raw salads, fruits, and especially dairy products (ice cream!!!). Once the weather warms up, these foods are easier for the body to tolerate, but should be avoided as much as possible during the colder months.
Lastly, an important aspect of keeping our skin and lips well hydrated is to consume high quality fats - especially fish oils and coconut oils - these oils help to moisturize the intestines, leading to a reduction in inflammation and boost in hydration from the mouth all the way out! Fish oil can be added to your diet in the form of a daily supplement, and you can also add coconut oil to your morning coffee!
For more information on this, you can book an appointment with the Naturopathic doctor and see which options would be right for you!