Skin Health
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Skin Health
Home  / Skin Health

Micro-fining, glow boosting, hydrating, nutrient dense, opthamalogically tested are tantalizing visions of a more youthful appearance when it comes to your skin care. Do you not wonder how a cream can be firming, line reducing, regenerating and rejuvenating? Micro-fining ‘my’ research, there is good evidence to support some of these claims. Some partnerships align beautifully such as the health of your skins collagen with the state of your nutrition.

The cosmetic industry may well have a firm grip on influencing most people’s ideas about a healthy and youthful skin, but there is even stronger evidence to support the influence of our food choices on skin vibrancy and health. Let’s take a closer inspection of nutrients and their link with skin integrity, specific skin issues and delaying aging.

Skin conditions such as acne, rosacea, dryness, premature wrinkles, and sun damage, can be quite a challenge.

There are many creams available and sometimes they have an effect, other times it seems like you are flushing money down the drain. Some of the more adventurous procedures may put you out of circulation for some time. Looking at the underlying cause of skin problems and trying to feed the body with targeted nutrition from the inside, is not just a normal and natural approach, but it will influence more than just your skin to achieve improved health and vitality. Consuming certain vitamins, minerals, and other beneficial compounds in a purposeful way as part of a normal diet, is one of the most effective ways to treat skin conditions and improve the look and finish of the skin.

The foundation of any healthy diet is one low in refined white starches, sugar and processed foods, in favour of a diet based on all vegetables, clean and lean protein, some fruit, good fats and oils, some wholegrains and topped up with nutrient rich nuts and seeds. That leaves the additional foods as an area to target for their contribution to your nutrition.

There are a number of nutrients that play a well known role in the development and immunity of skin integrity, and many people have found first hand that they respond well to a balanced diet with an extra boost at times when they are challenged by age, hormone changes, weather, stress, diet, sun, AC, and illness.

Vitamin A, or retinol, is one of the most extensively used nutrients for skin health. Synthetic retinoids are frequently used as effective treatments for acne and psoriasis and work to influence the functioning of the skin by promoting epidermal variation, regulating dermal growth factors, reducing the sebaceous gland activity, and controlling androgen formation which influences testosterone. Vitamin A stimulates cell turnover in the skin which tends to prevent comedones from forming which is associated with the most common forms of acne. Insufficient levels of vitamin A tend to be associated with rough dry skin which is keratinized or cornified due to insufficient mucus secretion. Another common sign of vitamin A deficiency presents as roughish, raised bumps on the back of the arms, called hyperkeratosis pillaris. Mostly you are told it is genetic but it can be reduced by consuming vitamin A rich foods.

Synthetic retinoids may be prescribed for serious cases to treat skin conditions such as itchiness, burns, acne, psoriasis, cold sores, vitamin A-rich foods are liver and cod liver oil, kidney, cream and butter from grass-fed cows, and egg yolks. If you are choosing an omega 3 oil, choose cod liver as it is also rich in vitamin A and D. Adding lambs fry to the weekly diet or mincing it up with meat to make a meat loaf or as a pate are practical suggestions.

Zinc is essential for the formation of structural proteins, cell membranes, wound healing and reducing inflammation and oxidation in the cells. It is integral to many enzymatic pathways and in gene expression.

Research shows zinc supplementation to be an effective alternative to antibiotics such as tetracycline. Zinc supplementation has been shown to significantly increase the level of

vitamin A in the blood, indicating an interaction between the two to increase levels of retinol-binding protein.

Dietary sources of zinc are best absorbed from animal sources, where it is not bound to

phytates as in plant sources. Red meat, liver, and shell fish are the best sources, as well as pumpkin seeds and other nuts but it is less bioavailable due to phytates. Soaking seeds and nuts helps to liberate nutrients for absorption more readily.

Since vitamin C was linked with wound healing and proper scar tissue formation in sailors away from a diet of fresh fruit and vegetables, this vitamin has been known for decades to play a crucial role in making the protein, collagen. Extreme vitamin C deficiency causes scurvy, which first presents as rough, dry skin and corkscrew hair growth and as it progresses, scar tissue breaks down to open up old wounds. Insufficient levels are known to contribute to the development of a not uncommon problem of hyperkeratosis pillaris, where follicles become damaged due to impaired collagen formation.

Increasing the amount of vitamin C in the diet is the easy answer to achieve an improvement in skin, overall health and faster healing. As a potent antioxidant, diets high in vitamin C are associated with better skin appearance, less skin wrinkling and more resilient to sun damage.

Excellent sources of vitamin C include capsicums, guava, dark leafy greens, broccoli, brussels sprouts, kiwi, citrus fruits, berries and pomegranates. Fresh herbs such as cilantro, chives, thyme, basil and parsley are also high in vitamin C. Consuming a wide variety of colorful plant foods on a regular basis is the best way to get adequate vitamin C in your diet. It’s important to remember that vitamin C is sensitive to heat, and eating them raw maximizes intake.

Omega-3 fatty acids are well known to reduce inflammation and that includes inflammatory skin conditions such as acne, psoriasis, and rosacea. However, omega 3 fats are not that widely available and a conscious effort to consume these few foods on a daily basis may not appeal. Oily fish, walnuts, flaxseeds, wheatgerm and canola oil are your best sources. Olive oil is not in that list but it does have a specific fatty acid making it stand apart from other oils which puts it back in at the top of everyday fat choices. The issue with oils is the ratio between omega 3, 6 and 9 fatty acids and boosting omega 3’s is very beneficial. If you don’t eat any of the above foods, chances are you don’t get any omega 3’s.

The healing effect of omega 3’s and decreased inflammation reduces insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1) to prevent hyper-keratinization of skin follicles resulting in a softer, smoother skin.

There are many reasons for recommending fish and fish oils to get omega-3s, to benefit skin health such as vitamin D and selenium. Avoiding industrial seed oils rich in omega-6 fatty acids can also help reduce inflammatory skin conditions but continue to include the good ones such as avocados, poultry, and nuts.

Biotin is a member of the B family of vitamins and is well known for its influence on skin and hair health. It is a water-soluble vitamin that acts as an essential cofactor for enzymes that

regulate fatty acid metabolism and as we have discussed, good fats are essential for the health of the skin. Since skin cells are rapidly replaced and are the first line of defence against external environment exposure, fatty acids in the skin protect the cells against damage and loss of moisture. When biotin intake is insufficient, fat production is altered, and the skin cells are the first to develop symptoms.

A deficiency of biotin causes hair loss and a characteristic scaly, erythematous, a red and

inflamed dermatitis around the mouth and other areas of the face and scalp. Biotin deficiency manifests as “cradle cap”, or scaly dermatitis of the scalp in infants and can be the cause of dandruff for some people. While true biotin deficiency is rare, consuming adequate amounts of biotin can help prevent problems with dry skin and dermatitis. The best sources of biotin are the incredibly nutrient dense yolks of egg and lambs and chicken liver. Other good sources include romaine lettuce, almonds, and walnuts.

The benefits of a diet rich in sulfur are little heard of. Sulfur is the third most abundant mineral in the body and an extremely important dietary compound for both skin health and overall wellness. Sulfur is the key to efficient liver detoxing as it binds to toxic elements and eliminates them as part of phase 2 detoxification. Sulfur is also necessary for collagen synthesis, to give the skin its structure and strength. The breaking down of collagen as we age is one of the major influences to the development of wrinkles.

Sulfur is also required for the synthesis of glutathione, one of the most important antioxidants in the body. High levels of glutathione in the body can prevent damage caused by free radicals, which are thought to be the major cause of cellular aging. The free radical theory of aging suggests that aging results from accumulation of cellular damage as a consequence of oxidative metabolism. Glutathione also reduces inflammation and possibly affecting symptoms of inflammatory skin conditions. I wouldn’t suggest taking glutathione just yet as there seems to be some debate on its effect taken orally. Instead eating a diet rich in sulfur or supplementing with N-acetyl cysteine which makes glutathione may have a greater impact.

Sulfur tends to be attached to sulfur containing amino acids, and very bioavailable in animal foods such as egg yolks, meat, poultry, and fish. Plant foods are also good sources and include garlic, onions, brussel sprouts, asparagus, and kale. Fermentation may make the sulfur more bioavailable, and foods such as sauerkraut and other fermented crucifers are excellent sources of sulfur and an important component of a diet for healthy, youthful skin.

Silica is another trace mineral often mentioned for its role in health and connective tissue and collagen production. Silica is involved in enzyme activities necessary for normal collagen formation and for maintaining the health of connective tissues due to its interaction with the formation of glycosaminoglycans. Many people take glycosamine and another well know one is hyaluronic acid. Emerging research suggests these compounds promote skin cell proliferation and increase the presence of retinoic acid, improving the skin’s hydration. Silica insufficiency could be associated with reduced elasticity of the skin and slow wound healing.

Natural food sources of silica include leeks, green beans, garbanzo beans, strawberries, cucumber, mango, celery, asparagus and rhubarb. Certain types of water also have higher levels of silica such as the Fiji brand as it is sourced from water near volcanic rock.

Niacin, or vitamin B3, plays a vital role in cell metabolism as a coenzyme in energy production involving the breakdown of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. While most recommendation to influence cholesterol are to reduce LDL cholesterol through diet, niacin boosts HDL fatty acids which bind to LDL and take them back to the liver for elimination.

Niacin deficiency causes Pellagra which is characterized by a dark, scaly rash and dermatitis. While a low intake of niacin is unlikely, there are some diseases that may cause inadequate niacin absorption from the diet such as celiac disease, where absorption is impaired by the swelling and thickening of the intestinal lining. Other inflammatory gut conditions such as IBS or Crohn’s disease can also lead to a reduction in niacin absorption, and lead to the skin related symptoms such as dermatitis and scaling. Good whole-foods sources include meat, poultry, red fish such as tuna and salmon, and seeds. Milk, green leafy vegetables, coffee, and tea also provide some niacin to the diet. Your liver can also convert tryptophan from high-protein foods like meats and milk into niacin.

Vitamin K is rarely talked about but it plays many roles in the body including contributing to cardio-vascular protection, bone formation, promoting brain function, supporting growth and development and helping to prevent cancer. Vitamin K helps to deposit calcium in appropriate locations, such as in the bones and teeth, rather than where it can be cause for concern, such as soft tissue. Adequate vitamin K prevents calcification of the skin’s elastin, the protein that gives skin the ability to spring back, smoothing out lines and wrinkles. In tissue where calcium deposits, Vitamin K also influences vitamin A and D dependent proteins, essential for proper skin cell formation and preventing keratinization. It has been observed that people who cannot metabolize vitamin K, tend to present with severe premature skin wrinkling.

Great sources of vitamin K include butter and high fat dairy products from grass-fed cows, egg yolks, liver, and fermented soy beans, and fermented cod liver. Fermented foods such as sauerkraut and cheese are also quite high in vitamin K due to its production by bacteria.

Probiotics are one of the most interesting areas of emerging nutrition research. Gut flora and probiotic supplementation, has revealed its influence to heal the gut, reduce systemic inflammation, oxidative stress to cause cell damage, improved blood sugar control, and tissue lipid content.

The human intestine allows the absorption of nutrients while also functioning as a barrier, which prevents antigens and pathogens entering the mucosal tissues and potentially causing disease. The intestinal tract is inhabited by 1014 microbes, and it is becoming increasingly evident that they are involved in molecular crosstalk with the intestinal lining and to affect intestinal barrier function. Increased intestinal permeability is implicated in autoimmune, inflammatory, and atopic diseases, which can affect within, (the intestinal mucosa) and systemically.

Chronic inflammatory diseases of the intestine, such as inflammatory bowel disease and celiac disease, are characterized by a leaky intestinal barrier and often food related. This may have important implications in skin conditions such as acne, rosacea, atopic dermatitis, and psoriasis.

I believe strongly the evidence that supports the role of probiotics in treating a variety of skin

conditions, and recommend that anyone suffering from skin trouble be especially dedicated about including fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, yogurt, and kefir in your regular diet.

Probiotic supplements can also be helpful—but not all probiotics will be beneficial for skin conditions. It is generally not recommended to take a D-lactic acid promoting probiotic with irritable bowel and this is Lactobacillus acidophilus. Soil based organisms such as saukraut are better than dairy options when this is implicated.

Expensive skin care is not the only answer to reducing the wear and tear of skin health. It will not substitute for an inadequate diet but consuming a diet rich in the essential nutrients for optimum cell requirements, and nourishing of the cell membranes from the inside is key. Dedicate six weeks to cleaning up your diet and enriching it with plenty of the foods listed above and trial first hand what you can achieve naturally.

Let’s hear what has worked for you!