Skin Health: Eat Yourself Beautiful
How we look affects how we feel, so it’s important to look after our outermost covering! Skin is amazing. Not only does it keep our insides in, but also it protects us from infection, radiation and dehydration, keeps us warm and makes us look good. While we are most aware of our ‘outside skin’, the ‘inside skin’ of the lungs and digestive tract covers a much larger area. This entire surface is replaced every 20 days, and the degree to which the condition of your skin is influenced by what you eat and drink, as well as other factors such as your environment and, more obviously, cosmetics, is quite remarkable...
Skin is the largest organ in the body - it weighs an average of 11lb and has a surface area of approx. 22 square feet (the size of a double bed). It is exposed to damage and disease from the outside such as injury, sunlight, smoking, environmental pollution and germs. It also tells the story of what is going on in the inside. For example, a rash may be the result of a reaction to food; a yellowish skin tone may indicate there is a problem with the liver. The condition of your skin is sensitive to a number of factors including your age, genes, hygiene, circulation, digestion, detoxification, immune system, the environment, your psychology and, of course, what you eat.
Nutrition is involved at every stage of skin development:
Vitamin C is essential for the production of collagen: no vitamin C, no collagen.
Antioxidants - The flexibility of collagen and elastin fibres declines in time owing to damage caused by free radicals. This damage is limited by antioxidants such as vitamins A, C and E, selenium and many others.
Vitamin A helps control the rate of keratin accumulation in the skin. A lack of this vitamin can therefore result in dry, rough skin.
Essential fats - The membranes of skin cells are made from essential fats. A lack of essential fats makes these cells dry out too quickly, resulting in dry skin.
Zinc is needed for accurate production of new generations of skin cells. Lack of zinc leads to stretch marks and poor healing and is associated with a wide variety of skin problems from acne to eczema.
Vitamin D - Skin cells also produce a chemical that, in the presence of sunlight, is converted into vitamin D, which is needed to maintain the calcium balance of the body.
So, in many ways, what you eat today you wear tomorrow...
Your skin is a remarkable barometer of your body’s health, so getting all your body systems working well (good digestion, healthy liver, sufficient levels of good bacteria) is crucial to addressing skin problems.
The Good Guys…
A good diet consisting of fresh, unprocessed whole foods is crucial for the health of your entire body, not just your skin. It reduces the speed at which the skin ages and degenerates. Eating plenty of antioxidant rich foods is therefore essential. These colourful foods include –
Red, orange and yellow vegetables and fruits such as sweet potatoes, carrots, apricots and watermelon;
Purple foods such as berries;
Green foods such as watercress, kale alfalfa sprouts and broccoli;
Seed foods such as peas and whole grains, fresh nuts, seeds and their oils, and onions and garlic.
Omega 3 and 6 essential fats in your diet are vital as they are part of each cell and help keep the skin soft and plump. Eat plenty of fish, nuts, seeds and their oils.
Water: Nature’s Moisturiser
One of the most important nutrients is water. Imagine a balloon filled with water - taut and firm to the touch. Allow some of the water out and the balloon will shrink and shrivel. Deprive a skin cell of water and it will have a similar result. Not only does this affect how your skin looks but how it functions. Without an adequate supply of water, your cells cannot rebuild your body, and waste products that stack up in the cells and your blood cannot be cleared.
A standard good multivitamin can be supplemented with extra antioxidants and some essential fatty acids. In addition to this, individual conditions will require specific supplementation.
One other nutrient that deserves a mention is sulphur. This essential mineral is a constituent of keratin and collagen - substances in the skin, nails and hair – therefore, it’s important to ensure your body has a plentiful supply of the raw materials it needs to make collagen, such as MSM along with vitamin C. MSM has been shown not only to enhance the beauty of skin, nails and hair, but also to help skin healing (for instance after burns or wounds), acne, allergies, arthritis and much more.