Natural Health

Lets talk about skin

Skin Health

 Research into how nutrition and lifestyle

can play a key role in our skin condition.

Healthy Skin - the importance of diet

Whilst I was lucky to enjoy clear, healthy skin as a child and teenager,

I am now finding that I am having to address a skin condition during adult hood.

Whilst attending a nutrition seminar by Patric Holford, I was introduced to what can cause such changes in our skin health and

so am sharing below some information of what can be done to reduce unwanted skin conditions and retain healthy looking skin. 

Our skin is a remarkable complex organ which reflects our health.  It is the largest organ in the body and no other organ is so exposed to damage or disease through injury, sunlight, environmental pollution and germs plus it reflects internal conditions and emotions.

The condition of our skin depends on a number of factors including age, genes, hygiene, circulation, immune system, environment, psychological state and what we eat.  Whilst there is a role for beauty and medical creams, it is crucial to nourish the skin from the inside too.

Understanding Your Skin  -  Beauty is More Than Skin Deep  -  Skin Conditions & Natural Solutions 

Understanding your skin

The layer of tissue that we call skin can be broadly divided into two layers - the epidermis ('outside skin') and the dermis ('skin').  Underneath the dermis is a layer of fat cells (subcutaneous fat).

The Epidermis - has four layers:  'Stratum corneum' - the outer layer - stacked, flat cells consisting mainly of a protein called keratin and different types of lipids (oils).  Their protein and fat content is important in helping the epidermis to hold in moisture, allowing substances to pass out of the body.  The cells are thin and tough, which gradually fall off, making way for others to take their place.  The cells in this outer layer are originally formed in the 'basal' layer and change in structure and content as they gradually work their way up to the surface.  The rate at which cells progress from the basal layer into the outer-layer varies from person to person but the epidermis is usually completely renewed in anything from six to ten weeks.  The epidermis also contains cells which produce melanin (one of the substances responsible for colouring the skin) plus cells which play a part in the skin's immune reaction.

The Dermis -  actually makes up the vast majority of the skin.   In addition to living cells, the outer-layer of the dermis contains blood vessels, connective tissue, lymph vessels and some elastin and collagen fibres.  The layer beneath this has fewer cells and vessels but much great amounts of collagen and elastin.  The dermis also contains hair follicles, sebaceous glands and sweat glands which open out as pores on the skin's surface as well as nerves that are sensitive to pressure and pain.  

 

Sebaceous Glands - sack-like structures which open into hair follicles or directly onto the skin in some places.  The size of the glands varies between different body parts, i.e., bigger  on the face and chest but smaller on the arms and legs.  These glands produce sebum, an oily substance which helps stop hair drying out and becoming brittle.  It also keeps the skin oily (to prevent too much evaporation of water), soft and free of some bacteria.  An excess of sebum secretion (partly controlled by hormones) can block pores which may then become infected, causing spots and acne.  Blackheads are the result of a build-up in pores of sebum combined with melanin.  *Melanin is the main determinant of colour and is produced by cells called melanocytes.  The number of melanocytes is more or less the same in everyone - it's the amount of melanin the cells produce for distribution to the keratinocytes that determine how dark the skin is and works by enveloping the cells DNA and absorbing harmful ultraviolet light.  *Carotene (the yellowy-orange pigment in egg yolks, carrots, etc.) is transformed in the body into Vitamin A which is needed for vision.  *Haemoglobin (the red colour in skin) is due to the haemoglobin in the capillaries near the surface - the molecule that carries oxygen in blood.  If the blood is not picking up enough oxygen from the lungs, skin will look slightly bluish.

 

Sweat Glands - sweating is an important, normal bodily process, with main function to prevent the body from getting too hot and help eliminate some waste products.

 

Lymph Vessels - made up of vessels which run all over the body.  Through these vessels flows lymph fluid which carries out various functions, including carrying waste products from cells, transporting substances between cells and draining excess fluids that gathers between the body's cells, filtering foreign organisms and other matter along the way and trapping these in the lymph nodes.  The lymphatic system transports fats and fat-soluble Vitamins A, D, E and K, which are absorbed through the gut.  The lymph relies on the help of body movements to be able to move around themselves.  If the body has a good water supply and adequate protein then the lymph system works very efficiently.  However, if water intake is low, fat intake is excessive and protein intake is inadequate then the lymph flow is impaired which means that the body's cleansing system is not on top form.

Skin Strength & Suppleness

The remarkable strength of skin and its ability to stretch and return to its original shape after being stretched is due to two components of the dermis: collagen and elastin.

Collagen - a type of connective tissue - bind, supports and strengthens other tissues.  So keeping a healthy collagen level is vital to having god skin. Collagen, from the Greek work Kolla, which means 'glue' effectively 'holds us together' - a tough rigid substance made up of bundled fibres of protein which do not stretch very much.  Its rigidity and ability to respond to physical stresses lessen with age and exposure to sunlight.  Vitamin C is essential for the formation of the key protein in collagen - hydroxyproline (this is why some symptoms of scurvy - caused by Vitamin C deficiency) include cracked skin, bleeding gums and poor wound healing.  Without Vitamin C, skin cannot maintain its structure.

Elastin - the other major structural protein in skin provides the skin with strength but elastin is what gives skin its resilience, allowing skin (and other tissues such as the lungs and blood vessel walls) to expand and spring back to its normal size.  It is believed to be changes in the structure of elastin which result in wrinkles.  The real damage appears to be oxidation but wrinkles are generally caused by a combination of factors: oxidation and the body's natural ageing process which gradually reduces its ability to retain its structure.

Collagen and elastin are contained in a fluid which is made up of several substances including water and this is one reason why good water intake is important for maintaining healthy skin.  The health of your skin depends significantly on what you take in, for instance, sufficient water to keep cells of your skin hydrated and adequate nutrients to maintain the structure of skin.  Another major factor which affects skin condition bot internally and externally is oxidation damage.

Skin Damage - Understanding Oxidation

As our outer-most, protective layer, is constantly exposed to chemicals and environmental facts these influence its health and appearance.  On top of these external factors, various internal bodily processes bring on the signs of ageing too. Oxidative damage, caused by free oxidising radicals or oxidants (free radicals) are the culprit to aged skin and wrinkles.  Just as oxygen can damage iron to form rust, so can it damage molecules in our bodies. Oxidants have been linked to the increase in heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer's plus many more diseases as well as general ageing.

Oxidants are the body's equivalent of nuclear waste, which must be decommissioned to remove the danger in the form of 'anti oxidants'. Ironically, most of the oxidants in the body are actually toxic forms of one of our most essential elements - oxygen.  Oxidants are very destructive overall because they damage fats, proteins, connective tissue and nucleic acids (DNA and RNA).  Particularly vulnerable to such attack are the membranes of our cells and the DNA within them.  Any damage to this can affect the way they work and the control of nutrients, water, hormones, toxins, etc., going in and our of cells.

Unavoidable Oxidants:  Our metabolism  generates oxidants itself, toxic by products of its own intricate system of energy productions.  Our bodies manufacture these as some are actually used in other processes to kill harmful organisms, malignant cells and can help in blood clotting.  A defence system of enzymes 'antioxidants' help deal with oxidants but problems arise in the form of skin damage or disease from ageing to cancer when these internal mechanisms are overburdened, faulty or not given adequate nutrient support.

To reduce damage to your skin through oxidation: avoid or limit exposure to external oxidative factors; eat plenty of antioxidant rich foods and take an antioxidant supplement.

Ultraviolet

UVB rays (shorter than UVA rays) penetrate the epidermis - the rays that cause burning.  

They oxidise the fats in the cell membranes, damaging their barrier function and cause

damage to the DNA and other proteins.  The redness and inflammation caused by sunburn

are a result of the oxidation and the dilation of blood vessels as the skin attempts to protect

and repair itself, setting the scene for potentially cancerous cell changes later on.

UVA rays cause oxidative damage to cells and the connective tissue in the dermis -

leading to burning and ageing by penetrating into the dermis damaging collagen and elastin.  

UVA rays can penetrate the skin even on a cloudy day and through glass, unlike UVB which

can only reach the surface of the earth when the sun is high in the sky.

UV light damage to our cells on a molecular level interferes with the ability to make proteins

and reproduce properly and has worsened in recent years as the ozone layer is being depleted.

Natural defences - our bodies do have remarkable protective mechanisms.  Melanin, the pigment produced in the skin absorbs light and, as exposure continues, more melanin is produced (creating a sun tan).

Keratinocytes also play a protective role by moving the protective pigments - melanin and keratin - towards the skin's surface - our very own sunscreen.  Melanin is not enough to protect us from sun damage.  In many people it 'mutinies' and dumps melanin in clusters which show as freckles.  Another defence mechanism the skin employes to protect itself from the sun is altering its thickness to defend against UVB (not UVA) - the stratum corneum (largely consists of dead, keratin filled cells) gets thicker to offer protection by absorbing or reflecting a significant amount of UVB.  The third line of defence is the body's own antioxidant, Vitamin A, C & E plus enzymes which mop-up some of the oxidant damage caused by the sun but these only have  a limited life and are rapidly over-run after just a few minutes in fierce sun.  Taking Vitamin C and Vitamin E can reduce the tisk of sun burn if digested and applied topically.

Super Sensitivities - Burning and ageing are just two of the negative effects of the sun.  UV rays can also harm by suppressing the function of the skin's immune cells - the Langerhan cells and in some people they trigger a reaction often mistaken for prickly heat or an allergic reaction to some cream called polymorphic light eruption (PLE). Prickly heat is actually a rash developed when sweat glands over-react to heat and humidity, as opposed to sun light.  

Certain chemicals and medicines can also increase the skin's sensitivity to ultraviolet light:  Psoralens - natural plant chemicals found in citrus fruits, parsnips, carrots, celery, buttercups, cow parsley, chrysanthemum and fennel;  Tretinoin (Retin-A) - the drug used in the treatment of acne;  Antihistarmines - some antibiotics, topical arthritis non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs;  Cosmetic ingredients - such as musk, bergamot and eosin in lipstick;  some chemicals used in toiletries - such as hexachloraphene.

Help protect you skin with a good sunscreen containing antioxidants; eat plenty of antioxidant rich foods.  Take an antioxidant supplement and check any medications being taken do not increase your sensitivity.

Teens and Menopause

Hormones have a considerable effect on our skin.  When hormonal patterns change, the skin is likely to do so as well.  

 

  • Oil - The 'unopposed' exposure to testosterone stimulates the secretion of more sebum in the sebaceous glands making skin seem more oily.  

  • Hair - Also due to the unopposed testosterone, a woman becomes more prone to developing unwanted hair after the menopause.  

  • Thinning - Oestrogen increases the rate at which the cells of the epidermis divide and reproduce.  As oestrogen declines, so does the reproduction of new cells.  

  • Dryness and loss of suppleness - Oestrogen stimulates the production of certain substances (e.g. hyaluronic acid) keeping skin hydrated, supple and smooth.  As oestrogen levels decline, the skin may therefore become dull-looking.

To counteract the effects of menopausal hormonal changes on the skin, it is important to reduce the exposure to artificial or 'xeno-oestrogens' - oestrogen chemicals in the environment.  Many chemicals have hormone-like properties.  You can minimise intake by: drinking spring or filtered water; avoiding foods containing chemical additives; minimise exposure of fatty foods to plastics (use glass, paper for storage not cling-film and plastic bags; avoid household chemicals; and by not smoking and not using the Pill or HRT.

Oestrogen-like substances from plants (phyto-oestrogens) can help the body when included in your diet, counteracting the effects of the body's natural decline in oestrogen and minimising symptoms of the menopause, such as hot flushes.  Soya is a particularly rich source containing genistein and diadzein.  Other sources of phyto-oestrogens: alfalfa, linseeds, beans, oats, fennel, celery, parsley, red clover tops, rhubarb and herbs such as agnus castus, black cochosh, dong quai and wild yam.

Nail Signals

Our nails are an extension of our skin - composed of hard, closely packed, keratinised cells of the epidermis.  They provide protection for the nerve-rich ends of our fingers.  Any changes in colour or structure can indicate underlying disorders, deficiencies and exposure to harmful chemicals.

Problems that can arise and deficiencies that often cause them: 

  • Fragile, horizontal and vertical ridges - B vitamin deficiency

  • Brittle, concave vertical ridges - Iron deficiency

  • White spots - Zinc deficiency

  • Fungal infection - 'friendly' bacteria deficiency

  • Splitting - low hydrochloric acid

  • Dry, brittle - Vitamin A and Calcium deficiency

  • Horizontal white bands - Protein deficiency

  • Hangnails (split cuticles) - Protein, Vitamin C and Folic Acid deficiency

  • Peeling, cracking, splitting - General nutritional deficiency

You can help keep your nails healthy and looking good by: including plenty of foods in your diet such as fresh fruit, vegetables and foods rich in sulphur and silicon, e.g. fish, broccoli, onions and seaweed; taking a good all-round multivitamin and mineral supplement daily; ensuring you have adequate protein intake, e.g. yoghurt, fish, lean meat, eggs, soya, nuts, seeds; when you suspect a digestive problem then supplement with enzymes and some hydrochloric acid; supplement with MSM - a special form of sulphur; and avoid exposure to harsh chemicals.

The body automatically prioritises organs essential to life, such as the heart and brain (giving precedence to them in supply of blood, water and nutrients, leaving the skin until last.  It is therefore important for the health of your skin to ensure your diet includes plentiful supplies of all the vital nutrients and why your skin can show signs of your level of health.

Digestion - The Key to Health

Skin is a remarkable barometer of your body's health and as such, it is very much affected by how well you are internally.

Gut feelings - many skin problems are linked to digestion.  While an insufficient intake of the right nutrients can affect the health of your skin, so can poor digestion and absorption of nutrients.  Only certain chemicals are allowed through our digestive tract, a selection process policed by the immune system.  

 

Prolonged stress shuts down the immune function.  IgA (secretory immunoglobulin A) line the digestive tract and protect us from undesirable molecules.  As IgA levels fall when under stress, we lose this immune response.  This in one of the factors that triggers allergies and explains why people under chronic stress are more likely to develop food sensitivities.

'Un-invited guests' can also get into the body if the inner skin, the wall of the digestive tract, becomes too permeable - known as gastro-intestinal permeability.  This  can be aggravated by an infection, inflammation, bloating, too much alcohol or use of antibiotic or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, e.g. aspirin.  Once too many toxins and large molecules start 'gate-crashing' through the digestive tract, the body has to work overtime to detoxify and deal with them and before long this can result in impaired liver function.  With this, even the slightest toxins result in symptoms such as fatigue, drowsiness, headaches, body aches and inflammation as well as poor skin condition.  When we exercise our muscles produce lactose aid which can make us feel a bit stiff - this is no problem normally but if a person's detox potential is poor then even a brisk walk can trigger symptoms.

Digestion, bacterial imbalances and UFO infestation (unidentified faecal organisms) may seem a far cry from skin problems but if your gut - lined by your 'inner skin' - is not working well for any reason, your external skin may well suffer and conditions such as 'leaky gut syndrome' can trigger and allergic reaction.

Detox for Clear Skin

Eating the right food is one side of the coin and detoxification is the other.  Food is essential but the truth is that almost all food contains toxins as well as nutrients, as does air and water.  If unable to efficiently detoxify these substances from what you eat and your environment, then your skin is likely to become congested and unhealthy.

Much of this detoxifying is done by the liver - the chemical brain of the body - recycling, regenerating and detoxifying in order to main health.  These external toxins (exo-toxins) are just as small part of what the liver has to deal with as many toxins are made within the body from otherwise harmful molecules.  Every thought, breath and action can generate toxins.  These internal toxins (endo-toxins) need to also be disarmed in the same way as exo-toxins.  

Instead of thinking certain substances as 'bad' for you or provoking a reaction, think of them as 'exceeding your capacity to detoxify them'

Skin problems are just one sign of poor detox potential.  Others include chronic fatigue, multiple allergies, frequent headaches, sensitivity to chemicals and environmental pollutants, chronic digestive problems, muscle aches, autism, schizophrenia and drug reactions.

Skin Saviours - Antioxidants

The main players of antioxidants are vitamins A, C and E plus beta-carotene and minerals zinc and selenium plus glutathione, lipoic acid and co-Q10. Eating antioxidant rich foods gives us nature's whole spectrum of nutrients.  

Studies show that antioxidant vitamins provide protection from oxidation. (read more about antioxidants on our 'Essential Nutrition' page).  

 

Vitamin E, when applied to the skin, protects from the effects of UV light but only when applied before exposure or within two minutes, no later.  Beta-carotene - which the body can convert into vitamin has also been shown to protect skin from damage from UV light.

Anthocyanidins - powerful antioxidants from the flavonoid family - can stabilise collagen as well as provide protection from a wide variety of toxins in both watery and fatty parts of the body.

Oestrogen-like substances from plants (phyto-oestrogens) can help the body when included in your diet, counteracting the effects of the body's natural decline in oestrogen and minimising symptoms of the menopause, such as hot flushes.  Soya is a particularly rich source containing genistein and diadzein.  Other sources of phyto-oestrogens: alfalfa, linseeds, beans, oats, fennel, celery, parsley, red clover tops, rhubarb and herbs such as agnus castus, black cochosh, dong quai and wild yam.

Essential Skin Oils - Fats

EPA and DHA can be made into PGE-3 (series 3 prostaglandins) which are extremely active hormone-like substances.  These can reduce inflammation and help in maintaining water balance.  Symptoms of deficiency include dry skin (read more about essential fats on our 'Essential Nutrition' page).

Fats for Clear Skin

Omega 6 and 3 have much to contribute to healthy skin.  Each cell membrane is partly composed of essential fats and your skin is made up of countless such cells - so the fatty acid content of your cell membranes is vital.  Keeping them smooth and soft, allowing them to do a better job of controlling what goes in and out of the cells.  When they contain insufficient fat they are not able to retain water and lose their plumpness.  Experiments show that EFA deficiencies show deterioration in the health of the skin - they become dehydrated, skin becomes itchy, dry and inflamed; skin becomes more prone to infections, wounds and heal slower; capillaries in the skin become weak and the sebaceous glands become enlarged.  EFA's help reduce inflammation, maintain good blood glow, hormone balance plus much more.

To ensure an adequate intake of essential fats: include plenty of essential fat-rich foods in your diet such as fish, nuts, seeds and their oils; if you have any symptoms of an EFA deficiency,take an EFA supplement.

Healthy

Fats

Skin Healing

The process of skin healing is quite remarkable - a range of processes happen in a short space of time.  Cell replication and the growth of collagen are essential for damaged skin to repair itself.  A full range of nutrients is needed but the key ones are: vitamin C - antioxidant and needed for collagen formation; zinc - needed for cell replication for healing; vitamin E - antioxidant and helps reduce inflammation and scaring; vitamin A - antioxidant, needed for skin growth and healing; vitamin B complex - especially B6 - needed for cell replication.

Treating wounds - vitamin E or Aloe vera gel to help speed up healing, reduce inflammation and minimise scaring.  Undilated vitamin E oil is better than a vitamin E cream.  For infection - diluted tea tree oil in warm water can help.  The herb Gotu kola (Centella aslatica) helps skin to repair in a variety of situation - the active ingredients of this are triterpenoid compounds call asiatic acid and asiatic oside - which enhance skin structure, supporting collagen.

Burns - serious burns should always be treated by a medical professional but for minor burns the most effective natural product is Aloe vera gel.

 

Skin cancer - to help guard against cancer: minimise time spent in strong sunlight (especially if you have fair skin, light coloured eyes and lots of moles); use a sunscreen containing antioxidants; eat plenty of antioxidant rich foods; take a broad spectrum antioxidant supplement containing vitamins A, C, E, beta-carotene and selenium.

Common Skin Conditions & Natural Solutions

 

Psoriasis - usually appearing as defined patches covered by fine silvery scales.  Usually due to a build-up of skin cells which have divided too quickly - an abnormal skin growth disturbing the body's cell replication control mechanisms.  Nails are also affected by most types of psoriasis - they can become thick, pitted and cracked and lift from the nail bed.

Chronic plaque psoriasis/psoriasis vulgaris - affects scalp, knees, elbows or body crevices - shows as scaly, red patches which can be very small or cover large areas.

Flexural psoriasis - affects body creases such as elbows, armpits and under the breast - shows as reddening of the skin bit no scales.

Guttate psoriasis - affects all over the body except for palms and soles - can follow about a week after a throat infection.  Causes teardrop-shaped scaly patches.  This can be completely eradicated if treated early before going on to plaque psoriasis.

Pustular psoriasis - affects all over the body - painful pustules which can be accompanied by fever and may come on in response to over use of strong steroids.

Erythrodermic psoriasis - affects all over the body - very rare, much of the skin is red, scaly and inflamed, which affects body fluid balance and temperature.

Treatments for Psoriasis - A key factor with psoriasis appears to be managing reaction to stressful or irritating situations by a course of action you find relaxes you.

From the inside - There is a significant link with gut health.  Balancing the mechanisms which control skin cell division appears to be vital and these mechanisms can only function properly when the digestive tract is working well.  Enzymes - one of the main gut problems in people with psoriasis appears to be faulty digestion of protein, this, in turn, creates excessive toxicity in the bowel, which weakens the gut lining, allowing substances to intoxicate the rest of the body.  Sweedish bitters containing protease and bromelain can stimulate digestion and a digestive enzyme supplement should help.  Toxins produced by undesirable bacteria or yeasts in the intestines can affect cell division, the herb sarsparilla can help bind to toxins.  Other herbs which can help cleanse the digestive tract are oregon grape or goldenseal.  Milk thistle (silybum marianum) helps support the liver and this can also be aided by eating more eggs, onions and garlic or taken in the form of MSM supplements.  As well as eating a healthy fibre-rich diet, check for food sensitivities.  Limit animal fats from meat and dairy and opt for other essential fats in fish such as mackerel and salmon.  Add pumpkin seeds, hemp or linseeds plus flaxseed.  Supplement particular nutrients promoting health of the skin and calming inflammation.  Vitamin A (up to 5,000mcg daily) and the mineral zinc (up to 30mg daily) are essential for good skin health.  Quercetin - a plant bioflavonoid with powerful antioxidant properties can help soothe inflammation (409mg three times a day).  Avoid large doses of vitamin C (i.e. more than 500mg a day).

From the outside - Traditional medical treatments usually involve using emollients to moisturise the skin.  Harsher chemicals such as dithrnol are relatively effective but these can stress and harm the skin and are too strong to use in certain areas.  Other treatments include salicylic acid, retinoids, steroids and vitamin D.  These can be helpful but also have side effects and do not get to the cause of the problem.  More radical treatments, such as methotrexate, help stop cell growth but these are quite toxic and affect all cells in the body.  Ultraviolet light therapy is useful but because of the risk of skin cancer this only tends to be used as a last resort.  Natural sunlight and swimming in the sea can be helpful, in particular visiting the shores of the Dead Sea.  A cheaper alternative is to put a kilogram of Epsom salts and 500g of salt in a warm bath.  Other Dead Sea products, alternatives to cortisone creams such as glycyrrhetinic acid (from licorice), camomile or cayenne pepper extracts (capsaicin).

Acne  The most common skin complaint - ongoing spots which get very infected and leave scars.  Affecting parts of the skin where there are hair follicles and active sebaceous glands which produce oils or sebum.  Can show as blackheads, whiteheads and redness due to inflammation.  Acne vulgaris - inflamed, pus-filled spots which open out up to the skin.  Acne conglobata is more severe - when infection does not actually break out through the skin but stays underneath forming a painful cyst.

 

People with no male hormones (eunuchs) do not suffer at all so this gives some insight to the cause being reliant on male hormone testosterone in the body, triggering production of sebum and keratin along with the long excess conversion to an even more powerful version of the hormone DHT (dihydrotestosterone).  As the pores become blocked it provides and ideal breeding ground for the bacteria Proprionibacterium acnes, which normally lives harmlessly on the surface of our skin, and its ideal environment is one with no hair and plenty of sebum to feed off.  Acne like spots can also be caused by exposure to certain chemicals including steroids.

The sugar connection -  clinical studies have shown that people who have acne do not process sugar well in their bodies and this has been referred to as 'skin diabetes'.   It is important to reduce or cut out all sugary foods and drinks, including sweets, chocolate, fizzy drinks, biscuits, cakes, desserts and any added sugar in tea, coffee or on cereal to improve the way the body processes glucose.  Taking the mineral chromium twice daily can also help.

The gut connection - Acne has been considered to be the result of a build up of toxins in the colon, showing higher than normal levels of bowel toxins in the bloodstream. Usually because of a sluggish digestive system and constipation which can be caused by a low fibre diet and goods high in refined sugary, fatty foods.  Another problem is antibiotics - prescribed to calm inflamed spots - as it also kills the good bacteria in the digestive system - a good probiotic can reinstate a balance digestive system. 

The milk and insulin connection - increased sebum production is associated with increased levels of the insulin-like growth hormone (IGF-1).  Consumption of dairy products increases IGF-1 levels as does a high glycaemic load (GL) diet comprising of lots of fast releasing carbohydrates.  Minimising these often makes a big difference.

Stresses and strains - Adult acne, in people who have never suffered from it before, is becoming increasingly common and has been linked to stress.  Stress interferes with the body's usual hormonal balance and if your have been under a lot of pressure and now suffering from acne, it is crucial to get the stress sorted before you can expect to see much improvement - if you are feeling self-conscious about the state of your skin, you are likely to get caught in the vicious cycle of re-occurring stress.

Treatments for Acne

From the inside - most medical treatments for acne involve powerful forms of vitamin A, so it makes sense to include a good dose in your daily supplement intake but moderation is key as too much vitamin A can actually be toxic.  Healthy skin also requires a good supply of zinc - most acne sufferers are likely to be deficient in zinc resources.  Zinc is linked to vitamin A, helping to control inflammation and skin repair.  Low zinc levels are associated with increased conversion of testosterone to DHT.  As deficiencies in essential fats has also been linked to acne - essential fats are crucial to the health of skin, it's cell membranes, hormonal balances and much more.  Ensure your diet includes fish and seeds.  Taking linseed oil three times a day and/or a source of GLA, such as evening primrose oil or borage oil, should help.  Vitamin B6 deficiency is particularly associated with acne linked to menstrual cycle so taking B6 three times daily can help with this. 

From the outside - blocked pores is a major factor in acne so keeping skin well cleansed and free from clogging oils but avoiding over cleansing, stripping off its natural protective layer from pollutants and bacteria which encourages the body to produce even more oil.  Antiseptics, containing benzoyl peroxide, effectively help control the growth of bacteria but can make the skin very dry so it is important only to use it directly on the spot - 'less is more'.  Avoid substances such as lanolin, D and C dyes (coal tar) or isopropyl myristate which clog pores.  Tea tree oil is an effective antibacterial substance and a valid alternative to benzoyl peroxide, however never apply neat to the skin.  Use pH-balanced, such as Aloe vera based, cleansers and avoid medicated soaps and alcohol toners. 

Acne Rosacea  - not actually related to 'classic acne' or acne vulgaris.  This is more of  chronic inflammation and swelling of blood vessels in the skin, which brings out flushing, pimples and sometimes acne-like eruptions on the face.  Usually affects cheeks and nose and sometimes the forehead and chin.  This condition has been poorly understood and researchers have been unable to pinpoint a cause of this.  Usually starts as intense blushing then blood capillaries in the skin can break and stay permantly red.  Skin can swell and thicken, if this happens around the nose, it may become bulbous (known as rhinophyma).  Some sufferers find their eyes sting and feel gritty too.  It is because Rosacea can come up as pustules on the face that it is confused with acne.

Whilst there is no known cause, research has shown that people with rosacea produce excessive sebum and they do not produce enough stomach acid (hydroochloric acid or HC1) and have found symptoms improved when taking HC1 supplement with meals and/or enzymes to digest fats - pancreatic lipase.  Other research shows rosacea can be linked to a deficiency in B complex vitamins.

Treatments for Acne Rosacea

From the inside - it is advised to work out and avoid trigger foods such as alcohol, coffee, hot drinks, spicy foods and look into gut function - secretion of HC1 by the stomach and lipase by the pacreas.  Both of these are essentialfor good digestion.  

From the outside -  a good skin care routine can help reduce oils but protect from sun, wind and cold.  Avoid cleansers containing alcohol or substances which increase blood flow to the face.  Pure Aloe vera gel can ease the burning sensation.

Eczema & Dermatitis  - described as an inflamed, red rash, usually intensely itchy.  In severe cases the skin becomes broken and can become weepy and scabbed.  Also known as dermatitis, eczema comes in several forms: atopic; serborrhueic, contact plus others and is usually brought on by a reaction to something outside the body.  

Atopic eczema is usually regarded as hereditary and often associated with asthma, hay fever or urticaria (hives) in either the same person or his/her family.  Physiological differences - 'weaknesses' have been found in people with atopic eczema - generally other allergies but also ten to have some form of disordered fat metabolism, making skin dryer and less able to hold moisture.  This usually comes with an increased likelihood of an abnormally high amount of bacteria in the skin and sometimes abnormalities in the immune system, causing certain cells to release higher amounts of histamine and other allergic compounds - causing inflammation and itching and sometimes an inability to kill bacteria effectively.

Food allergies - there is increasing evidence that atopic eczema may be triggered or exacerbated by food related reactions to things like cows milk and eggs, some fish, citrus, wheat products and chocolate.  High levels of antibodies to Candida albicans has also been found in people with eczema - the higher the levels of antibodies, the more severe the eczema patches.

Treatments for Eczema

Conventional treatment is topical creams containing emollients to keep skin soft and lubricated and corticosteroid can be effective at relieving inflammation and itching but only in the short term as skin becomes insensitive to effects and can cause other problems.  It is advised to diagnose any food allergy by avoiding common allergens such as milk/dairy products, gluten, eggs, fish food additives, peanuts for ten days then reintroduce, one at a time, with five day intervals.  Maintaining good gut health to minimise effects of food sensitivities and reduce burden on immune system.  Avoid sugar and refined, processed or fried foods.  Bowel cleansing formulas help support the liver and probiotic supplements can help ensure a healthy gut environment.

Essential fats - to maintain good moisture in the skin it is essential to have adequate amounts of essential fats in your wall membranes.  The general consensus is that people with atopic eczema have a poor function of the delta-6-desaburase enzyme which can lead to a build-up of linoleic acid (an omega 6 fat) which does not convert efficiently to GLA (gammo linolenic acid).  Evening primrose, borage or starflower oils may help with this.  However studies show that omega 3 fats are just as effective at controlling eczema.  EFA and DHA fish oils such as salmon, sardines, tuna and mackerel are efficient ways of incorporating Omega 3 fats into cell membranes, helping the skin retain more moisture.  Supplementing linseed oil is cheaper but less efficient as it requires a good supply of vitamins and minerals to be converted to EPA/DHA.  Nutrients required to convert Omega 3 fats to their more active form include vitamin B3, B6, C, Biotin, Zinc and Magnesium - a deficiency in any of these will impair conversion and may result in increased inflammation.

Zinc is also needed for the immune system which is likely to be stressed by food allergies and infections in eczema lesions.  B vitamins are needed for energy production which is essential for good health including healing.  Vitamin A helps prevent skin dryness and can be taken orally or topically.  Vitamin E can also relieve dry skin. Flavonoids with powerful antioxidants, especially quercetin, have shown helpful in controlling ezcema.  Foods containing flavonoids include citrus fruits, berries, onions, legumes and green tea plus grape seed extract, bilberry and ginkgo biloba.  These and querctin are all available in supplement form.  Licorice is another herb shown to have significant anti-allergy and anti-inflammatory properties.  Creams containing glycyrrhetinic acid from licorice or camomile can help alleviate severe itching and help avoid breaking the skin from scratching which breaks the skin and increases the chances of infection and hardening of the skin.

Again, it is advised to discover which external products aggravate this condition.  External reactions can be allergens such as metals or creams, however, studies have also shown a link between eczema and the hardness of water in some areas.  Eco-balls placed inside the washing machine instead of detergent have proven helpful and using a mattress cover to minimise contact with dust mites is also helpful for some sensitive people.  Although detecting and eliminating allergens plus building the appropriate nutritional status to deal with eczema may take time, it can ultimately provide significant, longer-lasting relief instead of having to resort to medication.

Cellulite  - Unfortunately there is no known magic answer to this problem and it is not entirely clear why and how it forms.  Cellulite shouldn't be confused with cellulitis which is an inflammatory of the connective tissue.  However, saggy collagen and elastin contribute to a sluggish lymph system which is, in turn associated with the development of cellulite.  Following a really toxin free diet can significantly reduce the load on your body and allows it to carry out it's internal cleansing routine more efficiently.  Cellulite is not a build-up of fat - the cells involved are in the subcutaneous tissue, the layer just under the surface of the skin where there are fat cells.  As we age, the layer of elastic connective tissue in the dermis and the layers between the fat chambers become thinner and less flexible and so the fat chambers are less supported and can become enlarged and misshapen.  The distortion of the fat cells and weakening of the connective tissue is the actual dimpling of the skin.  Exercise is beneficial as muscle movement stimulates lymph flow as well as blood circulation - minimising fat build-up - which reduces likelihood of metabolism becoming sluggish.

Beating Cellulite - minimise toxin build-up, improve circulation, maintain ideal weight and strengthen connective tissue.  

From the inside - raw vegetables are very rejuvenating and cleansing, eat foods rich in nutrients to support the connective tissue such as peppers, kiwi fruits, broccoli, citrus fruits, tomatoes, blackcurrants, strawberries and peas which are all rich in vitamin C; cherries, blueberries, blackberries, red grapes and buckwheat are full of bioflavonoids. Certain herbs have also been found to be effective, such as Gotu kola with active ingredients asiatic acid and asiaticoside.

From the outside - Keep you body's waste disposal system running smoothly by stimulating your lymph flow.  Exercise, skin brushing and lymphatic drainage massage helps as does stimulation by turning the shower to cold at the end or short bouts of a sauna with a cold shower in between.

Rashes & Hives  - Hives - also known as urticaria - raised white welts on the skin, surrounded by redness, due to the release of one of the body's allergy chemicals - histamine.  Allergens are substances which bring about this immune response and for sensitive people the immune cells over-react to these substances.  It is reported that cases of allergies are rapidly increasing - it is not known whether this is due to an overall decline in the competence of our immune systems, an increased burden on them or a bit of both.  One of the most common causes of hives is pressure on the skin.  Another is heat which triggers more of a rash, commonly known as 'prickly heat' - a result of an over-reaction in the sweat glands - and this can be from sun exposure, exercise, hot baths, eating spicy food or just a stressful life event.  Urticaria can also be brought on by the cold, whether it be cold air, cold water or a cold object.

Reaction to chemicals - the most common cause of urticaria is a reaction to medication - particularly antibiotics.  Drugs and other substances which can cause an outbreak of hives include: aspirin, allopurinol, antimony, barbiturates, bismuth, chloral hydrate, chlorpromazine, corticotrophin, essential oils, fluorides, food colourings, gold, griseofulvin, insulin, iodine, menthol, meprobamate, mercury, morphine, penicillin, phenobarbitone, pilocarpine, polio vaccine, preservatives, procaine, promethazine, quinine, reserpine, saccharin, salicylates, sulphites.

Reactions to foods - the most common cause of hives in children is a reaction to foods or food additives - likely forms are milk, fish, meat, eggs, beans or nuts.  Others to consider are chocolate, cured meats, chicken, citrus fruits and shellfish.  Avoiding suspect foods is only part of the solution.  It is also important to ensure the digestive tract is working well - that all the right digestive juices are being released, that the gut wall is strong and healthy and that elimination is taking place regularly.  If these processes are not working well then the lining of the gut does not filter properly and the gut's own immune system does not perform it's guard duties properly.

Reactions to additives - our food is increasingly contaminated with chemicals used to colour, flavour, sweeten, stabilise and preserve it - these place a burden on our detoxification systems and can simply be too much for our immune system - producing an allergic reaction.

Another way in which allergies can show up in the skin is with oedema or water retention.  Puffiness or bags under the eye (or water retention elsewhere) may be a sign of sensitivity to foods such as wheat or dairy.

Treating allergies - Anti-allergy nutrients

Vitamin C is a natural anti-histamine but it also helps the body break it down more quickly.  Vitamin C is naturally found alongside bioflavonoids - one of these, quercetin, has been shown to also help reduce inflammatory reactions.  Stress triggers all sorts of changes within our bodies including a reduction in our immunity which may be behind an allergic reaction.

From the inside - ra....

From the outside - ....

Cold Sores  - Caused by the Herpes Simplex I virus, usually developing around a week after exposure to the virus.  Whilst most are immune, once a person has had a cold sore, the virus remains dormant and usually resurfaces at times of stress, be it an emotional upheaval, lack of sleep​, poor diet, overindulgence in alcohol, an infection elsewhere or exposure to the sun.  Some women find that outbreaks are linked to their menstrual cycle.

Treating cold sores - it is possible to reduce outbreaks by eating a diet high in the amino acid (protein constituent) lysine and low in arginine.  Foods low in lysine to increase include: Fish and shellfish, turkey and chicken, vegetables and fruit, beans (not soya) and beansprouts.  Foods high in arginine to avoid or minimise include: peanuts and other nuts, chocolate, seeds, cereals and grains, gelatine and soya.  

 

Over the counter treatments containing aciclovir dry out the cold sore effectively bit prevention is better than cure.  The two important nutrients to boost your body's resistance are vitamin C and the mineral zinc.  Adding bioflavonoids can shorten the duration of the outbreak.  A cream containing concentrated extract of the herb lemon balm has shown to prevent recurrence of cold sores when applied during the initial infection.

Fungal infections  - The most common underlying cause of any fungal infection is lowered resistance, coupled with the destruction of the beneficial bacteria that usually live in our bodies.  

 

Treating fungal infections - If susceptible to any sort of fungal infection, try increasing your intake of beneficial bacteria by eating live yoghurt or taking a probiotic such as Lactobacillus acidophilus or bifido bacteria.  Bifidobacterium infantis are an ideal strain of bacteria for young children.  Choose a brand that contains 'billions' of viable organisms per gram (not millions) - it will likely be the one that needs to be refrigerated.  Avoid sugar as fungi thrive on sugar.  Garlic is a strong anti-fungal and immune boosting agent.  Topically, tea tree oil is a powerful anti-fungal but some people are sensitive to it so skin test first (diluted).  Lavender oil is a suitable alternative if needed.

Chilternway

Natural Health

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(Princes Risborough, Buckinghamshire)