Your skin is the largest organ in your body, comprising about 16 percent of your body weight, and covering over 25 square feet! Obviously it plays an important role in your overall well-being, not to mention your appearance. The role of “in the pink” skin is to protect your internal organs from pathogens and other toxins in the environment. Multiple factors contribute to your skin’s condition, such as: genetics; hygiene; sun exposure; and other lifestyle habits; but it has been found that what you put into your body particularly affects your skin tissue.
What Goes Inside Shows on the Outside
Dr. Timani wants you to be aware that certain foods work wonders on your complexion, as a matter of fact, on all of your body’s skin. Research supports that the foods you eat have a great deal of impact on your body. They can:
- Increase or decrease inflammation
- Influence your hormone balance
- Trigger acne
- Cause rashes and other skin disruptions
- Accelerate skin aging
Why? Sugars are primary culprits in the development of skin issues. They attach to proteins in collagen, triggering inflammation. This in turn produces compounds that can cause skin to sag and wrinkle. Increased blood sugar causes high insulin levels that have been linked to hormonal changes. The elevated androgens cause sebaceous glands in the skin to secrete more oil. Excess oil gets trapped inside pores, causing blackheads and pimples, or can affect the scalp as dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis. In addition, hydration is crucial to make skin appear plumper and more supple.
Dr. Timani’s advice is to follow a well-balanced diet to prevent nutritional deficiencies or trigger inflammation that affects your skin. It’s good to know that some of our favorite guilty pleasures, such as dark chocolate, wine, and coffee, actually contribute to skin health in recommended quantities.
Essential Fatty Acids. The “fat free” craze may help keep you from consuming too many “bad” fats which can promote aging effects, but your skin uses healthy fats to help construct a waterproof barrier. Omega-6 fatty acids promote healthy skin growth by smothering damaging free radicals. Omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties, as well as help to prevent dry skin. Sources of beneficial fats include: olive oil, avocados, nuts (particularly walnuts) and fatty fish. Orange peel or lemon zest actually has potential to reduce squamous cell carcinoma due to limonene content, a compound found in the oil in the peels that offers UV-protection. As always, sunscreen is a must!
Vitamins. Vitamins are necessary for both your body and skin to function properly.
- Vitamin C, (ascorbic acid) together with vitamin E, protects your skin cells from sun damage. Kiwi is especially high in Vitamin C.
- Vitamin E, such as found in pumpkin seeds, is thought to enhance immune function, allowing the body to fight off the inflammation that leads to acne.
- Collagen synthesis, which is important for your skin’s structure and volume, is dependent on Vitamin C working with Vitamin D, which controls the growth and development of cells in the deep layers of your skin.
- Green, leafy vegetables such as kale, and fruits, contain Vitamins A and C that absorb and neutralize the free radicals created by UV light, particularly the most damaging wavelengths that bypass sunscreen. The body converts beta-carotene found in pumpkin and carrots to Vitamin A.
- B-12 is for even skin tone. One of the symptoms of B12 deficiency is hyper-pigmentation (dark spots) and vitiligo (white spots).
Minerals. Deficiencies in minerals negatively impact your skin. Particularly important in skin health is zinc, found in seafood, meat, nuts and fortified dairy products. Normal zinc levels help support healthy skin cell turnover, while zinc deficiency can cause abnormal skin pigmentation, skin lesions, increase the potential for developing some form of dermatitis, hair loss and stunted nail growth. Low levels of zinc have also been linked to acne development. Selenium, found in fish and nuts, is an essential mineral necessary for sun protection, and deficiency can increase the risk of skin cancer, in addition to slowing hair growth, and preventing normal skin cell development.
Anti-oxidants. There are so many good things associated with foods containing anti-oxidants. Especially noteworthy is the ability of anti-oxidants to reduce the incidence of skin cancers.
- The antioxidant lycopene found in tomatoes improves skin’s natural SPF.
- Cocoa flavanols, which are plant compounds with antioxidant properties, help hydrate skin and improve circulation whileyou eat dark chocolate.
- Polyphenols in green tea promote smoother, more elastic skin and help ward off sun damage due to catechins like EGCG (antioxidants) that boost blood flow and oxygen to the skin, which in turn ensures more efficient delivery of nutrients.
- Coffee, in moderation, also has a similar effect in reducing risk for non-melanoma skin cancers.
- Resveratrol, an antioxidant compound with anti-tumor properties, which reduces the incidence of skin lesions caused by long-term sun damage, is found in red wine.
- Green and yellow vegetables help retard the formation of wrinkles, especially in the crow’s feet area because of anti-oxidants. Consuming four or more herbs regularly, such as rosemary, basil, oregano or thyme has been found to reduce the potential for melanoma.
Proteins. Protein is the building block of collagen and elastin tissue, which keeps skin taut and smooth. However, many sources of protein can also have high fat content, which is associated with aging skin. Stick to lean cuts of meat, which are also high in essential fats. Fish is very beneficial. Eggs provide protein with low levels of fat. The isoflavone in soy can combat sagging and lines resulting from collagen breaking down.
A Note on Dairy. Research shows dairy can be highly inflammatory, as reflected in the high prevalence of milk protein allergies, which means it can aggravate acne, wrinkles, and rashes in those with sensitivity.
If you suffer from a skin condition, schedule an appointment at Johns Creek Dermatology, providing medical dermatology and general dermatology services in South Forsyth, Gwinnett and North Fulton counties and the surrounding North Atlanta area. Dr. Timani will make a diagnosis and then recommend an appropriate treatment, including dietary changes. You may find that what you eat can be as important as the serums and creams you apply on your skin.