Nourish Your Skin From Within
Your skin is the largest organ in your body, so it not only plays an important role in your appearance, but also in your overall well being. Healthy skin keeps pathogens and other toxins from the environment from impacting your internal organs. There are multiple factors that contribute to the health of your skin, including your genetics, hygiene and other lifestyle habits, but poor nutrition can have a particularly damaging effect on your skin tissue.
The Fundamental Link Between Food and Skin Conditions
Dr. Zack has recommended that filling your diet with power foods—like dark leafy greens, dark chocolate, citrus—can help beat chronic conditions like heart disease and diabetes. Dr. Timani wants you to be aware that certain foods can also work wonders on your complexion – all over your body. Research has found that the foods you consume can induce or decrease inflammation, influence your hormone balance, trigger acne, and accelerate skin aging. Why? Sugars can attach to proteins in collagen, triggering inflammation, which produces compounds that 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 – that gets trapped inside pores, causing pimples. And keeping hydrated is also crucial to make skin appear more plump and less wrinkled.
What Nutrients Does My Skin Need?
The best advice is to follow a well-balanced diet in order to prevent nutritional deficiencies or trigger inflammation that affects your skin. And you may be surprised that a number of your favorite food vices – dark chocolate, wine, and coffee, are actually beneficial in recommended quantities.
Fats. Essential fatty acids contribute to skin health. Your skin uses fat to help construct a waterproof barrier: omega-6 fatty acids promote healthy skin growth by quenching damaging free radicals, and omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties, as well as help to prevent dry skin. Good sources are olive oil, nuts (particularly walnuts) and fatty fish. Consuming orange peel or lemon zest has been found to reduce the potential for squamous cell carcinoma due to limonene content, a compound found in the oil in the peels that offers UV-protection.
Vitamins. Just as your body requires many different vitamins to function properly, so does your skin.
• 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.
• One of the symptoms of B12 deficiency is hyperpgimentation (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 ant-oxidants, especially noteworthy is the ability of anti-oxidants to reduce 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 while you 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 less wrinkled. However, many sources of protein can also have high fat content, which is associated with aging skin. Lean cuts of meat like sirloin tip and flank steak are good choices, and they are also high in essential fats, as are most fishes. Eggs provide protein with low levels of fat. Isoflavone in soy can combat sagging and lines resulting from collagen breaking down. Not altogether surprising due to the high prevalence of milk protein allergies, research shows dairy can be highly inflammatory, 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.