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Skin- The Mirror Of Our Health



Healthy and glowing skin is one of the beauty fundamentals in today's society. But there is so much more behind that. Nowadays, more and more people start realizing that true skin care starts from the inside and how much information the state of our skin can give us about our internal health. Before we jump into exploring the possible contributing factors to poor skin health and how to naturally take better care of our skin, let's take a look at some of the most important physiological functions of the skin- the largest bodily organ.


Along with the liver, kidneys, bowels and lungs, skin is one of the body's detoxification organs. It also protects the deeper tissues from mechanical, chemical, thermal and microbe damage, plus UV radiation and  desiccation (drying out). The skin aids in body heat loss and heat retention, as well as the excretion of urea and uric acid (products of protein breakdown). Last but not least, it synthesizes vitamin D that is essential for our immune system, mental and bone health, among others [1].


Some of the most common inflammatory skin conditions include acne, rosacea and eczema. In the next section we are going to dive into some possible contributing factors to poor skin health, both physical and emotional, as well as some of the natural approaches to a healthy and glowing skin.



1. Dairy And Refined Carbohydrates Consumption


Due to its hormonal content, consuming dairy is linked to hormonal imbalances which often present with skin problems like acne. Regular consumption of processed carbohydrates on the other hand stimulates the production of insulin, thus the secretion of androgens. An increased level of androgens contributes to the production of more sebum, which plays a fundamental role in the pathogenesis of acne [2]. With that being said, avoiding dairy and eating a  whole food plant based diet (a great source of unprocessed carbohydrates) can be beneficial when dealing with skin issues. Adding cinnamon to some of your meals, is also a great way of stabilizing blood sugar and insulin levels, and as a result improving skin health.


2. Hormonal Imbalance


Estrogen dominance is a topic I've already touched on in one of my previous articles. It is a condition where there is an imbalance in the ratio between estrogen and progesterone. It often goes along with skin issues such as acne. To read more about that and how to naturally balance your sex hormones click the link here.


3. Vitamin And Mineral Deficiencies


Poor skin health sometimes happens to be a result of vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Two of the greatest skin nutrients are zinc and vitamin A [3]. So making sure to get enough of these is critical when dealing with skin inflammatory diseases. Great sources of zinc are: nuts, seeds, legumes (chickpeas, lentils and beans) and quinoa, among others. Soaking them prior to consumption or cooking increases their absorption. Since vitamin A or retinol is only contained in animal products, if you are following a plant-based diet, eating lots of fruits and vegetables that contain carotenoids or provitamin A is essential for your health. Carotenoids are compounds which get  converted into vitamin A in the liver. Great sources are: carrots, kale, pumpkin, apricots, sweet potatoes, nectarines, grapefruits and much more. Adding some fat when consuming these foods helps with the absorption of carotenoids and the conversion into vitamin A. So, next time you want to reach for a snack, try a carrot with hummus or tahini sauce.



4. Not Eating The Right Fats In The Right Amounts


As much as fat is essential for skin health, overeating it can contribute to excessive sebum production, hence skin problems such as acne. Along with the right amount, the type of fats consumed is also essential. Animal products are high in arachidonic acid which promotes inflammation [4], which may worsen the condition of the skin. Arachidonic acid may not be an issue on a plant-based diet, but vegetable oils are. They are high in omega-6 fatty acids which, similarly to arachidonic acid, promote inflammation and can also increase sebum production [4]. So, being moderate when using vegetable oils and focusing more on omega-3 fatty acids sources, is extremely important for skin and overall health. Omega-3s are found in flax, hemp and chia seeds, along with walnuts. On the contrary of omega-6s, omega-3s have anti-inflammatory properties. Even more crucial is the ratio between these two types of fatty acids. For skin and overall health one should aim for a ratio between 1:4 and 1:1 (omega-3s to omega-6s).



5. Toxic Accumulation


Skin problems might be an alarm that there is a toxic accumulation in the body and the main detoxification organs (liver and kidneys) are overloaded with work. In this case the skin becomes an important route of toxin excretion [5]. As already mentioned in the beginning, the gut is another important excretion organ. So, anything from constipation to dysbiosis (impaired ratio between the beneficial and bad bacteria in the gut) can contribute to increased toxicity, thus skin issues [5]. In this case making a kidney and gut cleanse supervised by your naturopath, dietitian or nutritionist, might be beneficial. To eradicate constipation and improve gut health, make sure to consume enough fiber (whole food plant based diet), include fermented foods (sauerkraut, miso, tempeh, etc.) and drink plenty of water.


6. Stress


This is a huge one! Stress impairs a lot of bodily functions such as digestion, immunity and hormonal production. As already mentioned in section 2, a hormonal imbalance often presents with skin issues. On the other hand, an impaired digestion due to stress can contribute to constipation and dysbiosis, mentioned in the section above. Stress has also the potential of impairing the normal gut permeability, hence allowing food sensitivities and allergies to develop. The latter often present with skin issues. If you suspect having a food allergy or sensitivity, you can try an elimination diet supervised by your naturopath, dietitian or nutritionist, in order to improve your skin health. Following a diet might seem easy to most people, but managing stress seems like an unsolvable equation to many. And it's a matter of personality. Each and every one of us has a different approach when it comes to unwinding. Find yours and apply it more often. If you still don't have an idea how to start, meditation, yoga and spending time in nature might just be the thing you need.



7. Feeling Unattractive And Not Accepting Oneself


You don't hear that a lot, right? On a body-mind-spirit level skin issues might be related to feeling unattractive and not accepting oneself [6] . So, my advice in this case is practicing daily affirmations. Start by writing down on a piece of paper all the things you don't like or accept about yourself. On another piece of paper write down exactly these things, but as something positive or something you like and approve of. Destroy the first piece of paper and start reading out loud to yourself the positive one. That might seem weird at the beginning, but doing it might help with accepting the things you initially didn't like about yourself.


Final Words

I hope you found the article helpful and were able to get some insights on how to start your journey to a healthy and glowing skin!


Sending you love,

Antoniya

References


[1] Marieb N. Elaine, Keller M. Suzanne. Essentials of Human Anatomy & Physiology (12th Edition). New York: Pearson, page 113.


[2] Kucharska Alicja, Szmurlo Agnieszka, Sinska Beata. "Significance of Diet in Treated and Untreated Acne Vulgaris." Advances in Dermatology and Allergology 2016 Apr; 33(2): 81–86.


[3] Perrault, Danielle, R.H.N. Nutritional Symptomatology (15th Edition). Richmond Hill, Ontario, Canada: CSNN Publishing, 2016, pages 234-235.


[4] Dr. Lessard-Rhead, Brenda, BSc, ND. Nutritional Pathology (3rd Edition). Richmond Hill, Ontario, Canada: CSNN Publishing, 2015, pages 86-87.


[5] Dr. Lessard-Rhead, Brenda, BSc, ND. Nutritional Pathology (3rd Edition). Richmond Hill, Ontario, Canada: CSNN Publishing, 2015, page 85.


[6] Martel, Jacques. The Complete Dictionary of Ailments and Diseases. Charlesbourg (QB) Canada: Éditions ATMA Internationales, 2016.

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