nourish from the inside out
By Margret Jones
THE DIET CONNECTION
The skin is the largest organ. It protects our insides from the outside world, and it often takes a beating from our lifestyles. The state of the skin is often an indication of what’s going on in our internal environment and, in particular, a reflection of our diet. Over the last 50 years or so, the standard American diet has changed drastically. Calorie consumption has increased, and the bulk of these excess calories are coming from refined carbohydrates, fatty meats, and nutrient-poor food and beverage choices. All too often, this diet relies on overly processed convenience foods and lacks the nutrients found in fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. This type of diet has been implicated in type 2 diabetes, obesity, and heart disease. A nutrient-poor diet is also reflected in your skin as dark under-eye circles, pallor, puffiness, and other skin conditions. Recent research finds inflammation to be an underlying factor in most chronic degenerative diseases, including atherosclerosis, diabetes, arthritis, and cancer. Inflammation triggers damage in the cells, and it’s also linked to most skin conditions. The key to healthy skin is incorporating antioxidants (most of which also have anti-inflammatory effects) into the diet through nutrient-rich foods and supplements to help repair and prevent cell damage.
FEED YOUR SKIN
Alpha lipoic acid is a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory that is both fat and water soluble. It works with other nutrients such as vitamins C and E to help defend against excessive free radicals, one of the major causes of aging.It increases cellular energy and vitality and protects DNA and the mitochondria. Alpha lipoic acid also blocks the production of enzymes that damage collagen fibers, helping to preserve the skin’s smooth surface. It’s also helpful for reducing cellular inflammation and preventing the harmful effects of sugar molecules on collagen fibers. Vitamin A not only helps to strengthen the immune system but also promotes wound healing and is essential for healthy skin. It is needed for the body’s production of epithelial cells, which line most tissues and the skin, and it strengthens and protects skin tissue. Rough, dry skin is a sign that you may be deficient. Excessive intake of vitamin A is toxic unless you take it in the form of carotenes that the body converts to vitamin A on an as-needed basis. B-complex vitamins help improve the skin and prevent skin disorders as well as strengthen bone and muscle, improve energy production, and relieve PMS, among many other benefits. The B vitamins work together to perform essential biological processes. While all of the B vitamins are essential for healthy skin, B3 (niacin) is particularly important for synthesizing hormones, aiding cellular and lipid metabolism, and maintaining healthy skin. Signs of B vitamin deficiency include a variety of skin disorders plus lethargy, forgetfulness, and insomnia. One of the most powerful and wellknown antioxidants, vitamin C is a crucial part of any skin-care supplement regimen. It is necessary for collagen production and defends against free radicals in the skin created by sunlight and harsh chemicals. It also strengthens the capillaries that feed the skin. You probably already know that weakened immunity and an increased susceptibility to infections are signs of vitamin C deficiency, but bleeding under the skin, loss of muscle tone, and wrinkles are also signs that you may not be getting enough of this important vitamin. Vitamin E helps protect all cells from the damaging effects of free radicals. It helps protect the skin from ultraviolet radiation. Be sure that your supplement contains the natural form of vitamin E, which is assimilated twice as efficiently as the synthetic form. Look for d-alpha tocopherol on the label.
MINERALS & MORE
A variety of minerals are also essential for healthy skin. The antioxidant selenium provides anti-inflammatory relief from some skin disorders, such as psoriasis. It also protects the cells from free-radical damage and encourages tissue elasticity. Zinc plays a variety of roles in skin health. It helps heal wounds and helps the body maintain healthy collagen. The skin will indicate a deficiency: worsening of acne, psoriasis, and eczema. Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is a powerful antioxidant that is necessary for collagen and elastin production. Collogen makes your skin firm, while elastin gives it flexibility. Supplemental CoQ10 can help boost skin repair and reduce free-radical damage. Since we can’t get adequate CoQ10 from dietary sources, it’s best taken as a supplement with meals for optimal absorption. Finally, don’t forget omega-3 fatty acids. These healthy fats have anti-inflammatory effects and help keep the skin soft and smooth. Studies of patients with psoriasis show low levels of omega-3s, and supplementation with these fats helped to improve their symptoms. Choose a highquality fish oil supplement that says right on the label that it has been tested to be free of PCBs and heavy metals.
The Perricone Prescription by Nicholas Perricone, MD (HarperCollins, 2002) • Prescription for Nutritional Healing by Phyllis A. Balch, CNC (Avery, 2006)
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