Decoding the Skin
As an Esthetic Nutritionist, my philosophy about skin and health is pretty simple: “The mysteries of the body are revealed through the skin”. When your skin is misbehaving it means your body is out of balance. When your body is out of balance, to me that means your life is also out of balance. So we have to look at your routines- what you are doing, what you are not doing, what you’re doing too much of, and what you need to do more. Healthy skin is a sign of a healthy body but the reasons for various skin conditions are multifactorial. The following is a short list of some of the possible causes of the most common skin complaints. I encourage you to seek the expertise of a licensed professional to help you treat your specific condition.
1. Low stomach acid- can cause nutrient malabsorption when the food you eat is not completely digested. The extreme acidity in the stomach is necessary for the breakdown of proteins in particular. Remember proteins are the building blocks of your skin and collagen is the most abundant protein in your body making up roughly 70% of your dermis. Low stomach acid can also lead to poor gut health as it creates an environment favorable to bacterial overgrowth (and not the beneficial kind). Low stomach acid can trigger conditions like constipation which in turn contributes to a buildup of toxins in the body as the undigested food in your colon putrefies. Constipation will essentially keep your body recycling toxins. You may notice breakouts on your forehead and cheeks when you are constipated. Also rectal itching is a possible indicator of impaired digestion and low stomach acid. Adding raw apple cider vinegar and fermented foods to your diet and decreasing your sugar intake can increase stomach acid.
2. Too much sugar- can have deleterious effects on your skin. Sugar is a necessary energy source for your cells but sugars are reactive molecules and excess blood sugar (glucose) can lead to tissue damage. It can cause glycation (hardening of collagen fibers) leading to wrinkles. It can also have dehydrating effects on your skin as well as feed harmful bacteria leading to increased breakouts. Signs of a high sugar diet include hyper-pigmented areas especially dark patches on the back of the neck and under arms; under eye darkness; and skin infection usually due to candida (yeast) that shows up in the skin folds like under the breasts and areas of excess fat. Consuming high fiber foods can help control blood sugar levels by regulating the release of insulin and the removal of excess sugar from the blood.
3. Too much stress- can increase your Allostatic Load. Allostasis is the way in which your body responds to stress in order to regain balance. Allostatic Load is the “wear and tear” from too much stress or your inability to manage it. It is everything that affects your ability to maintain allostasis. Up until the 1920’s the term “stress” was an engineering term dealing with steel and concrete. It was Hungarian endocrinologist, Hans Seyle who observed that people could be affected by stress physiologically. In modern times, stress has been linked to countless ailments that can have a physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual impact. Your body produces hormones to help you deal with stressful situations. Cortisol is a primary stress hormone whose job is to maintain high glucose. Consistently high levels of cortisol negatively impact your digestion. In times of stress there are at least two things your body will not expend energy for- reproduction and digestion. Assuming you are running from a bear, there is no need for your body to focus on trying to make a baby or digesting the hamburger you just ate. The same is true if you live in a constant state of stress. (Elevated) cortisol can also affect collagen production leading to an increase in the enzymes that break down collagen. The result is more wrinkles and premature aging of the body in general which may also include premature gray hair. See below for resources to help you reclaim your life.
4. Inadequate sleep- can affect your metabolism and digestion, and chronic lack of sleep can affect your body’s normal function- resulting in cortisol imbalances, high blood sugar, and insulin resistance which sets the stage for diabetes and other metabolic disorders. Sleep is a time of (tissue) repair. If it is constantly interrupted or doesn’t last long enough, then your body simply cannot complete the repair process. There’s a reason people say “You look like hell!” when you try to get by with 2-3 hours of sleep. Lack of sleep accelerates the aging process. Combine lack of sleep, high stress, and too much sugar and imagine what that would look like. Now look in the mirror. Aim to get 7-9 hours of uninterrupted sleep each night. If you only get 3-4 hours now, aim for 6 hours and increase as you are able. Keep a consistent bed time even on weekends and reserve your bedroom for sleep and sex which, (if you’re lucky), can greatly increase the quality of your sleep.
5. Low antioxidant consumption- is a root cause for many of your skin concerns. Suffice it to say poor dietary habits are the #1 reason skin might be unhealthy. But other lifestyle factors like too much stress, smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, excessive sun exposure, etc., can lead to free radical damage which essentially turns healthy, functioning cells into disease-causing super cells causing widespread, systemic destruction. Free radicals are responsible for all sorts of conditions such as collagen and elastin degradation, diseases like cancer, cellular dehydration, chronic inflammation, and chronic infection. Antioxidants repair the damage free radicals cause and antioxidant-rich foods i.e. fruits and vegetables should make up the bulk of your diet. Read more about the types of food you eat for healthy skin (and body).
6. Dehydration- is the final common pathway to the death of anything. Nothing, including your skin can survive without proper hydration. Dull, dry, itchy skin are signs of dehydration as are superficial lines and wrinkles. By the time your skin shows signs of dehydration, you are already severely dehydrated. In fact you probably experienced other symptoms like- headaches, dizziness, fatigue, constipation, but likely dismissed them. Chronic lack of water will inhibit cellular communications. When cells can’t communicate, they don’t function well. When that happens, you don’t function well. Consuming half your body’s weight in ounces of water is the gold standard but it’s much easier, as Dr. Howard Murad would advise, to just eat your water. Eating water rich, “juicy” foods will keep you and your skin hydrated.
7. Dysbiosis- refers to microbial imbalances usually within the digestive tract. Bloating, gas, constipation, and diarrhea are all signs of dysbiosis but even skin diseases like acne are dysbiotic in nature. Poor gut health is associated with skin conditions like eczema, psoriasis, and chapped lips, and bacterial imbalances support candida overgrowth contributing to a compromised immune system incapable of resisting infections. When you take probiotics or consume probiotic rich foods (fermented foods) like kimchi, yogurt, kefir, or sauerkraut, you are supplying the beneficial bacteria needed to maintain healthy gut function and creating an environment where harmful organisms like yeast and pathogenic (disease causing) bacteria can’t survive.
©2016 by Tasha D. Manigo-Bizzell