Our skin has many roles. It acts as an armor protecting our internal organs from the outside world, helps to regulate our body temperature, is the body’s largest sensory organ and is responsible for helping to convert sunlight energy into vitamin D.
Premature aging, rosacea, eczema, acne, fungal infections and rashes are all signals that there may be internal deficiencies and imbalances that need correcting. Often people with chronic conditions such as eczema, rosacea and acne become reliant on topical corticosteroids or other prescribed creams and medications. While these can be useful in the short term, it can be benefical to understand and address the underlying factors contributing to these skin conditions.
Dietary and lifestyle modification is an excellent start to improving your internal health and ultimately your skin health - this includes enjoying plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables in your diet alongside wholegrains and good quality proteins such as fish, chicken, tofu, eggs and small portions of lean red meat.
The following nutrients are especially important for promoting skin health and healing:
• Zinc is important for skin repair and immune health. Zinc can also help to balance blood sugar and hormone levels that can negatively impact skin health. There are many great food sources of zinc such as oysters, shellfish, pumpkin seeds, kidney beans, yoghurt and non GMO tofu. Despite this, zinc deficiencies amongst Kiwis are common because New Zealand soils are low in in this vital mineral so supplementation may be necessary. Eczema and acne are two skin conditions that can respond well to zinc supplementation. Excess doses can cause gastric upset and nausea so it is important to talk to your health provider to find the correct dose for you.
• Omega 3 fish oils can have strong anti-inflammatory effects in the body and can assist with some skin conditions. Foods rich in omega 3 fatty acids include oily fish such as sardines, salmon and anchovies, as well as chia, flaxseeds and walnuts.
• Vitamin C is a key nutrient involved in collagen synthesis. Collagen gives your skin its strength and structure, and assists in maintaining the elasticity of your skin. Vitamin C is one of many antioxidants found in fresh fruits and vegetables.
• Probiotic bacteria are important for the health of your bowels and your immune system. Having a healthy balance of probiotic bacteria in your gut may have a positive impact on inflammatory skin conditions including acne and eczema. Fermented foods such as yoghurt, miso and sauerkraut contain a good supply of probiotic bacteria, but it can be hard to include enough in your diet. If this is the case for you, then a good quality probiotic supplement may be a good addition to your diet.
Limiting refined sugar and carbohydrates, MSG and the 200 numbered preservatives found in some preserved meats, sauces, spreads, soft drinks, confectionary and wine, can positively impact some skin conditions. You can limit or avoid these perservatives by reading your labels and choosing preservative free-brands. Some people also find that reducing their intake of dairy can have a positive impact on their skin health, particularly those suffering from eczema and rashes.
Alongside staying well hydrated and making positive dietary changes, using good quality skin care and sunscreen can significantly assist skin health. We recommend and stock a range of Synergie skin care and Coola sunscreen products as both of these brands are free of parabens and other potentially harmful preservatives. Additionally neither brand uses animal testing.
Chronic skin conditions are more difficult to manage and may require the support of a holistic health practitioner who will be able to help you to identify the cause and develop treatment strategies specifically tailored to your condition.
Common investigations might include looking into food allergies and intolerances, hormonal imbalances, digestive disturbances, stress and sleep disturbances, infections and low immunity. (ANDREA FRIRES)
Andrea Frires is a qualified naturopath, nutritionist and medical herbalist from The Holistic Medical Centre, 48 Ponsonby Road. To make an appointment for a consultation with Andrea or any of the holistic GP’s call T: 09 376 0650 or visit www.holisticmedicalcentre.co.nz for more information.