Balanced Living ...
Posted by Arja on March 20 in Nutrition
Given that this post is coming from a holistic nutritionist, it probably won’t come as much of a surprise when I tell you that paying close attention to what you put in your mouth is one of the first steps to having healthy, glowing skin.
As our body’s largest organ, our skin makes up 12-15% of our total body weight and is our first line of defense against bacteria, toxins, and other chemicals. It keeps our insides on the inside while acting as a physical barrier against unwanted intruders. The skin is a complex organ made up of many layers, collagen (a strong, fibrous protein), elastin (gives our skin elasticity), hair follicles, oil glands, and sweat glands. New skin cells, formed at the bottom layer of the epidermis (basal layer) take approximately 1 month to form in a healthy adult. Non-toxic, chemical-free creams and cleansers can help maintain the appearance of the skin cells which are already at the surface and slough away dead cells to make way for the new, but what we eat today directly affects what our skin will look like a month from now.
The quality and outward appearance of our skin is determined by many factors, not the least of which being our nutritional and health status. Environmental pollutants can wreak havoc on our delicate skin, and even stress, worry, anxiety, and tension can aggravate pre-existing conditions like acne, psoriasis, hives and rosacea.
While we can control what we put in our mouth, avoiding environmental chemicals and the many stresses of everyday life is next to impossible. There are some specific nutrients, most of which are antioxidants, which can help combat the effects of all of these free radicals and keep our skin healthy.
Vitamin A – This fat soluble vitamin promotes new cell growth and is important in maintaining the health and structure of the skin. It can be formed from beta-carotenes (and other carotenes) found in dark leafy vegetables, and yellow-orange vegetables like carrots, sweet potatoes and squash.
B Vitamins – The entire range of B Vitamins work synergistically to maintain healthy blood flow, metabolize carbohydrates, and support immune function. All of these important roles are required for the maintenance of healthy skin. Whole grains, brewer’s yeast, nuts, and seeds are all excellent sources of B Vitamins.
Vitamin C – The primary function of this vitamin is to manufacture collagen. It also plays a role in wound healing and protects against bruising. Some of the best food sources include peppers, kale, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and strawberries. Vitamin C is destroyed quickly by exposure to air so eat fresh foods as quickly as possible.
Vitamin D – This fat soluble vitamin can be produced by our bodies when our bare skin is exposed to sunlight. It promotes the healthy development of immature skin cells. It is often added to milk and milk products, but natural sources include cold-water fish, butter, egg yolks, and cod liver oil.
Vitamin E – The main role of this powerful antioxidant is to prevent free radical damage to the fats that comprise cell membranes. It also plays a role in tissue repair, wound healing and scar reduction. It is found in highest quantities in wheat germ oil, seeds, nuts and polyunsaturated vegetable oils like safflower and sunflower.
Selenium – Another powerful antioxidant, Selenium works with Vitamin E to prevent damage to cell membranes. The best food sources are whole grains, fish, meat, and eggs.
Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) – These healthy fats keep our skin moist, smooth, and supple and create anti-inflammatory chemicals that can soothe conditions like acne, eczema, rosacea, and psoriasis. Flax seeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, borage oil, and cold water fish are some of the best food sources.
Eating a diet full of fresh fruits, vegetables, lean protein, and whole grains is your best bet for keeping your skin looking its best. Just remember, your skin also functions as a detoxification organ so poor digestion and elimination will show up on your skin too. Supplementing with a good quality multivitamin and mineral formula along with some EFAs will give your body the extra boost that most people need. If you are struggling with any skin conditions consider looking for more personalized support and guidance to help determine what the underlying cause may be.
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