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Looking Your Best - Skin
Looking Your Best - millions of pounds are spent every year by the cosmetics industry on research into some wonder cream that will banish frown lines, crows feet and wrinkles and guarantee lifelong youth and beauty, while yet more millions are earned through the sale of make-up that will hide the blotches, blemishes and other imperfections, not to mention all the other millions that is spent every year on plastic surgery. The fact remains, however, that beauty begins within. Or to put it another way, many nutritional deficiencies will quickly show up on the body's exterior in the form of, for example, dry and flaking skin, cracks at the corners of the mouth, dull, splitting hair or spots on the nails. Indeed, nutritional therapists are trained to notice such signs as indicators of internal disharmony or ill health. Equally, correcting nutritional imbalances will soon be evident on the surface with clear skin, strong nails and lustrous locks.
Foods that help your skin to stay looking young - of the many questions people have, the one that is asked the most, is "What foods are best to help skin look young / younger?". Pure and simply, if you eat as much fish, vegetables and superfoods as outlined from the superfoods link further down below, you'll give yourself the best chance possible of keeping skin looking as young as possible.
The Skin - surprisingly, the outermost layer of the skin consists of flattened dead cells, which wear away and fall off only to be replaced by more as the cells beneath move towards the surface. You may notice them as a powdery grey dust on your dressing table! Yet this cornified layer of the epidermis is very useful to us because it reduces evaporation of moisture and deters bacteria from invading the body. Immediately below, in the dermis, is a fine mesh of capillaries that supply the skin, including the hair follicles and sweat glands, with oxygen and nutrients and take away the wastes. Opening into the hair follicles are the sebaceous glands that keep the skin well oiled. There are many nerve endings in the skin which constantly give us information about our surroundings, such as changes in temperature, sources of danger or comfort etc, etc.
Like other parts of the body containing a high proportion of connective tissue or muscle, the skin consists largely of protein, so must receive the correct amino acids for the creation of those rapidly dividing cells. Also mandatory are essential fatty acids, many vitamins and minerals and plenty of fluids. Despite a wholesome diet, there are environmental factors that can damage the skin, especially sun, wind and pollutants, so it needs a certain amount of protection to avoid early ageing and more serious health problems such as skin cancer.
Acne - at 15 years of age, Ben was basically a good-looking fellow. He was already quite tall and muscular, having a liking for sports, but recently he had suffered an eruption of blackheads and pimples on his face that became red and angry, eventually producing yellow pustules. Worse, some of them were leaving scars, and creams that his mother bought at the chemist seemed ineffective. Poor Tom felt like a leper. Whenever he looked in the mirror all he could see was the spots. He had begun to take an interest in girls but feared that his ruined complexion would simply be an object of ridicule or revulsion if he tried to form any friendships. He began to lose confidence in himself and became withdrawn and depressed.
Sadly, this story is all too common among adolescents, with as many as 80 per
cent showing some signs of acne, one-quarter of these with a severe form of the
condition. Occasionally it lingers on into adulthood, although usually it dears up
spontaneously at the end of the teens.
The only effective cure, is to prevent the pimples from forming in the first place. Many teenagers notice that their complexion is worse after eating sweets, There is good reason for this. Researchers at Alabama University discovered that the ability of white cells to destroy invading bacteria declined 'significantly only one hour after volunteers had consumed a sweet soft drink. Difficult though it may be, it is essential to give up all confectionery, sweet cakes, soft drinks high in sucrose and sugar in tea and coffee. This will give your immune system a better chance to fight the infection. Sugar-free goodies, like fruits are fine and will provide instant energy.
It is also necessary to replace all refined, processed and junk food with whole grains and fresh fruit and vegetables. Cut down on all animal fats, especially red meat (which can be replaced with fish or poultry), butter, cheese and creamy milk (skimmed is best), but increase the intake of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated plant oils, by eating more nuts and using olive oil for cooking and safflower or sunflower oils to make salad dressings. Avoid any hydro-generated fats found in chocolate and most margarines as these will cause a depletion in essential fatty acids; seek out the non-hydrogenated type from health food shops. Bad cases of acne will respond well to 500mg of evening primrose oil three times daily, which will provide the much-needed linoleic add, frequently in short supply in people with erupting skin.
Doctors often prescribe antibiotics to help clear skin infections, but these are not a good idea as there may be unpleasant side-effects and resistance can develop over time. Researchers have found that supplements of zinc are just as effective as these drugs, without their dangers. Indeed, the skin of healthy individuals supports some 20 per cent of this mineral. Rapid growth during adolescence combined with early sexual activity can leave young people, especially males (because semen is zinc-rich), much too low in this essential trace element. It is also lost in perspiration and needs to be constantly replaced in the diet: shellfish, wheatgerm, pulses and soya products are all efficient sources, but beware of too much bran which can prevent the absorption of zinc. Take 15-30 mg of zinc sulphate daily, depending on the severity of the infection, reducing this amount when improvement in the skin is noticed.
Also important for fighting acne infections are vitamins A and C. Patients with acne have been found to have low levels of vitamin A in the blood, so this should be increased with generous portions of orange and dark-green vegetables and yellow and orange fruits, together with cod-liver oil (follow the directions on the bottle) and a supplement of betacarotene, adding up to around 12,5001U of vitamin A. (Do not exceed recommended doses of the oily retinol as toxicity can result if intake is prolonged.) This vitamin is required for the building of the epithelial layers of the skin and will help to prevent the pores from becoming dogged up. The fresh fruit and vegetables will contribute vitamin C, but a further 500mg daily will assist in healing and will keep the connective tissue immediately under the surface in good condition.
Sometimes acne can be an indication of stress, in which case, the B vitamins will help to alleviate this. Yeast extract in the form of Marmite or similar, is rich in these. Especially beneficial, is brewer's yeast, which also contains chromium known to be effective against acne.
To prevent scarring, use vitamin E. This can. be applied directly to the skin by
pricking a capsule. Check the evening primrose oil as this will probably also
include vitamin E to offset any possible rancidity. If not, take a supplement of
about 501U. Selenium will increase its effectiveness, so include 25mcg.
Dry, cracked or oily skin - dryness of the skin invariably results from a lack of the essential fatty adds which keep it naturally moist. Make sure, therefore, that your intake of plant oils is adequate: safflower and sunflower seed and linseed oils are particularly rich in EFAs. Check also that your consumption of vitamins A, C and B are above RDA levels, especially if you are under any stress. Liberal amounts of water are needed by the skin so drink lots of fluid.
Oily skin and hair are sometimes symptoms of B2 deficiency, especially if whiteheads are evident: 5mg twice daily of riboflavin should correct this. A lack of B2 can also show up as cracks at the corner of the mouth, dry patches in front of the ears, or even swollen lips or tongue. If you are taking B6 as a supplement, this can create a B2 deficiency since they work together, so take B2 also. B vitamins are best derived from natural sources such as brewer's yeast or yeast extract, where they occur in balanced proportions.
Eczema and dermatitis - the National Eczema Society of the UK blames stress, pollution and the effects of modem lifestyles on the continuing increase in cases of this skin problem, currently affecting 1 in 8 children and 1 in 12 adults. Although there are 14 different types, atopic eczema is the one most commonly associated with infants. Generally there are other allergic conditions troubling the child or close family members, such as hay fever or asthma, and this is an indication that something in the environment has been the trigger. Very often it is a food intolerance.
Six-year-old George had suffered from eczema on and off for much of his young life, horribly blighted by the nasty rashes, blistering and weeping skin and intense itching, often leaving him crying in the night and very short of sleep. Creams recommended by the family doctor relieved the symptoms temporarily, which then kept recurring. Ben's mother was in despair until she contacted the National Eczema Society which suggested that a food allergy could be the cause and advised taking him off dairy products. The effect was remarkable. After switching from cow's to soya milk, cutting out cheese and using unhydrogenated margarine, while replacing the calcium with a chewable calcium supplement, there was a noticeable improvement in Ben's skin after only ten days. Eventually it cleared up altogether, but his mother was careful to keep him on a healthy diet. Other common allergens are eggs, wheat, sugar or any food additives.
As we have seen, essential fatty adds are an integral part of the structure of skin, and there is considerable evidence to suggest that eczema sufferers may have difficulty in metabolizing these. When tested, patients are frequently found to be short of GLA (gamma-linoleic acid). Since evening primrose oil is a rich source of this substance, lg three times daily generally clears the dry patches and rashes. It can also be rubbed directly into the skin. Healing will be assisted if animal and hydrogenated fats are excluded from the diet, while increasing the intake of safflower, sunflower and olive oils.
Sometimes a multifaceted approach is needed to clear obstinate-cases. In addition to testing for food intolerances, following the Healthy Diet outlined on the page following the link below and balancing the EFAs, take a supplement of zinc sulphate (30mg reducing to 15mg daily as required) together with brewer's yeast tablets (at least three with every meal), and, as long as you are wheat tolerant, have a serving of fresh wheatgerm daily. The nutrients supplied will assist in EFA metabolism as well as healing. Premenstrual women will also benefit from extra magnesium and vitamin B6. Multivitamin and'-mineral tablets, with plenty of A from food (see chapter 3), will give the skin an extra boost. Meanwhile keep steroid creams for emergencies only as they can be damaging if used to excess, and apply aloe vera gel to alleviate itching and soreness.
The symptoms of dermatitis can be similar to eczema, but the cause is nearly always external and can usually be tracked down to detergents, perfumes, certain fabrics and so on. In addition to avoiding the offending substance, you can improve your resistance by following the Healthy Diet outlined on the page following the link below, and taking a multivitamin and mineral tablet daily together with two teaspoons of cold-pressed linseed oil.
Psoriasis - Emily was planning a holiday on a Greek island with her boyfriend, but the excitement was clouded by her embarrassment over the scaly patches which had appeared on her elbows, knees and scalp. How could she possibly wear a swimsuit looking like this? Her worst fear was that her boyfriend would be so disgusted by her psoriasis that he would not wish to be near her. She was surprised when her doctor assured her that a holiday in the sun was just what she needed, as the ultraviolet light would assist healing and, since the condition is worsened by stress, a long rest should help to dear it. Emily realized that stress must be a factor, as the disease had first appeared when she was 16 at the time when her parents were going through a divorce. Since then it recurred if she was working too hard or was unduly anxious about something.
The coal-tar preparations that her doctor prescribed were horribly messy and smelt awful, so Emily went to see a naturopath for advice. She had little interest in cooking and generally bought ready-made frozen meals, tending to rely on chocolate bars for instant energy. As there was a free supply of coffee and tea at the office, she was rarely without a mug of one or the other steaming away on her desk. During the hour-long consultation, the naturopath persuaded her to take her diet in hand, which meant cutting out all white flour and sugar, animal fats and fried food, anything containing additives, all confectionery especially chocolate, also alcohol and vinegar. Instead she must place the emphasis on fresh fruit and vegetables, salads, soya products, nuts and pulses, whole grains, fish and a little poultry, with fluids from herb teas and spring water. Sulphur, present in eggs, onions and garlic, was also important as a cleanser and detoxifying agent, while yogurt would contribute healthy bacteria. In addition 30mg of zinc sulphate daily, reducing to 15mg after four weeks, was prescribed, plus brewer's yeast tablets for the B vitamins and an extra 50mg of B6, also 2001U of natural vitamin E. To help regulate the blood fats, 3 tablespoons of granular lecithin had to be sprinkled into her food each day, while 500mg of evening primrose oil was to be taken orally with each meal, with the same amount rubbed directly into the scaly patches. A herbal ointment, Phytolacca cream, was recommended to ease the itching. The naturopath warned that this was a difficult condition to cure but, since she wanted to look good for her holiday, Emily reckoned it was all worth a try. She also joined a yoga class for relaxation. By setting time aside specially to take care of herself she managed to stick to her new programme and, after summoning up courage to tell her boyfriend, she was overjoyed to gain his support. By the time she returned from her holiday her skin was dear.
Sunburn sensitivity - fair-skinned people are better able to tolerate sun without burning if their diet is well supplied with the B vitamin PABA (para-aminobenzoic acid). Eat plenty of whole grains, take brewer's yeast and include molasses with meals: the Healthy Diet outlined on the page following the link below will give you some ideas. An ointment containing this vitamin can also be applied to the skin. At the same time check that your levels of the antioxidant nutrients A. C and E are adequate to give extra protection against the damaging effects of ultraviolet rays.
Warts - these can be a real nuisance, but fortunately they can disappear just as suddenly as they arrived, indicating that the body's own immune system is fighting the infection. The Healthy Diet on one of the links below will help boost your natural immunity.
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