Keeping skin young-looking

The skin is the largest organ of the body. Through its many sensitive nerve endings, it provides us with a phenomenal amount of information about what is going on around us. And although it is highly sensitive, it is also tough enough to protect our inner organs from the stresses and strains of the outside world. It survives years of bombardment with heat and cold, bumps and cuts, environmental pollution and cigarette smoke, and the stress of poor sleeping and eating habits.

The skin consists of millions of living cells that rely on a regular supply of oxygen and nutrients. Adverse changes in the balance of nutrients or your general health quickly start to show in your skin, because skin cells have a very short life span – remarkably, they are replaced every few days. As most people find out after a bad cold or when work has eaten into your leisure and resting time, the appearance of the skin gives a very good indication of your Overall health. A clear, glowing, moist skin reflects a healthy body, whereas dull, dry or greasy skin suggests that things are not as they should be within your body.

Unfortunately, your genetic makeup also affects your skin: families pass on the tendency to develop acne, eczema and psoriasis. Some medical practitioners fail to appreciate that while skin problems rarely pose a serious health risk, they can have profound effects on psychological well-being. Even if you are born with fantastic skin, you still need to look after it. You can’t work hard, play hard and cut corners in your eating habits and expect it not to show. Millions of pounds are spent on creams, lotions and tablets designed to tackle spots or dry skin, prevent wrinkles and prolong a youthful appearance. Although cleansing and moisturizing are an essential part of a skin health routine, it is not enough just to tackle the surface. If you are to build and maintain healthy skin, you need to provide it with health-giving foods and eliminate from your life those factors that hinder its function.

 Understanding your skin 

The skin consists of three layers. The deepest layer is the subcutaneous layer, which contains the main blood vessels, fat, and two types of protein: collagen, which provides the skin with a smooth, firm texture, and elastin, which makes your skin resilient. The middle layer, thedermis, protects the deeper subcutaneous layer and contains small blood vessels hair follicles and sweat glands. The dermis also supplies the upper layer, the epidermis, with new skin cells. Over the epidermis is an outer layer of dead skin cells, which swell in response to water.

These cells are: shed and replenished every day Patients frequently ask me why their skin has changed for the worse? The answer could be that they are simply not drinking enough water or getting enough of a particular nutrient, such as vitamin C. It could also be excessive amounts of caffeine or alcohol or the build-up of chemicals that can come from pesticides and additives in the food we eat and even from nutritional supplements. Poor skin could also be caused by hormonal or emotional problems, which need to be addressed if you are to improve your skin.

The elements of healthy skin

 WATER One of the most common causes of tired, unhealthy, grey-looking skin is dehydration, both on the surface and within your body. The skin helps the body regulate its temperature by allowing heat to escape, in the form of water evaporating from the skin – sweat. Dashing around, living in centrally heated houses and eating a diet high in salts, additives and preservatives all exacerbate the loss of water from the body, and your skin is the first organ to show the signs of water deprivation How many of us have dry skin, despite using good moisturizers:

Rather than buying yet another cream, I prefer a cheaper and more effective remedy – start boosting your water intake. An adult body needs at least two liters/four pints of water every day. Water is truly the essence of life. It should ideally be taken as plain water not as tea, coffee or soft drinks, which often contain caffeine, sugar or both It is important to establish the habit of drinking water as early as possible Many children and teenagers who suffer from skin problems drink very lined water choosing colas, sports drinks, hot chocolate or sweetened juices through- out the day. As soon as they get into the water habit, their skin improves dramatically.

Many teenagers are able to stop or reduce antibiotic medication frequently used to control spots, and young children can reduce their use of Cream. To encourage children to drink water, try providing them with a sale colorful water container to carry in their satchel or sports bag. You should ale place a jug of water on the table at meal times. Adults whose liquid intake is mainly of tea, coffee and alcoholic drinks wall notice the improvement in their skin when they switch to water. Carry a sum mineral water bottle in your handbag or briefcase and get into the habit of having water at your desk. Instead of a tea or coffee break, choose water for truly refreshing drink that will help you look and feel good.

FRUIT AND VEGETABLES

A well-balanced diet provides your skin with a regular supply of nutrients and oxygen. Fresh fruits and vegetables contain a huge array of skin-replenishing vitamins and minerals, as well as providing additional water. Children may be reluctant to eat a whole piece of fruit, but it is easy to incorporate fruit into their diet by giving them fruit purée with their breakfast cereal or in pots of yoghurt Encourage them to take a bunch of grapes or some easy-to-peel satsumas to school instead of a chocolate bar. Equally it is never too late to bring fruits and vegetables into your diet. Wrinkles will never disappear, but you can reduce the appearance of new lines and improve the texture and general bloom of your skin.

VITAMIN A 

Many adults, especially women, take vitamin A supplements in the hope of improving their skin. It is true that doctors sometimes prescribe vitamin A creams for severe skin problems, but these are used under close medical super vision. It is relatively easy to overdose on vitamin A if you take a supplement. and vitamin A toxicity can cause liver problems, in pregnant women it can lead to birth defects in the baby. I would strongly advise against taking vitamin A supplements. Instead, boost your intake of the fruit and vegetables that contain the vitamin A precursor beta-carotene, including carrots, spinach, watercress, apricots, mangoes and melons. See page 37 for more suggestions .

ZINC 

Zinc helps to reduce the inflammatory processes within the body and aids healing, which is why it can help improve skin conditions such as eczema and periapsis. Zinc-rich foods include seafood, hard and crumbly cheeses, nuts seeds and pulses If you feel your diet is low in zinc-rich foods, you may wish to take a daily supplement, the dose should not exceed 15 mg, because high zinc levels make your body more susceptible to infections.

Where could I be going wrong?

Contrary to popular belief, bad skin is not generally caused by any one food, unless allergies are involved. However, particular food can aggravate skin that is already poor and inappropriately nourished. 

THE SUGAR MYTH 

One of the greatest myths about the skin is that sweets, in particular chocolate directly cause spots. However, if your diet contains excessive amounts of sweets, it frequently means that it is lacking in health-giving foods. People who snack on a chocolate bar generally do this instead of grabbing an apple or orange. The vitamins within fruits and vegetables, especially vitamin C are incredibly import ant for helping to resist the infections that can plague poorly nourished skin. Also, people tend to eat more chocolate and sweeter, quick-fix foods when they are feeling hormonally low, stressed or in need of comfort, all of which suggest that the body, including the skin, is running low on food field and helpful hormones. The skin looks bad at this time simply because you are k not because you have eaten sweets. 

CAFFEINE 

Caffeine (and also tannins) found in coffee, tea, cola drinks and some of the new ‘sports drinks not only has a dehydrating effect that drains the skin, toe inhibits the absorption of vitamins and minerals from the gut, thus diminishing the potential benefits of healthy eating Children bodies are particularly sensitive to the effects of caffeine, but I recommend that even adults drink no more than two to three cups of caffeine-containing drinks a day. 

ALCOHOL 

Not only does alcohol have a dehydrating effect on the body, but, in excess, it causes the skin to become coarse and to develop thread veins and open pores. You shouldn’t develop these symptoms if you stay within the recommended weekly maximum of 28 units for men and 21 for women. A unit means a glass of wine, half a pint of beer or a single measure of spirits. However, certain additives, preservatives or natural substances such as salicylates or molds in particular drinks may cause skin reactions. The most common allergic reaction to alcohol is hives (small, itchy red spots under the surface of the skin); intolerance to alcoholic drinks can also worsen posies and crema. The most common reaction is to salicylates, found primarily in beer. Gin, vodka, whisky and most wines are relatively low in salicylates, but trial and error is the best way to find out what suits you as an individual. 

SMOKING 

Smoking undoubtedly ages the skin. The nicotine attacks the blood vessels. that supply the skin with nutrients and oxygen, as well as those that drain way the skins waste products. It also affects the body ability to metabolize vitamin C If you want to have a youthful healthy appearance give up smoking.

Avoiding wrinkles 

The search for everlasting youth drives people to spend hundreds of pounds on creams and even drugs, we of which aim to be able to brattish wrinkles and hale the ageing process. While creams can help protect the skin, nourishing the skin takes place on a deeper level Within the skin are two types of protein collagen and elastin. Collagen gives the skin a strong, firm texture, while elastin makes it reliant. If you want to avoid wrinkles, you need to try to preserve these two components in yourskin. Wrinkles start appearing as the collagen and elastin fibers start to deteriorate, from around thirty years of age, Excessive exposure to sunlight speeds this process.

DIET AS THE FIRST LINE OF DEFENCE 

The food you eat can help in the fight against wrinkles by reducing the effect of free radicals on the skin. Free radicals are unstable molecules that occur naturally in our bodies and are also produced by sunlight, smoke, air pollution and certain foods. They have a damaging effect on cell within the body, including skin cells.

It is possible to reduce the damage caused by free radicals in two ways by making sure that our diet contains foods that limit the effect of free radicals, and by avoiding foods that encourage the production of more free radicals. A group of nutrients known as antioxidants can prompt against free radical damage by soaking up the rogue molecules and limiting the cell damage.

A diet rich in antioxidants (beta-carotene, vitamins C and E and selenium) is the best way to protect yourself against wrinkles and a host of more serious health problems. On the down side, certain foods are thought to increase the number of free radicals produced in the body. Hydrogenated vegetable oil or fat (found in some margarines and in nearly all processed foods, from cakes and biscuits to stock cubes) is one of the major foods suspected. 

Chemicals and pesticides present in the wax used to protect fruit and some vegetables have been implicated in the free radical scenario, Fruit and vegetables are also susceptible to air pollution as they grow, you should therefore wash them thoroughly before eating and try to choose organic suppliers whenever possible. 

EXERCISE 

Exercise helps keep a good blood flow to the skin, ensuring that it is well provided with oxygen and nutrients and cleared of waste products. Regular cardiovascular exercise keeps your skin and the rest of your body fit and younger looking. In addition, facial exercises help preserve good tissue drainage and a good muscular structure. It is important not to let your facial muscles sag from lack of use. Keep smiling! 

AVOID YO-YO DIETING 

Losing dramatic amounts of weight can cause you to develop saggy skin conversely gaining large amounts of weight stretches the skin and up pop the unsightly stretch marks. Changing your weight gradually, by a Kila or a couple of pounds a week, allows your skin to shrink or stretch gently, so the elastin and collagen fibers can accommodate the change The stretch marks that appear during pregnancy are due to hormonally triggered changes in the protein within the skin. They should disappear after birth, or at least fade significantly. Unfortunately, no cream will stop them.

Skin problems

Problem skin can affect all age groups. It causes physical discomfort and embarrassment, but worse still, the psychological scars can remain long after the blemishes have cleared. Skin conditions, including eczema, acne, psoriasis and even skin cancer, a often triggered by an allergic reaction to food, a vitamin or mineral deficiency, or an excess of either a substance or an activity. There can also be a strong genetic link: for example, children born into a family with a history of asthma or hay fever are more likely to develop eczema. Although most skin problems are not directly caused by food, many can be helped by the correct food. Food-related skin allergies need to be investigated with the help of either a dermatologist or dietitian, especially when young children are concerned, because it is potentially risky to start cutting out foods from the diet without a nutritious substitute. 

ACNE 

Acne vulgaris is one of the most dreaded conditions affecting young people, but even adults suffer, and some only stare developing spots in their middle years Fundamentally acne is the result of the over-production of sebum, which is produced by the oil glands of hair follicles. When the pores become clogged with Schum, blackheads, pimples and large spots erupt on the face, chest and back Many people wrongly believe that acne is caused by eating too many fatty and sugary foods, such as chocolate. It is primarily a hormonal problem, which is why it is usually found in adolescents, but it is also true that eating sweet or fatty foods in place of a healthy diet with plenty of fresh vegetables and fruits will aggravate the condition.

Acne also tends to be worse during times of stress or emotional upset, which is when we tend to cheer ourselves up with sweets or cut corners in our meal preparation and grab fatty or sugary convenience foods A balanced diet, with an emphasis on foods rich in vitamin A and zinc, is helpful in clearing up skin. Boosting your intake of oily fish can help to reduce inflammation If you are taking antibiotics to control acne, you may suffer from certain side effects, such as thrush and irritable bowel symptoms. This is because anti biotics kill the good bacteria in the gut. A good bacterial balance needs to be established, so I suggest you take a small pot of live’ yoghurt containing acidophilus and bifidum, every day.

PSORIASIS 

Psoriasis is an extremely common, chronic skin disorder that can affect people of all ages. It begins with red, day patches that become covered with white sculls. The worst areas to be affected are the elbows, knees, legs and scalp It is itchy, and the skin can become so sore that it bleeds: in the worst cases, infections develop. Although there is no cure for psoriasis, correct nutrition can have a dramatic effect. Results take several weeks to appear, so don’t expect an overnight cure. One of the most effective maturational therapies for psoriasis uses oily fish, such as herring, mackerel, tuna and salmon.

These fish contain substances called omega 3 fatty acids and omega 6 fatty acids, which have been shown to alter the body biochemistry, in particular they alter the inflammatory reaction that thought to bring on psoriasis. One portion a day can bring about astounding results, and even three helping weeks can provide substantial relief. What is important is that in order for the omega fatty acids to be effective, your total fat intake,Dermatologists often recommend exposure to natural sunlight or special sun- lamps as a treatment for psoriasis. Interestingly,

if your diet is rich in a substance called psoralen, the sunlight will have a greater effect. Psoralen is found in times, lemons, lettuce and parsley-all perfect additions to salads. Stress can aggravate psoriasis and it helps to make sure that your body does not become run down’ either as a result of incorrect nutrition or of rapid weight loss or gain A reaction to substances found in alcoholic drinks often seems to worsen psoriasis and eczema. Rather than depriving yourself of all wine and beer, it is worth experimenting with different types.

One of my patients suspected that his psoriasis was aggravated by his heavy red wine intake at the weekend. The interesting fact was that he nearly always drank Chianti, so we started to explore other wines made from different grapes. And hey presto his psoriasis improved dramatically! This is a good example of why it is important to look at suspected allergies and intolerances in fine detail. It would have been easy, but such a pity, to say no red wine. 

ECZEMA 

Eczema is one of the most common skin conditions. There are several forms of eczema, all characterized by inflammation of the skin (dermatitis), usually red, itchy and flaky. Constant itching. followed by scratching, can cause the skin surface to break, causing bleeding and weeping. The worst aspect of time is when you scratch the skin so much that the skin becomes infected.

Eczema is an allergy disorder, belonging to the group of conditions that includes asthma, hay fever, urticaria and irritable bowel syndrome. Often a predisposition to these conditions runs in families. Eczema is known as an atopic condition: this means that the symptoms can arise in any part of the body, not necessarily related to where the triggering irritation is occurring the trigger may be certain foods dust, pollen or other external irritants. 

A nutritional cure of atopic conditions has two angles of attack wedding any food irritants, and helping your immune system to stay calm after it has been exposed to the offending allergen. One of the most successful areas of nutritional treatment of eczema is exclusion diets avoiding the food that triggers the reaction.

Although not every case of eczema is tied to a food allergy or intolerance, it is always an avenue worth investigating, as it is better to avoid the trigger than bevel to placate the symptoms, Exclusion diets can be a useful tool to identify any food intolerance, but unless they are carried out appropriately, they can lead to malnourishment, and many physical and emotional problems. If you have severe eczema you require specialized advice from your doctor or dietitian People with mild eczema can begin by making their own experiments Cows’ milk and eggs are common triggers for eczema.

Try eliminating one item at a time from your diet, replacing them with nutritionally similar foods (see the chapter on Managing allergies for more on food intolerance) Other common irritants include chicken, azo dyes (certain yellow, red, brown and black food colorings, used in a wide range of processed foods) and benzoates, found in the greatest quantities in processed foods. 

Oily fish may help to reduce the inflammation in the skin (see Psoriasis). Non dietary treatment includes avoiding biological washing powders and synthetic bedclothes and undergarments. Cotton is the best fiber to use. You could also take steps to keep the amount of dust, house mites and pet mites down to the minimum. If you find that you scratch a lot, keep your fingernails short, to reduce the damage caused by scratching. 

SKIN CANCER 

One of the most prevalent forms of cancer, skin cancer affects thousands of people every year and the incidence is rising. Women are more likely to develop it than men. If caught early, the majority of skin cancers can be treated very successfully. For this reason, everyone should keep a regular check on skin blemishes, freckles, moles and other bumps to monitor any changes such as increase in size, weeping, soreness or itchiness, any changes must be checked by your doctor. The best way to avoid skin cancer is to protect yourself against exposure to the sun.

Any skin not covered by clothing must be protected by sunscreen creams or lotions. Sunbeds must be avoided at all costs – for a safe summer glow. try bottled tanning products instead. Food neither causes nor cures in cancer, but it can improve your ability baith to fight the cancer and respond to therapies. The nutritional aim in treating any form of cancer is to make your immune system strong