Our skin needs and indeed thrives on good sources of fat. In fact one of the big issues associated with low calorie diets and dieting in general is that it tends to be low in fat. Long-term diets low in good fats can lead to dry, dehydrated skin and premature aging.
Good fat sources include polyunsaturated omega 3 sources and omega 6 (in moderation) and grass feed or plant sources of saturated fat (yes – its true, saturated fat is not all bad!!!). Now just to clarify the saturated fat issue, we so need some in our diet. Among other functions it provides structure to our cell walls however, too much in general particularly too much of the wrong source of saturated fat is not good. To be specific, the wrong kind of saturated fat comes from processed foods including margarine, packaged meals, processed food and grain fed animals. Ideally, our diets need to be free of excess commercially produced saturated fats and all trans fatty acids. The right kind of saturated fat comes from sources such as organic butter, ghee, coconut oil and grass fed animals.
Where is the evidence for this? Well eating saturated fat didn’t kill our ancestors and there is no solid evidence that low fat diets are beneficial for our health. In fact, during the recent trend for low fat diets and food, rates of Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease have soared. One of the big issues with a low fat diet is that we tend to replace fat with sugar because something has to make the food taste good…and lets be real, fat tastes GOOD. Apart from the increase in sugar consumption (which is converted to stored, but not useable fat by the body) most of what we consume in a Standard Australian Diet (SAD) consists of “long-chain” saturated fats, trans fats and an overabundance of omega 6 fatty acids compared to omega 3, all of which can and do have inflammatory effects in the body.
By contrast plant-based medium-chain saturated fatty acids tend to be digested and used rather than stored by the body, producing energy and stimulating the metabolism. Coconut oil is a great example of this and research has shown that the medium-chain triglycerides from Coconut oil tend to resist being stored or used to make larger fat molecules, which means it is a great source of energy and nutrition for the body.
Eating plenty of good fats such as omega 3 and good saturated fats will support skin by reducing inflammation and indeed overall health. The anti-inflammatory effect will reduce the likelihood of free radical damage in the skin and reduce moisture loss by promoting the protective oil barrier.
Monounsaturated fats from avocado and most nut oils are also good for you as they help to maintain the water level in the skin and supply the ceramides and fats that keep the basic structure of the skin intact.
To tip the balance in favour of anti-inflammatory fats instead of inflammatory fats, choose foods rich in omega 3 such as deep-sea fish (salmon, sardines, anchovies), green leafy vegetables, flax oil, chia seeds, fish oils and even grass fed meats in moderation. Also consume foods rich in short and medium chain fatty acids such as organic butter and coconut oil. A diet rich in these foods will help to stabilise the plasma membrane of the skin cells, reducing oxidative damage and therefore inflammation. Use avocado and nut oils for dressings and salads.Twitter It!
Signs of vitamin deficiencies show up firstly in the skin, hair and nails. The reason this occurs is due to the fact that in times of stress or low intake the body preferentially provides nutrition to the critical organs such as the heart, lungs and brain rather than the skin. So irritating skin issues such as cracks in the corners of the mouth or peri oral dermatitis may actually be signalling a nutrient deficiency rather than a disease state or skin condition.
Underlying causes for nutrient deficiencies are many and various but often come back to reduced intake or excess demand. Inadequate intake of water-soluble vitamins such as the B group and vitamin C is more common due to the fact that our body doesn’t store these vitamins. Any excess passes out on a daily basis. It makes sense then that an inadequate intake of B group and vitamin C rich foods could eventually lead to signs of deficiency. Fat-soluble vitamins such as vitamins A, E, D and K are slower to show up as deficiency sigs as our body stores these nutrients in some cases for long fairly long periods. However, lack of dietary intake (or sunshine) will eventually use up stored resources and again eventually lead to lower levels.
The other factor that may lead to skin signs of deficiency is placing excess demands on our vitamin resources. Stress, environmental toxins, dietary excesses and ill health will all use vitamins up, sometimes faster than we are taking them in. Again the net result is lower levels.
A good dietary intake of both water and fat-soluble vitamins will help to maintain healthy and vibrant skin. For specific skin signs, the nutrient association and the food sources see the table below.
|Nutrient||Possible Skin Sign||Food Sources|
|Vitamin A||Rough, dry and scaly skin – particularly on the back of arms, thighs and buttocks. The carotenoid form of vitamin A will also help to improve skin colour i.e. give you a healthy glow.||Liver, cod liver oil, yellow, orange and red vegetables (plant source is carotenoids)|
|Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C)||Bleeding gums, rough skin and easy bruising, poor wound healing, pinpoint broken capillaries particularly where extensive sun exposure has occurred e.g. face, neck and chest||Kiwi fruit, green capsicum, citrus fruits, paw paw, strawberries, berries, broccoli, sprouts|
|Riboflavin (Vitamin B2)||Inflamed eyelids, cracks and redness at the corner of the mouth (caution, this may also related to low iron so get your iron levels checked if B group supplementation doesn’t improve within 2 weeks), facial skin lesions with greasy scales, peri-oral dermatitis||Almonds, salmon, spinach, milk & milk products, eggs, oats, whole grains|
|Pantothenic Acid (B5)||Excessive sebum production particularly associated with acne||Avocado, mushrooms, lentils, milk & milk products, eggs, almonds|
|Pyridoxine (B6)||Scaly dermatitis, peri-oral dermatitis, cracks and redness in the corners of the mouth.||Bananas, tuna, avocado, spinach, mackerel, brown rice, Brussels Sprouts|
|Folates (B9)||Peri-oral dermatitis, cracks and redness in the corners of the mouth.||Lentils, spinach, green leafy vegetables, asparagus, paw paw, yellow corn|
|Vitamin D||Worsening of inflammatory skin conditions due to imbalanced immune function e.g. eczema and dermatitis||Cod liver oil, salmon, oysters, whole milk, egg yolk|
It is important to note that because fat soluble vitamins build up in the body, it is advisable to speak to a health care professional such as your doctor, naturopath or nutritionist before taking supplemental forms.
Please comment if you have any questions.Twitter It!
Good digestive health is essential for good skin. The role of the digestive system is to provide us with nutrition from food and to clear waste products from this process. If the digestive system is overworked or underactive, waste products have to be eliminated via another bodily system. The skin is one of our backup waste elimination systems and if the digestive system is not working well enough, our skin can suffer. The connection between a healthy gut and healthy skin is evident in one particular clinical trial in which 50% of patients with severe acne had increased blood levels of toxins that had not been eliminated but rather reabsorbed from the intestines. This highlights the role of poor digestive function as a potential underlying cause of acne.
To really get to the underlying cause of your acne, we need to establish whether your digestive system is operating well or not. The digestive system quite complex and incorporates a number of different organs all of which can be performing sub-optimally (this doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with the organ itself, just that it may not be functioning as well as it could). It is therefore important to evaluate the whole digestive system, not just assume your acne is due to low hydrochloric acid levels or poor detoxification, which are commonly cited causes.
This is where the final stage of digestion occurs. Waste products from the food we eat is collected and processed into faeces (waste). The large intestine also helps to maintain the body’s fluid balance, absorbs vitamins such as B12 and processes undigested fibre.
Issues such as the slow transit time of waste materials can cause toxins and hormones that the body is trying to eliminate to be re-absorbed into the blood stream. A balance of healthy bacteria in the large intestine is also essential. Imbalance in healthy to unhealthy bacteria can lead to issues such as Candida, yeast infections and microbial overgrowth.
To evaluate your digestive health answer the following questions. Based on your answers, you can rate the health of your large intestine and get an indication of your digestive health.
There are many ways you can support good elimination:
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