Let’s clear away what everybody knows about speeding up skin aging: cigarettes(click to yucky picture), too much sun exposure, junk foods.
As a nutritionally oriented physician, a healthful diet is really important for an attractive skin. Nowhere is the phrase “garbage in, garbage out” more apparent than there, right on your face. When you’re eating a diet high in ultra processed foods, fried foods, sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and not keeping yourself well hydrated (or limit your hydration to the chemical swill of diet drinks), your body (inside and out) creates cells of inferior quality. Your skin looks pasty, pimply, prone to infections; you gain weight and wonder why. The “why” is that your food choices change your metabolism to one that stores more fat.
Here’s a list of definite “pluses” for a glowing complexion:
More: fruit, veggies, whole grains;
More: essential fatty acids (eat more fish, and if you don’t eat fish, drizzle a tablespoonful of flaxseed oil or grind some flaxseeds, chia seeds, etc.) every day. Ask your practitioner to order a blood test called OmegaCheck which is usually covered by insurance and also useful for determining heart disease risks.
More: tomatoes for their lycopenes which prevent skin discoloration, texture changes, and wrinkles.
More: sources of Vitamin C (citrus, bell peppers, broccoli, kiwi) for their antioxidants blocking free radical damage.
More: polyphenols (in green tea and Resveratrol) shown in research to prevent skin from aging prematurely and keep it looking healthy and glowing. These are available as supplements:
Now, onto your hormones.
For unclear reasons, dermatologists don’t pay much attention to your thyroid. Even mildly under-active thyroid causes dry skin and even when taking your thyroid correctly, it’s a good idea to use a moisturizer and keep yourself well hydrated.
Your sex hormones (estrogen, progesterone, testosterone) are their own source of mischief when it comes to your skin. When your estrogen starts dropping, like during PMS days, or in perimenopause or during menopause itself, your skin will get dry, and again, a moisturizer may be in order. All sorts of skin conditions that you thought you outgrew when you were younger (acne, rosacea, eczema) can resurface during menopause along with the usual symptoms of hot flashes and night sweats. Take a look at last week’s Health Tip about Bioidentical Hormone Therapy because many women opt to remain on BHRT not only to quell the hot flashes, but also to keep their skin looking good. (Suzanne Somers is now 76!).
Another hormonal skin issue that definitely deserves mention is Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) with its unfortunate triad of jawline acne, facial hair and weight gain. This does usually respond nicely to a medication called spironolactone, and I’ve written three full Health Tips about it, one of which is here.
And, if you believe you have a hormonal component to your skin problems, ask your practitioner for a Genova One Day Hormone Check. This can be mailed to your home. On one specific day of your cycle (or any day if you’re in menopause), collect saliva and mail it to the lab. This will give you a good idea about where things stand, hormone-wise.
Lastly, your gut.
It’s odd how few patients, as well as physicians, fail to see the seemingly obvious connection between their skin and the lining of their entire intestine. Right now, place your finger on your cheek. Move it to your lip. Although you don’t have to stick your finger in your mouth, your skin does continue…down…down…esophagus, stomach, small and large intestines all the way out until (we euphemistically say) “the other end”.
Years ago, Dr. Caley Scott, the Naturopathic Physician at WholeHealth Chicago taught me the phrase I simply had never heard in medical school, namely “All illness begins in the gut”. Now M.D.s are picking it up. Amy Myers, M.D. in her popular, “The Autoimmune Solution” focuses on “leaky gut”, a totally nonexistent concept in conventional medicine less than a generation ago.
Your skin can reach “B” level of “smooth, healthy, youthful glow” or whatever the favored adjectives happen to be this year, but full “A” level needs “gut maintenance” as well.
If you have chronic digestive symptoms (diarrhea, constipation, bloating, and so forth), you should schedule with one of our practitioners who will likely order a comprehensive test called GI Effects. This will evaluate how well you are digesting and absorbing your food, check your microbiome, look for parasites and candida. If bloating is a main problem, she may check you for Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth.
On the other hand, if you really have good digestion and don’t need diagnostic tests, you can simply complete a 14 day Gut Rehab Program consisting of Repair Vite , SunFiber and a good maintenance probiotic. Add this to your already generous helping of fresh fruit, veggies and whole grains and it’s all you’ll need to maintain your healthy gut (and good looking skin).
David Edelberg, MD