by guest blogger Isaac Eliaz, MD, MS, LAc, integrative medicine pioneer, researcher, clinical practitioner, author, and lecturer
Your skin is vulnerable. As the largest organ system, it performs numerous essential tasks and is the frontline of defense against bacteria, viruses, allergens, toxins, and more. You do your best to protect your skin, but it's out in the open, exposed to sun, wind and environmental pollutants. Skin structure is complex, and part of an intricate network involving other organs. To keep it healthy, you need to support this system. Healthy skin is a vital component to wellness and vice versa. Here are some recommended ways to love your skin and promote overall health.
- Fight Inflammation Poor diet, stress, dehydration and environmental factors can all lead to chronic inflammation, which can damage fibers that keep skin elastic and supple. Inflammation can also increase toxins in the body. Several traditional Chinese herbs can reduce inflammation and underlying infection, by clearing "toxic heat", the Chinese medical term for reducing inflammation. Most commonly used are Jin Yin Hua (Japanese Honeysuckle), Huan Lian (Coptis Rhizome) and Huang Qin (Baikal Skullcap), recommended by Traditional Chinese doctors for centuries to support skin health.
- Rally the Circulatory and Immune Systems A strong circulatory system is vital to skin health. Foods like ginger, garlic, cayenne pepper, and citrus fruits increase circulation, help to bring nutrients to the skin, aid detoxification and help reduce inflammation. Balanced immune activity also supports skin health, particularly for inflammatory skin conditions, such as eczema and acne. Foods that boost immunity include yogurt, garlic, shiitake mushrooms, and sweet potatoes.
- Aid Digestion Optimal digestion and a healthy gastrointestinal system also provide critical support for skin. Healthy digestion ensures that nutrients are properly absorbed and toxins eliminated efficiently. It increases nourishment to tissues, reduces inflammation, supports balanced hormone and immune responses and helps detoxify the body. Look for naturally fermented foods (like real pickles and sauerkraut, yogurt, kefir, and kombucha), ginger, licorice, cardamom, and pomegranate to improve digestion and bring balance to your gut flora.
- Bolster Antioxidants Beta-carotene, lutein, vitamins C, E and A, selenium and lipoic acid are important antioxidants for skin health. Antioxidants are especially effective in combination, protecting against skin damage caused by toxins, inflammation and oxidative stress. You can find these and other antioxidants in blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, plums, artichokes, black beans, prunes and pecans, to name a few. In addition to protecting skin cells from sun exposure, environmental toxins, processed foods and other dangers, antioxidants promote cell growth and repair, help prevent and reduce fine lines and wrinkles, improve your skin's elasticity and tone and protect against further damage. These benefits increase when antioxidants are also used topically.
- Stock Up on Nutrients Minerals zinc and selenium; amino acids proline and lysine and the hormone melatonin are critical for strengthening skin health and structure, and promote faster repair of skin damage. Foods high in zinc include oysters, venison, and beef. Three Brazil nuts a day will give you plenty of selenium. Chickens and eggs for lysine and proline (eaten with something high in vitamin C for optimal amino acid absorption). Consult with your physician before taking melatonin or any natural or synthetic hormone supplements.
- Discover Medicinal Mushrooms Medicinal mushrooms help balance immune responses, decrease inflammation, prevent damage and nourish the skin. Tremella fuciformis (White Tree Ear), Cordyceps sinensis and Grifola frondosa (Matiake) are specific mushroom species that offer targeted skin support to help repair, hydrate and rejuvenate.
- Don't Forget Your Healthy Fats Omega fatty acids, particularly Omega-3s, offer important health benefits such as anti-inflammatory, cardiovascular and immune support. Omega-3s nourish skin with critical protective nutrients, and help heal chronic skin conditions. Look for these healthy fats in fish, walnuts, flax seed, olive oil and other omega-rich foods and botanicals. Flaxseed oil, cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil, and other omega-rich oils promote skin lubrication and hydration, rejuvenating the skin by decreasing wrinkles and preventing dehydration. Macadamia nuts contain high-quality oils that support skin repair and rejuvenation, and coconut oil has excellent skin-protecting qualities.
- Hydrate Most of us are chronically dehydrated, so drinking plenty of herbal tea and pure, filtered water is essential for skin and overall health. Some experts recommend 3 liters (about 13 cups) daily for men and 2.2 liters (about 9 cups) daily for women. Proper hydration helps clear the body of toxins that cause inflammation and blemishes. Water also helps transport nutrients and oxygen to skin cells, preventing dehydration and protecting against premature aging. Increased hydration can lead to noticeable improvements in skin appearance and energy levels in just a few days.
- Detoxify Gentle whole body detoxification is a vital step in achieving optimal skin health. Research has demonstrated the positive effects of modified citrus pectin and alginates to remove heavy metals and environmental toxins from the body, without affecting essential mineral levels. In addition, garlic, cilantro, parsley, and Ginkgo biloba promote natural detoxification, reduce oxidative stress and support circulation and vital energy. When taken over time, these ingredients help to safely and gently remove toxins, contributing to brighter, clearer skin and improved elasticity. (For my next post, I'll explain more about safe detoxification.)
These suggestions can help keep your skin vibrant and maintain long-term wellness. In addition to providing greater energy, clarity and overall health, these healthy habits will help your skin glow as a direct reflection of your inner vitality. Learn more by visiting www.DrEliaz.org
Isaac Eliaz, MD, MS, LAc, integrates Western medicine with his extensive knowledge of traditional Chinese, Tibetan, ayurvedic, homeopathic, and complementary medical systems. With more than 25 years of clinical experience and research, Dr. Eliaz offers a unique holistic approach to the relationship between health and disease, immune enhancement, detoxification, and cancer prevention and treatment. For more information about his work, visit dreliaz.org.
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