Our skin is considered the body’s largest organ, and is one of the most important ones for the physical barrier it provides the rest of your body.
As a Naturopathic Doctor, I believe in approaching skin health in a holistic way. The summer provides a reminder to take good care of our skin, especially since it has many functions; our skin not only helps protect us from UV radiation and trauma, it also helps regulate water and heat, and even sense pressure, temperature, and pain.
Likely, you’ve noticed how much your skin has changed or is changing. We’re continually going through phases with our skin, especially as we age. In order to ensure our skin is in optimal health, it’s important to take a few factors into account, such as the environment, digestive health, hydration, immunity, hormonal health, and stress.
1. The environment
UV radiation, pollution, chemicals and trauma are all factors from our external environment that can affect our skin health. Factors in our internal environment can also impact our skin, such as decreased hormones and increased inflammation.
2. Digestive function
A healthy digestive system absorbs nutrients from food and water and eliminates toxins, waste, and excess hormones. Whether your digestive system is over or under-functioning will impact your body’s ability to absorb nutrients, stay hydrated, and properly eliminate. If your digestive health is compromised, the good bacteria in the gut, also known as gut flora, will have a microbial imbalance which can lead to infections, candida, excess toxins, and overall inability to absorb and use key nutrients that contribute to skin health. If digestion is slow or impaired, the toxins can build up in the bloodstream and manifest in the skin. Slow digestion can also cause excess hormones to remain in the body, like estrogen and testosterone, which can cause skin breakouts.
Your skin’s elasticity and firmness is dependent on how much moisture there is. When your body is dehydrated, your skin cells are not able to shed properly, leading to rough, cracked and flaky skin. Your body has natural moisturizing factors, which are paramount for appropriate skin hydration. Stay hydrated this summer with plenty of filtered water, coconut water or hydrating fruits and veggies like cucumbers, watermelon and/or zucchini.
4. Immune health
Similar to the digestive system, when the immune system is under or over-functioning, it becomes compromised. When the immune system is under-functioning, it can lead to infection, and when it’s over-functioning, it can lead to autoimmune diseases and hyper-responsiveness. One of the most common effects of a compromised immune system in relation to skin health is inflammation. This is evident in skin conditions such as eczema, acne and psoriasis.
5. Hormonal health
Hormones are chemical messengers produced in organs such as the ovaries, adrenal glands and thyroid gland. Each hormone has a different function when it comes to skin health: estrogen affects the skin’s thickness due to collagen production, as well as skin moisture and the appearance of wrinkles; increased testosterone can produce excess oil in the skin; T3 and T4 hormones produced by the thyroid can lead to hot, sweaty or flushed skin, and when there is a deficiency of these hormones, skin can become coarse and dry; cortisol can impact digestive function and the immune system thus impacting the skin as well.
When we’re stressed, our adrenal glands produce high levels of cortisol, which is one of the major stress hormones. Increased cortisol will speed up the breakdown of collagen leading to more wrinkles!
Here are my recommendations for improving skin health:
Improve digestive health
- Drink hot water and lemon first thing in the morning
- Reduce intake of alcohol, caffeine and sugar
- Eat slowly and mindfully
- Investigate food sensitivities
Make sustainable, healthy lifestyle changes
- Reduce exposure to toxins in your home by opting for natural cleaning products
- Eat whole, organic foods
- Get daily exercise
- Get at least seven hours of sleep a night
Optimize your nutrition
- Avoid inflammatory foods, such as excess dairy, gluten, sugar, and anything processed
- Take a daily