Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Skin deep

All too often diets and nutrition get associated with superficial goals such as being slim or keeping wrinkles at bay rather than the more long term and significant benefits of keeping your organs healthy and preventing disease and ill health.

However, as far as I'm concerned anything that motivates people to eat more healthily is a good thing and if that means tapping into more superficial motives then so be it.

Keeping wrinkles at bay and maintaining a red-carpet worthy glowing complexion are two such motives, but even just keeping your skin clear is a strong motivation to make dietary changes - having a breakout is bad enough as a teenager but will make you even more self-concious as an adult.

Here are my top tips for a clear and glowing complexion, with more general health benefits

1, Eat more fruit and veg - ok I know this is pretty much on every list I write but it's true, the antioxidants in the skin of fruit and vegetables that protect them from their environment can help protect our skin from our environment, whilst also protecting all our other cells.
Red and orange fruit and veg are particularly key as these are rich in beta carotene which the liver converts to vitamin A. Vitamin A is very important in skin health and encourages skill turnover and replacement - keeping skin youthful and avoiding blocked pores.

2. Avoid sugar and minimize eating high GI carbs - this is because high circulating sugar levels in the blood can lead to a kind of crystalization of your cell walls, this hardening shows up as wrinkles, but is also a major course of hardening arteries so important for cardiovascular health.

3. Your skin cell walls are primarily constructed of polyunsaturated fats so you want plenty of these healthy fats to keep your skin cells plump and youthful, whilst cutting down on unhealthy saturated fats. This is why salmon is such a great skin superfood as are nuts and seeds, but the benefits don't end there - the healthy omega fats reduce inflammation in the body and encourage fat burning, whilst saturated fats from meat and dairy can encourage inflammation and inhibit the body's ability to make use of any good fats you're eating.

4. Cut the caffeine and alcohol - both dehydrate you and therefore dehydrate your skin making it look lined and dull. They also encourage excretion of B vitamins (basically you pee them out) which are important vitamins for skin health, but also key for energy production and your stress reaction, so basically they ultimately make you more tired and more stressed!

5. The flip side of rule 4 is to make sure you drink plenty of water. It's so often said that it's the secret to good skin, as well as being fundamental to every process in the body, but something I think we often forget, maybe because it's such low effort. A big glass 10 minutes before each meal and snack, plus one before bed is an easy way to remember this.

6. Lack of sleep really shows in your face and can be really ageing. There's also no cheat or easy substitute and over time lack of sleep will take an overall toll on your body through accumulated stress and insufficient time to detox and repair. Try for 8 hours a night but if the work week is a nightmare then at least try and have an afternoon nap and/or massive lie in on the weekend.

7. Eliminate allergens/intolerances. Dairy is a really major culprit in all skin conditions and not just acne. I have had a long term issue with lactose that affected my digestion, but it wasn't until I cut out all dairy including lactose free hard cheese and butter that my skin totally cleaned up. Bear in mind, as I said yesterday, not all trigger foods will come up in allergy tests - chocolate is guaranteed to give me a breakout, even if it's delicious diary free 85% cocoa lindt chocolate :-( , and yet cocoa has never come up on my allergy tests, so a certain amount of detective work and elimination may be needed to work this out. Also if it's affecting your skin then that food is also probably having other negative health effects within your body so take it as a sign that you should cut it out.

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