The skin is the largest organ in the body and has a huge physiological need for nutrition and nourishment. It exists in a state of constant renewal and repair and is a complex and dynamic organ that responds to nutrition and protection from the foods that we eat. By optimizing your diet and adopting a few lifestyle changes it is possible to nourish your skin from within to keep it radiant, youthful and healthy.
High-quality topical skincare products can protect, nourish and fortify the skin but they cannot substitute for what the blood brings to the skin in terms of vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids. So an ‘Inside Out’ approach is fast becoming the go to for anyone wanting to maintain long-term skin health.
Why do we need to support the skin from within?
We live in a modern age that exposes us to chemicals, radiation, pollution, toxins and pesticides on a daily basis. Now, more than ever, our cells need nutritional support to prevent oxidation, glycation and methylation - the three biochemical processes at the center of cellular ageing.
In the past 50 years, the modern Western diet has completely changed, but genetically we haven't evolved to keep up. Processed foods high in sugar and hydrogenated fats were never meant to be our cellular fuel. Humans rely on a daily dietary intake of fruit and vegetables for vitamins, minerals & antioxidants – to quench the free radical deluge that happens inside our cells on a daily basis.
Never before has it been so important to nourish the skin well with a healthy and varied diet. A study in 2007 in the American Journal of Nutrition showed that accelerated aging occurs in people with a high intake of bad fats and processed carbohydrates (think white bread, biscuits, processed foods, etc.) while a diet rich in vitamin C was found to reduce skin aging.(1)
Maintaining a healthy balance between the good and the bad bacteria in our gut also has huge implications for skin health. A healthy gut is needed for optimal absorption of nutrients. The great thing about choosing foods that are good for your gut health is that they are also the foods that are good for your skin and your long-term health. Mother Nature has perfectly aligned all of the beautifying and healthful nutrition so that those that support your brain, heart, gut and body are also good for your skin!
What nutrients affect skin health?
The skin depends on the blood supply to bring nutrients and oxygen to the dermis. The body requires an incredible number of delicately balanced nutrients to provide fuel for its cells. The best diet will include a wide selection of fruits and vegetables, oily fish and legumes and will be low in sugar, trans fats and processed foods. Nature has cleverly placed an abundance of vitamins, minerals and powerful skin protecting antioxidants in healthy foods so that supplementation should only be minimally required if a good diet is followed.
In terms of the skin, omega-3s are responsible for the health of the cell membrane. Skin that is lacking sufficient omega-3s will be lackluster, dry and dull and vulnerable to attack from irritants and toxins. The cell membrane is a fundamental way that the skin exerts its barrier function and protects us from bacteria, viruses, chemicals, toxins and pollution. It acts as the barrier to things that are harmful but is also an important passageway for nutrients and waste to move in and out of our cells. Since the membrane is what influences the cells ability to hold water, having a healthy and intact skin barrier yields better hydrated and plumper, more youthful looking skin. In short, a well functioning skin barrier is vital for keeping moisture in and irritants out and for maintaining optimal waste disposal and detoxification routes.
Vitamin C is one of the most important vitamins required daily for the skin. It is a co-factor for collagen production and it helps to keep our collagen and elastin strong and supple. Humans have lost the ability to manufacture vitamin C so it needs to be taken daily in the diet through foods, beverages and dietary supplements, as needed. Numerous studies have demonstrated that if vitamin C is absent there is decreased total synthesis of collagen and decreased cross-linking.(2)
Zinc plays an important role in skin health and needs to be taken daily in the diet. It is needed for protein synthesis, wound healing and is a vital antioxidant. It also helps break down Substance P, transports vitamin A from the liver and helps in the metabolism of omega-3s. Even mild deficiencies in zinc can impair collagen production, fatty acid metabolism and wound healing.
What you put onto your plate and into your mouth can have a huge and powerful impact on your skin’s long-term health. Changing your diet to incorporate healthy, skin-loving foods is one of the easiest ways to influence your skin health and your overall wellbeing. Do it today. Your future self will thank you.