In my previous blog post Let’s FACE it I spoke about skin loving and glow giving foods. Part two of the blog will comprise discussing skin traitor foods.
The skin is our largest organ accounting for 12-16% of our total body weight with a weight of approximately 4.5 to 5kg. It isn’t just a shield against the outside world but a true reflection of our state of health in many ways, including our digestive, hormonal and emotional health. Aging is inevitable however the rate and how well we age really bears on the choices we make especially when it comes to food. Let’s look at choices that you should steer clear of!
I was first introduced to the damaging effect that sugar has on the body in 2001 when I read a book called “The Wrinkle Cure” by Nicholas Perricone M.D an American Dermatologist whom I consider the first “No Sugar” advocate. He has been writing, researching and talking about eliminating sugar from our diets due it’s impact on skin health and appearance for 15 years. Here’s the thing about sugar molecules, they attach themselves to fibroblasts (a cell in connective tissue which produces Collagen, Elastin & other fibres). When sugar attaches to these proteins -which give our skin, suppleness, plumpness and structure, it causes something called Cross-Linking which leads to the formation of wrinkles and hence ageing. Sugar is also a major cause of systemic inflammation within the body hence a large contributor of skin irritation. There also is a link between the inflammation involved in the formation of breakouts/acne and sugar intake. Research is now supporting the link between the two making it clear – hormonal imbalances caused by our diet trigger acne. When you consume too much inflammatory sugar in your diet insulin levels rise. Insulin is a hormone that is released by the pancreas to maintain glucose equilibrium within our body. This in term interferes with sex hormones like testosterone, androgen & inflammatory cytokines such as IGF-1, which are involved in the formation of acne.
The biggest factor affecting our hormones is the glycemic load of our diet. GI is determined by how quickly consumed food increases blood sugar and insulin levels. So those whom claim that poor food choices hold no influence on acne are scientifically uninformed.
Another interesting fact is that sugar is acidic in nature, steals nutrients and hydration from skin and curbs the production of anti aging hormones within our body.
If we look at sugar from a Chinese Medicine perspective, sugar depletes the spleen. The more stressed we are the more we tend to crave sugar as a means of comfort and quick energy. This in turn causes a vicious circle of feeling low in energy and mood and cortisol elevation, which is one of our stress hormones along side adrenaline.
Coffee contains a number of organic acids, which affect blood sugar and raise cortisol levels. A rise in cortisol levels contributes to wrinkle formation. Caffeine also puts strain on our adrenal glands and liver and is quiet acidic on the pH scale therefore contributes to the formation and elevation of inflammation. It is now well documented that disease thrives in acidic environments. Instead of coffee think green tea, which contains a compound known as L Theanine (amino acid which counteracts the affects of caffeine and is anti-inflammatory). It is also interesting to note that the catechins an antioxidant found in the tea lowers corticosteroid.
Looking at coffee/caffeine from a Chinese Medicine perspective, it is heating to the blood. In TCM we view most skin conditions such as eczema and acne as blood heat conditions. Hence you don’t want to be contributing to the creation of more heat and inflammation. That’s where swapping your mid morning or afternoon coffee to green tea steps in as its effective at clearing heat from the blood according to traditional Chinese Medicine and gives a big boost of antioxidants!
Consuming alcohol really is like guzzling empty calories and offers no nutritional benefits at all. Actually what it does to the body and is visually obvious after a few too many drinks is dehydrate the skin and body. Alcohol also causes disruption of hormone levels and puts extra strain on our already over worked liver. Alcohol also affects blood flow to the skin causing it to appear dull, without lustre and causes unsightly broken capillaries. Once again according to Chinese Medicine principles alcohol causes heat in the blood leading to systemic inflammation.
Dairy consumption can definitely be an issue for some individuals when it comes to skin aliments, especially when consuming non-organic forms, which are chock-full of antibiotics and hormones. Antibiotics leads to dysbiosis of the microbiome in our gut and the proliferation of bad bacteria as well as the disruption of hormone levels in particular androgen, which is well known to encourage and contribute to acne. Imbalances in microbiome are linked to many skin conditions-acne, eczema, skin irritations and rashes etc. Dairy is also relatively acidic in nature, which once again leads to inflammation.
According to Chinese Medicine principles dairy places strain on the spleen our major digestive organ and is quiet damp forming. At times damp accumulation congeals and leads to heat formation in the body.
PROCESSED (FAKE) FOOD
Ever heard the quote “if your grandmother wouldn’t recognise it don’t eat it” well nothing could be truer. Processed foods can last on supermarket shelves and in your pantry for up to a year! They are full of artificial preservatives, additives, fake flavours and dyes. Basically what I like to call a chemical bomb for your body. These chemicals release aging inflammatory compounds filling your body up with free radicals renowned for damaging cellular structures plus our DNA. Many processed foods also sit high on the glycemic index meaning they cause spikes in blood sugar levels and by now we know what this does to our inflammation levels within the body.
We really influence the state of our overall health and wellbeing with every mouth full that we take! Start to become more consciously aware of your food choices as bad nutrition equals inflammation which equal skin problems. Great nutrition is non-negotiable!