“The Dreaded Monthly”

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For some reason females are lead to believe from a young age that with periods come pain, emotional upheaval and chocolate cravings.

The truth is that females are meant to bleed every month without an array of unwanted signs & symptoms. The uncomfortable “add on’s” that tag along are in fact signs of disharmony. Common symptoms females experience are

  • Headaches
  • GUT bloating
  • Emotional up’s & downs from crying over a television commercial to wanting to poke a fork in someone’s eyes
  • Lower back pain
  • Sore/tender breasts
  • Food cravings in particular sweet
  • Constipation
  • Excessive fatigue
  • Skin breakouts
  • Fluid retention
  • Painful periods

In Chinese Medicine menstruation is initiated by the Kidneys, which are responsible for our growth, development and reproduction. The essence of the Kidneys known as ‘Jing’ is the origin for the formation menstrual blood.

Once the period comes the Spleen, Liver & Heart hold very important functions and are responsible for a healthy menstrual flow every month.

Spleen ~ Although the Heart governs blood and the Liver stores blood according to Chinese Medicine principles it is the Spleen that controls the blood. In fact it is the Spleen, which keeps blood in the vessels. The Qi (vital energy) of the Spleen is what holds organs in their position. In the case of menstruation Spleen Qi keeps the uterus in place, otherwise it would prolapse. The Spleen produces blood by extracting Qi from the food consumed (post-natal Qi) and forms blood in the Heart with the help of (original Qi) from the Kidneys.

Heart ~ Just as Western Medicine views the Heart’s function as circulating blood, Chinese Medicine also views the Heart as governing blood the same way. The Heart has a direct connection to the Uterus and along with Kidney ‘Essence’ and the Qi extracted from the food we eat the Heart forms menstrual blood too. The Heart sends its blood to the uterus in preparation for menses. If Heart Qi doesn’t descend Heart blood to the uterus menstruation does not occur.

Liver ~ The Liver stores the blood according to Chinese Medicine principles. At times of movement it moves blood from the vessels into the muscles and organs and at times of rest back into the vessels. In terms of menstruation the Uterus stores menstrual blood, which is mainly received from the liver. The Liver also represents the connection between menstrual blood and normal blood. Most importantly Liver Qi moves blood for menstruation to occur.

When looking at PMS (Premenstrual Syndrome) a disharmony in the following organs causes the preceding symptoms.

Liver Qi Stagnation –>  Sore/Tender breasts, emotional up’s & down’s, constipation, headaches, GUT disturbances, skin breakout, irregular period, painful periods known as dysmenorrehea.

Spleen Deficiency –> GUT disturbances such as bloating (along with the liver), sweet cravings, fatigue, excessive blood loss known as menorrhagia (spleen not holding blood in the vessels).

Kidney Deficiency –> Lower back pain, constipation, fluid retention.

Kidney Jing ‘essence’ Deficiency –> Amenorrhea (no period)

Heart Blood Deficiency –> No period, insomnia -which heightens prior to menstruation.

Helpful PMS Tips

 Acupuncture & Massage

Regular treatments are always important and essential for overall health maintenance and wellbeing. Having a treatment a week or a few days prior to menstruation really helps prepare and strengthen the body for blood loss and encourages the smooth flow of Qi to prevent PMS.

Supplements

B6 ~ Helps break down inactive oestrogen. Oestrogen dominance is responsible for much of PMS (nervous tension, anxiety, mood swings, cramps etc). B6 is also a diuretic helping with fluid retention.

Evening Primrose Oil ~ Contains essential fatty acids (gamma-linolenic acid & linoleic acid) which influence prostaglandin activity leading to a reduction in cramps and other premenstrual symptoms such as breast tenderness.

 Magnesium ~ Relaxes muscles hence assisting with premenstrual headaches, overall muscular tightness and menstrual cramps. This essential mineral also assists with depression, anxiety, mood swings, fatigue & increased an appetite.

Vitamin D ~ Vitamin D is not a vitamin but in fact a hormone hence essential for hormonal balance.

Vitamin E ~ Fat soluble vitamin which oxygenates tissue and protects unsaturated fatty acids, sex hormones and other fat soluble vitamins from oxidation. Improves tension, irritability, depression, headaches, insomnia & breast tenderness.

 Vitex ~ A herb which has an affect on stimulating and harmonizing pituitary gland function especially progesterone function. Its main strengths are in harmonizing the female sex hormones and in correcting imbalances which present is dysmenorrhea and other premenstrual symptoms.

Dong Qui ~ Chinese herb extremely effective at regulating female hormonal imbalances, oedema, insomnia & depression. Dong Qui main function is in nourishing blood.

Essential Oils

Rub the following essential oils on the abdomen mixed in the some base oil such as almond oil. Clary sage (balances hormones) Lavender (relieves stress, tension, pain, headaches), Peppermint (nausea, headaches) Chamomile (balances female reproductive system, assists with cramps, induces relaxation).

Movement

Exercise encourages Qi movement hence helps with the management of stress levels, and tension. By encouraging Qi movement menstrual cramps are also prevented and relieved. Gentle forms of exercise such as walking, yoga or Pilates are best, nothing heavy or strenuous!!!!

Diet

  • Reduce refined sugar as too systemically inflammatory.
  • Increase green leafy vegetables to support the detox function of the liver hence supporting the removal of excess ostrogen from the body.
  • Reduce intake of cold, raw foods, dairy and fried greasy foods as they are too difficult for the spleen to break down and process hence leading to further spleen deficiencies.

Increase intake of good fats. avocado, olive oil, coconut oil and milk, nuts and seeds and oily fish for their anti inflammatory actions & hormonal support. Good fats also regulate mood hence great for stabilizing anxiety and depression.

  • Increase intake of herbal teas such as chamomile to reduce nervous tension and abdominal cramps. Lavender tea to reduce irritation and tension. Ginger to assist with any digestive issues such as nausea and bloating and dandelion to support the liver. Fennel tea is also great to assist with flushing out excess fluid, which may be sitting in the tissues.

 Keep Warm

Cover up and protect your lower back and abdominal region from the cold weather. This is essential to support the kidneys and prevent further menstrual cramping.

Menstruation is a part of life but it doesn’t have to cause misery every month. Implementing some of the above tips can make the world of difference.

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Think Zinc……

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Zinc is a trace mineral that is very important for our overall health and wellbeing having a multitude of functions and potential uses, yet is largely underrated in its importance particularly by the Western Medical Profession. Unfortunately, there is virtually no zinc in Australian soil as it has been removed with the high use of super-phosphate fertilizers and stripped from our food due to processing and manufacturing.

Zinc must be consumed each day as there is no particular ‘storage system’ for it in the body and depletion in this mineral can produce a variety of symptoms. Only small traces of zinc are found in the body – approximately 2.0 to 2.5 grams in total.

Zinc absorption might vary from 12% to 59% of ingested zinc depending on the individuals GUT health, their stomach acid concentrations and how much their body needs at the time. In the body the 2.0-2.5gm of zinc is stored in the tissues however predominantly in skeletal muscle and bone (85%). The next concentrated tissues are the heart, spleen, lungs, brain, adrenal glands and the retina of the eye. The skin contains a good amount of zinc but in fewer concentrations than other tissues. Zinc is also found in teeth, hair and nails and hence why this mineral is so important in the health and maintenance of these tissues.

Zinc is essential for normal growth and development, the maintenance of body tissues, sexual function, skin healing and repair, immune system function and the detoxification of chemicals and metabolic irritants. Carbohydrate metabolism is influenced by zinc and it is required in the synthesis of DNA, which aids in the body’s healing process. Zinc is also essential along with Vitamin C to reduce healing time following surgery or burns and many prostate issues.

Lets now look at the benefits of Zinc in more detail.

Health Benefits of Zinc

Immune Support : Zinc helps activate immune cells in the body. Having low zinc levels may make you more susceptible to pathogens and hence prone to illness (think colds, influenza etc). Zinc improves antibody response and cell mediated immunity by helping regulate the function of the white blood cells.

Diarrhoea Prevention: Zinc may help treat and prevent mild diarrhoea in individuals. It is assumed that this is due to the infection-fighting nature of zinc in the body.

Learning and Memory Support: Research conducted in America states that zinc plays an important role in regulating how neurons communicate with one another in the brain. This in turn affects how memories are formed and how we learn.

Hormone Balancing: Zinc plays an important role in hormone production, including increasing testosterone naturally. Zinc is important to male sex organ function and reproductive fluids. It may also help female sex hormones (oestrogen and progesterone) and is also involved in both the creation and release of eggs.

Cardiovascular Health: Zinc is required to help maintain the health of cells in the cardiovascular system, while also lowering inflammation and oxidative stress. It helps maintain heart health by supporting healthy circulation and cholesterol levels in the body.

Liver Health: Zinc can help with a liver cleanse to reduce inflammation within the liver, reduces free radical damage, helps with nutrient absorption in the GUT and allows for proper waste elimination.

Muscle Growth and Repair: Zinc plays a crucial role in both cell division and growth. This means that zinc helps repair and grow muscle by allowing the body to heal itself and maintain strength within the muscular and skeletal systems. Zinc also has an anti-inflammatory function especially within the muscles and joints and artery lining.

 Vitamin A Levels + Skin Health: Zinc is thought to help utilize and maintain Vitamin A levels within the body. Vitamin A along with Zinc are essential in mucus membrane health, skin cell health and thus may be helpful in generating new skin following burns and injury. Via zinc’s function of assisting collagen production, zinc may also improve wound healing. Zinc aids skin’s oil gland function and as a result will assist in the maintenance and repair of acne conditions. Please note white spots on the nails aren’t related to a calcium deficiency as many may think, they are in fact related to a zinc deficiency.

Digestive Health: Zinc plays a role in digestion, in particular protein digestion. Zinc also has a role in insulin activity and a deficiency in the mineral has been found to be related to a lack of taste sensations.

Antioxidant Function: It is now known that Zinc has some antioxidant properties being part of superoxide dismutase, which helps protect cells from free radical damage. Through this antioxidant role zinc is also beneficial in cell membrane structure and function.

Food Sources of Zinc: Overall most animal food sources have adequate levels of zinc. Oysters are especially high with 10 times the amount of other sources.

Other sources: beef, lamb, pork, liver, herring, blueberries, capsicum, egg yolks, ginger, seafood, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, whole grains, rye, oats, yeast. Note that grains have most of their zinc content stripped because of manufacturing.

Daily Requirement Levels

0-6 months 2.0mg

7-12 months 3mg

1-3 years 3mg

4-8 years 4mg

Boy’s 9-13 years 6mg

14-18 years 13 mg

Girl’s 9-13 years 6mg

14-18 years 7mg

Women 8mg

Male 14mg

Pregnancy and lactating 12mg

The above nutrient reference levels for Australians and New Zealand are according to the Australian Government National Health and Medical Reference Council.

However, the majority of practitioner only Zinc supplements for adults have 25-30 + mg of zinc which is much superior level for optimal health and wellbeing. Taking zinc 2 hours away from meals or first thing in the morning increases absorption levels. It is particularly important to avoid taking zinc along side a meal of oats and other grains as the phytates and fibres in the grain reduce absorption.

If you are suffering from any of the above aliments definitely think ZINC!!! Seek the help of a professional natural medicine practitioner to get the right advice and supplement requirement. Practitioner supplements unlike those found in supermarkets are at therapeutic level.

 

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Emotions according to Chinese Medicine…..

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Emotions hold much importance in Chinese Medicine. Acupuncturists and Chinese Medicine practitioners don’t view emotions as a separate area, but inclusive in an individuals overall health and wellbeing. When consulting patients even if they are seeking treatment for a sore shoulder I always ask about my patients emotional state. It may seem irrelevant to the patient at the time however my role as their Acupuncturist is to evaluate all aspects of their health – physical, mental and emotional. Emotional wellbeing is an integral part of an individuals overall health and wellness.

In Chinese Medicine each organ is associated with an emotion which when unbalanced causes specific signs and symptoms. Emotions are a natural part of everyday life. It is perfectly normal to experience various emotions throughout a day, we can experience joy only to feel frustrated hours later. Problems arise when emotions become excessive or repressed and shoved aside. It is at this point where illness begins to arise. As an example when holding on to anger over a long period of time temporal headaches may begin to occur frequently.

Sometimes when a particular organ is unbalanced an emotion may arise. However, emotional imbalance can disrupt the organ as well. A very common cause of emotional imbalance is repressed emotions. If emotions aren’t being expressed what occurs is that this internalisation leads to stagnation of Qi (Energy) flow leading to the development of disease and disharmony within the body.

The thing with emotions is that they dont have avenues for release and therefore if they aren’t allowed to be expressed and released can create disease in the body showing up as a physical sign or symptom.

Lets look at 5 Yin organs and the emotions they are linked…

HEART
Emotion – Joy
If emotion is out of balance – Feelings of being unsettled, easily startled, mental restlessness, lack of enthusiasm, lack of vitality, feelings of depression and melancholy, insomnia, confusion and anxiety. Bitter taste in mouth all day, tongue ulcers at tip.
If organ is out of balance – Insomnia, palpitations, spontaneous sweating, excessive dreaming, poor memory and concentration, dizziness.

SPLEEN
Emotion – Worry
If emotion is out of balance – Overthinking, focusing on a particular thought constantly.
Organ out of balance – Tired, lack of appetite, bloating/abdominal distention, loose stools, poor digestion, mucus/phlegm formation, difficulty concentrating and focusing, weakness of muscles, pale lips, mentrual issues such as excessive bleeding, oedema, craving sweets, possible prolapse of organs.

LUNG
Emotion – Sadness
Emotion out of balance – Excessive sadness and grief, lots of tears/crying.
Organ out of balance – Shortness of breath, cough, pale complexion, tiredness, low immunity hence easily catches colds, sore throat, runny nose, headaches, chest oppression/fullness, dry skin, weak voice, cold hands, dull hair.

KIDNEYS
Emotion – Fear
Emotion out of balance – Feeling fearful even without danger or reason, no or lack of willpower, feeling insecure.
Organ out of balance – Weak/brittle bones, frequent urination, urinary incontinence, fertility issues, breathlessness, chronic asthma, poor hearing, tinnitus, early greying of hair, hair loss, vertigo, night sweats, lower back and knee pain, short term memory loss, dry mouth.

LIVER
Emotion – Anger
Emotion out of balance – Anger, feelings of frustration and irritability, restentment, bitterness, mooodiness.
Organ out of balance – Menstrual issues such as pain + blood clotting, bitter taste in mouth, chest distention, red face, ringing of ears, yellow jaundice complexion, headaches especially temporal in location, nausea, vomiting, excessive sighing, breast tenderness, blurred vision/floaters in front of eyes, dry skin and hair.

The above information is extremely valuable to Chinese Medicine practitioners in determining where our patients disharmony is occurrring and hence our course of treatment. This includes providing patient lifestyle advice which encompasses diet, movement/exercise advice and stress management.

Chinese Medicine is centred around balance and flow. There is an old Chinese proverb that states “Where there is free flow, their is no pain, where there is pain there is no free flow” and hence where the basis of its philosophy lies.

 

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Sunscreen isn’t just for the warmer months…..

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Wearing sunscreen should no longer be something you only do in summer or when you know you will be outside for a few hours. The incidence of melanoma is now 1 in 12 in Australia and this statistic is consistency on the rise!!! I find those numbers really unsettling!!!  If you think that getting skin cancer is something that won’t happen to you, think again…..I’ve unfortunately seen it first hand. A close family member was diagnosised with a melanoma last year which as you can imagine was devasting.

The two most important reasons for wearing an SPF daily are
~ Skin Cancer/Burn (UVB rays )
~ Skin Aging/damage (UVA rays)

UV rays cause sunburn and sun damage by inducing cellular damage to DNA. Both the U.S Department of Health & Human Services and WHO (World Health Organiation) have identified UV as a human carcinogen. Hence, there is no such thing as a “safe tan” unless its out of a bottle. In fact a tan is a sign of DNA damage. Its actually the result of a chemical reaction in your body as it tries (& fails) to protect itself from UV light.

There are two types of sunscreens avaliable

~ Physical Blockers
~ Chemical Blockers

Physical Blockers are mainly made up from Zinc and Titanium Dioxide and work by reflecting UV light off the skin. Chemical Blockers however work by absorbing light into the skin and via a chemical process protect skin from UV damage. When purchasing a sunscreen you should always aim for one stating that it is “broad spectrum” meaning it offers protection from UVA & UVB rays. Interestingly enough SPF is only relevant to UVB rays.

There’s still a lot of misinformation and misunderstanding surrounding sunscreen in particular the level of protection it offers and it’s application.

Lets look at some misconceptions regarding sunscreen.

1. One of the frequently asked questions i get asked from my clients is if they are wearing a moisturiser with an SPF 15 and a tinted moisturiser with an SPF 15 does that mean they have SPF 30 protection? The simple answer is no!! SPF doesn’t accumulate.

2. Sunscreen isnt 100% water proof but water resistant hence why it must be reapplied once you have been in the water.

3. Individuals with dark skin still need protection from the suns rays!!! Darker skin might not be as vulnerable to UV rays but it doesnt mean that it won’t burn and possibly get skin cancer.

4. There’s a reason why sunscreen has a use by date….Its capacity decreases over time and if left in the sun while you are out in the water (as so many do) it goes off. Please be sure to repurchase.

5. Another frequently asked question i get is “If I wear a SPF 30 instead of a SPF 15 that means im getting double the protection right? Ah no is the short answer!! The difference between them is around 1%. The same goes for a SPF 50 against a SPF 30.

Application
It still surprises me that people have no idea how to apply sunscreen in order for it to work as it should.

~ Sunscreen should be applied 20 minutes prior to you stepping out into the sun, as it takes that long for the ingredients to start working.
~ Approximatey the size of a 20 cent piece of sunscreen should be applied per limb and for your back and décolletage/abdominal region aim for 2 tablespoons. Aim for 1 teaspoon for the face and neck.
~ Remember to reapply according to manufactures instructions. There’s no such thing as all day protection!
~ The order of application for us ladies would be Cleanse, Serum (if using), moisturiser, sunscreen and makeup if applying.
~ Please dont forget to thoroughly cleanse at the end of the day as sunscreen loves to get into pores and can lead to blockages. If prone to breakouts from sunscreen always look for non comedogenic formulas.

There’s been a lot of unfortunate news of late about reactions and chemical burns occurring from sunscreen application. Ive seen this first hand as my mum had a bad reaction to sunscreen last year on her face which lasted two weeks and required antihistamines and cortisone cream application as few times daily. In my experience and please dont take this as gospel, physical sunscreen is less reactive. If sensitive please do a test patch prior to applying your sunscreen to a larger area to avoid any nasty issues.

Make sunscreen part of your daily skin care routine.

Tea….I like BIG Cups….

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Ahhhh…… tea you would be hard pressed to meet someone who doesn’t enjoy a cup whether black or of the herbal kind first thing in the morning, mid way through the day and into the evening to end a long hard day.

Tea is the most widely consumed beverage worldwide, second to water. Black tea, white tea, green tea and oolong all come from the same plant -Camellia Sinensis. Though from the same plant, the levels of antioxidants differ between teas. This depends on the level of processing and how young the leaves were when picked. For example white tea has higher levels of antioxidants because it is actually the baby leaf of green tea hence picked much earlier.

The reason why tea induces a sense of relaxation and calm is because it contains a compound known as Theanine. Theanine is an amino acid found in both black and green tea however higher levels are found in green tea. Recent research into the effects of Theanine shows that it crosses the blood brain barrier, increasing alpha brain waves. Alpha waves are seen on an EEG and mostly found in wakeful relaxation with eyes closed. The compound seems to help people focus on mental tasks. For me the most unique and interesting quality of theanine is that it helps alert focus whilst inducing calmness. The calming effect of theanine is related to its upregulation of inhibitory neurotransmitters, while also regulating dopamine and serotonin levels in the brain.

Tea also contains a compound known as epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). Recent studies show that EGCG is effective against cancer cell growth, cardiovascular disease, endometriosis, chronic fatigue, autoimmune diseases and dementia to mention a few.

Let’s look at the health benefits of some different types of tea.

Green Tea
Green tea holds a large amount of benefits. Firstly it’s high in antioxidants (free radicals fighters) known to cause damage to our cells. Studies support its affect on lowering cholesterol levels and its support of our cardiovascular system including high blood pressure due to its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and anti-blood clotting effects. Due to green teas high levels of EGCG, research also shows improvement of diabetes. Green tea also has an affect on metabolism hence fantastic to drink when trying to lose and maintain weight. In Chinese Medicine we look at the cooling properties it has to the blood therefore recommend patients with skin issues such as acne, eczema and psoriasis to consume 2 to 3 cups daily (these conditions are aliments where blood heat is part of the cause). Several new research studies have recently been published that show the benefits of green tea and its effect on anti aging. Who doesn’t love the sound of that!!!

Tip :Green tea can be bitter in nature, so when making a cup pour some boiling water over the bag or leaves, throw out that water and then proceed to pour more boiling water into your cup or pot. Adding lemon juice also ups the antioxidant levels of the green tea.

White Tea
As previously mentioned white tea is the baby leaf of green tea therefore has higher levels of antioxidants and isn’t bitter. The same amazing properties found in green tea hold here, especially its anti cancer properties.

Chamomile Tea
One of the most popular herbal teas consumed universally for its calming and soothing affects both physically – soothing a unset GUT or menstrual cramps and emotionally/mentally to calm and sooth an overactive mind as well as induce restful sleep. Chamomile tea is also great used topically to sooth irritated eyes and skin. Brew up the leaves or tea bag, allow to cool and apply. I’ve often applied cooled chamomile tea bags to red, irritated hay fever affected eyes.

Rooibos Tea
One of my absolute favourite teas consuming daily with pleasure. A caffeine free herbal tea rich in minerals (iron, calcium, potassium,copper, manganese, zinc, magnesium) antioxidants, high levels of polyphenols as well anti microbial properties. Rooibos tea encourages relaxation, helps insomnia, headaches and soothes an upset stomach and other gut issues (nausea, cramps, diarrhoea). Due to its property of reducing inflammation Rooibos helps improve skin.

Peppermint Tea
Peppermint tea is a very popular tea regularly drunk for its calming effect on the GUT. It also helps clear a blocked nose, soothe a sore throat and ward off a cold. Due to peppermints invigorating aspect it can calm an anxious stressed individual.
In Chinese Medicine when patients have a weak spleen and stomach leading to bloating, indigestion or a lack of appetite we don’t particularly advise patients to consume too many cups, as its cooling nature weakens the digestive organs. The spleen and stomach prefer warmth to perform their roles optionally.

Ginger Tea
Ginger is such an amazing herb for its warming, anti inflammatory and balancing properties. In Chinese Medicine we recognise ginger as a balancer of Yin & Yang. The most widely known property of ginger is its effect on stopping nausea. Due to its anti inflammatory nature it’s beneficial in cases of arthritis and rheumatism, lowers cholesterol and helps with weight loss.

Chai Tea
The warming combination of herbs – nutmeg, cardamom, cinnamon and clove in part a beautiful warming soothing effect. I often recommend my patients drink a few cups daily especially in the cooler winter months because of its warming properties.

Dandelion Tea
Known for its beneficial effects on the liver it cleanses the liver, eases constipation and helps digestion. Dandelion also reduces fluid retention and relieves the pain and swelling of arthritis. Drinking too many cups can bring on nausea because of its effect on the liver so start with one cup and slowly build up to 2 or 3 cups or your level of tolerance.

Drinking herbal teas which are caffeine free is a great way to maintain fluid levels in the body too, as caffeine is a diuretic – flushing water out of the body. In the cooler months i personally find it really difficult to drink water even at room temperature therefore drink lots of herbal tea to maintain hydration levels.

When choosing tea, organic is always best to avoid harmful pesticides and herbicides and try to look for unbleached tea bags for obvious reasons.

Let’s FACE it – Part Two

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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!

Skin Traitors 

SUGAR

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.

CAFFEINE

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!

ALCOHOL

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

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!

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Lets FACE It.

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Lets FACE it, age creeps up on us all. How old we feel isn’t always a reflection of how we look! You can feel frustrated or unhappy with your skins appearance whether you are 16 or 60. At 16 it may be the breakouts and persistent acne that weighs you down. At 60 the lines, wrinkles, sagging and lack of inner glow may be what stares back at you every time you step in front of the mirror.

Skin health really is an inside job. When it comes to skin wellbeing and appearance what you eat and drink is extremely important. What you ingest can either give you smooth, glowing, radiant skin or lack lustre, dry, irritated and inflamed skin.

Though essential to take care of your skin externally in order to protect it from external environmental factors (UVA & UVB rays, pollution, heating + cooling & harsh winds) all which wreck havoc on our skin, dietary choices are the most influential. The connection between nutrition and skin conditions or rather the effect of nutrition on skin health and aging has been an interesting research field for scientists and humans throughout the ages.

You write your skin story with every bite that you take just as you change the microbiota (GUT bacteria) with every mouth full. What you eat becomes who you are instantly. There are no overnight miracles however switching from an inflammatory diet to an anti-inflammatory diet starts to take effect quite quickly.

Our skin is made up of 3 layers. The epidermis the outer most layer of the skin is our border between the inside and outside environment. The epidermis provides a waterproof barrier, makes melanin that creates our skin tone and holds immune cells. The dermis the second layer of the skin holds sweat & oil glands, is the root of hair growth and holds nerve endings. The third layer known as the subcutaneous fat layer is made up of fat and connective tissue. Here body temperature is controlled and this layer of fat attaches the dermis to muscles and bone.

Within these layers there are proteins (collagen, elastin + keratin) and fats which provide skin cushioning as well as assist with communication between our internal and external world through nerve fibres covered by fat. Therefore doesn’t it make sense to nourish and feed our skin with what it is in fact made up of?

Lets look at which foods are going to give you the glow.

 The Glow Givers

Good Fats

Lets get things straight–not all fats are created equally. Healthy fats are essential for strong cell membranes, supple hydrated skin, the absorption of nutrients and energy production. In fact much evidence now leads to the conclusion that the replacement of fats from our diet during the low fat era led to the increase in carbohydrate and simple sugars intake which lead to the development of many present day diseases (depression, hormonal imbalances, increased risk of certain cancers, high cholesterol, heart disease, arthritis and skin aliments like eczema and psoriasis).

So which skin loving fats should we be eating daily?

  • Avocados (fires up the natural detox process of the liver to flush out unwanted wastes, rich in Vitamin E (antioxidant), B3 – Niacin needed for detox, DNA repair and the reduction of redness and inflammation).
  • Olive oil (anti inflammatory, rich in Vitamin E which strengthens cell membranes, protects skin against UV damage & works along side Vitamin C to produce collagen).
  • Coconut Oil (made up of medium chained fatty acids coconut oil contains lauric acid an anti viral, anti bacterial component – awesome for skin woes.
  • Chia Seeds (complete protein packed with cell strengthening Omega 3 that reduces inflammation. Being full of fibre chia seeds assist elimination meaning there’s less nasties systemically which may lead to skin issues).
  • Fats from Nuts & Seeds (protein rich, B Vitamin & Mineral rich).
  • Flaxseeds (anti inflammatory Omega 3’s help reduce hormonal levels that can factor in clogged pores and breakouts).
  • Salmon & Oily Fish (anti inflammatory Omega 3’s help protect skin from sun damage and keep skin smooth and supple).

Healthy fats are essential for beautiful, glowing, supple skin pushing dryness and inflammation aside.

Antioxidants

The reason why fruit and vegetables are so brightly coloured = antioxidants. Antioxidants are compounds found in foods that search and neutralise free radicals. Free radicals cause oxidation and cellular damage which leads to a multitude of issues one of them being collagen breakdown and therefore aging! Examples of antioxidants found in food are Vitamins A, C, E, Folic Acid, Beta-carotene –which gives food the orange pigment, & Lycopene, which gives food its red pigment. In terms of skin loving antioxidant filled foods/drinks think berries, pomegranates, reservatoal found in grapes, vegetables (carrots, pumpkin, sweet potato, zucchini, capsicum, spinach etc), green + white tea, raw cacao, nuts, herbs and spices etc.

 Protein

Protein is the building block of life, helping maintain structure and function of the entire body. Protein is responsible for repairing and rebuilding muscle and tissue, hair + nail growth, the creation of enzymes and hormones as well as the health and maintenance of internal organs and blood. If we look specifically at Skin – it is in fact 25% protein being made up of three major proteins à collagen, elastin and keratin. Hence, doesn’t it make sense to feed skin with what it is in fact mad of? Skin loving proteins to include in your skin health program à organic free range eggs, salmon + other oily fish, grass feed poultry and meat, raw nuts and seeds, legumes, quinoa and pea protein to mention a few.

 Greens

Dark leafy greens have a multitude of health benefits. In fact green vegetables are the most nutritious carbohydrate and most nutrient dense of all foods. Anti inflammatory on cellular level, green vegetables are little nutrition powerhouses! They are high in B Vitamins essential for so many processes within our bodies from energy production to hormone regulation, nervous system health and support, digestive health as well as skin, hair, liver and mouth health etc. Greens have great amounts of Vitamin A which supports the turn over and production of new skin cells therefore eating adequate amounts helps prevent rough, dry, wrinkled skin. Greens are high in Phytonutrients and AntioxidantsVitamins K, C, E, Folate and Carotenoids as well as essential minerals Calcium, Magnesium, Iron and PotassiumVitamin C plays a major role in, tissue health and healing and importantly collagen synthesis. Greens are full of fibre, which helps keep your GUT healthy and bowels busy at work moving toxins out. Greens get their beautiful colour from Chlorophyll. Chlorophyll has a very detoxifying action on the body. It cleanses the body of harmful toxins, which can lead to hormone imbalances and flare skin ailments. It also oxygenates blood, alkalizes the body’s ph level and improves circulation to increase nutrient supply to skin cells.

Zinc

Foods rich in the mineral Zinc are also indispensable. Zinc is fundamental to skin integrity as well as healing/renewal of skin cells. Research shows that dietary deficiency of zinc is found in 50% of patients suffering with skin conditions (dry, itch skin, acne). You may be interested to know that 6% of the body’s zinc is found in skin. Foods rich in zinc are oysters, grass fed meat, chickpeas, lentils, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, pecans, walnuts mushrooms, quinoa and tahini.

Humans undergo two types of aging. Chronological aging otherwise known as intrinsic aging determined by genetics. The second type of aging extrinsic aging is the result of external factors mainly UV exposure, environmental pollutions, stress and poor nutritional choices. Hence doesn’t it make sense of take control of what we can to ward off extrinsic aging as much as possible?

Look at for part two of this blog where I will discuss skin traitor foods.

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