Nutritional Support for Skin Health

This is part of our ongoing The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging spotlight. Each week, we will be posting some of the great information that’s packed into our book, The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging.

Today’s topic:
Nutritional Support for Skin Health

Skin health is a direct reflection of health overall. What’s on the inside is expressed on the outside. In many traditions worldwide, skin health has been related to “impurities” and “toxins” in the blood. Furthermore, several traditional medical systems advocate supporting the efficiency of the liver and detoxifying organs of the body as a means of enhancing skin health. It makes sense that an excessive level of “toxins” in circulation could potentially cause blemishes on the skin. Thus, supporting liver health as a means of supporting healthy skin is a viable approach.

Besides the liver, poor skin health has been related to digestive function. Our digestive tracts are one of the means for the outside world to make direct contact with our insides, especially in the realm of foods and diet. It’s also where many of our food intolerances are developed, either because of immune deficiencies or because of defects in our digestive capacities. Another contributing factor is bacteria and yeast that normally populate our digestive tract. If the bacterial flora is health-promoting, they help digest our food and aid in extracting skin-healthy nutrients from the diet. If the bacterial flora is unhealthy, we fail to take full advantage of the nutrients contained within the foods we eat. Unhealthy bacteria and yeast can also excrete toxins into the gut that can add to the toxic burden our bodies have to deal with, eventually affecting the health of our skin.

A further aspect related to skin health that is important to keep in mind is that the skin itself is a major barrier, which shields and protects our bodies from the ravages of our environment. Intact skin functions to protect us from potential insults that we are exposed to in the world in which we live. Damaged skin compromises this protective shield, leading to compromises in immune defenses and other health problems.

When considering supporting skin health, think about nourishing the skin (and body) from within. What’s healthy for the body is healthy for the skin. Ensuring that our diets contain nutrients that are healthy and support the structural needs of the skin is the first step. The next step is to ensure optimal digestive function and to ramp up the detoxifying ability of the liver. Finally, limiting the effects of environmental exposures that can compromise skin health is also important.

Keeping Healthy Skin Healthy
Healthy skin is smooth, soft, and supple, with a nice uniform color and the sheen of youthfulness. Discolorations and other blemishes aren’t just unsightly – they alert you to the less-thanoptimal health status of your natural outer covering. The beneficial effects of your favorite creams, which contribute important nutrients and hydration from the outside, can be augmented by including several skin-friendly nutrients in your diet.

Pycnogenol to Enhance Venous Tone and Circulation
Pycnogenol strengthens the ability of small blood vessels in the skin to resist oxidative damage.1 Results of recently published human clinical trials confirm the power of Pycnogenol to promote healthy, well-nourished skin by supporting healthy circulation and vein health.2,3 Pycnogenol also contains compounds that have potent antioxidant properties to support the skin’s immune defenses.

Hyaluronic Acid for Skin Elasticity
Aging skin contains less hyaluronic acid. Because hyaluronic acid is the most abundant water-binding glycosaminoglycan in healthy skin, loss of hyaluronic acid results in loss of elasticity and increased density – giving skin a dry and wrinkled appearance. Adding hyaluronic acid back to skin increases its moisture content and flexibility.

Exposure to sunlight also dries skin and reduces its flexibility. Increasing the hyaluronic acid content of skin increases its resistance to the deleterious effects of sunlight. A paper published recently in the Journal of Pharmacology and Pharmaceutical Science has shown hyaluronic acid to be a powerful antioxidant within the skin that prevents wrinkle-producing free radical damage of the skin as well as maintaining the normal level of hydration within the skin.4

Hyaluronic acid promotes flexible and supple skin, which makes it an ideal candidate for your skin anti-aging program.

Smooth Out Your Coloration with Nutrition
Extracts of pomegranate fruit can help decrease your skin’s tendency to develop spotty pigmentation after exposure to sunlight. In research published recently in Bioscience, Biotechnology and Biochemistry, the consumption of pomegranate extract prevented much of the excess pigmentation that otherwise was caused by sunlight exposure.5 Other research published recently in Photochemistry and Photobiology has shown that pomegranate extract blocks the effects of ultraviolet light on the chemical pathways in the skin that can produce the unsightly signs of skin aging.6

Discolored spots on the skin can be caused by excessive oxidation within the skin – usually triggered by unprotected exposure to a little too much sun. Those great antioxidant vitamins, vitamin C and vitamin E, can intercept runaway melanin production in your skin – a major cause of the undesirable appearance of photoaged skin. But these vitamins never are as powerful as when they are combined with other targeted nutrients such as melatonin, which works in concert with the antioxidant vitamins to keep skin from overreacting to sunlight.

Another key to healthy skin is filling your diet with colorful phytonutrients! A growing body of research shows that men and women who supplement their diets with ß-carotene, lutein and lycopene (along with vitamin C and vitamin E) can increase the ability of their skin to withstand sunlight without burning – powerful additional antioxidant support for a good sunscreen!

Stay Cool and Remain Refreshed – Both Are Good for Your Skin
Iced tea is for beating the heat inside your body – and it also helps you handle the sun’s energy on the outside. Iced tea, and especially green tea, adds nutrients to your skin that increase its natural barrier to sunlight penetration. Research findings published recently in the Chinese Medical Journal and in the Journal of Nutrition testify to the protective properties of the phytonutrients in tea and especially in green tea.7,8 It turns out green tea contains phytochemicals that have superb antioxidant activity. This property of tea allows it to confer potent protection to skin cells.

Lose Excess Fat for a Trimmer Appearance and More Supple Skin
You knew that if you could get yourself to limit your intake of fats you could drop a few pounds and trim your shape. You also need to know that that excess layer of fat you have built up between your skin and the rest of your body acts to dry out and stiffen your skin.9 Take home message – don’t take the fat home – leave it in the store or restaurant and help your skin draw admiration to your entire appearance.

Fish Oil for Skin Cell Communication
The essential fatty acids contained in fish oil are extremely beneficial for the skin. Our diets generally contain a large proportion of unhealthy fats and a high percentage of omega-6 fatty acids. However, cell membranes preferentially use the omega-3 fats from fish for incorporation into their membranes. These fats facilitate cell-to-cell communication and enhance the ability of cells to flush toxins out and push nutrients in, keeping cells healthy. While this is the case with cells throughout the body, this is also certainly true for skin cells. Thus, for truly vibrant skin, eat wild-caught fish that is loaded with omega-3 oils and supplement with a high-quality fish oil supplement.

Healthy Bacteria = Healthy Skin
Digestive function can have a big impact on skin health. Probiotic organisms are bacteria that produce beneficial health effects in the body and support optimal digestive function and nutrient absorption. Thus, supplementing with probiotics can have beneficial effects on the skin as they facilitate nutrient utilization by the body.

Support the Liver, Support the Skin
The liver is the major detoxifier of the body. Keeping the blood free and clear of toxins can have a large effect on the appearance of the skin. By enhancing the liver’s detoxifying efficiency, you can ensure that toxins in circulation are properly neutralized. Herbs such as milk thistle and turmeric, and nutrients such as N-acetylcysteine and other antioxidants, play a role in supporting liver function. See the Liver Support chapter for more information on liver-healthy practices.

Supporting the skin begins with promoting the health of the digestive tract and liver, and providing optimal levels of nutrients that directly support skin health. Incorporating skin healthy dietary practices and therapeutic nutrients into your daily regimen can leave your skin supple, youthful, and glowing. The skin is a reflection of what’s underneath. Keep it happy by nourishing your insides.

Next Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging topic:
Nutritional Support for Bone Health

1. Gulati OP. Pycnogenol in venous disorders: A review. Eur Bull Drug Res 1999;7:8-13.
2. Belcaro G, Cesarone MR, Errichi BM, Ledda A, Di Renzo A, Stuard S, Dugall M, Pellegrini L, Rohdewald P, Ippolito E, Ricci A, Cacchio M, Ruffini I, Fano F, Hosoi M. Venous ulcers: Microcirculatory improvement and faster healing with local use of Pycnogenol. Angiology 2005;56:699-705.
3. Cesarone MR, Belcaro G, Rohdewald P, Pellegrini L, Ledda A, Vinciguerra G, Ricci A, Gizzi G, Ippolito E, Fano F, Dugall M, Acerbi G, Cacchio M, Di Renzo A, Hosoi M, Stuard S, Corsi M. Comparison of Pycnogenol and Daflon in treating chronic venous insufficiency: A prospective, controlled study. Clin Appl Thromb Hemost 2006;12:205- 212.
4. Trommer H, Neubert RH. Screening for new antioxidative compounds for topical administration using skin lipid model systems. J Pharm Pharm Sci 2005;8:494-506.
5. Yoshimura M, Watanabe Y, Kasai K, Yamakoshi J, Koga T. Inhibitory effect of an ellagic acid-rich pomegranate extract on tyrosinase activity and ultraviolet-induced pigmentation. Biosci Biotechnol Biochem 2005;69:2368-2373.
6. Syed DN, Malik A, Hadi N, Sarfaraz S, Afaq F, Mukhtar H. Photochemopreventive effect of pomegranate fruit extract on UVA-mediated activation of cellular pathways in normal human epidermal keratinocytes. Photochem Photobiol 2006;82:398-405.
7. Song XZ, Bi ZG, Xu AE. Green tea polyphenol epigallocatechin-3- gallate inhibits the expression of nitric oxide synthase and generation of nitric oxide induced by ultraviolet B in HaCaT cells. Chin Med J 2006;119:282-287.
8. Heinrich U, Neukam K, Tronnier H, Sies H, Stahl W. Long-term ingestion of high flavanol cocoa provides photoprotection against UV-induced erythema and improves skin condition in women. J Nutr 2006;136:1565-1569.
9. Boelsma E, van de Vijver LP, Goldbohm RA, Klopping-Ketelaars IA, Hendriks HF, Roza L. Human skin condition and its associations with nutrient concentrations in serum and diet. Am J Clin Nutr 2003;77:348-355.