Our skin is a reflection of our inner state of health and balance. It is also our body’s largest detoxification organ. When a skin disorder, such as acne, psoriasis, or ezcema, occurs, this is a warning signal that the body is out of balance. My job as a naturopathic doctor is to discover each individual’s imbalance, whether it be from hormonal or digestive problems, food sensitivities, stress-induced adrenalin imbalance, or toxic overload in the liver.
Often in my practice I see women who have flare-ups of acne right before their periods. This can be a sign that there is an excess amount of testosterone in the body compared to progesterone and estrogen, which can be due to a problem in the liver’s detoxification process. Individualized herbal and dietary treatments can balance hormones and support the liver function. For example, the herb Vitex or Chasteberry helps to balance hormones by lowering excess testosterone and increasing deficient progesterone. Individualized saliva hormone testing can determine each individual’s hormone balance. As well, avoidance of alcohol and refined sugar (which are both equally hard on the liver) can drastically improve liver function in order to balance hormones and improve skin health.
Typically, when the skin is inflamed with eczema, acne, or psoriasis, there is an underlying problem with the digestive system. High amounts of candida yeast build-up in the gut can occur with high amounts of alcohol, breads, and sugar consumption, as well as frequent antibiotic use and birth control pills. Food sensitivity testing can determine candida yeast load as well as what foods are causing inflammation in the body and thus skin flare-up. Probiotics are very important in improving gut health and out-competing harmful candida yeast in the gut. Probiotic rich foods include sauerkraut, yogurt, kefir, and kombucha.
Stress is the cause of 90% of all illnesses, and skin health is not an exception. Most people will notice that psoriasis and acne, especially, are worse when stress levels are highest. Imbalance of cortisol or adrenalin levels in the body create havoc by disrupting hormone and blood sugar balance and increasing levels of inflammation. Balancing stress levels through regular exercise, yoga, and daily deep breathing is essential to skin health. Also, sauna therapy is a great way to relax and sweating is the best way to detoxify as the body.
Our skin thrives when it is nourished internally with an organic whole foods diet free of toxins and harmful chemicals. Keeping the liver healthy is the key to healing skin problems.
Key tips for healthy skin include:
1. Drink plenty of filtered water
The skin has been referred to as the “third kidney” since it helps out when the liver and kidneys become overburdened by excess toxins. When the body becomes dehydrated the pores on the skin can become blocked; therefore, it is important to increase your water intake to keep skin clean. Make sure you always drink water when you are thirsty. Also, foods that have high water content such as watermelon, cucumber, parsley, cabbage, and romaine lettuce assist in reducing the toxicity in the body and are additional ways to increase your water intake.
2. Keep the body alkaline.
An acidic diet plays havoc in our bodies creating inflammation and chronic diseases including cancer. Acne is no exception to this as it is a reflection of the body’s inflammatory process. Acid-forming foods such as dairy products, refined carbohydrates and sugars, coffee, fried foods, and meats should be avoided or reduced. Alkaline-forming foods including vegetables and all fruits, and whole grains such as amaranth and quinoa help reduce swelling and inflammation in the body. Eat plenty of green leafy vegetables every day and juice or have a Greens Drink every day to increase alkalinity and longevity.
3 . Drink green tea
Studies show that regular green tea consumption helps reduce severity of acne occurrences. Polyphenols and flavonols contained in green tea are extremely powerful antioxidants. These two components prevent breakouts and heal damaged, inflamed skin. Four cups a day of green tea are recommended for acne sufferers. Also, try mocha powder as it is a concentrated form of green tea and which has an even higher amount of anti-oxidants.
4. Eat plenty of anti-oxidant rich foods
Anti-oxidants quench free radical damage in the body thus preventing inflammation and aging. Interestingly, while chocolate is shown to flare up acne due to the sugar and fat content, 100% cacao powder is shown to actually PREVENT acne break outs. This is because the cacao powder is full of antioxidants. Other foods high in anti-oxidants include berries and all fruits and vegetables.
5. Eat foods that are high in Vitamin A
Beta-carotene converts to vitamin A in the body and is vital to skin health. Most skin care products contain Vitamin A to treat acne. Foods that are packed with beta-carotene include kale, carrots, sweet potatoes and yams, butternut squash, cantalope melon, and lettuce.
6. Eat foods that are high in Vitamin E
Vitamin E is a strong anti-oxidant that protects skin and assists in healing acne damage and scarring. Those on a low-fat diet may not be getting enough Vitamin E since it is found in essential fat products. Foods high in Vitamin E include wheatgerm oil, sunflower seeds, and almonds.
7. Eat plenty of Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids (fish oils, hemp oils, walnuts, flax oils, chia seeds), are anti- inflammatory to the skin and keep hormones functioning optimally. Try to incorporate a combination of these oils and seeds daily into the diet. At least two servings a week of fish and a daily tablespoon of flax oil and walnuts will give your skin a great Omega boost.
There recommendations are for educational purposes only. For a detailed personal consultation please contact Dr. Jeannie Doig, ND at 250-522-0033. Dr. Doig works at the Pacific Rim Chiropractic and Naturopathic Clinic in Tofino and Ucluelet. For more information on naturopathic medicine check out her website at www.drjeanniedoig.com or Twitter DrJDoig.