Inflammation: How stress and certain foods can help or hurt your skin

How stress and certain foods can help or hurt your skin

You are what you eat. Diet plays huge role in the appearance of your skin.  It begins with an understanding that almost every disease process and cell death/cell destruction starts with inflammation.  A high fat, high sugar diet increases systemic inflammation and results in an increase in a hormone called cortisol. This hormone is responsible for destroying collagen and elastin (the protein that holds our skin together and keeps it looking supple).  Cortisol is also responsible for an increase in oil gland production, thus increasing acne breakouts. It is also considered a vasodilator which causes the skin to heat up, increasing the severity of rosacea flares-ups.

What are some of the best known anti-aging foods and vitamins? Amino acids are the building blocks that help increase collagen and elastin production. These can be taken orally through amino-acid supplements or ingested by consuming meat and eggs – don’t forget the yolk! Brussel sprouts contain loads of vitamin A and folate and may help prevent sun damage. Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant and help to combat free-radicals. I always recommend that my patients take Niacinomide 500mg twice a day to combat sun-damage and promote cell turnover and repair. This important and often overlooked vitamin (B3) puts energy back into skin cells to help repair damage.

What is the role of antioxidants in aging or skin health?    Antioxidants play a crucial role in skin health and aging.  Everyday stress, whether physical or environmental, increases the number of free-radicals in the cell. Free-radicals increase oxidative-stress on the cell and shorten the important function of telomeres.  Telomeres are similar to plastic coverings on the end of shoe laces, but on both ends. They protect our chromosomes and allow for cell division and cell repair from day-to-day living. An increase in free-radicals shortens and destroys these telomeres so cell repair, cell turnover is compromised, resulting in a breakdown in the skin.  A diet rich in anti-oxidants, including supplementation, is key in controlling the effect of free-radicals.

Can the foods we eat promote inflammation in the skin? Rosacea and acne? Absolutely!  There are numerous studies supporting the role of a diet rich in carbohydrates and dairy with acne/acne rosacea and dermatitis.  Again, these foods increase blood glucose and inflammation which dilate the blood vessels, thus increasing redness, rosacea and acne flare-ups.  It is important to eat carbohydrates that are low-glycemic to prevent spikes in blood sugar and control inflammation.

What is the most practical tip you can offer in terms of an anti-aging diet and lifestyle?  Eat seasonally, organic and eat various colors of fruits and vegetables.  Controlling the amount of pesticides and chemicals you ingest is key.  The easiest tip is to control your blood sugar naturally!  I  prescribe a diet that includes controlling your blood sugar with fat and protein. When you eat a carbohydrate (stick with sweet potatoes, quinoa and steel-cut oats) always combine it with a protein and or fat to blunt the insulin response. Increased blood-sugar = increase inflammation.

Examples of healthy meal options include: steel-cut oatmeal with one egg or a tbsp. of almond butter.  Quinoa with 1/4 avocado.

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