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Nov 3, 2020 Diet & Nutrition Wellness Tips Hayley Derwent 85 views

We’ve all heard the saying “You are what you eat.” It’s also a commonly known strategy to avoid certain foods to help look after our skin – chocolate to reduce acne, for example. From a nutritional perspective, there are a few important nutrients when it comes to skin health. Let’s have a look at those nutrients and the food that we can get them from.

Zinc

Zinc is a key nutrient for proper function of the skin. It is needed to make proteins (such as keratin and collagen), wound healing and is an important antioxidant. It has been used as a therapeutic treatment of various skin conditions such as warts, acne, rosacea, psoriasis, alopecia (hair loss), as well as to heal scar tissue. One study has shown an improvement in wrinkles after using a zinc cream for 8 weeks. (1)

Food sources of zinc (2) include:

  • Oysters
  • Animal protein (eg beef, chicken)
  • Beans
  • Nuts
  • Seafood, especially shellfish
  • Wholegrains
  • Dairy products

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that can help to fight damage to the skin that is caused by UV light. Note that Vitamin C should not be used as a sunscreen, but rather, it helps the skin to repair itself. Vitamin C also plays a part in making collagen, which makes it an important nutrient in skin health. It has also been linked to anti-ageing and wound healing. In fact, one of the symptoms of vitamin C deficiency (also known as scurvy) is lesions in the skin and poor would healing.  There has also been a correlation between high vitamin C levels and a lower risk of dry skin. (3,4)

Food sources of Vitamin C (5) include:

  • Citrus fruits
  • Strawberries
  • Kiwifruit
  • Red capsicum
  • Broccoli

Vitamin D

Vitamin D plays an important part in our immune system, and because many skin conditions are linked to allergies, or auto-immune conditions, vitamin D is important for those conditions. It has shown positive effects in:

  • Wound healing
  • Skin cancer
  • Psoriasis
  • Acne
  • Hair loss
  • Vitiligo and other autoimmune skin conditions such as Pemphigus vulgaris and bullous pemphigoid
  • Atopic dermatitis. (6)

 

Vitamin D is produced in our bodies after exposure to the sun. Check out the Cancer Council guidelines for appropriate sun exposure here. We can get some Vitamin D from food sources, including:

  • cod liver oil
  • cheese
  • egg yolks
  • mackerel
  • salmon
  • tuna
  • beef liver.

Probiotics

Probiotics are live microorganisms that are intended to have health benefits when taken or administered in adequate amounts. (7) They are found in some foods, as well as in supplements.

Recent research into different strains of probiotics tell us that different strains of probiotics may help with different health conditions. In particular, lactobacillus rhamnoses (LGG) given to pregnant mothers and babies after birth have reduced the rate of eczema by 2 years of age. (7)

Foods containing live probiotics include:

  • yogurt – look for “pot-set” yogurts
  • fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, tempeh

Essential Fatty Acids

The essential fatty acids (EFAs) omega-6 and omega-3 polyunsturated fatty acids, linoleic acid and alpha-linolenic acid all play a part in skin health. These EFAs can be ingested or used topically to treat skin conditions. (8) They have been associated with positive effects in the following skin conditions:

  • photoprotection, or protection against UV damage
  • photoaging – skin aging due to sun exposure or smoking
  • dry, sensitive skin
  • wound healing (8)

EFAs are found in lots of different foods, including:

  • oily fish such as salmon, mackerel & sardines
  • flaxseed oil
  • nuts and seeds, especially walnuts, brazil nuts, sunflower seeds
  • tofu and other soybean products
  • avocado (9)

Vitamin A

Vitamin A helps maintain skin health in relation to sunburn, as well as wrinkling and irregular pigmentation of aging skin due to UV exposure. (10) Food sources of vitamin A include:

  • Carrots
  • Pumpkin
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Mangoes
  • Papaya
  • Salmon
  • Trout
  • Liver
  • Milk
  • Egg yolk

Other dietary factors

While the above are specific nutrients for skin health, Nutritionists tend to look at the whole person, rather than individual nutrients. Other things that are taken into consideration when looking at skin conditions are:

  • Water – make sure your water intake is adequate. Recommendations are for 2 litres of water per day, more in hot weather or with increased physical exercise
  • Sugar intake – avoiding refined sugar can assist with maintaining skin health
  • Dairy intake – dairy can often be inflammatory if a person already suffers from skin conditions
  • Gluten – also considered inflammatory, especially in auto-immune conditions
  • Reducing other inflammatory foods such as saturated fats, refined foods and artificial colours, flavours and preservatives.

We also look at lifestyle factors such as:

  • Reducing sun exposure
  • Reducing stress
  • Avoiding synthetic fibres in clothing
  • Use of cosmetics and moisturisers

Conclusion

While many nutrients play a role in skin health, it is important that we follow a varied diet of natural, whole foods to ensure that we have utmost skin health. We should also ensure to reduce or avoid sun exposure, stress, artificial colours, flavours and preservatives to keep our skin in tip-top condition. Remember, if you have any concerns about your skin health, consult your health care practitioner.

References

  1. Gupta M, et al, 2014, ‘Zinc Therapy in Dermatology: A Review’, Dermatology Research and Practice, v2014, PMC4120804, Viewed on 13 October 2020, <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4120804/>
  2. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Zinc-HealthProfessional/#:~:text=Oysters%20contain%20more%20zinc%20per,products%20%5B2%2C11%5D
  3. Pullar J et al, 2017, ‘The Roles of VtaminC and Skin Health’, Nutrients, 9(8): 866, viewed on 13 October 2020, <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5579659/>
  4. https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/health-disease/skin-health/vitamin-C
  5. https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/vitamins/vitamin-C#food-sources
  6. Mostafa W & Hegazy R, 2015, ‘Vitamin D and the Skin: Focus on a Complex Relationship: A Review’, Journal of Advanced Research, 6(6): 793–804, viewed on 15 October 2020, <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4642156/>
  7. Pham M et al, 2008, ‘Probiotics: Sorting the Evdience frm the Myths’, Medical Journal of Australia, 88 (5): 304-308, viewed on 19 October 2020 <https://www.mja.com.au/journal/2008/188/5/probiotics-sorting-evidence-myths>
  8. https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/health-disease/skin-health/essential-fatty-acids
  9. https://www.myfooddata.com/articles/high-omega-3-foods.php

Schagen S et al, 2012, ‘Discovering the link between nutrition and skin aging’, Dermato Endocrinology, 4(3): 298–307, viewed on 19 October 2020, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3583891/

Hayley Derwent

About The Author - Hayley Derwent

Hayley is a holistic nutritionist whose vision is to inspire and educate patients about food and lifestyle to positively enhance their health and wellbeing. She provides a safe and caring environment by listening, teaching and supporting people and working in partnership with them to strive towards good health and happiness.

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