Some organs play a major role in our survival and others can be removed without impacting our general health in any significant way. As we have evolved so an organ’s function may have changed to accommodate our modern environment, especially if their role is protective as in the case of the liver and the elimination of toxins. In this polluted world our body is under increasing stress and keeping the individual organs healthy ensures the general well-being of the entire body.
The skin – the largest organ of the body with a role to protect and remove waste.
In today’s post I am concentrating on our largest organ. Surprisingly it is not situated inside our bodies but outside. Our skin weighs 12% to 15% of our body weight and has three vital roles to play. It protects us from external contaminants, acts as a temperature and moisture controller and is essential in the elimination of waste products.
There is a complex structure to our skin that is invisible to the naked eye and apart from slapping a bit of moisturiser on last thing at night, most of us are unaware of the crucial role that it plays in our general health.
As you can see from the diagram above, skin has a number of layers, each with a specific role to play such as in waste management and of maintaining healthy hair growth.
One of the most crucial roles is as a barrier to external contaminants and it comes under increasing stress as we get older. Free radicals attack it from the outside from chemicals in household cleaners, cigarette smoke, pollution and ultra-violet light. From the inside it is the victim of a poor diet low in essential fatty acids, processed foods, food intolerances and toxins produced from an inefficient and under nourished operating system.
Some of the signs of skin under stress are acne, cold sores, eczema, psoriasis, hives, impetigo, warts and of course wrinkles. In the next posts I will be looking at some of these common skin conditions in more detail.
Most of us live in harsh environments at home and at work with air conditioning and central heating drying our skins out. As we get older and without the protection of our reproductive hormones our skin will naturally become much dryer. Diet and hydration play a vital role in our skin health and today an overview of some essential ingredients needed to maintain a healthy skin.
Start by drinking water
Lack of fluids causes blotchy and dull skin and spots so drinking 2 litres of fluid a day will give you a glow and improve the tone. Dehydrated skin is very flaccid and flat and a test is to pinch some skin on the back of your hand and let it go. The longer it takes to return to its former shape, the more dehydrated you are. It should spring back immediately. I still advocate drinking some glasses of most tap water – I don’t like mine with too much chlorine etc. which is added in hot climates but generally it is good enough to drink. Certainly that may be all you are getting when you buy cheap mineral water, although it has probably been filtered. It is now considered that coffees and teas contribute to your fluid intake and I enjoy both peppermint and green tea and tend to have four or five of those a day. If you live in an area that has low humidity or you exercise at an active level you will need to increase your fluid intake.
I suggest 30 minutes before each meal. Drinking large glasses with food can dilute your gastric juices and result in food not being properly digested. This applies to first thing in the morning when your get out of bed. Drink either a large glass of water to rehydrate or hot water with the juice of half a lemon and get a Vitamin C hit too. You will have gone 8 hours without any fluid in bed which is a warm environment and you should notice a big difference in energy levels if you top up first thing.
Apart from fluids, what else do we need to ensure healthy and glowing skin?
We need a balanced diet of proteins, carbohydrates and fats, with the right amount of the essential nutrients to ensure that all the body systems, such as waste management, are working efficiently. If you are not eliminating waste then it will accumulate and cause tissues such as skin to become lifeless and dull.
If you are a regular reader of my blogs you will find some shopping lists in the archives which provide most of the nutrients we need on a daily basis and that is a good place to start and then adapt to your own personal requirements.
We are essentially made up of water and protein. The skin needs sufficient protein in the diet and this does not mean eating 5 lbs of prime-rib every day. Protein is present in lots of plant foods as well and these would include all types of beans, sprouting seeds and beans, cheese, milk, whole grains. Live yoghurt is great as it also contains the friendly bacteria to keep your intestines healthy. If they are working efficiently then of course you will be eliminating a great many toxins.
Certain foods in our modern diet can cause acne such as too much sugar, bloating caused by drinking too much alcohol and eating refined carbohydrates that get stored as fat and increase the lumpy and uneven texture to our skin.
We need a certain amount of fat, not only for the B vitamins that it supplies but also because it assists in circulation and improves the suppleness and softness of skin. Vitamin B – complex is very important for skin tone and the B vitamins are also great for the immune system – keeping us clear of infections.
Other vitamins that we should be taking in for our skin health are Vitamin A, which strengthens and repairs the tissues and prevents spots. It is a powerful anti-oxidant, which keeps your skin clear of toxins.
Vitamin C is vital for wound healing and repair and maintenance of the blood vessels close to the surface of the skin and can be used in creams on the surface to help stabilise the collagen and help prevent fine lines appearing.
Vitamin E is definitely a great anti-oxidant and has an anti-inflammatory effect when applied directly to the skin. It helps keep the skin soft and smooth and has a mild sunscreen effect.
Zinc works like the vitamin C and E and is great for wound healing and in a cream is great for mild rashes etc.
The best diet for great skin is plenty of fresh and preferably raw fruit and vegetables packed with antioxidants. Wholegrains that will provide fibre and help you eliminate toxins. Lean poultry and oily fish and daily helpings of zinc rich foods such as pumpkinseeds are essential.
There is a group of anti-oxidants, which are proving to be very effective for skin health. They are called Anthocyanidins and are found in most berries and grapes, particularly the skins and help with inflammation and oxidation of tissues.
As mentioned earlier, the skin is the largest organ of elimination and in fact about one pound of waste is excreted through the skin on a daily basis.
I would like to introduce you to an easy and very inexpensive way to improve the health of not just that essential organ but your whole body.
If your skin is in poor condition and the pores are blocked with dead cells, impurities are forced back into the body. This puts additional stress onto the other organs of elimination such as the liver and the kidneys causing them to be overworked and toxins to build up in the body causing disease.
Dry skin brushing is relaxing and extremely beneficial. We do need to wash, but using soap and water all the time to cleanse can cause other problems as soap is still a chemical. You will find after a very short period of time that not only the circulation of your skin is improved but also its softness. You will also notice a reduction in infections and allergic irritations as the waste products are allowed to leave the body as they should. People also notice that they have less body odour, suffer fewer infections such as colds and feel more energy due the stimulation of the lymph system.
There are specific skin brushes but I use a long handled medium soft back brush. You must always brush towards the heart to ensure that you do not cause circulatory problems. Start at the soles of your feet and work your way up your legs and stomach as far as the chest area. Brush upwards from your hands to your shoulders and then down from your shoulders to the breast area. You can be as vigorous as you like. Do not brush your face but you can do the back of your neck and your scalp. Have a separate brush for each member of the family and wash your brush at least once a week.
If you feel that you need to wash afterwards then simply stand under a luke-warm shower and then a cold jet to remove excess skin cells and then close your pores. Pat yourself dry and rest for a few minutes to allow your body to really relax.
Are skin creams worth the money?
Like most women I have fallen prey to the television advertising that promises that either the seven signs of ageing (not sure if dementia is included in this list) or all my wrinkles will disappear by using some amazing and magical ingredient in skin cream.
We have collagen, boswellox and some interestingly named nutrients that apparently give you a face-lift in 4 weeks. Interestingly if you look at the small print on the bottom of the advertising you will see that this was a test on 47 women of whom 25% noticed a difference. Sorry would like a little larger test market than that. Not only am I concerned about the size of this trial, but what else were these 47 women doing at the same time as they were plastering their faces with this new cream? Did they do a detox, give up smoking, drinking alcohol, coffee and start drinking 2 litres of water per day? Too many variables for me to make an informed decision to buy or not. I have also reacted to some face creams over the years and if you can read the fine print it is quite interesting to see what actually goes into these potions!
It is only my opinion but my mother used a very inexpensive cream every night all her life and she used from the age of 15 to her death at 95 and she always had very smooth skin. I have tried many of the expensive creams from time to time but always seem to end up washing with plain soap and water followed by something like Nivea cream. But by far the most impressive effects were achieved by giving up smoking in my late 30’s, cutting back my drinking of alcohol and increasing my intake of water and healthy fats.
Start with a healthy eating plan and then decide if you are willing to part with your money on a vague promise of a youthful skin.
Next time a look at eczema.. thanks for stopping by and please feel free to share. Sally