Smorgasbord Health Column – Family Health A-Z – Acne – Teenage and Adults by Sally Cronin


Although the focus has been on Covid this last year… there are still other health issues that have not gone away. Many are improved with simple treatments and dietary changes and in this series I am going to look at some of the more common issues.

Family Health A-Z – Acne – Teenage and Adults

Acne is the curse of the teen years and also as we go through hormonal changes later in life.. There is also a strong link to diet, especially the the over indulgence in sugars.

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 skin in in fact our largest organ and 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.

Because of the skin’s role in the elimination of waste products and as a barrier to external contaminants 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, shingles, warts and of course wrinkles. Today I am going to be covering acne, a bane for teenagers but can also come back to haunt us in our middle years as we go through another hormonal change.

Acne

I remember as a teenager getting a few spots at certain times of the month but was thankfully clear of major acne outbreaks. I did have a friend at school that was devastatingly affected by the condition and when you are a 16 year old girl or boy it can have a detrimental impact on not just your physical appearance but also your mental and emotional health.

Let’s face it, spots that are on your back and covered up on your arms are unsightly and irritating but if your face is covered in blackheads, whiteheads and scarring then it can result in lack of self-esteem that can last for years afterwards. In severe cases acne can lead to severe depression, withdrawal from both school and social activities and suicide.
Unfortunately even when the acne has departed in can leave scarring which varies in severity and often because it is deep and pitted it remains for a lifetime. The reason that it is so deep is because of the inflammation in the dermal layer of the skin which heals abnormally leaving the pitted surface.

The numbers across the western world when added together make acne the 8th common disease in the world. It is estimated that it affects over 80% of teenagers adding up to a huge 600 million people worldwide.

There are a number of suspected causes and I will take a brief look at these.

Hormonal

Most of us will associate spots that appeared during our teen years with hormonal changes after puberty. Sex hormones called androgens result in several changes within the body but also in the skin. The trillions of pores on the surface of our skin are really minute openings into canals called follicles. In each follicle you will find a hair and a sebaceous (oil) gland. This helps keep our skin supple and hydrated and also assists in the disposal of old skin cells that we are shedding continuously.

At puberty and for girls each month the surge of hormones results in a change in the follicle causing them to grow larger and produce more oil. Whilst this affects both sexes in the teen years it also affects women who become pregnant at any age or who suffer from PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome). PCOS is caused by a woman producing too many of the male androgens affecting her menstrual cycle and ability to become pregnant.

With teenagers it is not just the increase in androgens such as testosterone which can cause acne. At that age there is a growth spurt particularly in boys that can take place between the ages of 16 and 24 and the hormone responsible for this is GH or HGH.

Additionally IGF-1 is a hormone that is similar in structure to Insulin and plays a role in growth in both teenagers and later with a different affect in adults can result in a similar response.

It is unusual for acne to develop after the body has completed its growth cycle in the early to mid-twenties.

Genetic

It is believed that around 75% of acne could be genetic which is supported by studies with twins and also with immediate family members. Polygenic inheritance pattern controls our height, skin colour, eye colour and also it is believed our weight. Rather than just one gene being involved it requires a combination of two or more genes to affect these characteristics. Certain genes have now been identified that could be related to acne and that is an ongoing study.

This genetic link is reinforced by the incidences of severe acne associated with a dysfunctional immune system. This is not lifestyle related but an inherent over sensitivity to bacteria that results in an unusually aggressive immune system response. When bacteria are detected by the body the immune system produces large amounts of inflammatory cytokines. These induce white blood cells to unleash destructive enzymes and free radicals into the site of infection. Because this response is unusually aggressive it can cause damage to the surrounding tissue. This in turn results in another release of cytokines and it becomes a perpetual cycle resulting in long term inflammation and of course the associated acne. In this type of environment bacteria thrive rather than be killed off.

With the other form of genetic dysfunctional immune response the white cells themselves are under powered and do not have the ability to deal with any harmful bacteria that they encounter. Usually white blood cells work on the principal of divide and conquer, they are designed to ingest any bacteria they come across, isolating the bacteria in a special casing called a phagosome and then pumping toxic enzymes inside to kill it. It is then broken up into small particles that are absorbed back into the immune system. The system then takes these particles and designs anti-bodies that will be able to fight future infections of this bacteria.

In a faulty immune system the white cell takes in the bacteria but is not equipped to kill them adequately. They keep trying however, exhausting themselves in the process and dying. This releases the bacteria still alive and allows it to thrive. It also means that the immune system does not get the chance to develop anti-bodies to fight that particular strain of bacteria leading to long term infections.

The most common of the bacterial infections associated with acne is Propionibacterium acnes (P. acnes) is a bacteria that grows deep inside of pores where it obtains its energy from the oil in the follicle canal. It is anaerobic which means that unlike most bacteria it is tolerant to oxygen so the low oxygen, oil rich environment of the follicle is perfect for its growth. Because it forms clumps of bacteria it can block and protect itself within the canal leading to persistent infections into the 20s and beyond. Unfortunately the bacteria have become resistant to a number of the anti-biotics used to treat acne including Penicillin.

Lifestyle.

There have been many assumptions made over the years about acne and its causes. Including the fact that some teenagers do not have a close relationship with cleanliness, that poor diet full of fats and sugars is to blame and the habit of the young today to spend more time indoors rather than out in the fresh air. In reality I believe there is an element of all of these factors involved. And in particular the increase in the use of both male and female facial and body beauty products.

Today we are spoiled for choice when we buy skin products in the pharmacies, supermarkets and online. The prices also vary from very cheap to extremely expensive but unfortunately whilst simple is better, cheap may not be so. Many cheap skin products have ingredients that could irritate skin further. This also applies for make-up that teenage girls are going to use to cover up spots and scars.

Most acne prescribed medication is designed to dry up the oil that feed the bacteria and may be causing the outbreak in the first place. This can result in dry and flaky skin and irritated patches.

The temptation is to buy moisturisers that are heavy and greasy to counteract the dryness but it is better when suffering from acne to use a light weight moisturiser with ingredients such as glycerine that will not clog your pores with more grease. Avoid those that have ingredients such as cocoa butter for example.

Use clean towels every day and dab your face rather than rub to dry.

Change your pillow case every two days.. turning it over in the night between so that it is fresh.

The one lifestyle activity which is definitely implicated in causing skin irritation and increasing the chances of acne is smoking.

You might find the following daily cleansing ritual helpful.

A mild cleanser for the face (ask advice on your skin type) Using your fingers gently massage the skin for a few minutes. Wipe off the excess with a clean cotton wool wipe. Then rinse your face in lukewarm warm water to remove all the lotion. Pat the skin dry and then apply the light moisturiser. You can use a mild exfoliant (and I mean mild) once or twice a week which can be helpful in cleaning the skin slightly more thoroughly.

These days there are a lot of products on the market but do be careful about just buying off the shelf. Ask advice from a pharmacist and check for side effects.

Medication

There are a number of prescribed medications available now to treat acne including topical creams. Antibiotics are also prescribed but there is a danger that this will then create a resistance to future antibiotics if over used. For girls sometimes being prescribed birth control pills can regulate hormone levels reducing the surge of hormones each month. I do advice however that you do not self-medicate by buying products online. Get professional guidance and if you add to your acne scarring by using the wrong product it will stay with you for life.

Alternative therapies.

My go to essential oil for skincare across all ages is Frankincense and earlier in the year I covered its benefits..Frankincense

You must be extremely careful with your skin as whilst it does a very tough job it is also very delicate. I have found that taking Echinacea for six weeks at a time may help boost immune system function Echinacea

Also you may find taking Grapefruit seed extract to help control an overgrowth of Candida Albicans which as a fungal infection of the intestines, does impact the efficiency of the immune system.

Topically, apart from the cleansing regime I have already mentioned, you may find that a couple of drops of tea tree oil mixed with your morning and night time moisturiser may also help kill off the bacteria. Do monitor and if it causes any irritation or redness of the skin stop using.

In addition to echinacea other herbal remedies can be useful for skin complaints including Saw Palmetto and Agnus Castus to help normalise hormonal levels. If you are considering taking any herbal remedy I do suggest that you talk to a qualified assistant in your local health food shop.. They should have received training in the uses for any of their products but do ask first.

Diet

The fact that the incidences of acne is certain cultures that are not exposed to the less healthy aspects of our western diet is virtually non-existent, leads to the assumption that sugars, trans fats and other additives in our food are contributing to acne. It also confirms of course the genetic link to the disease especially when those populations have remained isolated.

As you will have seen there is a genetic link to a dysfunctional immune system that results in persistent acne but there are also dietary and lifestyle related immune system issues that need to be addressed with a balanced diet and exercise.

It is tough when you are a teenager to stick to a really healthy diet when your friends are enjoying burgers, pizzas and other great tasting food. Nobody wants to be the odd person out but tough as it is, it is so important to eat a mainly fresh unprocessed diet with lots of vegetables and fruits with the antioxidants needed for a healthy immune system and of course skin health. Also lean protein and good fats and most importantly plenty of water to keep the skin hydrated.

It is more likely to be sugars rather than healthy fat that is causing food related outbreaks.

Foods that might be helpful in cleansing the body of toxins and therefore reducing the triggers for acne include the following: beetroot, artichoke, hot water and lemon juice first thing in the morning, beans such as chickpeas which helps moderate hormone excretion, fresh vegetables of any kind and fruits such as oranges which are high in Vitamin C. Dried apricots are a good snack as well as nuts and seeds containing zinc which is good for skin healing. Vitamin E is also essential for skin health and having half an avocado on a salad or on its own daily will provide you with that vitamin and healthy fat.

avocadoOne of the key factors of ridding the body of toxins is drinking water and this also helps prevent the skin from becoming dry and even more irritated

I hope you have found useful and if you have any questions I am happy to answer here or by email. sally.cronin@moyhill.com

©Sally Cronin Just Food for Health 1998 – 2021

I am a qualified nutritional therapist with twenty-three years experience working with clients in Ireland and the UK as well as being a health consultant on radio in Spain. Although I write a lot of fiction, I actually wrote my first two books on health, the first one, Size Matters, a weight loss programme 20 years ago, based on my own weight loss of 154lbs. My first clinic was in Ireland, the Cronin Diet Advisory Centre and my second book, Just Food for Health was written as my client’s workbook. Since then I have written a men’s health manual, and anti-aging programme, articles for magazines, radio programmes and posts here on Smorgasbord.

If you would like to browse my health books and fiction you can find them here: My books and reviews 2021

 

Thanks for visiting and I am always delighted to receive your feedback.. stay safe Sally.

Smorgasbord Health 2019 – Top to Toe – The Skin – Eczema -Genetics or Lifestyle


In the last post I covered a general overview of the role of our skin and also the nutrients it requires to be healthy.  I wanted to expand on that with a couple of specific posts from 2014 on eczema and other common skin conditions.

Today I will look at the itchy and very debilitating eczema since this condition can be complex to get rid of. There are many different causes but usually there is a link to a family associated tendency towards Asthma, Hay fever and allergies. As you will see as we move through the post this genetic link goes back more than just a couple of generations.

For example in our recent history in my family there is a link to asthma. My grandmother died of the disease at only 52 in 1945 before there were effective treatments. My mother suffered from hay fever and was allergic to penicillin, aspirin and tetanus. I have those same allergies and also have suffered from skin problems from time to time. One of my sisters also suffered badly from asthma as a child and teenager although grew out of it unless exposed to certain contaminants. However, it is interesting and often useful to go back further and I am talking about 20,000 years!

In an earlier post on the blog I introduced my great, great grandmother many times removed called Helena – a fictional name for the bones of a woman discovered in a cave in Southern Europe who had lived approximately 20,000 years ago. https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/01/02/smorgasbord-health-weightloss-meet-helena-the-first-of-my-clan/

I submitted my DNA in 2001 to Oxford Ancestors after reading the fascinating book The Seven Daughters of Eve by Professor Bryan Sykes a human geneticist. Latest research more or less concludes that Helena (from Haplogroup H mitochondrial sequence) came from a people who had travelled from West Asia around 25,000 years ago and then moved through Europe as the ice age receded. It is estimated that 46% of all Europeans share this DNA sequencing and is therefore the most common.  Since we submitted our DNA there have been several advances in technology and other connections discovered and the story has become even more fascinating.

I have mentioned this to illustrate that we are not just at risk from our toxic modern environment or our diet and lifestyle choices. There are elements associated with many of our illnesses that have a genetic component and later I will follow this link to skin problems.

Eczema.

The most common form of eczema is atopic dermatitis which results in a very dry, itchy red rash. Scratching it may cause some relief but leaves scars and thickening of the skin. It is more common in babies but they usually grow out of it by about 5 years old. Their immune systems are immature and may find it difficult to digest cow’s milk or eggs but of course may also be affected by a genetic link to asthma and allergies. This is also the case when skin problems continue into adulthood when exposed to an environmental allergen such as dust mites, pollen and animal dander.

Our bodies are programmed to handle toxins when we encounter them on an infrequent basis but when exposed daily or even a few times a week our liver and waste disposal system goes into overwhelm. Our skin is actually our largest waste organ not the liver. It is porous with a two way filtering system. Touch a contaminant and it will be absorbed instantly. Usually just to the first layer or two but if the toxin is strong enough then it will leach into your blood stream and create more difficulties for organs such as the liver which has the job of neutralizing and preparing contaminants for excretion.

However, when you regularly eat a food that you are genetically not designed to eat all the time, then you will begin to experience various symptoms, stomach upsets, vomiting and skin problems as the body uses its natural defence systems to get rid of it. Histamines are released and these will result in a streaming eyes and nose, hives or rashes. This is an intolerance but of course if it is a full blown allergy to the food, such as peanuts, it can cause a life threatening anaphylactic reaction.

Non-food related eczema

Before I look at the food related eczema I will just cover a likely genetic link to skin conditions. Research has found that some people have a lack of a particular protein in their skin called Filaggrin and this helps form and maintain the protective outer layer. If this outer layer is thinner than it should be, it will not provide adequate protection from external contaminants. For example detergents, dust mites, animal dander, and certain cloth types such as natural wools or synthetics that are rough to the touch. Dyes in clothing, labels that rub the skin, tight fitting garments, soaps and other cleansers, make-up, nickel in jewellery etc.

Unfortunately with that type of genetic skin formation there is little you can do but use avoidance tactics.

  • This means using fragrance free and pH neutral washing powders, soap, shower gels, cosmetics and anything that is going to come into contact with your skin.
  • Not wearing tight fitting undergarments and clothes.
  • Ensuring that you keep your bed clothes and furniture well aired and washed frequently on a hot wash to eliminate dander and mites.

There is a great deal of information on the web if you do have this form of touch related eczema and it is well worth making some changes to relieve the symptoms. Also, if you are suffering from this form of skin condition with its genetic link it is likely that any children that you have may also have the problem so making the changes will benefit the whole family.

  • Make sure that when handling any form of chemical cleaner or personal products such as hair dye that you wear non-latex gloves and always wash any exposed skin immediately with running water.
  • Severe cold can trigger an increase in reactions and although sunlight with its vitamin D can benefit certain skin conditions you will find that hot, humid weather that causes sweat glands to work overtime can increase the severity of eczema and hives.
  • If you smoke you are massively increasing the work load of your skin barrier as thousands of chemicals attack and infiltrate through to the bloodstream.
  • If you suffer from any skin condition it is likely to be worsened by stress of any kind. The body is on alert in fight or flight mode and particularly when the stress is chronic or long term the continual release of hormones and chemicals into your bloodstream can increase reactions to both food and external toxins.

Back to food.

If you are prone to food related eczema then you should be looking at the nightshade family (Solanaceae). There are actually over 2000 species of plant that are used as food and also in some of the medicines we ingest which does not make it easier to pinpoint as a culprit for reactions such as eczema. If you have a sensitivity to nightshade you will be unable to digest them completely and this leads to a long list of symptoms including stomach upsets, constant bloating, painful joints and even depression.

Nightshade foods and eggs that might be the cause of eczema.

white potatoes

Potatoes, tomatoes, peppers of any kind, aubergine or eggplant, and certain berries such as Goji or cape gooseberries are high up on the suspect list as are eggs. The egg white more so than the yolk and whilst they are an amazing form of protein and nutrients, some people have to avoid all together or only eat once or twice a week.

The reason that I mention that you might be able to tolerate limited exposure to these foods is that your liver usually can clear down toxins within five days. It becomes overwhelmed however when you are eating some of these suspect foods every day. My two key supects are green peppers (they are not fully ripe) and aubergines. Tomatoes and potatoes do not cause me problems. Everyone has a unique chemical make up and genetic background so you may find you can tolerate different nightshades to other people.

Before you make a connection with your skin problems and stop eating these excellent sources of nutrients for ever, it is a good idea to keep a food diary for a week – eat normally and make a note of any skin changes that occur in that time. Two weeks is even better.

If you suffer from eczema or hives ring the foods that I mentioned above with a red pen and see how many times a week you are eating them. The culprit foods or food is going to be the one which you eat daily or more than three or four times a week. They will be easy to spot. See how many of the foods fall into the nightshade family or eggs. This does not just include boiled, scrambled or fried etc. but also dishes containing eggs. If eating cakes, biscuits or other processed baked goods double check the ingredients.

A final note on the genetic link to food intolerances.

Our DNA does not mutate quickly. 20,000 years is a mere drop in the ocean in DNA terms and if our ancestors were not exposed to certain foods such as wheat, nightshade family or dairy then our bodies may not be equipped to digest them efficiently and may even react to them as toxins.

Our diets have changed radically in the last 300 years since the introduction of refined sugars which is tough enough on our bodies, but we have also now have access to foods from around the world that our long line of grandparents would never have consumed. Most are easy to digest and offer wonderful health benefits but occasionally you will find one that your body, in its wisdom, considers to be poison and will let you know very quickly.

With the addition of refined sugars and the additives in industrially prepared foods our body is under increasing stress as it tries to deal with foods with even the slightest toxicity. I have found with clients over the years that when they go almost sugar free and only cook from scratch many of their intolerances and reactions, such as skin conditions clear up.

We usually say that mother knows best but in fact our bodies have that one nailed!

©sally cronin Just Food for Health 1998 – 2019

A little bit about me nutritionally.

I am a qualified nutritional therapist with over twenty years experience working with clients in Ireland and the UK as well as being a health consultant on radio in Spain. Although I write a lot of fiction, I actually wrote my first two books on health, the first one, Size Matters, a weight loss programme 20 years ago, based on my own weight loss of 154lbs. My first clinic was in Ireland, the Cronin Diet Advisory Centre and my second book, Just Food for Health was written as my client’s workbook. Since then I have written a men’s health manual, and anti-aging programme, articles for magazines and posts here on Smorgasbord.

If you would like to browse by health books and fiction you can find them here: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/my-books-and-reviews-2018/

 If you have any questions then please do not hesitate to ask in the comments.. or if you prefer send in an email to sally.cronin@moyhill.com

Smorgasbord Health 2019- Top to Toe – The Skin – The largest organ of the Human Body.


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.

Skin brushing

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

©sally cronin Just Food for Health 1998 – 2019

A little bit about me nutritionally.

I am a qualified nutritional therapist with over twenty years experience working with clients in Ireland and the UK as well as being a health consultant on radio in Spain. Although I write a lot of fiction, I actually wrote my first two books on health, the first one, Size Matters, a weight loss programme 20 years ago, based on my own weight loss of 154lbs. My first clinic was in Ireland, the Cronin Diet Advisory Centre and my second book, Just Food for Health was written as my client’s workbook. Since then I have written a men’s health manual, and anti-aging programme, articles for magazines and posts here on Smorgasbord.

If you would like to browse by health books and fiction you can find them here: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/my-books-and-reviews-2018/

 If you have any questions then please do not hesitate to ask in the comments.. or if you prefer send in an email to sally.cronin@moyhill.com

Smorgasbord Health A-Z of Common Conditions – Acne


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The start of a new series with the A – Z of common conditions.  Some posts will be new and others will recycle previous posts with any relevant updates.  I have received several emails in the last couple of months about acne and so I am posting the article from April again.

Acne is the curse of the teen years and also as we go through hormonal changes later in life.. There is also a strong link to diet, especially the the over indulgence in sugars.

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 skin in in fact our largest organ and 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.

Because of the skin’s role in the elimination of waste products and as a barrier to external contaminants 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, shingles, warts and of course wrinkles. Today I am going to be covering acne, a bane for teenagers but can also come back to haunt us in our middle years as we go through another hormonal change.

Acne
I remember as a teenager getting a few spots at certain times of the month but was thankfully clear of major acne outbreaks. I did have a friend at school that was devastatingly affected by the condition and when you are a 16 year old girl or boy it can have a detrimental impact on not just your physical appearance but also your mental and emotional health.

acne

Let’s face it, spots that are on your back and covered up on your arms are unsightly and irritating but if your face is covered in blackheads, whiteheads and scarring then it can result in lack of self-esteem that can last for years afterwards. In severe cases acne can lead to severe depression, withdrawal from both school and social activities and suicide.
Unfortunately even when the acne has departed in can leave scarring which varies in severity and often because it is deep and pitted it remains for a lifetime. The reason that it is so deep is because of the inflammation in the dermal layer of the skin which heals abnormally leaving the pitted surface.

The numbers across the western world when added together make acne the 8th common disease in the world. It is estimated that it affects over 80% of teenagers adding up to a huge 600 million people worldwide.

There are a number of suspected causes and I will take a brief look at these.

Hormonal
Most of us will associate spots that appeared during our teen years with hormonal changes after puberty. Sex hormones called androgens result in several changes within the body but also in the skin. The trillions of pores on the surface of our skin are really minute openings into canals called follicles. In each follicle you will find a hair and a sebaceous (oil) gland. This helps keep our skin supple and hydrated and also assists in the disposal of old skin cells that we are shedding continuously.

At puberty and for girls each month the surge of hormones results in a change in the follicle causing them to grow larger and produce more oil. Whilst this affects both sexes in the teen years it also affects women who become pregnant at any age or who suffer from PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome). PCOS is caused by a woman producing too many of the male androgens affecting her menstrual cycle and ability to become pregnant.

With teenagers it is not just the increase in androgens such as testosterone which can cause acne. At that age there is a growth spurt particularly in boys that can take place between the ages of 16 and 24 and the hormone responsible for this is GH or HGH.

Additionally IGF-1 is a hormone that is similar in structure to Insulin and plays a role in growth in both teenagers and later with a different affect in adults can result in a similar response.

It is unusual for acne to develop after the body has completed its growth cycle in the early to mid-twenties.

Genetic
It is believed that around 75% of acne could be genetic which is supported by studies with twins and also with immediate family members. Polygenic inheritance pattern controls our height, skin colour, eye colour and also it is believed our weight. Rather than just one gene being involved it requires a combination of two or more genes to affect these characteristics. Certain genes have now been identified that could be related to acne and that is an ongoing study.

This genetic link is reinforced by the incidences of severe acne associated with a dysfunctional immune system. This is not lifestyle related but an inherent over sensitivity to bacteria that results in an unusually aggressive immune system response. When bacteria are detected by the body the immune system produces large amounts of inflammatory cytokines. These induce white blood cells to unleash destructive enzymes and free radicals into the site of infection. Because this response is unusually aggressive it can cause damage to the surrounding tissue. This in turn results in another release of cytokines and it becomes a perpetual cycle resulting in long term inflammation and of course the associated acne. In this type of environment bacteria thrive rather than be killed off.

With the other form of genetic dysfunctional immune response the white cells themselves are under powered and do not have the ability to deal with any harmful bacteria that they encounter. Usually white blood cells work on the principal of divide and conquer, they are designed to ingest any bacteria they come across, isolating the bacteria in a special casing called a phagosome and then pumping toxic enzymes inside to kill it. It is then broken up into small particles that are absorbed back into the immune system. The system then takes these particles and designs anti-bodies that will be able to fight future infections of this bacteria.

In a faulty immune system the white cell takes in the bacteria but is not equipped to kill them adequately. They keep trying however, exhausting themselves in the process and dying. This releases the bacteria still alive and allows it to thrive. It also means that the immune system does not get the chance to develop anti-bodies to fight that particular strain of bacteria leading to long term infections.

The most common of the bacterial infections associated with acne is Propionibacterium acnes (P. acnes) is a bacteria that grows deep inside of pores where it obtains its energy from the oil in the follicle canal. It is anaerobic which means that unlike most bacteria it is tolerant to oxygen so the low oxygen, oil rich environment of the follicle is perfect for its growth. Because it forms clumps of bacteria it can block and protect itself within the canal leading to persistent infections into the 20s and beyond. Unfortunately the bacteria have become resistant to a number of the anti-biotics used to treat acne including Penicillin.

Lifestyle.
There have been many assumptions made over the years about acne and its causes. Including the fact that some teenagers do not have a close relationship with cleanliness, that poor diet full of fats and sugars is to blame and the habit of the young today to spend more time indoors rather than out in the fresh air. In reality I believe there is an element of all of these factors involved. And in particular the increase in the use of both male and female facial and body beauty products.

Today we are spoiled for choice when we buy skin products in the pharmacies, supermarkets and online. The prices also vary from very cheap to extremely expensive but unfortunately whilst simple is better, cheap may not be so. Many cheap skin products have ingredients that could irritate skin further. This also applies for make-up that teenage girls are going to use to cover up spots and scars.

Most acne prescribed medication is designed to dry up the oil that feed the bacteria and may be causing the outbreak in the first place. This can result in dry and flaky skin and irritated patches.

The temptation is to buy moisturisers that are heavy and greasy to counteract the dryness but it is better when suffering from acne to use a light weight moisturiser with ingredients such as glycerine that will not clog your pores with more grease. Avoid those that have ingredients such as cocoa butter for example.

The one lifestyle activity which is definitely implicated in causing skin irritation and increasing the chances of acne is smoking.

You might find the following daily cleansing ritual helpful.

A mild cleanser for the face (ask advice on your skin type) Using your fingers gently massage the skin for a few minutes. Wipe off the excess  with a clean cotton wool wipe. Then rinse your face in lukewarm warm water to remove all the lotion. Pat the skin dry and then apply the light moisturiser. You can use a mild exfoliant (and I mean mild) once or twice a week which can be helpful in cleaning the skin slightly more thoroughly.

These days there are a lot of products on the market but do be careful about just buying off the shelf. Ask advice from a pharmacist and check for side effects.

Medication

There are a number of prescribed medications available now to treat acne including topical creams. Antibiotics are also prescribed but there is a danger that this will then create a resistance to future antibiotics if over used. For girls sometimes being prescribed birth control pills can regulate hormone levels reducing the surge of hormones each month. I do advice however that you do not self-medicate by buying products online. Get professional guidance and if you add to your acne scarring by using the wrong product it will stay with you for life.

Alternative therapies.
You must be extremely careful with your skin as whilst it does a very tough job it is also very delicate. I have found that taking Echinacea for six weeks at a time may help boost immune system function. https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2015/12/02/the-medicine-womans-treasure-chest-a-little-herbal-health-insurance-echinacea/

Also you may find taking Grapefruit seed extract to help control an overgrowth of Candida Albicans, which as a fungal infection of the intestines, does impact the efficiency of the immune system.

Topically, apart from the cleansing regime I have already mentioned, you may find that a couple of drops of tea tree oil mixed with your morning and night time moisturiser may also help kill off the bacteria. Do monitor and if it causes any irritation or redness of the skin stop using.

In addition to echinacea other herbal remedies can be useful for skin complaints including Saw Palmetto and Agnus Castus to help normalise hormonal levels. If you are considering taking any herbal remedy I do suggest that you talk to a qualified assistant in your local health food shop.. They should have received training in the uses for any of their products but do ask first.

Diet

The fact that the incidences of acne is certain cultures that are not exposed to the less healthy aspects of our western diet is virtually non-existent, leads to the assumption that sugars, trans fats and other additives in our food are contributing to acne. It also confirms of course the genetic link to the disease especially when those populations have remained isolated.

As you will have seen there is a genetic link to a dysfunctional immune system that results in persistent acne but there are also dietary and lifestyle related immune system issues that need to be addressed with a balanced diet and exercise.

It is tough when you are a teenager to stick to a really healthy diet when your friends are enjoying burgers, pizzas and other great tasting food. Nobody wants to be the odd person out but tough as it is, it is so important to eat a mainly fresh unprocessed diet with lots of vegetables and fruits with the antioxidants needed for a healthy immune system and of course skin health. Also lean protein and good fats and most importantly plenty of water to keep the skin hydrated.

Foods that might be helpful in cleansing the body of toxins and therefore reducing the triggers for acne include the following: beetroot, artichoke, hot water and lemon juice first thing in the morning, beans such as chickpeas which helps moderate hormone excretion, fresh vegetables of any kind and fruits such as oranges which are high in Vitamin C. Dried apricots are a good snack as well as nuts and seeds containing zinc which is good for skin healing. Vitamin E is also essential for skin health and having half an avocado on a salad or on its own daily will provide you with that vitamin and healthy fat.

avocado

One of the key factors of ridding the body of toxins is drinking water and this also helps prevent the skin from becoming dry and even more irritated.

Sally Cronin – Just Food For Health 2007

Please feel free to share this post and thanks for dropping by.. Sally

Vitamin of the Week – B2 – Riboflavin – with some healthy controvesy!


 smorgasbord health

Welcome to the start of this week’s health posts and whilst I am going to cover one of the essential B vitamins today; B2 – Riboflavin, I am also going to be stirring things up a bit with some controvesy.  I do not care what dietary stance that you have as long as you follow it fully informed. Over the last twenty years I have worked with many people whose health has been compromised, sometimes seriously by following the latest food trend. The worst being the complete withdrawal of one of the main food groups that has sustained and developed the human body over hundreds of thousands of years.

There is a new theory and ‘expert’ opinion every decade and I consider this to be highly dangerous to health. Second guessing nature never ends well and that includes modifying the foods that we eat, removing nutritious natural foods from our diet, and mass farming of animals to produce the cheapest possible foods possible. I would rather do without my flat screen television, smart phone or other ‘must haves’ than compromise on food quality.

Later on in the post you will find some other views on the subject but in the meantime here is one vitamin that plays a vital role in our health.

Vitamin B2 – Riboflavin

Like the other B vitamins, B2 plays an important role in energy production by ensuring the efficient metabolism of the food that we eat in the form of carbohydrates, fats and proteins. It plays a key role in our nutritional processes such as its help in processing amino acids. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein, which is the substance that we are made of. Twenty amino acids are needed to build the various different proteins used in the growth, repair and maintenance of our body tissues and whilst eleven of these are made by the body itself, the others must be obtained from our diet and processed by other agents including B2.

Energy

Vitamin B2 is a vitamin that is essential for metabolising carbohydrates to produce ATP (adenosine triphosphate) without which we would be totally lacking in energy. It also works with enzymes in the liver to eliminate toxins, which helps keep us clear of infection.

Pre-Natal health

B2 is needed to change B6 and Folic Acid into an active and usable form so that our nervous system is protected. Folic acid is essential for healthy cell division and is needed before and during the first twelve weeks of pregnancy to help prevent birth defects. B2 is also part of the process that changes tryptophan, so important to our mental wellbeing, into niacin.

Blood Health

Research into anaemia has highlighted the role of B2 in the body’s inability to manufacture red blood cells. There are two areas that would appear to be particularly critical. One is the vitamin’s role in mobilising iron from storage to the cells and secondly that a deficiency prevents the efficient absorption of iron. (I will be doing a post on Anaemia later in the week)

Antioxidant efficiency

Our bodies have an extremely complex chemical operating system and it is synergistic. It is rare for one of the chemical components to work in isolation and it usually requires a reaction to occur to achieve a function. For example B2 is needed to recycle the vital antioxidant Glutathione in its oxidised state (after it has done its job to detoxify the unstable free radicals) into reduced Glutathione so it can go back and do the job again.

Other areas where B2 is essential.

Without sufficient B2 we would not have healthy skin, nails and hair and our thyroid function can be compromised

B2 works in conjunction with B1, B3 and B6 and as a supplement is more usually taken as part of a B complex. Incidences of deficiency are low but are more prevalent in alcoholics and has been found in people suffering from cataracts or sickle cell anaemia. It is more likely to be a problem in developing countries where there has been some link to preeclampsia in pregnant women.

Sufferers of chronic fatigue syndrome, the main symptom being lack of energy, are often deficient in the B vitamins and again B2 would be included as part of a B-complex supplement.

Other areas where eating foods rich in B2 may be helpful are with migraines, headaches, cataracts, rheumatoid arthritis, anaemia and also skin conditions such as acne.

The vitamin is water-soluble and cannot be stored in the body except in very small amounts so needs to be replenished from diet every day.

Dairy products are one of the main sources of Vitamin B2.

cheese

You will see a number of articles on the toxic components in milk products in comparison to prepared soy, nut and other milks touted as the healthier option. Man has been drinking the milk of sheep, goats and cows for many thousands of years and you can be sure they got more than milk when they did, including the bacteria from their own unwashed hands as they milked the animal. My stand on dairy products is you get what you pay for and if you insist on buying the cheapest possible milk and other dairy products you are encouraging the practice of mass farming. I like my milk to come from cows that live an outdoor life, eat grass and line-up of their own accord when it is time to hit the milking parlour.

Having said that in most of our countries there are vigorous testing and processing stages in place to minimise the toxic content of what we eat and drink. I am not naive and know that the various sectors of the food industry will spin whatever story is necessary to get us to buy their product in favour of a competitor; but being an informed consumer means doing your own research. Here is an article on milk you might like to read and then one on the promoted health benefits of drinking the alternatives. If I was to use an alternative it would not be soy-milk but rice milk. The only proviso with rice milk is if you are diabetic or at risk of diabetes and you can find out more in the link.

https://cawelfare.wordpress.com/2012/08/23/myth-buster-theres-pus-in-the-milk-no-not-really/

http://authoritynutrition.com/is-soy-bad-for-you-or-good/

http://www.fitday.com/fitness-articles/nutrition/healthy-eating/pros-and-cons-of-rice-milk.html

Offal meats.

Over the last twenty years there has been a move away from the offal meats that used to be so popular such as liver and kidney. Again I prefer to buy organic and we certainly eat from time to time. The main issue with liver is that it is both the waste organ of an animal and also the body’s storage facility which makes it a strong tasting meat as well as making it unpopular with many who feel it is gross to eat organ meat. Here is an informative article from Dr. Mercola. http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2013/12/30/eating-organ-meats.aspx

It is a rich source of B Vitamins and if you do eat meat then I recommend that you go to a butcher that sells organic organ meats or a farm shop and buy from that source.

eggs

Eggs

This is another rich B vitamin food source that has suffered in recent years from bad press. At various times eggs have been blamed for increased cholesterol, salmonella and other diseases. The cholesterol theory has been debunked and with the screening now available within the high end of  the egg industry; it is rare to find infected eggs.

It is also to remember that if you have a strong immune system, promoted by a healthy diet your body is designed to deal with a level of toxins in our food very effectively. It is only the very young and elderly, or those who have compromised immune systems that are at risk.

Again I am against factory farming particular of chickens to I am very happy to pay more for this highly nutritious food. It is a powerhouse and contains healthy amounts of not only B vitamins but also protein, Vitamin A, Vitamin D, Selenium and phosphorus. I eat one a day and as an alternative to meat and fish regularly during the week.

Wholegrain Rice.

wholegrains

This is another of my daily foods and whilst it is again a trend to exclude all grains from the diet I strongly disagree. I cannot tolerate white, packaged bread that has been industrially produced. Not because it has the natural wheat included but because it does not. It has a heavily refined white flour that has been added to by various chemically enhanced additives and sugar. If I eat fresh home-baked soda bread made with wholegrain flour or even the supermarket bakery baguettes; I don’t have a problem.

The same with rice. I would not touch refined cheap white rice as it has lost all its nutrients in the processing and some have even been added back artificially to give it a ‘healthy’ appeal. We use Basmati wholegrain rice which is a slow burning fuel, low on the Glycemic Index and full of nutrition including the B vitamins. If you would like to know more about the Glycemic index of foods here is the link from last week. https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2016/01/26/350million-diabetics-worldwide-and-millions-more-at-risk-pre-diabetes/

Vegetarian options.

You can get B vitamins from vegetarian sources and in particular dark green vegetables such as spinach and broccoli. You can include Soybeans but again I would pay extra and buy guaranteed non-genetically modified products. Also good amounts in asparagus, mushrooms and almonds.

Chopping and cooking can destroy over 75% of the vitamin content of green vegetables. Step one is not to buy fresh greens that have been pre-cut and packaged. They might be more convenient but by the time it gets to your pot after several days it will have lost at least 50% of its nutritional content. Then if you overcook much of the rest will disappear into the water.

Buy the vegetables whole, eat raw or steam. Buying good quality frozen vegetables is another alternative but again most have been chopped before freezing.

Coming up this week.. Anaemia and how to ensure you are not at risk.

You will find the previous posts on the nutrients we need to be healthy in this directory.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/vitamins-and-minerals-of-the-week/