The skin you are in
It’s that time of year, and if you’re feeling like me I’m cringing at the thought of exposing it to the light of day, let alone considering squeezing into a swimsuit.
Skin – our largest organ weighing around 3.6 kilograms on adults – is our fleshy covering that does a lot more than make us look presentable. In fact, without it we'd literally evaporate.
Skin acts as an insulating shield, waterproofing and guarding against extremes of temperature, damaging sunlight, and harmful chemicals. It is our first line of defence, exuding antibacterial substances that prevent infection whilst manufacturing vitamin D for converting calcium into healthy bones.
Skin is a huge sensor packed with nerves for keeping the brain in touch with the outside world and is very absorbent.
As we age, the number of collagen and elastic fibres in the dermis (lower layer) decreases. As a result skin becomes less elastic and begins to sag and wrinkle.
It takes roughly five weeks for newly created cells to work their way to the surface.
What does healthy skin need?
Vitamins A,C and E, zinc, selenium, silica support healthy skin. Eat well by including bright coloured fruits and vegetables, these contain antioxidants and anthocyanins to fight free radicals, strengthen capillary walls; try berries, stone fruits, beetroot, citrus (include some pith,) dark leafy greens, peppers, kumara, pumpkin. Include good quality fats; raw nuts and seeds (chia and linseeds too), coconut oil, virgin olive oil, avocado. Also good quality protein; oily fish from clean water, organic meats, and plant based proteins like beans, GE free soy, nuts and seeds. Three organic Brazil nuts a day will provide a good boost of selenium.
Cut refined cane sugar from the diet. Sugar destroys collagen and elastin fibers, (healthy production prevents wrinkles), use alternative natural sweeteners; coconut sugar/syrup, pure maple syrup, honey, dates.
Ensure you get adequate sleep and rest, important for repair and regeneration of all cells.
Consider what you apply to the skin, toxic chemicals are absorbed straight into the bloodstream and can hamper the ability of the body to protect itself. Avoid products
containing parabens, synthetic fragrance and colour, phthalates, triclosan, SLS (sodium laurel sulphates). Also household cleaning products, some natural ones contain chemicals too.
Drink more water. Cells are bathed in water, we require around 1.5-2 litres a day for an adult. If you exercise, play sport, work outdoors you need more.
Restrict coffee/alcohol. Both are dehydrating.
Exfoliate (skin brush) before soaking in an Epsom salts bath – half cup to warm bath, (helps to detox), then nourish with warm natural coconut oil. Skin loves this.
Protect from the sun. Light sun exposure at ‘off peak’ times for a few minutes is important for vitamin D production. Ensure you cover with light clothing and low chemical sunscreen.
Take a daily dose of fresh air and exercise, increasing blood, nutrient, oxygen flow and happy chemicals.
n Jan van der Lee is a Clinical Nutritionist based at Waipu Natural Health, 3 Cove Road, Waipu, waipunaturalhealth.co.nz