Laura Thompson is a local Nutritional Therapist, Acupuncturist and creator of the Healthy Gut Plan, offering advice on a range of health issues
Not all our body organs are internal. There is one that we wear on the outside. Our skin is actually the largest organ; as adults we carry approximately eight pounds and two square metres of it. This fleshy covering does a lot more than just make us look presentable; without it we would evaporate.
Skin acts as a waterproofer and insulator, protecting the body against temperature extremes. Sweat glands in the body allow the skin surface to cool when the body gets overheated. Harmful chemicals and damaging sunlight are kept out. It also protects us from infection and injury.
Our skin is the largest sensory organ, containing numerous nerves and stimuli that prevent us from doing damage to ourselves.
How the skin looks is also a great indication of what our overall health is like. So how can we look after it and keep it looking good?
First of all, it is important to understand that if you want beautiful clear skin you have to work on the inside first. Our guts play a massive role in keeping the skin healthy.
Our guts are where we absorb all of our nutrients. More importantly, this is where your body makes that important decision of what is allowed into our blood stream and eventually our skin and what is sent to the bowel for elimination.
If you have a very sluggish bowel and suffer from constipation, that will have an effect on your skin often causing breakouts and dull-looking skin.
Hormones will also play a role in how our skin looks. The acne at adolescence is often a huge stress to teenagers and indeed it can reoccur in the menopause for some women.
Keeping the diet healthy is vital. I get really angry when I hear some medics say that diet has no impact on acne and skin conditions. Nothing could be further from the truth. While a healthy diet may not completely heal all skin conditions, it will certainly help.
In the last decade, we have learned more and more about how much the foods we eat impact our complexions. I have treated many young people with chronic acne by using a healthy diet plan and the inclusion of probiotics and supplements improving their digestion and healing the gut.
But with all sorts of supplements and eating plans out there, which ones can we trust? Here are some that I recommend. Eat plenty of these - all full of essential nutrients - for a glowing complexion.
What to eat:
1. Strawberries, citrus fruits, red peppers and broccoli are all high in Vitamin C, which is vital for the production and formation of collagen, preventing wrinkles and sagging skin.
2. Essential fatty acids found in oily fish nuts and seeds prevent inflammation and keep the elasticity in the skin.
3. Zinc is great for healing, particularly in eczema and acne-prone skin. It contributes to cell production and natural cell sloughing, which keeps dullness at bay. It is found in pumpkin and sunflower seeds. Meat, poultry and shellfish are all sources of zinc.
4. Beta carotene is often taken to help the skin tan better as it gives an orange glow to the skin. It’s a powerful antioxidant found in carrots, sweet potatoes and peppers.
5. Whole grains are essential for keeping the bowels moving and feeding good bacteria. Brown rice and oats both have great properties for healthy skin.
6. Water is so important. Dehydrated skin looks dull . Aim to get at least eight glasses a day.
What to avoid:
1. Saturated fats: cheese, pork and pasties are all skin saboteurs.
2. Sugar will age your skin.
3. Milk, unfortunately, will often be a trigger for acne and eczema so experiment and see if it has an effect on yours.
4. Spicy foods will sometimes cause issues for those with acne rosacea.
5. Cut down on the caffeine and the alcohol as this will lead to dull skin and breakouts.
6. Finally, quit smoking. Nothing ages the skin faster and smoking also causes lines, particularly around the lip area.
Top tips for healthy skin:
1. Have a good skin care routine: cleanse, tone and moisturise twice a day using gentle products.
2. Protect your skin from the sun by using a good sunscreen all year round but allow some natural sun to make vitamin D.
3. I practice cosmetic acupuncture, which helps to keep the energy and circulation to the face, reducing fine lines and wrinkles.
4. Most important of all, get some sleep. Sleep really does have an impact on our skin. Practice a good sleep routine (going to bed at the same time ) and aim for eight hours a night.
Love the skin you’re in.