The Role of Nutrients in the Skin Health
It’s amazing what a few months of a nutrient-dense diet can do for the appearance and health of your skin. While conventional medical professionals often discount the connection between skin health and nutrition, there is strong evidence to support the influence of our food choices on the health and vibrancy of our skin.
I am passionate about helping clients to support many skin conditions and complaints, using individualised nutritional and lifestyle strategies.
I assess every patient’s individual skin needs from the inside-out, to create completely customised nutritional programs accordingly rather than taking a one-size-fits-all approach. Every person’s skin has its own physiological characteristics and undergoes stresses linked to diet, lifestyle and underlying health conditions.
Sometimes it is necessary to further investigate the underlying cause of skin issues through scientific pathology blood, stool or urine tests. I work in partnership with several premier UK laboratories, with a huge array of laboratory tests available.
Good nutrition gained from a healthy, balanced diet is not just essential for a well-functioning body; it also vastly contributes to healthy, glowing and balanced skin, too.
Therefore, healthy skin starts from within and it is possible to make dramatic improvements to your skin by making sure your daily diet contains the optimum amount of vitamins and minerals. I can help identify if your body is deficient in key vitamins or minerals, or sensitive to any foods, and create changes in your diet to compensate for this.
Examples of how nutritional deficiencies can affect the skin
- Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) - Omega-3 fatty acids are known to be anti-inflammatory, and the relative intake of omega-6 to omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) may be a crucial dietary factor in the regulation of systemic inflammation. Our modern diets tend to be very unbalanced in essential fatty acid intake; the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids in Western diets is commonly at least 10 to 1, compared with ratios of 4 to 1 in Japan and 2 to 1 in hunter-gatherer populations. (1) This high ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids in our modern diet likely plays a role in the prevalence of inflammatory skin conditions such as acne, psoriasis, and rosacea.
- Biotin - A deficiency of biotin causes hair loss and a characteristic scaly, erythematous (red and inflamed) dermatitis around the mouth and other areas of the face and scalp. (6) In infants, biotin deficiency manifests as “cradle cap”, or scaly dermatitis of the scalp. This condition appears as crusty yellow or white patches on the scalp, behind the ears, and around the face. In adults, this condition is called seborrheic dermatitis and can occur in many different areas of the skin. Biotin deficiency can also be a cause of dandruff for some people.
- Niacin - Pellagra, the disease of late stage niacin deficiency, causes a variety of skin symptoms such as dermatitis and a dark, scaly rash. While a low intake of niacin is unlikely, there are some diseases that may cause inadequate niacin absorption from the diet. An example of this is in celiac disease, where absorption is impaired by the swelling and thickening of the intestinal lining that occurs in celiac disease. Other inflammatory gut conditions such as IBS or Crohn’s disease can also lead to a reduction in niacin absorption, and could conceivably lead to the skin-related symptoms of pellagra such as dermatitis and scaling.
- Vitamin A - Vitamin A influences the physiology of the skin by promoting epidermal differentiation, modulating dermal growth factors, inhibiting sebaceous gland activity, and suppressing androgen formation. Lack of vitamin A causes the skin to become keratinized and scaly, and mucus secretion is suppressed. Rough, dry skin is a common sign of vitamin A deficiency, which often first appears as rough, raised bumps on the back of the arms.
- Vitamin C - Vitamin C has been known for decades to play a crucial role in the regulation of the structural protein collagen, which is necessary for the extracellular stability of the skin. A vitamin C deficiency causes scurvy, which is first manifested as rough, dry skin and corkscrew hair growth. Inadequate vitamin C is also known to contribute to the development of the common problem of hyperkeratosis pillaris, as the follicles become damaged when collagen formation is impaired.
Examples of how nutrition can aid the skin
- Selenium - One of the most important functions of selenium is as a component of glutathione peroxidase, an enzyme necessary for the antioxidant function of glutathione. Glutathione is one of the major antioxidants in the body that protects against cellular damage from the free radicals that cause inflammation, aging, and can promote skin cancer. Many scientists support the theory that selenium in the diet is protective against skin cancer.
- Sulphur is necessary for collagen synthesis, which gives the skin its structure and strength. The breakdown of collagen or insufficient production of collagen as we age is one of the major contributors to the development of wrinkles, and dietary sulphur significantly affects the production of collagen in our skin. Animals fed a sulphur deficient diet produce less collagen than normal, demonstrating how a diet with inadequate sulphur can contribute to a reduction in collagen and subsequently cause an increase in skin wrinkling. Getting enough sulphur in your diet can help maintain collagen production and keep your skin looking firm.
- Zinc - In skin, zinc assists in the proper structure of proteins and cell membranes, improves wound healing, has anti-inflammatory effects, and protects against UV radiation. Several studies indicate that dietary zinc may reduce acne, even as effectively as antibiotics such as tetracyclines. (8) This may be because it interacts with vitamin A as a component of retinol-binding protein, which is necessary for transporting vitamin A in the blood.
- Probiotics - The ability of the gut microbiota and oral probiotics to influence systemic inflammation, oxidative stress, glycaemic control, and tissue lipid content, may have important implications in skin conditions such as acne, rosacea, atopic dermatitis, and psoriasis. Recent studies have shown that orally consumed pre and probiotics can reduce systemic markers of inflammation and oxidative stress, which may help reduce inflammatory acne and other skin conditions.
- Vitamin K2 - Adequate dietary vitamin K2 prevents calcification of our skin’s elastin, the protein that gives skin the ability to spring back, smoothing out lines and wrinkles. This is because K2 is necessary for activation of matrix proteins that inhibit calcium from being deposited in elastin fibers and keeping these fibers from hardening and causing wrinkles. In fact, recent research suggests that people who cannot metabolize vitamin K end up with severe premature skin wrinkling.
- Vitamin E - Vitamin E is a potent anti-inflammatory agent, defending the skin against free radicals and reactive oxygen species. Vitamin E may also play a synergistic role with selenium in improving glutathione levels in the body, further increasing antioxidant activity. Adequate levels of this vitamin in the skin may prevent inflammatory damage from sun exposure, helping to reduce the aging and skin cancer risk from excessive UV radiation.
- Silica - silica has been shown to contribute to certain enzyme activities that are necessary for normal collagen formation. Silica is essential for maintaining the health of connective tissues due to its interaction with the formation of glycosaminoglycans (GAGs), which are structural building blocks of these types of tissue. One well-known GAG important for skin health is hyaluronic acid, which has been shown to promote skin cell proliferation and increase the presence of retinoic acid, improving the skin’s hydration. Proper collagen formation is essential for maintaining tight, wrinkle-free skin, so silica can also be beneficial for slowing down the signs of skin aging.