If you find that you are spending more and more money for the perfect under-eye concealer, or treatments to combat puffiness in your face, you should look at the root causes. In my practice I have found that the culprit behind those dark circles and puffy eyes can range from thyroid problems to food allergies. Here are some solutions to the five common causes:
1. Detox your diet: Many of us tend to consume the same foods day after day with little variety. This may lead to our bodies becoming “sensitized” to some foods, which can result in myriad symptoms that are surprisingly not always digestive in nature. One of the key signs is an overall sensation of puffiness and increased water retention or dark circles under the eyes. In fact, many of my patients are thrilled that this resolves itself once the culprit food is removed.
To determine if this is your beauty solution, simply remove the most common allergenic foods, including sugar, dairy, yeast, peanuts, corn, soy, alcohol, red meats, gluten containing grains (spelt, wheat, rye, kamut), citrus and caffeine, from your diet for a two-week time period. After two weeks you can begin to add in one food item per day to test your reaction to it. If symptoms return, you know that particular food should be excluded from your daily diet.
2. Hit the sack: They don’t call it beauty sleep for nothing. Lack of sleep can have troublesome consequences on your body composition, ability to function and overall facial appearance. During sleep (or long periods of lying down), tissue fluid is drawn from our blood and enters our body tissues. As we start our morning activities, the tissue fluid is squeezed back into lymphatic vessels and into our blood circulation. That’s why your face may look a little puffy when you first wake up, but by the time you’re out of the shower the puffiness will have resided.
When we don’t get enough sleep, however, this process is stunted and fluid is stuck in the tissues – creating the puffy look. As well, a sleepless night can make skin look pale and blood vessels more visible, giving the appearance of dark circles.
3. Check your thyroid: If you have puffy eyes and also experience lack of concentration, stubborn weight loss, hair loss and unwavering fatigue, you may want to check if your thyroid is at a healthy level. Patients with low thyroid levels often have puffy eyelids, either in the lower or in the upper area of their eyes. According to Dr. John Lowe, the puffiness is caused by too little thyroid hormone suppression of connective tissue cells called “fibroblasts.” When thyroid hormones fail to suppress the cells normally, they release too many water-binding molecules into the ground substance of the skin and other connective tissues. The excess water expands the tissues, causing them to feel and appear puffy. You can revisit my recent article on natural supplements to boost your thyroid, and recommendations for testing.
4. Your iron and B12 status: Another common cause of dark under-eye circles is low iron and/or B12. This deficiency can result in poor oxygenation of bodily tissues and the effects of this is shown mostly under the eyes where vessels tend to clot and pool. Your B12 should measure 600 or above to be considered optimal, while the optimal ferritin (iron) level should be over 70. Due to factors involved with B12 absorption, it is often best to take supplements by injection or under the tongue if your levels need to be topped up, while iron is best absorbed with vitamin C. As an added bonus, vitamin C also helps to strengthen blood vessel walls.
5. Beautify with vitamin K: Vitamin K, found in liver, broccoli, brussels sprouts, green leafy vegetables, carrots, spinach and strawberries, helps with blood coagulation and circulation. Since poor circulation can increase the appearance of dark circles, consuming enough K-friendly foods in your diet may lighten the circles under your eyes. Many eye creams also contain vitamin K and vitamin A for this reason. And lastly, be sure that you select a high potency multi-vitamin that includes a daily dose of vitamin K for optimal health and to avoid any deficiencies.
Natasha Turner, N.D. is a naturopathic doctor, Chatelaine magazine columnist, and author of the bestselling books The Hormone Diet and her newest release, The Supercharged Hormone Diet, now available across Canada. She is also the founder of the Toronto-based Clear Medicine Wellness Boutique. For more wellness advice from Natasha Turner, click here.