It’s no surprise that the state of your skin can add (or subtract) 10 years to your face. However some skin conditions are particularly stubborn, including eczema, psoriasis and acne. Here are five all-natural ways to heal your itchy, scaly winter skin.
1. Remove your food triggers
What you eat (or how you digest it) can often be seen on your face, particularly when it comes to skin conditions like eczema or acne. Food sensitivities or intolerances usually involve a set of immune system antibodies called IgG antibodies. Symptoms are less intense and typically do not appear immediately, but rather within 12 to 48 hours, after eating the offending food. In my practice, skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis are commonly connected to food intolerances and are greatly reduced when the key culprits are removed and proper topical products are used.
One study, which included more than 600 breast-fed three-month-olds, checked to see if they were sensitized to the six most common allergenic foods. The researchers explained that the breakdown of the skin barrier in infants with eczema leaves the active immune cells in skin exposed to environmental allergens — in this case food proteins — which then triggers an allergic immune response. So not only do food allergies cause eczema, eczema causes food allergies.
Bottom line: An easy litmus test would be to go on a 14-day elimination diet and then slowly re-introduce each food group to see if your diet is behind your skin distress. In addition I highly recommend doing the HCL challenge or adding digestive enzymes to meals.
2. Steer clear of stress for clear skin
Not only is stress bad for your health, it’s particularly troublesome for your skin. In fact, a branch of medicine called psychodermatology focuses on how the mind affects the skin. Stress also makes the skin more permeable, allowing bacteria to infiltrate and produce a protein that activates the immune system, thereby leading the path for eczema, acne and psoriasis.
A 2007 study from Wake Forest University found a link between teens’ stress levels and the severity of their acne. In a similar study from 2003, researchers at Stanford University examined the severity of acne in 22 college students during their week of finals. Not surprisingly, the students under greater stress, suffered more acne than their calmer counterparts
Bottom line: This connection is another great reason you should practise these effective stress management techniques.
3. Switch to alkaline water
I regularly conduct bio-impedance tests on my patients, which tells me their cellular health, hydration status and total body fat. More often than not I find that a dehydrated state can be a contributing factor to skin conditions, from dry and itchy skin to eczema and wrinkles. A slightly alkaline environment allows the body’s metabolic, enzymatic, immunologic and repair mechanisms to function at their best – and your skin is certainly the first to reflect that change in chemistry.
Our bodies continually strive to maintain a pH balance of 7 to 7.4. When the pH of our bodily fluids, digestive system and tissues is pushed out of that comfortable neutral zone, health problems are the result.
Bottom line: Not only should you invest in a non-chlorinated, alkalizing shower filter, I highly recommend using a reverse osmosis or alkaline water filter as well.
4. Fix your deficiencies
There are a few key nutrients that will have people asking what your skin secret is, and fish oil is one of them.
A 2009 study found that children who ate at least one serving of fish per week were less likely to suffer from eczema than children who didn’t. And though there have been mixed results in studies done on the efficacy of fish oil supplements and the treatment of eczema, it is something I highly recommend to my patients. Zinc is also something I recommend because it has been shown to boost the immune system and raise the production of anti-inflammatory compounds in the body.
Bottom line: If you’re battling a flare up, I recommend 30 mg of zinc per day and using a fish oil in a 6:1 ratio of EPA to DHA to reduce inflammation.
5. Take the edge off of inflammation
Green tea is a well-known staple for many health conditions, from glaucoma to diabetes, with one more to add to its list: psoriasis. Already used to suppress inflammation, green tea has been shown to regulate a protein in genes that controls the life cycle of a skin cell.
Bottom line: While I often recommend taking green tea extract daily, you can certainly choose to set a quota of three to four cups of green tea per day instead. Another hint: you can also apply it topically. For example, try adding it to your cleanser in the morning. Run a tea bag over hot water, cut it open, and empty its contents into a small bowl. Spoon two tablespoons of an organic cream facial cleanser into the bowl and mix it together. Apply it to your face, leave it on for five minutes and then rinse well. Try it and tell us how you liked it in the comment section below!
Natasha Turner, N.D. is a naturopathic doctor, and author of the bestselling books The Hormone Diet, The Supercharged Hormone Diet and The Carb Sensitivity Program. She’s also the founder of the Toronto-based Clear Medicine Wellness Boutique and a regular guest on The Dr. Oz Show. For more wellness advice from Natasha Turner, click here.