This is the 4th part of the much-awaited Skin Health series, where I get to work with Dr Verallo-Rowell again (we last worked on Sensitive Skin Product Series in 2012). The series is inspired by my conversation with Dr Verallo Rowell’s daughter, CEO of VMV Hypoallergenics) in Singapore when she mentioned her mom identified underlying health problems after seeing the skin of her friends. Dr Verallo Rowell is a renowned dermatologist, dermatopathologist and dermatology/laser surgeon who has authored of over 150 articles that have appeared in dermatology journals and meeting publications, and two books on skin and health. Read more on her here.
Understanding Skin and Health – Diet and Lifestyle
Some people’s skin seem to look more wrinkled, less glowing, dark colors under the eyes if they are not sleeping well. Smokers may have a grayish tone to their skin. Having a diet heavy with sugar can make it prone to acne. Deficiency of certain vitamins and minerals can also cause the skin to be dry.
MarcieMom: Dr Verallo-Rowell, I know you are deeply passionate about nutrition.
Dr Verallo-Rowell: I gave a talk in Hong Kong at the Asian Dermatological Congress on July 12 on Inflammation and our diet. I have a power point on this but let me see if I can share some of the slides with you.
MarcieMom: Which are the worst foods you would seriously object to for skin? And out of curiosity, could you tell if someone is a chocolate addict or fan of soda from the look of their skin? I’m hoping an occasional indulgence in ice cream can’t be detected by you!
Dr Verallo-Rowell: Hahaha. One look at a patient with adult acne tells me I have to look at her history closely to see which of the stressors – see my last winding paragraph below – is causing the adult acne.
In food, the most pro-inflammatory are processed foods because the oils used in processing them are generally more pro-inflammatory. Polyunsaturated they make the lipid bilayer of cell walls more fluid such that the cell wall’s protein receptors/signals do not function well. This is such a No NO NO for saturated oils. Yet plant derived saturated fats like those from coconut oil are cholesterol free and more stable than polyunsaturates, are not as vulnerable to oxidation by reactive oxygen species our body makes, do not have trans fats because they need not be hydrogenised. Note that less than 0.5 mg of trans fats does not have to be declared, hence everything now is “trans fat free”. 4 servings of a “trans fat free” product can readily reach 2 Gm. Remember any trans fat in our food is not good. Look instead at the Nutrition Facts and if says it has partially/hydrogenated oil in it – don’t use.
Also, omega 6 at too high an amount – which is what the seed oils contain at a ratio of 1:100 or more of the omega 3 they contain – is very pro-inflammatory because they are converted into pro-inflammatory eicosanoids. We need them – inflammation is needed to clear up bugs, and react to environmental assaults – but too much becomes too inflammatory and may continue into an inflammatory pathway of disease.
Like everything else in nature, balance is important, as it is in food. So the bit of ice cream and chocolate you indulge in wont make me recognize a skin change with you. Besides the mood elevating effect is also good for you. BUT, balance…eat more fruits and veggies, brown rice, brown bread, oily fish and shellfish. (all rich in omega 3, anti-oxidants) Cook with coconut oil for high heat, with olive oil for low heat and minimize that canola oil – it’s a genetically altered long chain polyunsaturated flaxseed oil.
In acne – the studies out there now show: high carb diets, and dairy products are more acnegenic. Interestingly of dairy products, the skimmed ones are more acnegenic, probably because of the sugar (more carbs) they add to add taste after the yummy oil is removed.
MarcieMom: Ending this series on a more serious note – we know stress is a trigger for eczema, and so is sleep-deprivation. For say someone who has a tough job/ running a business, taking care of kids and elderly, working through the night, could you tell that from his/her skin? And if someone wants to look into the mirror and know ‘Gosh, I need a break!’, what would you ask him/her to look at? (note: I’m being very fair here, both male and female can suffer from this!)
Dr Verallo-Rowell: Look for inflammation. This is the process that is now seen as the basic pathogenetic pathway in our cells triggered by stress. Most people think of stress in terms of the mental and emotional stresses of personal life and work. Very true, yet this kind of stress you are aware of, familiar with, share and moan about to your family and friends. It is stressful but other causes of stress that are not so obvious, hidden and may not be addressed by you and/or your physician. Examples are the stress from recurring low grade infections – like being a streptococcal carrier with mild but recurrent sore throat or dental problems or UTI, or stones in the gall bladder; or less than 6 and more than 8 hours sleep; lack of exercise, obesity and of course a diet with more pro-than anti-inflammatory elements in it, or too much weight loss.
Look for markers of inflammation: your acne flaring up, rosacea attacks becoming frequent, the eczema bigger, wider spread; those with psoriasis too – the lesions are bigger and persistent; boils recurring more often. These may indicate a lowered immunity from such things as too much exercise.
MarcieMom: Thank you Dr Verallo-Rowell, I can feel so MUCH Passion in you about nutrition and anti-inflammatory vs pro-inflammatory foods, I’m inspired to learn more! (but hopefully not nag my hubby about it, hearing nagging stresses him!)
For all the previous posts in this series, see