Skin problems are extremely common. From standard acne, to eczema, to psoriasis, to mysterious red bumps that no one seems to be able to diagnose, dermatology is a hot topic.
Not only do these conditions make us feel self-conscious about our appearance but often, they bring uncomfortable itching or stinging. Our first instinct is to slather on a medicated (and highly advertised) cream or lotion to provide relief and hope that it’ll disappear quickly. But what doctors fail to mention is that skin disorders are often manifestations of a greater imbalance within.
Here is a list of ways to manage and possibly heal your skin once and for all:
1. Get tested for allergies and sensitivities.
This could include environmental factors, but many skin conditions are related to what is going on in your gut. Food sensitivities can gradually destroy the lining of your intestines, making it more likely for bigger particles (usually proteins) to make their way into your blood, causing an immune reaction.
Also, if you are not getting rid of waste appropriately (through stool and urine), your body has no choice but to use the skin for detoxification purposes.
2. Eliminate gluten and processed grains.
Gluten has been known to be the greatest culprit in triggering various skin and autoimmune conditions. This goes along with the idea of food sensitivities, but the amount of gluten that we consume on a daily basis is also an issue, and this goes beyond bread and pasta. You can read more about gluten here.
3. Increase your fiber intake.
This means more fruits and vegetables—particularly vegetables. If you are not eliminating adequately, the food you eat sits in your gut and ferments.
Since the toxins are not being released, they get reabsorbed into your circulation and once again, your skin has the responsibility of trying to detoxify your system.
That’s a lot to try to squeeze through small pores!
4. Support your liver.
Aside from making hormones and proteins and turning stored sugar and fat into useable energy, the liver is your main detoxification organ. Help it out by limiting your alcohol intake, your exposure to environmental toxins, and by eating liver-friendly foods such as artichokes, beets, and dandelion greens. Bitters and specific herbal tinctures can be helpful too.
5. Eat an anti-inflammatory diet.
Skin conditions are proof that there is excess inflammation in your body. This can be caused by several things, but why not start with cleaning up your diet?
This might sound complicated, but a simple way to start is to avoid sugar, alcohol, processed foods, and spicy dishes.
6. Get your daily dose of Omega-3 fatty acids.
The main source is oily fish, such as salmon, herring, mackerel, sardines, and anchovies. Vegetarians and vegans can opt for plant sources found in chia seeds, flax seeds and some nuts (such as walnuts and pecans).
Omega-3 fatty acids are anti-inflammatory and provide healthy fats for maintaining skin elasticity and moisture. It's especially important in counter-balancing the effects of omega-6 fatty acids that tend to be more pro-inflammatory. (The Standard American Diet leans toward a more omega-6 heavy diet.)
7. Get your Vitamin D levels checked.
More and more, studies are finding that adequate levels of Vitamin D are crucial in maintaining a healthy immune system. As we spend more of our time indoors, or slather ourselves in sunscreen when we go out in the sun, our Vitamin D levels are extremely depleted.
Keeping a well-functioning immune system goes beyond protecting us from colds and flus—it prevents our susceptibility to autoimmune disease and keeps all sorts of undesirable bacteria at bay.
8. Read labels.
Commercially-purchased products, regardless of whether they claim to be “natural” or “organic” can still be loaded with chemicals that can cause skin sensitivities or worsen your current condition.
You’d be surprised how well Mother Nature can provide just the right balance of healing ingredients. Aloe vera has been shown to have extremely therapeutic properties for the skin, and coconut oil has many anti-microbial properties--not to mention the nourishment from its natural fats.
Remember: the skin is a permeable organ—you are what you put on your skin.
9. Manage your stress.
Many of these skin conditions are triggered and exacerbated by stress. Figure out a stress-management technique that works best for you. I CAN’T STRESS THIS ENOUGH. There are many destructive physiological changes that occur in the body due to stress, but I won’t go into it here.
10. Don’t suppress it.
As naturopaths, we believe that there is a very good reason why the skin is acting out the way it is. It is our body giving us a hint that something isn’t right and that we need to look beyond the surface as to what exactly is going on. It is a sign of health.
If you try to suppress these symptoms (in essence, putting a “band-aid” on the situation), you will eventually be causing more harm by causing the imbalance to go deeper into your cells. Health is established from the inside-out.