Inspired by scents of rhubarb, honeysuckle, and Madonna lily, found in her grandfather's garden in Virginia and the ancient herbal medicine secrets of Europe, Barbara Close developed a strong passion for creating a space for people to learn about self-care and make decisions that align with their bodies. An herbalist, aromatherapist, and strong believer in traditional healing practices, Barbara founded the holistic skin care line Naturopathica. In this excerpt from her book The Naturopathica Effect: A Holistic Approach to Skin Care, she shares the unexpected cause of most of our inflammation and how to combat it for younger, healthier, and more radiant skin.
What are the causes of inflammation?
Externally, when your skin is exposed to irritations like UV light, polluted air, or adverse chemicals such as the ingredients in some skin care products, your body initiates an inflammatory response and may exhibit symptoms such as redness, swelling, and heat. Internally, inflammation occurs when your body engages the immune system to attack a foreign body—anything from a mosquito bite to an ulcer in the lining of your stomach.
You may be surprised to learn that the gastrointestinal (GI) tract is the seat of our immune system, as almost 75 percent of our immune cells live there. Our gut, specifically the small intestine, is home to countless bacteria—both good bacteria such as Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria, which protects us from deadly pathogens, as well as harmful bacteria, like yeasts and parasites. According to the National Institutes of Health, up to 70 million people suffer from digestive disorders, but scientists do not know why digestive imbalances are on the rise.
One unifying theory is that these imbalances might be driven by increased permeability of the gut (aka "leaky gut syndrome"), which promotes chronic systemic inflammation throughout the body as our immune system responds to the influx of microorganisms.
This systemic inflammation weakens natural immunity and inhibits the body's reactions to everyday challenges, such as preventing sun damage or acne. Here's the bottom line: If your body is busy engaging in a battle to fight inflammation, it cannot focus on the necessary daily processes it needs to perform for your skin, things like making collagen and elastin.
Inflammation & premature aging
Chronic inflammation causes premature aging of the skin because it promotes free radicals, highly reactive oxygen molecules that damage cell membranes by stealing electrons through a process called oxidation. At the same time, your body releases three key enzymes—hyaluronidase, elastase, and collgenase—which break down hyaluronic acid, elastin, and collagen, the main building blocks of the skin.
A gut feeling
Factors that may contribute to increased permeability of the gut include:
American diets: High-sugar foods, processed foods, and carbohydrate-heavy diets trigger the release of cytokines, signaling molecules made by cells that regulate inflammation.
Chemicals: NSAIDS (a category of anti-inflammatory and pain-reducing drugs including aspirin and ibuprofen), pesticides, cosmetic irritants, mercury exposure, and other everyday chemical agents can trigger an inflammatory response in the skin and body.
Stress: Stress triggers the release of cortisol, which mobilizes blood sugar, in turn promoting inflammation.
We have a (gut) feeling you're going to feel a lot better if you avoid some of these major inflammation triggers.
And are you ready to learn more about how to unlock the power of food to heal your body, prevent disease & achieve optimal health? Register now for our FREE Functional Nutrition Webinar with Kelly LeVeque.