Healthy Skin Through Good Metabolic Health
Skin is living tissue that is highly dependent on the internal chemistry of the body for its support. It is also a mirror of the health of the other parts of the body that depend on the same internal chemical management systems. If the body’s metabolic, hormonal and detoxification systems are healthy and optimally functioning, it will be reflected in the skin as well as in all other tissues. Similarly, dysregulation of these systems will profoundly affect the skin as well.
The body’s internal chemical systems are inter-dependent. When each functions well, it prevents stress on the other systems. Similarly, when one is highly stressed, the other systems struggle also. This stress quickly becomes apparent in the appearance of the skin.
Diet is one of the most potent stimuli that triggers change in the hormonal system. Hormones such as insulin are expressed to help manage the energy and other products diet delivers. Different components of diet such as sugar place greater stress on this hormonal compensation. There are several other dietary imbalances that can contribute, and each person’s diet can have a unique pattern of imbalance.
The body literally rebuilds itself in a remarkably short period of time. Epithelial cells that line the digestive tract replace themselves in about 6-7 days. Slower repairing tissue such as the nervous system will do so in about 1 year. All of that rebuilding comes from energy and material supplied by diet. Good diet means good maintenance of the body, while poor diet means inferior ongoing repair.
With aging the body begins to shift from an anabolic to a catabolic state. The anabolic state is one of “building” tissues such as muscle, bone and all others. The catabolic state is one of “breaking down” tissue. In a general sense, both are going on at all times in the body. We constantly build new tissue and breakdown old both to continually repair tissue but also to regulate the body’s energy needs.
While the catabolic breakdown of tissue may seem odd, it is important for survival in many circumstances. The brain is unique in that it essentially only burns glucose for fuel. At any time blood sugar becomes low such as 3-5 hours during sleep, we produce catabolic hormones such as cortisol to maintain blood sugar levels. Cortisol causes muscle protein breakdown to provide amino acids for the liver to convert to sugar. This is also common for moderate periods of time throughout the day during the hour or so when we are hungry but do not or cannot eat.
Cortisol also increases dramatically during stress and inflammation to keep blood sugar up and the brain alert during perceived danger/anxiety. Unfortunately, stress and inflammation also cause chronic muscle breakdown. Additionally, cortisol also causes collagen breakdown which adds to the muscle loss seen in the face and body that makes surface/skin appearance look “aged”.
Perhaps the relationship between stress, inflammation, cortisol and skin aging can best be appreciated looking at pictures of our last several presidents when they entered office and then when leaving office. Four to eight years seems to add 15-20 years of aging appearance.
Any combination of too much blood sugar fluctuation, stress or inflammation creates a double problem with our hormones. A large portion of our anabolic hormones such as testosterone are made in the adrenal glands where cortisol is also made. High cortisol demand uses the same precursor hormone (pregnenolone) that makes testosterone. High cortisol demand causes “pregnenolone steal” where most of this precursor is used for cortisol production reducing testosterone or anabolic/reparative hormone.
Even with the best state of internal chemistry the skin will lose volume with age as well as support from the underlying muscle volume. However, this process can be dramatically accelerated by different behaviors that disrupt internal chemistry favoring the catabolic state.
Some of the more notables which cause catabolic shift to occur earlier to a greater extent include mental stress, inflammation and repeated low blood sugar. Inflammation requires the most investigation as to the cause behind it. A common one is chronic food sensitivities. It is important to explore this area in all skin problems.
The body is under constant toxic challenge both from within and from the outside. Many of the chemicals the body makes such as hormones are broken down into intermediates which can be potentially toxic if their breakdown is not finished. Water, air, food and other exposure to hundreds of chemicals that the body must detoxify is well known. There are over 200 chemicals approved for use in food alone in the U.S.
A particular group of chemicals such as BPA classified as hormone disrupting chemicals may be of particular concern. These chemicals are highly used in our environment including food packaging and as pesticides applied to food crops.
They have the specific ability to alter hormone levels which has implications in broad groups of diseases from cancer to diabetes to brain disease. The hormone imbalances they cause also have pronounced impact on the skin as discussed above.
The body works hard to constantly detoxify. Most of the building and support for the body’s detoxifying enzymes comes from essential vitamins and minerals, and from phytonutrients from diet. This detoxification occurs through four primary systems; the liver, kidneys, intestines and the skin. Weaknesses overwhelming the capacity of one of the other systems will trigger detoxification through the skin. Nutritional detoxification support for the liver, digestive system and kidneys is often important and helpful in restoring skin health.
Our metabolic pathways that are involved in energy usage, detoxification and all other functions are run by a diverse group of enzymes that drive over 5000 chemical reactions. Each enzyme is produced from a specific gene of which there may be several dozen variations called “polymorphisms”. Given this, each individual has thousands of variations in how their body metabolizes, detoxifies and functions.
Fortunately many methods of testing now available allow accurate ways to help each person suit their diet and nutrient intake to their optimal function and health including skin health. Our goal is to help each person find their optimal healthy pattern of nutrition. The beauty of doing this ensures not only the healthiest skin possible, but also the best general health as well.