Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Tips for creating vibrant, healthy skin

If you are suffering from distressing skin conditions like dermatitis, eczema, psoriais or acne, you will find that many of the conventional treatments available do not manage your symptoms effectively.  This is because skin problems are rarely caused by one single factor.  Your skin is the largest organ of your body.  Its function is to eliminate toxins, regulate body temperature and provide protection to the inside of your body from potential micro-organisms’ invasion. Your body literally shed millions of skin cells every day and your skin completely replaces itself roughly every 27 days.  This means that if you can identify and treat the factors contributing to your skin problems, you should start to see dramatic improvements to your skin within one to two months.

What causes skin conditions?

The skin is a reflection of the health of your internal environment.  There are often many things that can contribute to a skin condition.  Here are some possible reasons:
  • if your internal digestive and detoxification systems are not functioning properly, your skin will suffer;
  • if you are experiencing a high level of stress, then the inflammation this causes can become visible through the skin;
  • if your circulation and / or lymphatic systems are congested, then your skin will reflect this; and
  • if your diet lacks certain nutrients your body and your skin needs, you will be presented with a skin condition indicating that your body is not getting the nutrients it needs.
Improving the health of your skin is not just about applying creams or lotions onto your skin and hoping that the problem will go away.  You also need to address the underlying contributing factors to the skin problem.  Here are some simple tips to improve the health of your skin:
  • Eat well, avoid junk foods and feed your skin.  Poor diet is one of the major contributing factors to skin issues.  A poor diet can lead to nutritional deficiencies as well as inflammation and your skin will be the first to show the effect of a poor or inappropriate diet.  Your skin needs certain nutrients.  Nutrients such as zinc, vitamin D and fish oil are vital for your skin health as well as for the immune system.  Deficiencies in these nutrients have been shown to have an impact on skin conditions. 
  • Keep your bowel movement regular and maintain healthy bowel flora.  If you are constipated and not moving your bowel regularly, toxins will not be removed from your body efficiently.  Toxins reabsorbed back into your system may be removed through your skin and this can aggravate skin conditions.  Adequate good bacteria (or bowel flora) is essential for healthy skin.  Bowel flora is key for maintaining proper immune function and digestion, to prevent constipation and harmful microbial overgrowth of the skin and digestive system.  So, improving constipation and sluggish digestion will assist in treating skin conditions. 
  • Manage your stress and exercise regularly.  Stress is one of the major contributing factors to skin conditions especially acne as it causes inflammation, depletes your immune system and destroys bowel flora.  If you feel that you are stress out, try some relaxation techniques such as yoga or meditation.  Exercise can be a way to relax and manage stress as well.  Exercise helps the skin remove toxins through sweating as well as being anti-inflammatory.
  • Detoxify your body regularly. If any of your five major channels of elimination, ie., the skin, the bowel, the kidneys, the lymphatic system and the lungs, is not functioning effectively and efficiently, the other channels are forced to work harder to help remove toxins the body is trying to eliminate. In most cases, congestion in one of these channels is expressed via the skin in the form of skin conditions such as acne, dermatitis, eczema and psoriasis. Therefore, improving the capacity of your elimination channels through regular integrated detoxification program will help to improve the health of your skin.
  • Skin conditions can be caused by a number of factors.  A personalised treatment program is often needed to address the specific underlying causes of your individual condition.  While treating the cause is key to the long term solution of your skin condition, you can also use natural topical creams containing natural herbs (such as chamomile, calendula, aloe vera), essential oils (such as lavender, sandlewood) and nutrients (such as vitamin D, E, B12, zinc) to help manage your symptoms, reduce skin inflammation and promote healing.

Skin conditions can be caused by a number of factors.  A personalised treatment program is often needed to address the specific underlying causes of your individual condition.  While treating the cause is key to the long term solution of your skin condition, you can also use natural topical creams containing natural herbs (such as chamomile, calendula, aloe vera), essential oils (such as lavender, sandlewood) and nutrients (such as vitamin D, E, B12, zinc) to help manage your symptoms, reduce skin inflammation and promote healing.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Which diet is the best? Do you have to be vegan, eat raw food in order to be healthy?

I have often been asked what the best diet is.  I have clients presenting in clinic who are following one diet or another or switching from one diet to another and not feeling any better.  Many would ask me if I am a vegetarian.  As a naturopath and practitioner of Chinese Medicine, I feel it is important for me to share with you what my thoughts are on this subject. 

When I was undergoing my naturopathic training many years ago, we had to study and analyse a number of diets.  We had to practise the way of eating of one diet whilst we researched the nutrition and science behind the many, often contradictory diets.  The one I had to work on practically and did a fair amount of research on was the vegetarian diet.  I cut out all meats and fish.  To start with I am not a big meat eater, so I thought vegetarianism should suit me.  Much to my surprise, even over a 2 week period, I found my energy dropping and my sleep unrefreshed.  The last few days were really a drag, as I was looking forward to adding in my small amount of chicken and fish again.  What I learned out of that exercise was that, even though I consumed just a small amount of chicken and fish, those foods provided me with essential nutrients like magnesium and B12 that helped with energy production and nervous system support.  Moreover, the protein helped with tryptophan production that helped me sleep better.  Whilst I still consume a large proportion of plant based foods, including vegetables, seeds, nuts and some sea vegetables, adding a small amount of meat made all that difference.

There is also a misconception about the word "vegetarian".  There are a lot of people whose health is no better, but worse after becoming vegetarians.  I have seen a lot of my patients who say they are vegetarians, but in fact, they are carbotarians!  Most of their meals are full of carbohydrate, not vegetables, seeds or nuts! They always wonder why they are getting fatter and their health deteriorated after becoming "vegetarians".  Whilst we are designed to eat plenty of plant based foods, we are not designed to consume large amounts of processed foods, like breads, pastries, biscuits, potato chips, cheese flavoured onion rings, chocolate, cakes, etc.  Eating a large portion of processed foods is vegetarianism turned bad, as the fluctuations in blood sugar levels is creating cravings and more intake of sugar laden or high glycemic load foods.

I cannot say that one diet is superior to another, because it all depends on your constitution and needs.  Some people say eat everything in moderation.  I vehemently object to that statement!  Some things that do not agree with a person should just be removed, not even in small amounts!  Drug addicts who go through rehabilitation are taken away from the substance, they are not given a small amount of drug so they don’t react adversely!  And what should be in your diet or not depends on your objective, is it for convalescence, for weight loss, for better energy, etc.  It also depends on what type of physical and mental activity you are experiencing and what your needs are.  I advise you to seek professional guidance but as a starting point, if you are looking at doing it yourself, you should keep a food and symptom diary.  Tracking your progress gives a cheap and objective way of ascertaining what works and what does not.  If there is no consistent pattern you can observe, then seek naturopathic advice, we talk about food and nutrition all the time!

Eggs and butter don’t cause heart disease, sugar does!

I have always preached the benefits of having 1-2 eggs a day, it is a nutritious food, rich in protein, Vitamin A, choline, folate, B12 and some minerals.  It is one of the most affordable wholefoods that has been demonised by many. 

For half a century, we have been hearing doctors preaching that fats cause heart disease, and patients have been advised to reduce intake of eggs and swap butter out for margarine.  Most patients would be swapping eggs out for cereal for breakfast, which apparently was thought to be good for you.  Half a century on, cardiovascular disease is still the leading and growing cause of death, causing 30% of all deaths in New Zealand.

The problem is we have got it wrong!  Eggs and butter don’t cause heart disease, the cause of heart disease is in the consumption of sugar!  Swapping eggs out for breakfast for cereal that is a highly processed carbohydrate is a green card to causing increase in insulin and blood sugar which increases the risk factor for heart disease.

Sugar is the culprit to increasing inflammation and narrowing of the arteries from inflammation increases the risk of a stroke or heart attack.  Sugar is addictive, whether it comes in the form of refined cane sugar or high fructose corn syrup.

Butter is a saturated fat, but it is a naturally occurring fat.  Our bodies need saturated fats, adequate amounts of them are required to reduce the levels of lipoproteins in our blood, which is protective of the cardiovascular system. Margarine, on the other hand, is often made out of a vegetable oil.  Vegetable oils are often liquid at room temperature.  In order to solidify it, the structure of the oil needs to be manufactured and firmed up.  What firms up the oil also firms up your arteries.  It is therefore not a substitute for butter.  If you need to have butter, have it but without the sugar, because it is the sugar that causes heart disease more than the butter!