- Pro-Inflammatory foods (sugar and starches)
Foods can be pro-inflammatory or anti-inflammatory. Avoid pro-inflammatory foods—these will promote wrinkles, a host of diseases, accelerate aging and cause the storage of body fat. Eating pro-inflammatory foods such as sugary and starchy foods shows up on the skin as a loss of radiance, dark circles under the eyes, the loss of tone, puffiness, an increase in fine lines and wrinkles, the loss of facial contours and increased pore size. These foods can also exacerbate acne, which is a systemic, inflammatory disease. I am not exaggerating when I say that sugar can rob you of your youth, health, and beauty.
- Excessive exposure to the sun.
Although we have all heard it a million times, excessive sun exposure will accelerate skin aging and cause skin cancer. We need to get some sun in order to absorb Vitamin D and keep our bones strong and healthy. However, baking out in the hot sun at the beach or by the pool is very destructive to your skin, as well as to your immune system. Excess sun exposure will cause photoaging, resulting in the following:
Loss of skin elasticity
Thinner, more translucent-looking skin
Dry, rough, leathery skin
Broken capillaries on the face
Liver spots on the face, back of hands, arms, chest and upper back
Spots or blemishes on the lower legs and arms
Of all the destructive, pro-inflammatory and pro-aging forces I have observed as a physician, nothing compares with the negative effects of stress. Stress causes certain hormonal changes in your body, which rapidly alters the function of the cells in your vital organs. Not surprisingly, these effects are reflected in the appearance of your skin.
Stress causes the release of the hormone cortisol. When we have large amounts of cortisol circulating in our blood streams for extended periods of time, it is extremely toxic. Our brain cells, or neurons, are extremely sensitive to the effects of cortisol. When it is circulating at a high level, cortisol causes brain cells to die. Excess cortisol can destroy your immune system, shrink other vital organs, decrease your muscle mass, and cause thinning of the skin, accelerating skin aging and wrinkling and making blood vessels under skin more prominent.
- Smoking Cigarettes and/or exposure to second hand smoke
Cigarette smoke is highly damaging and aging to skin. When we inhale just one puff of a cigarette, over a trillion free radicals are produced in our lungs, which then trigger an inflammatory response that circulates throughout our body. When we inhale tobacco smoke, the result is activation of white blood cells which line our arteries, causing an inflammatory response, predisposing us to heart disease.
In addition, there is a tremendous inflammatory response in all organs of the body —including the skin. Cigarette smoking depletes the skin of oxygen and vital nutrients including Vitamin C, critical in keeping skin youthful, moist and plumped up. Tobacco also acts as a vasoconstrictor, which means that it causes constriction of blood vessels. This reduces local blood flow to an area, and temporarily raises blood pressure. When the blood flow is reduced to the skin it results in a gray, pallid, lifeless and unhealthy looking complexion. Smoking also causes dry, leathery looking skin, premature deep lines, wrinkles and loss of radiance.
- Excess Alcohol
People generally think that alcohol is bad for the skin just because it dehydrates the body. They incorrectly assume that increasing our water intake will counteract the problem. Unfortunately, alcohol creates inflammation throughout the body including the skin, resulting in effects that far outlast dehydration. The metabolites of alcohol are molecules known as aldehydes. Aldehydes are destructive in that they cause damage to the cell plasma membrane, as well as other parts of the interior of the cell.
Alcohol causes small blood vessels in the skin to widen, allowing more blood to flow close to the skin’s surface. This produces a flushed skin color and a feeling of warmth which can lead to broken capillaries on the face. The alcohol-induced dehydration also makes the skin more prone to fine lines and wrinkles.
Dullness, enlarged pores, discoloration, sagging and lack of resilience are some of the short and longer term effects. Because alcohol alters blood flow to the skin, it will give you an unhealthy appearance that can last for days. An occasional glass of red wine can confer some health benefits for a number of reasons. But as with everything from eating to exercise, moderation is the key. Too much alcohol is highly destructive.
- Lack of sleep
A good night’s sleep will ensure that you awake refreshed, looking radiant and youthful. Adequate sleep is vital to avoid eye area puffiness and maintain vibrant skin. When we look at the hormone parameters during sleep, we find that sleep turns down the negative effects of cortisol and the “bad” neurotransmitters, like epinephrine and norepinephrine that can be elevated during stress. Growth hormone is released during sleep—and growth hormone is the youth hormone. The hormone melatonin is also released, which has a positive effect on the immune system and the skin. It is during sleep that we rebuild energy reserves and regenerate the body as our cells undergo a process of repair. Studies also show that inadequate sleep leads to unwanted weight gain and a craving for fat laden and carbohydrate-heavy foods.
People who exercise regularly enjoy improved sleep quality. They fall asleep more quickly, sleep more deeply, awaken less often, and sleep longer.
- Lack of Exercise
There are mountains of studies proving that exercise can take off pounds, reduce incidence of heart disease, lower blood pressure, improve mood, solve sleep problems, and even cut risks of certain cancers. Exercise will also ensure that you have beautiful skin. Studies have indicated that exercise benefits the skin in much the same way it improves bone and muscle quality. Without regular activity, bones become fragile and muscles atrophy. When the skin of those who exercise regularly is examined under a microscope, the impact of their high fitness levels is clearly apparent. The clear skin is thicker and has more and healthier collagen, the fibers that give the skin its strength and flexibility. Exercise increases circulation and gives the skin a healthy and radiant glow. As long as we use moderation and don’t overdo it, exercise of almost any kind has a powerful, positive, and anti-inflammatory effect on all our cells.
- Not eating enough protein
This ongoing lack of protein is first notable in the face, as the features become soft looking. The sharp definition, contoured cheekbones and that great jaw line all becomes blurred. When the supply of protein is depleted, the body is then forced to feed upon itself. This causes both tissue and muscle to breakdown. Protein cannot be stored in the body. Because it is essential for cellular repair, the days that we don’t eat enough protein are the days that we are accelerating aging.
- Going fat free
Healthy fats, especially omega 3 fatty acids and monounsaturated fat, have powerful anti-inflammatory effects improving skin’s moistness, texture, suppleness and smoothness. We need good fats, such as those found in salmon, sardines and other cold water fish, extra virgin olive oil, nuts, seeds, avocado and açai (a Brazilian berry whose fatty acid ratio resembles that of olive oil). These “good” fats will help us absorb nutrients from our vegetables and fruits, keep our cells supple, our skin glowing and wrinkle-free, our brains sharp and our mood upbeat. We also need dietary fat to burn fat.
- Not drinking enough water
Remember these key facts: Water is important—If you do not drink water, your organs and cells cannot function. You don’t have to overdo it—but if you don’t drink water, you cannot metabolize fat, nor can you flush wastes out of the cells.
A dehydrated body provokes the development of aging, inflammatory compounds. Water has great anti-inflammatory properties and will help you skin to be radiant, soft and supple—the key difference between a grape and raisin is water.
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