Eating to Protect the Skin: Omega-3 Fats & Collagen – Part 2-

We all want to have a smooth and moisturised face, a lovely healthy glow and no spots or pimples, right? So here are two key rules that we all need to follow:

EAT OMEGA-3’S FATS

Every cell in our body, including our skin cells, has a cell wall made up of two layers of fat called the phospholipid bilayer. This cell wall incorporates dietary fats and is an important reason behind the appearance of plump, healthy skin. Whatever fats we eat are going to be in this very important membrane and so it is important to choose your fats wisely – not only because we want this membrane to be as fluid and flexible as possible (think about the flow of nutrients in and toxins out), but also because we want to look healthy and radiant. One of the most important fats that we should eat on a regular basis is omega-3. This anti-inflammatory fat is found in oily fish (wild salmon, mackerel, sardines, anchovies, trout, tuna), walnuts, linseeds, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds and hemp seeds. They can also be found in organic free-range eggs and grass-fed beef. High levels of omega-3 have been shown to plump up the skin, as well as reducing inflammation, spots and blemishes.

Have oily fish 2-3 x week and a serving of omega 3 nuts and seeds every day.

BOOST COLLAGEN LEVELS

Collagen gives structure to the skin’s tissues but, as we get older, it breaks down which is why we get wrinkles. Poor nutrition, hormonal changes, stress and pollution can all diminish collagen production so it becomes all the more important to have an optimal diet. The best source of collagen is protein from organically raised grass-fed meat or chicken. Bone broths are also a particularly good source of collagen and can be made easily at home. Other ways to boost collagen levels are ginseng, aloe vera, and eating foods rich in vitamin C (pepper, broccoli, kiwi fruit, tomatoes, citrus) and vitamin A (oily fish, liver, cheese, leafy greens and orange and yellow fruit and veg).

How can we keep our hormones balanced? Liver, healthy gut and phytoestrogens – Part 2 –

Our second blog on hormones balanced written by Noonie Zand Goodarzi for us to understand what we can do.

Look after your liver

The liver is the body’s workhorse – it has over two hundred vital functions and one of these is the clearance of hormones from the blood. It is the liver that detoxifies or breaks down oestrogen so it can be eliminated from the body. It also turns more damaging oestrogen into good oestrogen metabolites. Oestrogen clearance is critically important as oestrogens that are not properly metabolized and cleared by the liver remain in the body and become toxic.

An under-functioning liver can lead to a sluggish system, low energy and holding onto weight.

To support the liver:

  • Avoid chemicals as much as possible, especially ones called xeno-oestrogens (notably parabens, suphates and BPA) which mimic the effect of oestrogen in the body and can variously be found in: pesticides, detergents, beauty products, shampoos, anti-bacterial handwashes and wipes, plastics, clingfilm, unfiltered tap water, traffic fumes, canned foods, and even till receipts. Non-organic meat and dairy also contain traces of hormones and antibiotics used in farming.
  • Increase fibre intake such as oats, flaxseeds, fruit and vegetables, wholemeal grains, nuts and seeds, which binds to oestrogen and helps eliminate it from the body.
  • Eat plenty of bitter greens (rocket, endive, watercress), beetroot, artichokes and radishes. These all stimulate bile flow and elimination of toxins.
  • Increase intake of onions, leeks, garlic and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, broccoli sprouts, kale and Brussell sprouts which aid detoxification processes. Cruciferous veg are particularly powerful means of detoxifying hormones from the body.
  • Cut down on alcohol intake. Alcohol is so toxic that the liver will always prioritise getting rid of it before doing anything else….and that includes metabolising excess oestrogen.

Strengthen your digestion

We are not only what we eat, but also what we digest and absorb, so if we are not absorbing nutrients it makes no real difference how healthily we are eating. We need to have enough stomach acid to break down nutrients needed for metabolism of oestrogen; our liver health needs to be optimal for it to be broken down and excreted from the body; we need to make sure we have no constipation as it is through the faeces that oestrogen leaves the body; and we need to have a healthy balance of gut bacteria. Lactobacillus acidophilus bacteria have been shown to decrease the activity of Beta-glucoronidase, an enzyme that enables oestrogen to be reabsorbed.

Some healthy steps you can take for the gut:

  • Cut down on sugar and refined carbs to encourage healthy gut bacteria.
  • Increase fibre intake – psyllium husk, oats, flax seeds, organic fruit and veg, nuts and seeds.
  • Eat fermented foods every day – kefir, kombucha, miso, sauerkraut, kimchi.
  • Drink freshly squeezed lemon in warm water every morning to encourage stomach acid production.
  • Concentrate on anti-inflammatory foods – no sugar, no deep fried foods, lots of oily fish, lots of leafy green vegetables, olive oil, avocado, turmeric, cayenne pepper, citrus fruit, nuts and seeds, green tea.

Add some phytoestrogens to your diet

Phytoestrogens are plant compounds that exert a weak oestrogenic effect – much weaker than human oestrogen. Basically the plant molecules attach to the oestrogen receptors in our bodies and block the effects of more potent natural oestrogens and xenoestrogens. Examples of phytoestrogens include: flaxseeds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, fermented soya (miso, tempeh, Tamari), apples, carrots, pomegranates, lentils, sprouts, mung beans, yams, oats.

So, to sum up …. you need to think about having a varied diet that focuses on high fiber (whole grains, nuts, seeds, fruits, vegetables, dark leafy greens, and legumes), high quality proteins, fermented foods, healthy fats, cruciferous vegetables and filtered water. Keep it low in sugar, caffeine, alcohol and processed foods. Be mindful of avoiding chemicals, combatting stress, taking regular exercise, and looking after your gut. All of this will support healthy hormone metabolism, which will have all-round benefits to your health and vitality.

How can you keep our hormones balanced? Stress and weight – Part 1-

We are going to explore how we can help our body to keep our hormones balanced in two blogs. The subject is wide and Noonie Zand Goodarzi has given us some insides in the matter.

One of the most important things for a woman’s health and wellbeing is to keep her hormones in a state of balance – particularly the hormones oestrogen and progesterone. Our weight, our energy, our mood, our digestion, our metabolism and our brains are all at their mercy and so when these hormones are imbalanced it has a systemic, and often dramatic, effect in the body.

In a healthy monthly cycle, oestrogen and progesterone balance each other out. From our forties onwards, however, our progesterone levels start to fall and so instead of opposing oestrogen, we can have lower amounts of progesterone and a relative excess of oestrogen, otherwise known as oestrogen dominance. And this relative excess of oestrogen can go on for many years to our detriment. This will not just cause uncomfortable symptoms, but it also puts us at a greater risk of oestrogen-driven cancers like breast or uterine cancer which is obviously a serious concern.

So, here are two key points we need to look at:

Address your stress levels. Our stress hormone cortisol is converted from progesterone, so if we have high stress levels, or chronic stress, this is going to impact our progesterone levels directly, upsetting the balance of progesterone and oestrogen even more. The other key thing about our adrenal glands is that after the menopause they take over from our ovaries to produce a small, but valuable, amount of oestrogen, vital to our hearts and our bones. Chronic high cortisol can also lower thyroid hormone production which is often why many women around the time of menopause have under-active thyroids. In short, we need to be aware that stress interferes with our hormone levels in a powerful way.

Watch your weight. Our metabolism unfortunately is not as robust from our forties onwards which means that sadly we cannot eat like we used to eat – we simply won’t burn off the calories and we will gradually put on weight. In terms of hormone balance, this is not good news. Probably the most common reason for excess oestrogen in the female body is excessive adipose tissue, or fat cells. These fat cells can drive up oestrogen levels by converting androgens (the male hormones that we all have) into oestrogens. – especially in breast fat tissue or in belly fat.

  • The obvious answer to this is to eat fewer calories and to keep making healthy choices, but we also need to ensure that we don’t lose muscle. Studies have shown that losing muscle and being less active are the biggest reasons why your metabolism slows with age. Plus, if you pair inactivity with low protein intake, continued muscle loss with age is inevitable. So, we should not only take regular resistance exercise, but we should also eat good quality protein with every meal (organic lean, grass-fed meat, chicken, fish, eggs, beans, pulses, nuts, seeds, quinoa, buckwheat). Aim to eat around 1g protein per kg of body weight.
  • Watching blood sugar balance is another important aspect to keeping our weight stable because oestrogen dominance promotes insulin resistance. This is when your cells become unresponsive to insulin [a hormone that processes glucose from food], so you store fat no matter what, especially around the waist. All this insulin floating around also causes even more oestrogen to be made in the body. So, in order to keep our blood sugar balanced, we need to watch our carbohydrate intake (especially processed ones), we need to eat protein with every meal, take exercise and never skip a meal.

Wait for our next blog on ….. the importance of looking after our liver, having a healthy gut and adding some phytoestrogens to your diet.

Eating to Protect the Skin – Sugar, Water and Anti-Oxidants – Part 1-

The skin is the largest organ in the human body so it stands to reason it needs just the right nutrition to keep it looking healthy. A few hard and fast rules that we should all be following:

KEEP YOUR BLOOD SUGAR BALANCED

Whenever we eat anything laden with sugar, or indeed any kind of carbohydrate, it gets broken down into glucose so it can be used for energy by our cells. The problem is, high amounts of glucose are extremely bad for us so the body will release insulin in order to remove it from the bloodstream as quickly as possible. If we are eating lots of sugar and refined carbs, then this repeated insulin response will undoubtedly cause negative affects in our body, including our skin.  This is because high blood glucose and high insulin trigger inflammation and this can exacerbate any inflammatory skin condition, such as acne, rosacea, psoriasis or eczema.  Sugar also suppresses the immune system, which can affect how your body reacts to the bacteria in spots, plus it can make allergies worse, which often manifests as rashes and itchy skin.

In order to keep a handle on blood sugar, eat foods that have a low glycemic index and slowly release their energy. These tend to be high fibre wholegrain foods, fruit and vegetables, beans and pulses, nuts and seeds. Also, avoid processed foods, fast food, ready meals, refined carbs (anything white), sugary drinks and snacks, and always have protein with your meal which will slow down the release of glucose into your bloodstream.

STAY HYDRATED

It’s often helpful to visualise our cells as millions of tiny little entities that constantly take nutrients in and expel toxins out. In order to do this, they not only need the right nutrients, but they also need water. It is water that delivers all of the vitamins and minerals to our cells, and it is water that flushes out the excess waste that builds up around them. In short, it is the most underated nutrient of all, and if we don’t drink enough, this valuable flow of nutrients in and toxins out starts to get clogged up.  And this can show in our skin. Dehydrated skin often looks drier, less plump and elastic, and the skin around our eyes can start to look darker.

In order to stay adequately hydrated, we should aim to drink 4-6 glasses of water a day. Use a carbon filter to get rid of contaminants and, if using a drinking bottle, use stainless steel or glass. If it is plastic, make sure it is BPA free.

EAT PLENTY OF ANTI-OXIDANTS

Nasty chemicals called free radicals are produced both internally, and due to external toxins. They cause inflammation in the body and damage the DNA in our cells, which ages them and potentially causes disease. It is this oxidative stress that causes our skin to lose its youthful glow so, for a healthy complexion, it is vital to counteract this process as much as possible. It is therefore important to both limit exposure to oxidants – by avoiding pollutants (chemical sprays/cosmetics, smoking, sun exposure etc), radiation from the sun, alcohol, cigarettes, food additives, unhealthy fats – and to eat plenty of beneficial anti-oxidants which protect our cells from damage.

Key anti-oxidants for the skin are:

  • Vitamin A, supports the skin’s elasticity and helps to facilitate the growth of new skin cells.
  • Beta-carotene, which converts to vitamin A in the body.
  • Vitamin C, vital for the production of collagen, the skin’s support structure.
  • Vitamin E, helps protect skin from pollution and UV rays, plus helps keep moisture in.
  • Selenium, natural antioxidant defence against skin cancer, sun damage and age spots.
  • Zinc, enables healing in the skin.
  • Quercetin, anti-inflammatory, anti-allergy.

Aim to have 5-10 servings of anti-oxidants a day. For example:

  • Half a cup of blueberries /blackcurrants /blackberries /raspberries /strawberries.
  • Half a teaspoon of cinnamon.
  • Half a teaspoon of cayenne pepper.
  • Half a teaspoon of turmeric.
  • Half a teaspoon of spirulina.
  • 4 pieces of dark chocolate (high coco content).
  • 1 cup of cooked kidney/aduki or pinto beans.
  • Half an avocado.
  • 7 walnut halves.
  • 1 clove of garlic.
  • A handful of almonds.

…all these would count as a serving.