Sunshine and healthy skin

August 1, 2022

We have been enjoying a bit of a heatwave here in the UK, but the sunshine is not always good news for everyone. Extreme changes in temperature can cause an increase in unpleasant symptoms with certain conditions, especially certain skin conditions.

We often feel that a bit of sun on the skin can be a good thing, in fact that is one of our main sources of vitamin D, but for some dry skin problems, the heat and too much sun can aggravate the skin.

August is Psoriasis Awareness Month in the US and other countries, it’s a good time to reflect on this skin condition that is often considered as simply a dry skin issue. But for someone experiencing it, the condition can not only lead to painful skin, but it can also affect a person’s mental health as well and can lead to depression and anxiety. In fact, the theme for World Psoriasis Day in June this year, was mental health.

Psoriasis can occur anywhere on the body and can be a small patch, to a much larger area of the body. Some people experience it on the scalp which can be particularly difficult to deal with as it is hard to ‘hide’ away under clothing.

Characterised by red, scaly skin that can even look silvery, with raised patches it frequently appears on the elbows, knees and scalp although it can appear anywhere on the body. It often causes itching and burning sensations and the skin can feel dry and tight. Many sufferers keep the affected areas covered to avoid feeling embarrassed and to avoid questions.

Summer months can be difficult for any skin issues, fewer clothes, swimming, sun-bathing and days out can all add to the discomfort of psoriasis sufferers and those with other skin issues.

As with many skin problems, it is not known what the cause it, but it is thought to do with an overgrowth of skin cells causing the hard raised areas. Researchers believe that it is not just genetics that are involved and that it may be related to the immune system and also the health of the liver.

Although many skin problems might not have a quick fix, there are some dietary changes and supplements that may help make life a little easier.

There might not be a quick fix for a skin issue, but dietary changes and a reviewed supplement regime may well make a difference.

Underpinning everything, as always, is what you eat and the health of your digestive system. Some conditions may be linked to food intolerances or allergies. Reducing or avoiding certain foods may make a difference. A food diary is an easy what to help you identify what may be causing an issue. Simply write down everything you eat and drink along with a few notes on how you feel and how your skin health is. Do this for around a fortnight.

Keeping a food diary can be a valuable insight into how what you eat could be affecting your health.

Look and see if there are any common foods that appear on the days you are particularly uncomfortable. These foods are often dairy such as cheese and milk and citrus foods such as oranges and tomatoes. Try a fortnight of reducing your consumption of the relevant foods and again keep a daily note of how you are. Some people will then reintroduce the foods to see if there is a flare up, but if you see an improvement from eliminating, you don’t have to go back and reintroduce.

Hot weather and sunshine can give us all a boost, but it can also make skin conditions more uncomfortable.

Increase the number of ‘good’ oils in your diet such as hemp or olive oil, try to include nuts and seeds as good sources of minerals which are important for healthy skin.

A lot of people report that taking regular supplements keeps their skin in a healthy condition. Borage Oil, rich in the essential fatty acid GLA, has been the subject of much research on dry skin conditions, as has the Omega-3 oils from fish or lichen as a vegan source.

If your skin is affected when you get stresses or nervous, helping your body cope with those changes can also improve the skin. B vitamins and the mineral magnesium are important for normal psychological health and the normal function of the immune system. Keeping your nervous system healthy can result in better overall health, including that of your skin.

Many people with skin issues are acutely aware of how it may look, your understanding can go a long way in helping them cope.

We often think of acne and spots as being hormonal related and they often are, but as the biggest organ of elimination, the skin can also get irritated or spotty if the body is trying to detox. Excess fats such as those from highly processed foods can oxidise in the body and aggravate the skin. The mineral selenium is needed for the antioxidant glutathione peroxidase, which in turn is needed to help stop fats oxidising. So look for a multi with selenium or single selenium supplement.

It’s not just about the skin, other factors such as stress can aggravate a condition.

Keeping skin in good condition is almost a bonus of having a healthy body, so looking after your diet and supplement regime can have a very positive knock on effect on the skin and also your hair and nails. A great bonus for the effort you put into your diet.

We hear a lot about collagen these days, it is found in connective tissue and important for skin repair and texture. As we age, levels decline and skin can look older and be slower to heal. You can find collagen supplements, but you can also give your body the building blocks for collagen.

Vitamin C is needed for collagen production, this water soluble vitamin is found in fresh fruit and veg, but is easily destroyed but light and heat – so don’t boil your veg to a soggy mass! If you think you might not get much vitamin C in your diet, you can take a supplement and the good news is that it also is needed for proper immune function and works closely with other antioxidant nutrients including vitamin E, zinc and selenium.

The summer, with a great supply of fresh fruit and veg around gives us a great opportunity to boost our diets with plenty of fresh foods, supplements can be used to add to that and a little bit of sunshine can support vitamin D levels and give us a mental boost too. Make the most of the time to recharge your batteries. And remember, if you do know people experiencing skin conditions, they are likely to be acutely aware of what it looks like and worry about how other see them. Don’t ask awkward questions, but do take the time to understand their conditions and how they may feel.  Support the changes they may be trying to make to help the condition, including being a listening ear when needed. Your support could go a long way in helping someone’s wellness journey.

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