Tag Archives: skin health

Moisturize from Within

If you find yourself needing to use lots of lotion all the time, you might need to consider moisturizing from within. A current beauty trend is to consume collagen and other nutrients that nourish and hydrate hair and skin.

Skin is designed to be a natural barrier that uses oils and other compounds to hold in moisture and protect us from the environment. We also have collagen and other connective tissue molecules that help our skin, hair, and bones maintain their shape and elasticity.

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To keep hair luxurious and skin looking healthy, start with proper hydration. I find if I drink enough water, I don’t feel like I need lip balm most of the time. Another health trend is to drink bone broth, which provides water along with collagen and minerals to support the hair, skin and bones.

Collagen is also available in the form of a supplement. Type I collagen is what is found in hair, skin, and bone health, while type II collagen is available for joint support. One report I heard about collagen that particularly stood out was from a woman who said her skin was clearer after taking a collagen supplements for a month. My friends taking collagen have also noticed thicker, sleeker hair.

Finally, collagen is as important as calcium for keeping bones strong. We can also support our body’s ability to make collagen by getting adequate vitamin C and zinc.

Another important natural hydration handler in the body is hyaluronic acid, which is found throughout the body. I think of like a microscopic sponges holding water within our tissues including skin, joints, and even eyes. I am mostly referring to the inside of our eyes, but hyaluronic acid may have benefits for dry eye issues as well. One woman told me that the hyaluronic acid I recommended for her skin seems to have helped relieve her dry eye symptoms.

Don’t ever forget about increasing your healthy fat consumption when there is a skin issue, such as wintertime dry skin. Incorporate into your diet nuts, avocados, and healthy oils like olive oil. For skin, Omega-3 fatty acids from fish are a great addition, sometimes with added GLA from evening primrose oil. The same approach is useful for dry eyes, which is essentially a dry skin issue for most people. One study noted an initial reduction in dry eye related symptoms in just 12 weeks.

So give your body what it needs and be comfortable in your skin.

The Buzz About Bone Broth

When I first heard of bone broth, I had no idea what people were talking about. I mean obviously it was a broth made from bones, but what made it special. So I looked up a recipe. People were simmering bones in water for long periods of time to extract the minerals and other nutrients.

Then I realized I had made bone broth on and off for the last 15 years. I had just called it broth. Fifteen years ago, I was a vegetarian so I wasn’t making it for myself, but every time my cats got sick, I would turn to my copy of Dr. Pitcairn’s Complete Guide to Natural Health for Cats and Dogs. He recommended that a special chicken broth be made to help sick animals recover faster. So even though I didn’t eat meat myself, I bought a chicken and made chicken broth. I don’t even remember what I did with the meat, but after I had made the normal chicken broth, I put the bones back in it and cooked it for many more hours. Dr. Pitcairn recommended added a few tablespoons of vinegar to the broth to help get the minerals out of the bones faster. This made total sense to me so it became a regular practice when I had a sick cat.

Cooking bone broth on my wood stove

Cooking bone broth on my wood stove

Eventually, I started eating meat and now I even raise my own chickens. Whenever I cook chicken, I like to save the bones in the freezer. When I have enough of them, I stick them in a pot and add enough water to cover the bones and a few tablespoons of vinegar. Then I cook it for as long as I reasonable can, adding more water if needed. Many people do this in a crockpot so they can leave it simmering for 24-48 hours. If you can cook it long enough, the bones become easy to break and you know you have extracted most of the nutrients. After whatever period of time, just strain and enjoy. I often freeze any extra for later use. If you are not ready to make your own, companies are starting to sell real bone broth ready to use.

Bone broths have been a part of traditional cooking throughout the world. For instance, I am also a huge fan of pho, the Vietnamese soup made with beef bone broth. If you asked a Vietnamese granny for her recipe, I bet she would tell you to simmer the broth at least overnight. Bone broths can be used as the base for any dish you would normally make with broth, such as soup, sauces, or as the cooking liquid for whole grains. Or you can drink it hot with salt and any other spices.

Bone broth is going to be rich in minerals as well as gelatin, glucosamine and other nutrients our bodies need. In addition to calcium, bone broth contains magnesium, potassium, phosphorus and a host of other trace minerals. We can also get collagen, gelatin, and glucosamine from the connective tissue on the bones. These combinations of nutrients are obviously good for bone health, but they are also likely to enhance the health of your hair, skin, and nails. Bone broth might also help keep your joints and connective tissues in good shape. Of course, many other conditions could benefit from this boost of minerals and nutrients, from insomnia to heart palpitations. And at this time of year, remember that broth is the traditional remedy during cold and flu season (or for a sick cat).

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Detoxification Support Part 4: Love Your Liver

Since everything works together in our bodies, it is hard to say which organs are the most important for detoxification. However, the liver is clearly one of the most crucial players in clearing harmful substances from the body, because it has the highest concentration of detoxification enzymes. People like me who tend to have skin issues often have livers that don’t work optimally. I probably inherited some genetic variations that make my liver not quite as effective at neutralizing toxins. I often see this in my patients with multiple chemical sensitivities or just higher toxic burdens that makes sense from their known exposures. Sometimes medications can inhibit liver activity. Other people have increased exposure to harmful chemicals whether through their homes or jobs. I particularly worry about people in occupations like hairdresser, carpenter, and welder, just to name a few. My last blog emphasized the importance of making sure the bowels and kidneys are working optimally, which is a crucial step before you activate the liver’s detox abilities.

Once the kidneys and bowels are efficiently carrying toxins and waste out of the body, stimulate the livers capacity to neutralize toxins using herbs and nutrients. The liver detoxifies harmful compounds in a two-phase process, which is enhanced by supplements such as high quality multivitamins, whey protein, milk thistle, and N-acetyl cysteine. Phosphatidylcholine is another supplement with this effect while additionally helping to dislodge toxins from our cell membranes. Phosphatidylcholine also encourages the flow of bile in the liver to help move toxins from the liver to the bowels for final elimination. Other herbs that stimulate the production and flow of bile in the liver are milk thistle, alfalfa, and Oregon grape root.

Milk Thistle

Milk Thistle

As I mentioned in my first blog in this series on diet to aid detoxification, certain foods give the liver an additional boost. Seasonings such as caraway, dill seeds, and lemon and lime peel are some of the most amazing liver activators since they turn on both phases of liver detoxification. Artichokes and turmeric are both liver protectors that also increase bile flow. Cruciferous vegetables like cabbage cauliflower, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts activate the phase I of liver detox while also helping us neutralize our hormones more effectively. Raspberries, strawberries, cranberries, walnuts and pecans stimulate the second phase of liver detoxification, which is often the most important phase to activate.

As all naturopathic doctors are taught, if normal interventions aren’t working adequately to restore health, treat the liver. When we remove toxins from the body, our natural healing mechanisms can start to work more effectively. So love you liver and live healthier.

Hydrate for the New Year

In the summer time, hydration is often on people’s mind, but when it is cold, we can forget to drink water. Staying hydrated is one the most important steps you can take for your health any time of the year. Seventy-five percent of the human body is composed of pure water. This means that in order to maintain this level of hydration, one must consume at least half of their body weight in ounces daily.

Water stabilizes the internal temperature of the body and flushes out toxins from cells and ultimately the body. It also hydrates and promotes flexibility of the joints and moisturizes the skin to help it look and feel healthy. Since blood is mostly water, dehydration can increase the risk of coronary heart disease, due to the increased viscosity of the blood. Dehydration can cause electrolyte disturbances, which can interfere with electrical conduction of the heart and nervous system. Dehydration also increases the risk of developing kidney stones.

I pay attention to my lips to help me remember to drink enough water. If my lips are starting to feel chapped, I haven’t been doing a good job of keeping up with my water intake. I still occasionally use lip balm, but if I have been drinking my water I need it less. By the way, my favorite lip balm is the EcoLips Gold. And I prefer to drink water out of glass water bottles such as those made by Lifefactory. Glass bottles provide the best tasting water and you don’t have to worry about toxic materials leaching into your water like with plastic bottles.

P.S. Staying hydrated on New Year’s Eve can help you a happier New Year’s Day, since some of the symptoms of hangover are due to dehydration.

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Detoxifying Yellow Dock

Yellow dock root is a great addition to a New Year’s detoxification plan by working gently to stimulate multiple organs involved in getting rid of toxins. Yellow dock is a mild acting laxative herb that can help with constipation or making sure the bowels are functioning well for the elimination of toxins. It is also a liver tonic herb, which helps improve vital liver functions such as neutralizing toxins. Yellow dock additionally promotes the release of bile from the gallbladder. Bile both improves the digestion of fats and carries toxins from the liver to the intestines for elimination from the body. Finally, yellow dock as a lymphatic cleanser further aids in detoxification of the tissues.

rumex-longifoliusYellow dock is particularly recommended for chronic skin issues like acne, eczema, or psoriasis, as these conditions may be reflected insufficient eliminations of toxins. Yellow dock is also considered to be a blood-building herb. The root is rich in minerals including iron, and yellow dock is said to aid in the absorption and utilization of iron. This could be due to its ability to stimulate digestion and its vitamin C content, which improves iron absorption. Yellow dock can be purchased by itself or this gentle cleansing herb is a popular addition to detoxification formulas. So whether you want to clean the body or clear the skin, search out yellow dock.

Dandelion: Don’t overlook this friend in your yard

Fall is the time to start harvesting roots. Just like we will soon be digging our sweet potatoes out of the ground, it is also time to harvest the medicinal roots. As plants go dormant for the year, they store nutrients in their roots, making medicinal roots more potent in the fall. As far as the medicinal constituents are concerned, roots are often more potent than leaves, but depending on the plant, roots can have some different medicinal uses than the leaves. Dandelion is an example of this that is likely growing in your own yard. Many people use the leaves and roots interchangeably, but there are qualities that are unique to both forms.

Dandelion has earned a reputation for being a liver and gall bladder supporting herb. The leaves increase the production of bile by the liver. The roots help to move the bile out of the gall bladder, and then along with the bile, toxins that can be eliminated from the body through the feces. Therefore, the use of the roots and leaves together is important for the best liver benefits. Because it supports the liver, dandelion is traditionally used to help high cholesterol, abnormal blood sugar, menstrual and skin disorders, especially when there is a history of toxic exposures or sluggish liver.

Dandelion leaves have a much stronger diuretic action than the roots. Because of dandelion leaves’ diuretic action, they are used for conditions like edema, rheumatic complaints, and sometimes high blood pressure. Because the leaves are high in potassium, they replace any potassium that might be lost with increased urine flow. They also contain many other trace minerals and can be used as a food or tea by people who need to boost their mineral intake.

Dandelion also helps support digestion. The increased production and movement of bile can help improve digestion of fats. In the fall, the roots are high in inulin, a preferred food of the beneficial bacterial in the gut. Dandelion leaves also have a bitter taste, which can stimulate the digestive process. Thus, dandelion is also used for headaches associated with disordered digestion. The leaves are the most bitter in the spring, but I personally prefer to eat them straight out of my yard in the wintertime when they often stand out bright green even if most of the rest of the yard has faded.