Natural Treatments for Healthy Skin

By on June 28, 2013

Are you looking to achieve healthy, glowing and blemish free skin just in time for the summer season? Naturopathic medicine offers more than just topical treatments when it comes to skin health.  Using a holistic perspective, naturopathic doctors take into account the internal health of the person and how it is reflected in the health of the skin. It is true that healthy skin is achieved from the inside out.
    An unhealthy internal environment can manifest in various skin conditions including acne, dry or oily skin, eczema, psoriasis and fungal infections.To support optimal skin health, here are the top 5 naturopathic treatment goals for achieving healthy skin.

Include essential nutrients for skin health in your diet
    The following essential nutrients act as anti-oxidants which prevent skin damage and decrease inflammation. They are also needed for skin healing and support the immune system to fight skin infections. Their immune-regulating properties calm the hyperactive immune response associated with eczema and psoriasis.
    Vitamin A – Anything orange and yellow coloured contains vitamin A. Try adding some warm autumn foods like squash, sweet potato and carrots to your diet.  Red peppers, green kale and spinach contain high amounts of vitamin A.  Eggs are also high in vitamin A and are a source of complete protein. 
    Vitamin C – Vitamin C is easily found in foods such as berries, oranges, grapefruit, apples, kiwis and green leafy vegetables, broccoli, cauliflower, peppers, herbs and spices.
    Vitamin E – You can find vitamin E in avocado, nuts (almonds, peanuts), sunflower seeds, dried apricots, paprika, basil and oregano.
    Selenium – 5 brazil nuts per day delivers all the selenium you need!
    Zinc – zinc is found in nuts, seeds and animal proteins such as chicken, turkey and fish.
    Omega-3 fatty acids – Omega-3 fatty acids are found in fish, ground flaxseeds, walnuts and chia seeds.  
    Gamma linolenic acid – Found in hemp seeds, spirulina, safflower oil, evening primrose oil, oats and barley.

Support optimal digestion and identify food sensitivities
    Now that you know what essential nutrients are needed for skin health, it is important to make sure you are absorbing them through the digestive tract. Identifying food sensitivities which impair digestion and cause inflammation can be helpful. Immune complexes produced in response to food sensitivities can manifest in the skin as autoimmune skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis.
    Avoiding foods that increase inflammation is also necessary for healthy skin. Minimize excessive consumption of sugar, alcohol, red meat, deep fried foods high in saturated fat as well as processed foods containing artificial colours, flavours and preservatives.  Shifting your diet to include more fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains will lead to higher essential nutrient consumption.

Support the lymphatic system and circulation
    Now that the essential nutrients are absorbed into your blood stream, improving circulation ensures nutrients are delivered to the skin.  The lymphatic  system is a network of vessels which transport tissue fluids and assist in draining toxins from organs. Impaired lymphatic drainage and circulation can manifest in poor skin health.
    Herbal teas that support the lymphatic system include burdock (Arctium lappa), cleavers, (Galium aparine) and yellow dock (Rumex crispus).
    Dry skin brushing and alternating hot and cold contrast showers promote the lymphatic system and increase circulation to the skin.

Dry Skin Brushing Instructions
    Purchase a natural fibre exfoliating skin brush available at health food stores.
    Brush your skin before taking a shower when skin is dry.
Brush lightly in a circular motion. Start with the soles of the feet and work your way to the centre of your body continuing from your feet to your ankles, calves and thighs. Brush in a circular motion on your abdomen and a figure eight motion on your chest. End off with your upper limbs from the hands to your elbows then shoulders.
    It is important to always brush in a direction towards your heart as this is the direction the lymphatic system drains into your circulatory system.

Contrast Shower Instructions
    3 minutes hot – stimulates vasodilation of blood and lymphatic vessels to bring nutrients to skin.
1 minute cold – stimulates vasoconstriction of blood and lymphatic vessels to remove toxins and inflammatory molecules. Repeat the hot and cold cycle 3 times always ending the shower in the cold stage.  

Support the liver and kidneys for detoxification
    The skin is an organ of elimination. If the liver and kidneys are sluggish in their ability to detoxify, this can manifest in poor skin health as the skin tries to compensate and eliminate toxin build-up. 
    Teas to support liver detoxification include dandelion root (Taraxacum officinalis root) and milk thistle (Silybum marianum). Teas to support kidney detoxification include dandelion leaf  (Taraxacum officinalis leaf) and stinging nettle (Urtica dioica).  
    Avoiding exposure to harmful chemicals in body products will also promote healthy skin and give your liver and kidneys a break. 

Choose healthy lifestyle habits
    Ensuring you achieve 6-8 hours of sleep per night, drink 8-10 glasses of water per day, exercise at least 30 minutes five days per week and implement stress management techniques to deal with the fast pace of life will all contribute to achieving healthy skin.

Ellen Simone is a naturopathic doctor in Ottawa, Ontario.  She holds a Bachelor of Physical Health and Education from the University of Toronto and completed her Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine degree at the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine. Simone focuses on family wellness and has special interests in women and children’s health. She has experience with reproductive health, working with women through different phases in their lives.

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