The Integumentary System
"Be good to your skin. You’ll wear it every day for the rest of your life."
"If you want to heal your skin, you have to heal your gut."
"Your skin is a window into your gut; therefore eat right for a radiant reflection."-Dr. Frank Lipman
The bodily system consisting of the skin and associated structures such as the glands, hair, nails, etc. Its function includes protection against thermal, chemical, abrasive injuries and pathogens, sensation, secretion, vitamin D synthesis, insulation and thermoregulation.
The bodily system consisting of the skin and its associated structures, such as the hair, nails, sweat glands, and sebaceous glands.
- You have a ton of skin cells. There are about 19 million skin cells in every inch of your body.
- New skin cells replace old ones. Your body is always making new skin cells and getting rid of old ones. Your body gets rid of 30,000 to 40,000 old skin cells every day! The skin you see now will be gone in about a month.
- Dead skin cells are on top. The top 18 to 23 layers of your skin are made of dead cells.
- New skin cells form at the bottom of the epidermis, which is the top layer of skin.
- Skin cells change shape. They start off fat and square. Over time, they move to the top of the epidermis, flattening out as they go. When they get to the top, they flake off.
COLOR ASSOCIATED: ORANGE
The reason for this is that it is the fruits and vegetables that are in the orange/yellow hue which have some of the highest amounts of vitamin C. Vitamin C is an antioxidant - a substance that vanquishes free radicals, those vicious little free radicals that irreparably damage our cells, accelerating the aging process. Vitamin C is one of the trio of all-star antioxidants. The other two are vitamin E and alpha-lipoic-acid
Garlic - it’s a lifesaver for thin hair. Foods that are high in cysteine, an amino acid found in garlic, can help reinvigorate your follicles.
Cinnamon - is packed with antioxidants that fight skin damage.
Pepper - is a star performer in scrubs and massage oils because of its taken for increasing blood flow ands circulation.
Turmeric's - active ingredient is curcumin, which has potential anti-cancer properties, according to recent studies (in cultures, not yet on human skin): It causes damaged cells to self-destruct more readily.
Clove - Applied to skin, it has antimicrobial properties that make it an effective cleanser
Fennel - This root, with its slight licorice flavor, is especially good for sensitive skin; it decreases redness and irritation and can help minimize sensitivity caused by sun exposure.
Ginger - improves your skin’s tone and texture, making you look and feel younger. It rejuvenates your skin, fights against blemishes, and lightens age spots. Make a paste with ginger by mixing equal parts ginger and lemon juice, and adding enough raw organic honey to make a paste. Apply to your face, leave for a while, and wash with cold water.
Chamomile is a natural anti-inflammatory, with the power to reduce redness, itchiness, and swelling, and it's a great alternative to cortisone.
Herbs for Dry Skin
Aloe - very well known for it’s healing nature and is an excellent moisturizer as well.
Borage - very moisturizing.
Lady’s mantle - This herb helps prevent skin from sagging.
Marsh mallow - This pretty herb is useful in soothing irritated, dry skin.
Melissa - Also known as lemon balm, this herb is good for all skin types and helps soothe irritation.
Clary-sage - This anti-aging herb also reduces puffiness
Herbs for Sensitive Skin
Borage - Borge is moisturizing.
Lady’s mantle - This herb helps prevent skin from sagging.
Lavender - is very soothing to the skin.
Nettle - an infusion of nettles can be used to soothe chapped skin. Nettles are good in a steam facial.
Lemon balm - This herb is good for all skin types.
- Wound healing: benzoin, chamomile, frankincense, geranium, lavender, myrrh.
- Anti-inflammatory: chamomile, lavender, myrrh.
- Antiseptic: bergamot, citronella, cinnamon, clove, eucalyptus, lavender, lemon, pine, tea tree (melaleuca), thyme.
- Deodorant: bergamot, citronella, cypress, juniper, lemongrass, patchouli, peppermint, pine, thyme.
Functional Foods that support the Integumentary System
Aloe - taking just a teaspoon everyday orally has been reported to see positive changes in the dermis.
Bone broth - because of its extraordinary content of collagen as well as minerals, and essential amino acids, this is truly a superfood for your skin as well as your ligaments, muscles and fibers.
Vitamin C-rich, carotenoid-family of fruits and veggies -
Sweet potato, butternut squash, pumpkin, carrots, apricots, orange sweet bell pepper, persimmons, peaches, pineapple, mango, papaya, lemon, lime, kiwi, avocado (carotenoids) to name a few.
Omega-3’s and monounsaturated fats - salmon and other cold water fish such as herrings, sardines, mackerel, anchovies, etc, avocado and nuts.
Vitamin E - Sunflower seeds, almonds, hazelnuts and hazelnut oil, avocado, avocado oil, spinach, Swiss chard, turnip greens, beet greens and mustard greens.
Vitamin C ester, collagen, alpha-lipoic-acid (ALA), and selenium.
Movement + Exercise
Anything that gets you SWEATING!
Boat Pose - sit on your mat with your legs extended straight out in front of you. Place your hands a little behind your hips, with your fingers pointed forward. Lengthen your spine, and lean back slightly, gently dipping your chin toward your sternum. Make sure you don't feel any rounding in the lower back. Exhale, bend your knees, and lift your legs so that your shins are parallel to the floor. Breathe. If you feel comfortable, extend the arms forward at shoulder height your palms facing each other gently draw in the navel as you breathe deeply.
Dolphin Plank Pose - start on your hands and knees, and put your forearms on the floor shoulder distance apart. Tuck the toes, and lift your knees off the mat as you come into the Dolphin Pose, and then walk your feet back until your tailbone isn't the same height as your shoulder blades. Firm the shoulder blades into the back, draw your navel up, lengthen your tailbone towards your heels, Lift the top of your thighs, and spin your inner thighs toward the sky. Gaze between your hands at one point, and breathe. If this is too difficult, simplify the pose with your knees on the mat.
Side Plank Pose - from downward facing dog, shift to the outer edge of your right hip. Stack the left foot on top of the right, and bring the left-hand to the left hip. Make sure your right hand is just slightly forward of the right shoulder. Create a diagonal line from the outer edge of the left foot, through the crown of the head. Draw in your navel as you lengthen your tailbone toward your heels. Extend your left arm skyward. If this feels like too much on your wrist, step your left foot forward halfway between your right foot and the right-hand, and turn your left toes to the left. Breathe.
Day One Focus
New research is revealing something remarkable about why the body sweats. Beyond its obvious role in regulating body temperature, sweating has been found to facilitate the elimination of accumulated heavy metals and petrochemicals, indicating that if we want to be healthy we should put regular effort into doing more sweating.
Sweating has long been known as a source of bodily, if not also spiritual "cleansing." But until recently, very little 'scientific' confirmation existed proving that using heat and/or exercise to facilitate perspiration-induced detoxification actually works the way that many natural health advocates claim.
Enter the findings of a groundbreaking 2011 study published in the Archives of Environmental and Contamination Toxicology, which explored the effects of bioaccumulated toxic elements within the human body and their method of excretion:
"Toxic elements were found to differing degrees in each of blood, urine, and sweat. Serum levels for most metals and metalloids were comparable with those found in other studies in the scientific literature. Many toxic elements appeared to be preferentially excreted through sweat. Presumably stored in tissues, some toxic elements readily identified in the perspiration of some participants were not found in their serum. Induced sweating appears to be a potential method for elimination of many toxic elements from the human body."
The researchers concluded, "Sweating deserves consideration for toxic element detoxification."
Sweating also removes the insidious petrochemicals BPA and phthalates
but it gets better. Two additional studies published in 2012 found that sweating enhances the elimination of dangerous endocrine-disrupting petrochemicals.
The first study, involving 20 subjects made to undergo induced sweating, found that the ubiquitous petrochemical Bisphenol A (BPA) was excreted through sweat, even in some individuals with no BPA detected in their serum or urine samples.This clearly indicates that the body uses sweat to rid itself of the BPA that has bioaccumulated in tissue.
The second study by the same research group, also involving 20 subjects, found that phthalate, a plasticizer tied to breast cancer and various other conditions associated with endocrine disruption, was present in concentrations twice as high in their sweat compared to their urine, and in several individuals was found in their sweat but not in their blood serum, "...suggesting the possibility of phthalate retention and bioaccumulation."
The researchers concluded:
"Induced perspiration may be useful to facilitate elimination of some potentially toxic phthalate compounds including DEHP and MEHP. "
Concluding Remarks and Tips
The conclusion? Sweating performs more than simply a cooling function for the body. It appears that it is also a way through which the bodily burden of accumulated toxins can be more rapidly detoxified. The natural medical tradition has long argued that the skin is the largest organ of elimination, and that oftentimes skin problems reflect a state of chronic toxicity. Perhaps modern science is only now catching up to these age-old observations.
Day Two Focus
Epidemiological evidence shows a clear association between gut problems and skin disorders. A recent report indicated that small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), a condition involving inappropriate growth of bacteria in the small intestine, is ten times more prevalent in people with acne rosacea than in healthy controls, and that correction of SIBO in these individuals led to marked clinical improvement. Fourteen percent of patients with ulcerative colitis and 24% of patients with Crohn’s disease have skin manifestations. Celiac disease also has cutaneous manifestations, such as dermatitis herpetiformis, which occurs in 1/4 of celiac sufferers. Celiacs also have increased frequency of oral mucosal lesions, alopecia and vitiligo.
How altered gut function impacts the skin
Intestinal permeability, also known as “leaky gut” causes both systemic and local inflammation, which in turn contributes to skin disease. Speaking of permeable barriers: most of you have heard of leaky gut by now, but what about “leaky skin”? The main function of the skin is to act as a physical, chemical and antimicrobial defense system. Studies have shown that both stress and gut inflammation can impair the integrity and protective function of the epidermal barrier. This in turn leads to a decrease in antimicrobial peptides produced in the skin, and an increase in the severity of infection and inflammation in the skin.
The gut flora also influences the skin. Substance P is a neuropeptide produced in the gut, brain and skin that play a major role in skin conditions. Altered gut microbiota promotes the release of substance P in both the gut and the skin, and probiotics can attenuate this response. (6) The gut microbiota influences lipids and tissue fatty acid profiles, and may influence sebum production as well as the fatty acid composition of the sebum.
Probiotics improve skin conditions
Another line of evidence suggesting a connection between the gut and skin is the observation that probiotics improve skin conditions. Oral probiotics have been shown to decrease lipopolysaccharide, improve intestinal barrier function and reduce inflammation.
Skin conditions like acne, rosacea, eczema, psoriasis and dermatitis are typically a symptom of something else going on in the body.
Another word for functional medicine is "systems medicine," in which we look at the underlying causes of all the independent, yet interconnected systems of the body. For example, your gut system affects the health of your brain, and there's also exciting research that's examining the gut-skin axis and how the health of your microbiome will determine the health of your skin. Because of this, functional medicine sees acne and many other skin conditions as inflammatory disorders of the autoimmune spectrum.
Since everyone's case is different, functional medicine focuses on customizing care to the individual's needs. Here are some of the tools I implemented in my case, and in the cases of many of my patients, to reverse and heal their skin problems:
Address Any Underlying Gut Issues
SIBO: Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth happens when bacteria from the colon grows into the small intestines where it doesn't belong.
Dysbiosis: Whereas SIBO is an overgrowth of normal bacteria, dysbiosis happens when there's an imbalance of good to bad bacteria. An increase of harmful bacterial imbalances has been shown to be a factor in skin problems.
Hypochlorhydria: A decrease in stomach acid or hypochlorhydria has been shown to be higher in people suffering with skin problems such as acne.
Parasite or yeast infections: Chronic low-grade infections like these can be a source of continual inflammation of the gut-skin axis.
Leaky gut syndrome: All of the previous gut problems can lead to an increased permeability of your gut lining.
I use condition-specific natural medicine protocols to help the gut and skin heal from these underlying problems.
Avoid foods that will damage your gut-skin axis
What will damage your gut will damage your skin, so it's wise to avoid certain foods for a glowing, healthy complexion. Use food medicine to heal your gut-skin axis.
Here are some of the foods that I use to repair the gut-skin connection:
Bone broth: Your grandma may have made this ancient healing food. Its beneficial collagen makes it great for healing the skin and gut.
Fermented vegetables: Sauerkraut and kimchee are great ways to provide your microbiome with beneficial probiotics.
Swedish bitters: I've found this herbal tonic to be very effective in healing chronic infections and balancing low stomach acid production.
Kefir: Fermented dairy drinks like kefir, rich in the beneficial probiotic Lactobacillus acidophilus, have been shown to improve complexion over a period of 3 months.
Fermented cod liver oil: Another ancient healing food, this nutrient-dense oil is a great source of skin-healing vitamins A, D and K2. It's also a balanced and stable source omega fats.
Coconut oil: Fats are essential to heal the gut-skin axis. This oil also has natural antimicrobial benefits. Coconut oil is also great to use on your skin!
Liver: One of nature's multivitamins, per ounce, liver is one of the most bioavailable nutrient-dense foods on the planet. If you eat meat, this is a great, whole food source for skin nutrients like zinc and pantothenic acid or vitamin B5.
Finding out the underlying factors to your skin condition and addressing them with a customized and comprehensive functional medicine program can be the natural solution you have been searching for.
Day Three Focus
Beauty…it’s quite an industry. Slated to reach 365 billion worldwide by 2017, it’s one of the few, guaranteed recession-proof industries there is. But beauty, real beauty starts from the inside - in more ways than one. There is no place greater to see the truth, you are what you eat than with the skin. I just read some remarkable indications from Dr Mitra Ray, cell biologist and co-author of “Do You Have The Guts To Be Beautiful? Here they are:
If you have horizontal lines across your forehead, it could mean a buildup of waste in the intestines, particularly the colon. If you get your bowels moving, you may see a significant resolution of those furrows.
Two short vertical "worry" lines between your eyebrows could indicate a clogged liver. In her book, Dr. Ray recommends daily ground milk thistle seed to prevent these wrinkles (unless you're pregnant), and also artichokes three times a week.
Crow's feet at the outer corners of the eye can be caused by processed and overcooked foods. To reduce these, add more raw foods and fiber to your diet.
Bags and puffiness under the eyes could be telling you that sugar and refined flour are a problem, so you might want to experiment with cutting down on both refined and natural sugars, including fruit juices, as well as pasta and bread.
Blue circles under the eyes may also indicate too much bread as well as too much dairy.
Age spots may be telling you that there are too many impurities in your blood. What can you do? Try eliminating preservatives, artificial flavorings and colorings, and hydrogenated fats.
If your lips have gotten thicker over the years and are fuller than when you were in high school, you might think it's sexy, but in fact, you could be constipated!
Dr. Ray suggests that anyone can look 10 to 20 years younger in just 30 days by paying attention to the signs that your skin is giving you, and cleaning up your diet.
Looking and feeling beautiful both inside and out has less to do with moisturizers, serums, lifts, tucks, injections or surgery, than it has to do with a green smoothie every morning. It's about beauty from the inside, radiating health, rather than looking all done up.
So what are some of the best things to be consuming for healthy skin? First lets start off with what you definitely don’t want to be consuming. At the top of the list of things to avoid is sugar, and that includes many carbohydrates. I would also caution against, dairy, which many people have an intolerance.
Probiotics - First line of defense foods such as kimchee, sauerkraut, kombucha, etc as they contain probiotics which promotes gut health.
Healthy fats - avocados, walnuts and all nuts, wild salmon and other cold-water fish high in Omega-3’s. Add chia seeds, flax seeds and hemp seeds as these healthy fats reinforce cell membranes and help nourish the skin. They also are a good source of fiber, which helps with good gut health.
Water and other healthy liquids - such as green tea, white tea, black tea, etc as they obviously hydrate the skin and flush out toxins. Suggestion is to drink half your body weight in ounces.
Bone broths - they provide an amazing source of collagen and amino acids that benefit your hair, skin and nails.
High iron foods - dark leafy green veggies, lentils along with foods high in biotin like eggs and almonds, which are good for your hair.
In many cases after cutting out inflammatory foods, drinking more water, and loading up on this beauty diet, you can expect to see a change within 2-4 weeks.
Then a few novel botanicals like Aloe Vera Gel and Red Ginseng Extract have had studies done on their efficacy in reversing wrinkles or in any case causing fewer wrinkles.
Aloe is an established topical remedy for skin. But a 2009 study found taking aloe orally reduces facial wrinkles. In the study, 30 healthy women over the age of 45 took aloe vera gel as a supplement. One group took a low dose (1,200 mg/day) and a second group took a high-dose (3,600 mg/day).
The researchers measured signs of skin aging at the beginning and end of the study. After just 90 days, the researchers found that facial wrinkles improved significantly in both groups. But in the lower dose group facial elasticity also improved. How does aloe do this? Aloe increases collagen production leading to better structural support of the skin and fewer wrinkles.
Red Ginseng Extract contains many bioactive compounds including antioxidants, immune boosters, and anti-aging agents.
In Korea, 82 healthy women volunteers over 40 years of age participated in a double blind, placebo controlled study. Every day the women received either a placebo or 3 grams of an herbal mixture containing red ginseng extract. The researchers measured facial wrinkles, skin elasticity, water content, erythema (red patches), and pigmentation before and after the trial. Facial skin samples were taken before and after treatment, and wrinkle-related biochemical markers were also measured.
At the end of 6 months, the researchers found facial wrinkles were significantly improved in the women taking the red ginseng extract. In addition, several biochemical markers of wrinkle damage also improved.
How does it work? The researchers found that the red ginseng increased collagen synthesis in the dermis. They called red ginseng an effective "beauty food."
Affirmations for a healthy gut
My skin is clear, youthful, and supple.
I feed my body foods to nourish my skin, hair and nails. My appearance is youthful and energetic.
All my cells are bathed in life-giving light.
I open up all my pores and let the toxins flow out from me.
I quell the fires of inflammation in my gut as I eat the right foods and my skin glows with life.
I am beautiful within and without
Sitting comfortably, mediate on the wonderful skin that covers your body, approximately 25 square feet, acting as a shield, protecting your body from outside elements. In mediating on the skin, think of the wonderful gift it is to you to release toxins from your body as you allow it to sweat. Not just petrochemical or heavy metals, but toxins of bad emotions, negative self-talk, harbored guilt, let it all be released. Love your skin and think of the protecting and releasing job it does.
Meditate on the incredible inter-connectivity your body has. Meditate on how each system impacts another. When you feed yourself foods that are inflammatory, the fire rages within, and on your skin. Imagine the fires going out and your body and skin rejuvenating with orange, yellow, and all the colors of the rainbow.
The nourishing, beautiful, colorful foods you feed your body cause you to be radiant, inside and out. Meditate on nourishing your skin, hair and nails through only foods that make it glow.