The skin is the largest organ of the body, with a surface area of around two square metres and unlike our other major organs, it’s constantly on display. If you are lucky enough to have fabulous skin then this won’t be a problem, but for the thousands of people suffering with skin complaints it can cause huge distress, especially during summer months when increasing temperatures and sunny weather, make hiding under clothes impossible.
Skin problems, especially eczema, are on the increase with 1 in 5 children and 1 in 12 adults suffering the complaint, but other skin conditions such as acne, rosacea and psoriasis are just as problematic. These conditions can strike at any age and not only cause physical symptoms, but have a huge impact on a person's mental and emotional state too. The psychological impact of suffering skin disorders is often not fully acknowledged, yet can be as destructive as the physical skin complaint. The effect it can have on confidence levels too, can be particularly destructive, especially in young people.
Very often, people feel at a loss as to what they can do to help ease their skin symptoms, especially if prescribed medication is not working, or only gives temporary relief. There are however little things that can be done on a dietary and nutritional level as well as lifestyle changes, that may help improve skin health and ease symptoms. So let’s talk skin!
As stated above, the prevalence of eczema is increasing, yet the exact reason for this can only be speculated upon. Changes in diet, environmental factors, food intolerance and increasing stresses are all suspected of playing a large part in the cause of eczema, which is now the most common inflammatory condition of infancy.
It’s important to remember that not all eczema is the same, some can be very dry and itchy and sometimes eczema can ‘weep’ and leave open skin wounds, but however mild or severe your eczema may be, there are things that may help. Eczema is an inflammatory condition and therefore any foods that have proven anti-inflammatory action should be eaten daily. Foods shown to have good anti-
inflammatory properties include those high in omega 3 fatty acids such as wild salmon, sardines, herring, kipper, mackerel, nuts, sunflower and pumpkin seeds. Ginger and turmeric are powerful anti-inflammatory spices and have shown to be effective in helping some skin disorders including acne and eczema. Curcumin, which is the compound within turmeric responsible for many of its researched therapeutic benefits, has shown to ease eczema symptoms and relieve itching. A teaspoon of turmeric can be added to hot water and lemon juice to make a tasty drink. Add a small addition of honey for a little sweetness.
When it comes to skin complaints, there is growing evidence that suggests vitamin D deficiency contributes to these skin afflictions and with vitamin D deficiency on the increase in the UK (1 in 6 adults and 1 in 5 children are said to be lacking in Vitamin D), this could be a contributing factor in some eczema and dermatitis cases, especially if symptoms worsen during the winter months when sunlight is limited. The sun is our main source of vitamin D, but you can also get some vitamin D through foods such as eggs, wild oily fish (salmon, herring, and mackerel) and fortified foods such as specific cereals.
Often thought of as the skin condition for adolescents, it is unfortunately not just isolated to this age group and can often be suffered in adulthood too. Multiple research shows that there is often a big connection between diet and acne and like eczema, it is also classed as an inflammatory condition. Therefore anyone suffering with acne symptoms would also benefit from consuming foods high in anti-inflammatory properties such as those mentioned above. Zinc and vitamin E have also shown to be beneficial in the management of acne symptoms, with Vitamin E being both a powerful antioxidant as well as a strong anti-inflammatory vitamin. Consuming foods high in these nutrients can therefore be helpful, including shrimps, dark chocolate, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, avocado, almonds, leafy greens, trout and kiwi fruit.
The juice of lemons can be great for treating a range of skin disorders as they have anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties. Lemons are especially good for acne sufferers as it can kill the bacteria that
causes spots, help unblock clogged pores and reduce oily skin which can lead to further spots. You can apply the lemon juice onto the skin directly in small amounts, but if you have sensitive skin don’t over-do it!
One of the biggest food items shown to negatively affect psoriasis symptoms, is the intake of sugar. If you suffer with psoriasis and your sugar intake is high (over 4-6 teaspoons a day), then cutting down on sugar intake or cutting it from your diet completely, can really help symptoms in some psoriasis sufferers. Sugar is an inflammatory food, meaning it can exacerbate inflammation in the body, which is not what you want if you suffer with an inflammatory skin disorder such as psoriasis.
As in the case with eczema, some research has linked Vitamin D deficiency with worsening psoriasis symptoms, so a supplement can be helpful here, as sun exposure is limited here in the UK! Many psoriasis sufferers have also found to be low in the mineral Selenium and some research suggests taking a selenium supplement or increasing foods high in selenium can be beneficial. Just two to three Brazil nuts a day can provide you with your daily selenium intake, but other foods such as tuna, sunflower seeds and shrimps are good sources too. Goats’ milk is an excellent source of selenium as well, and levels far exceed that found in any other milk or milk alternative.
Following a general anti-inflammatory diet can often be helpful for people with psoriasis, so incorporating some of the foods already mentioned in the eczema and acne sections above and sections below is advisable.
For both psoriasis and eczema, many people find bathing in salt water really helps their symptoms due to salt having many healing properties. So if you find yourself on a beach this summer swim in the sea and avoid the swimming pool, which is often full of chemicals that can irritate skin conditions. You can also make your own salt bath at home, by adding 4-5 handfuls of sea salt or Dead Sea salt to a bath full of water and bathing for 20 minutes, or you can just bathe the affected area of skin in this way using a cloth bathed in salt water.
Goats’ milk and skin conditions
One food item that is easily available, tasty and can be very helpful in skin complaints is goats’ milk. Goats’ milk has many beneficial properties that differentiate it from other milks and has been shown through research to have beneficial effects on human health, including advantages for the skin.
Consumption of goats’ milk showed significant improvements of eczema symptoms
Goats’ milk has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties, with some research suggesting that it can be used effectively in individuals suffering with inflammatory and allergic conditions, including those that effect the skin. One study states that the consumption of goats’ milk showed significant improvements of eczema symptoms. There are many stories of people even bathing in goats’ milk in order to reap the skin advantages that it can have, which is why goats’ milk soaps and lotions are increasingly popular.
There is mounting evidence to suggest that there is a gut-skin connection, meaning that if our digestive systems are not healthy or are dysfunctional in some way, this can contribute to inflammatory conditions including those of the skin. When symptoms appear on our skin, we need to think about a possible root cause and not simply address the problem by masking the physical symptoms that present. In some people, the root cause of skin symptoms can actually stem from digestive disturbances and many dermatologists now recognise that quite often, skin symptoms and digestive issues can occur together.
This shows the importance of maintaining a healthy digestive system if you suffer with skin complaints. Goats’ milk can help with this, as it has superior digestibility compared to other milks so can help ease the load on the digestive system and thus can help regulate bowel function. Goats’ milk also contains oligosaccharides, which are a type of carbohydrate that functions as a prebiotic. These compounds help improve the gut flora (good bacteria), which promotes healthy digestion, which can have positive, knock on effect with the skin. So next time you are in the supermarket, why not pick up a carton of Delamere Dairy goats’ milk (you might need an extra 250 cartons if you want a bath full!)
Stress levels & skin complaints
In today’s modern world, it is inevitable that we suffer stress at some points in our life, whether it be caused through work or home life or just constant worry, there is often no escaping it. For those suffering with skin complaints, especially eczema & psoriasis, this is a very vicious circle as we know that stress aggravates symptoms further. Many people suffering with skin conditions remark that their symptoms worsen when exposed to stress and if stress is a daily occurrence, then symptoms can have long periods of flare up. Stress, especially prolonged stress, has also been shown to impair normal gut function too and as stated above, we know that impaired gut function can have negative effects on skin symptoms. It might not be possible to eliminate stress, but taking active steps to reduce daily stresses, can positively impact on skin symptoms. Making even small changes can, overtime, make a big difference and help in symptom management. Meditation, hypnosis and relaxation techniques have all been shown to benefit some patients, including children, suffering with skin complaints.
The body’s stress hormone, Cortisol, increases during times of stress and anxiety. Increased cortisol levels increase inflammation in the body, which of course is not what you want if you suffer from an inflammatory skin disease. Regularly consuming foods that have been shown to reduce Cortisol levels can therefore be beneficial. Foods especially good for this include foods high in folate (almonds, asparagus, avocados and dark leafy greens such as spinach), Omega 3 fatty acids, berries of all varieties and olive oil, which also has strong anti-inflammatory effects. Caffeine is not your friend when it comes to stress though, as this has been shown to actively increase cortisol levels, so don’t overdo the coffee!
Itching can be one problematic symptom suffered by many that have skin conditions, especially those suffering with eczema and psoriasis. Constant scratching can lead to further skin damage and
bleeding, which can leave the skin more susceptible to infection. Intolerable itching of the skin can be helped by baking soda, an ingredient found in many kitchen cupboards! Adding a cup full of baking soda to a bath is excellent for alleviating itchy skin, whether it be caused by eczema, psoriasis, insect bites or an allergy to something, baking soda can work wonders for giving you some relief.
Suffering from skin complaints is never fun and most of the time, relief comes down to symptom management, which often involves a multifaceted approach like the one discussed here. If you are holidaying in sunny climates this year, make sure you expose effected areas to the sun to allow for vitamin D absorption, but use sun cream before burning. The addition of anti-inflammatory foods to your diet, can certainly help reduce flare ups, so keep a list of your favourites and make sure Delamere Dairy goats’ milk is at the top of the list!