Whether it’s teenage spots, hormonal outbursts of adult acne or stress-induced eczema, most of us have experienced bad bouts of skin at some point or other, yet we don’t always fully appreciate the potential impact of serious skin problems on people’s mental and physical well-being – until it afflicts us personally, that is. To mark Eczema Awareness Day, we discuss ways to restore your skin to its natural healthy state.
Eczema, also known as dermatitis, is a name for a collective group of skin conditions which can affect people across all age groups. Perhaps most common in children, it affects up to one fifth of the school age population, and approximately 8% of adults. In its milder form the skin is often dry, hot and itchy – a persistent annoyance we’d rather do without. In its more serious form, eczema can progress to becoming severely inflamed, resulting in broken, raw and sometimes bleeding skin, which takes some time to heal.
Aside from affecting one’s sleep because of the persistent itching, eczema can seriously affect our self-esteem, causing anxiety and lack of self-confidence – unnecessary stress which often only exacerbates the condition. When it aggressively spreads to places like the hands, it can even affect our day-to-day tasks; take a musician, for example.
Applying topical creams can counteract the itching and allow the skin to slowly heal itself, but often this sort of approach is the equivalent to taking a pain-killer tablet for a dehydration headache – the pain might go away but it’s water you need, and the symptoms will only reappear when the medicine wears off.
Nutrition is essential for maintaining health and well-being, and often it is the case that symptoms on the outside are a good indicator of what’s going on in the inside. If you want healthy and youthful skin, you really need to be healthy on the inside, and a lot of that is down to what we eat, our lifestyle, genetics and exercise.
The importance of nutrition
The skin needs good fats such as EPA (omega-3), GLA (omega-6 from virgin evening primrose oil) and oleic acid (omega-9), as well as whole food nutrients from fresh fruit and vegetables to enhance the benefits even further and nourish skin cell membranes. Eczema is one of the symptoms of a fatty acid deficiency, and indeed people with conditions such as depression, ADHD and myalgic encephalomyelitis (M.E.) are often affected with eczema or psoriasis.
Omega-3 fatty acids, particularly those found in fish oil, have become relatively scarce in many modern diets, yet they are fundamental to health and well-being, and help to support the cardiovascular system, support cognitive function, as well as regulate immune and inflammatory processes in the body. Together with GLA from evening primrose oil, EPA helps to ‘switch off’ inflammatory products in the diet, which include by-products of red meat, dairy, alcohol and even stress. Our patented supplement Vegepa combines these important nutrients, offering essential nourishment for the skin.
1. Cell structure
EPA and GLA provide essential nourishment for maintaining the correct structure of every cell membrane in the body. Crucial for strengthening skin cell membranes, these fatty acids ensure that the membranes are sufficiently permeable for optimum nutrient absorption.
2. Collagen promotion
Studies suggest that EPA may benefit the skin by protecting against UV-induced skin damage – the skin’s biggest enemy. EPA also promotes the production of collagen and elastic fibres in the dermis to actively combat skin wrinkling and sagging, unlike topical steroid creams which can thin the skin.
3. Free radical damage
An active ingredient within the evening primrose oil in Vegepa is a family of phytonutrients called triterpenes. These botanical substances found only in cold-pressed virgin evening primrose oil help protect against the oxidative cell damage which is increased with eczema, and can age the skin.
4. Improving oxygen flow
Renowned for its heart health benefits, EPA is converted into prostaglandins which inhibit platelet aggregation, or blood clotting. The result is a blood-thinning effect, which boosts circulation and transports more oxygen to the skin, where it nourishes and detoxifies, to rejuvenate and heal the surface layer.
5. Countering inflammation
Whilst inflammation is a fundamental part of the body’s healing process at the cellular level, over-stimulation can wreak havoc on our skin. Not only is chronic inflammation ageing, but it is also a prime symptom of skin disorders such as eczema. Both EPA and DGLA (from GLA) produce prostaglandins which actively combat the inflammatory process and help to reverse the damage caused by chronic inflammation.
Changing your diet
By providing the body with pure EPA which is extracted from purified fish oil, this enhances the benefits to inflamed skin, since more of the important anti-inflammatory by-products are available to tackle the cause of eczema. The nourishing properties of EPA also help to heal skin affected by any cracking and bleeding.
Not only do you need to ensure you include plenty of the beneficial foods in your diet to help heal eczema, but you should also address those foods which worsen symptoms.
Suggested foods to limit in the diet include:
- hydrogenated fats and margarines which can encourage inflammation
- refined carbohydrates
- sugary or salty foods
Of course, drinking lots of water to hydrate the skin and eliminate toxins, as well as ensuring you get enough sleep (to avoid stress) are also crucial for healthy, glowing skin.