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Top Nutrition Tips for Great Skin in Midlife

by Penny Crowther(more info)

listed in nutrition, originally published in issue 275 - January 2022

Healthy, glowing skin is something which we all aspire to. Because our skin is so visible, skin problems can profoundly affect self-esteem and confidence.

For women, changing hormone levels pose a particular challenge to the skin. The perimenopause which can start from the late 30s to early 40s and last 10 years or more is a major crunch point for the skin. It is often referred to as “reverse puberty” and accurately so, judging from the complaints reported by some of my clients about teenage style acne breakouts.

The most common skin problems that I come across in my nutrition practice are dry, ageing, spotty, itchy or sensitive skin.

 

Penny Crowther 275

 

Here are my top nutrition related tips for getting your skin looking healthy in peri menopause.

  1. Skin tends to dry out as you age. To combat this, increase polyunsaturated fats from the omega 6 and 3 families. This type of fat helps support your skin’s structure and appearance. It forms part of a protective layer, preventing water loss, keeping your skin more moist and stopping bacteria entering.
    Omega fats also help to reduce inflammation. Accelerated ageing and skin conditions such as acne, itchy or reddened skin have underlying inflammation.
    To obtain omega fats in your diet, eat more oily fish, nuts, seeds (such as sunflower, pumpkin and sesame) and cold pressed oils in dark bottles, such as flax, rapeseed, hemp and walnut oils. Once heated, the benefits of these oils are destroyed so use them in salad dressings or mixed into yoghurt based smoothies.
    If you can’t eat enough essential fats (it can be difficult to get enough in your diet to make a difference), consider a supplement which contains fish oil and evening primrose oil.  A caveat here, if you are on any medication, particularly relating to the heart, be sure to check with your practitioner before taking this supplement.
  1. It is often said that water is nature’s best moisturiser and after omega 3 and 6 fats, I would agree. Your skin is over 60% water. Find a way that works best for you to drink a daily litre of water. If you are a hot drink lover, each time you are waiting for the kettle to boil, fill your cup with water and drink this first. Some people find that adding natural flavours to the water such fresh lemon, ginger or mint works. Boiled water is fine if you don’t feel like cold water. Alternatively, a favourite drinking bottle that you enjoy using and filling up each day can be a help.
  2. Keep your gut healthy. Research over recent years has firmly placed a healthy gut with a balanced bacterial ecosystem, front and foremost when it comes to our overall health, and this includes our skin.
    Eat fermented foods such as kefir, kombucha, kimchi and sauerkraut. These foods create probiotics. Probiotics are beneficial bacteria which support the immune system and crowd out the undesirable bacteria.  Some research has specifically linked this anti-bacterial effect with improvement in skin conditions. 
  1. Make sure you are getting plenty of antioxidants in your diet to help keep harmful free radicals in check and combat the ageing process. Free radicals are chemicals produced during normal daily body processes and by factors such as sun exposure, stress, smoking, over exercising and pollution.

Too many free radicals and not enough antioxidants to fight them, spells trouble when it comes to skin and ageing. Antioxidant nutrients are vitamins A, C and E and the minerals zinc and selenium.

There is also research to show that low levels of antioxidant vitamins A, C and E are associated with increased severity of skin problems.

The best way to get antioxidants is to eat as wide a range of different coloured fruit and veg. Think of a rainbow and try as many different types as possible. That way, you will get all the different, amazing plant chemicals with antioxidant properties to fight those nasty free radical skin enemies.

A great way to get concentrated levels of beneficial plant antioxidants in vegetables, as well as eating them whole to obtain the fibre, is to juice them. This will give you extra hydration too and many people report improved skin quite quickly when they start juicing. Avoid juicing fruit though because that will hike your sugar levels.

You may well benefit from vitamin A and E supplementation but this should be done under practitioner supervision because there are interactions and contra indications.

  1. Cut down on sugar. I am sure you have heard that one before and for sweet lovers, it can be hard. Gradually reducing sugar is the most painless way to go about it because you will find that you crave it less.
    Sugar feeds unhealthy gut bacteria and increases insulin release. Imbalanced insulin can worsen skin problems such as acne. Moreover, if insulin levels are imbalanced, the balance of the female hormones, oestrogen and progesterone is also affected.  Include high fibre foods in your diet such as vegetables, milled flaxseeds, chia seeds and wholegrains such as oats and brown rice.  These foods, together with regular protein containing meals, help keep your blood sugar levels and therefore, female hormone levels more balanced and help manage skin problems.
  1. Take1000mg vitamin C supplement daily – unless you have kidney stones, vitamin C is generally a safe supplement. Vitamin C supports the production of collagen, a very important structural component of skin. Declining oestrogen levels in perimenopause and menopause, affect the quality of collagen, leading to wrinkles and sagging, dry and fragile skin. It also affects the health of the blood vessels that bring nutrients to the skin.
    Vitamin C is water soluble and is therefore lost from your body relatively quickly.  There are several ways to get around this. Take a timed release vitamin C supplement, or take two 500mg capsules of vitamin C spread a few hours apart or find a liposomal vitamin C supplement which has enhanced absorption.

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About Penny Crowther

Penny Crowther DN Med BANT NTCC qualified as a nutritional therapist in 1997 and has been in clinical practice ever since.  She has seen hundreds of clients at her practices in London SW15 and online. She has written for Positive Health, FamiliesGreen FarmHealth Matters, The Health Times and contributed to articles for the Daily TelegraphThe Times Literary  supplement,  Pregnancy & Birth, Marie Claire, has been featured in the Daily ExpressDaily Mirror and on local radio.

She is registered with professional bodies BANT (British Association for Applied Nutrition and Nutritional Therapy) and CNHC.

Penny now specializes in nutrition for women in their 40s and beyond, particularly around peri and post menopause. Her approach to health is holistic, and takes into account emotional, mental and environmental factors as well as nutrition. She studied many complementary therapies before training as a nutritionist which provides a broad foundation of knowledge. She is dedicated to personal and professional development and frequently attends lectures and seminars to keep up to date with the latest scientific nutrition research. Penny may be contacted on Tel: 07761 768 754;   penny@nutritionistlondon.co.uk   www.nutritionistlondon.co.uk

Please note that nutritional advice is not a substitute for medical advice and treatment or visiting your GP or Health Professional.

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