What’s Under Your Skin?

Are you 100% happy with your skin at the moment? Whether you have severe eczema or a few pre-menstrual pimples there’s much that can be done from a natural perspective to treat the array of stubborn skin conditions. Many of these conditions do not respond well to conventional treatment and result in poor quality of life due to anything from insomnia caused by the maddening itchy skin of eczema to the embarrassment of infected and scaly skin of psoriasis.

There are a particular class of herbs called ‘depuratives’ which are effective for the treatment of skin conditions. These herbs enhance the cleansing of the blood and lymph fluid of inflammatory compounds and encourage their elimination from the body. Examples include Cleavers, Burdock and Figwort. There are also herbs which have an antihistamine action such as Nettle, Albizia and Baical Scullcap.

The common approach to all skin conditions is to suppress the immune response but where conventional medicine often  suppresses both the part of the immune system that causes inflammation as well as that which fights infection, natural medicine is much more selective in it’s approach. Fish oils and herbs can be used as anti-inflammatories whilst  zinc and Vitamin C, both also important for skin integrity, and herbs such as Echinacea can strengthen the body’s infection fighting response.  As local infection plays a role in sustaining inflammation in conditions such as acne and eczema, naturally occurring compounds in the skin which fight infections (called Antimicrobial Peptides), are vital for the recovery of skin conditions and can be enhanced by natural medicine.

Diet is also vital to the recovery from all skin conditions. The addition of healthy fats, an array of fresh fruit and vegetables and a low Glycemic Index (GI) diet, especially in the case of acne, enhance the effectiveness of a natural medicine protocol and prevent relapse. Drinking lots of water is also essential for the detoxification process.

Give me a D

My absolute favourite vitamin at the moment is vitamin D. and not only because I love my sunshine. Yes you are encouraged to get some sunshine, in fact a vitamin D deficiency is linked to basal cell carcinoma, the most common skin cancer. It is now emerging that the large majority of Australians  have some degree of vitamin D deficiency and it is implicated in many modern diseases such as cancer, diabetes and even the flu. In fact, supplementation with vitamin D is such a strong immune system modulator that taking a supplement in winter is just as effective as the influenza vaccination, but without any side effects or risk of harm from the mercury used to preserve the vaccination.

So what’s all this got to do with the skin? Remember those Antimicrobial Peptides I mentioned earlier? Well vitamin D is required to make one called Cathelicidin which is a potent killer of bacteria in the skin. It also suppresses some of the immune cells responsible for skin inflammation.

So how can a vitamin D deficiency possibly be associated with skin cancer? The key is to get small, frequent amounts of sun, 10 to 15 minutes every day without getting burnt. In winter I also recommend a supplement because it is impossible to get enough vitamin D due to the angle of the sun with the earth at that time of year. You’ll require at least 1000IU per day.

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