The Health Index
With a surface area of about 1.5m2 to 2m2, the skin is the largest organ of the body. It forms a barrier against invasion by bacteria and chemicals, and protects us from trauma, sunlight, and dehydration.
The skin is also involved in the regulation of body temperature, and it is our largest detoxification organ. Despite this, it is the liver, kidneys, GI tract, and lungs that do the heavy lifting. If you see skin breakouts and problems, you may want to turn your attention to the liver and digestive tract.
Disturbances here are likely affecting the detoxification of the organs , putting an extra load on the skin. Skin problems mainly occur on the surface of the skin itself. However, they can also affect the sebaceous and sweat glands, hair or nails. The skin reacts to external stimuli such as pathogens, cold, heat, radiation, toxins, and medication. But internal processes like hormonal changes or an autoimmune disease can also affect the skin. These are usually visible to the naked eye.
What are the causes?
Eczema, acne, shingles, athlete's foot and even skin cancer; the list of skin diseases is long and the causes vary. Almost everyone encounters an unpleasant skin change at least once in their life. Depending on where it occurs and what it looks like, your GP or dermatologist can identify the cause. Allergic reactions can also change the skin. Atopic eczema in particular is linked to allergies - often food allergies. Acne is most commonly caused by hormonal changes during puberty.
Acne can occur on the face, back, or in bodily folds such as the armpit. Depending on how pronounced the pustules and spots are, the skin disease can leave scars and be very stressful for the person affected. The cause of acne vulgaris are male sex hormones, called androgens. These are produced to a greater extent in men than in women, especially during puberty.
As they are found in larger quantities in men, men are also more affected by this skin disease. In women, acne can be a sign of polycystic ovary syndrome, which is characterised by an overproduction of androgens. Adult acne can also be linked to stress, certain medications, food sensitivities, or a genetic predisposition.
Psoriasis is an inflammatory, non-contagious skin disease and an an autoimmune condition. Flares come and go. It is characterised by sharply defined, reddened or silvery areas of skin that are scaly and often extremely itchy. People with psoriasis have a genetic predisposition to the skin disease, but not everyone who carries the risk genes gets it. Often the disease only breaks out when a trigger factor is added. In other cases, however, the symptoms appear without a specific trigger. There is no known cure for psoriasis.
Herpes is a widespread infectious disease caused by the Herpes simplex virus. Once infected, the virus remains in the body for life. If the immune system is weakened, it can break out again and again and cause the typical herpes blisters. Warts, too, are caused by viral infections and are therefore contagious. These benign skin growths can appear on different parts of the body and usually disappear on their own after a few weeks or months.
Unfortunately, the face is not spared from skin diseases either. As well as herpes lesions, shingles can occur on the face (as well as on the body) - this is particularly stressful for the person affected. The skin disease rosacea only affects the face: the skin is very red and can develop painful blisters.
How can a nutrition practitioner help?
Your nutrition practitioner’s approach will depend on the skin condition in question and its underlying cause. There are, for example, some nutrients that can promote flare-ups of herpes and others that dampen them down. Some foods nourish the skin, others add to the body’s overall toxic load. Your nutrition practitioner is likely to ask you about your digestion and will be keen to support your liver. Improved liver detoxification may lighten the stress on your skin as a detox organ.
Balancing hormones can significantly improve the appearance of the skin. A nutrition practitioner will ask questions about your overall health and health history, diet, lifestyle and exercise habits. They will look at your food diary to see where there may be room for improvement. Your nutrition practitioner may also recommend functional testing to assess your nutrition or hormone status, digestive health and microbiota. They will then develop a customised diet, supplement and lifestyle plan for you.