Overcoming The Obvious Signs of Aging

OVERCOMING THE OBVIOUS SIGNS OF AGING: WRINKLES AND GRAY HAIR

Wrinkles and gray hair are the two signs that most frequently cause a person to say to himself or herself in the mirror: “Wow, I’m getting OLD!”

Much can be done to assist your skin, which includes your hair—and in assisting your skin and hair, you are going to improve your own attitude toward getting older.

Confronting The Big 3 Enemies of Your Skin

The three biggest enemies of the skin are inadequate water intake, too much sun, and smoking.

Water. Of all the nutrients that can be discussed in relationship to the skin, water is the most important. Healthy skin is always well-hydrated skin!

Your daily diet should include at least eight to ten glasses of pure water. Caffeine and alcohol pull moisture out of your system, so if you insist on drinking caffeine or alcohol, be sure to add two cups of water a day for every cup of caffeine or alcoholic beverage you consume.

Sun. Regular exposure to ultraviolet rays erodes the elastic tissues in the skin, causing a person to wrinkle prematurely. Ultraviolet energy also produces free-radicals that are stored in the fats of the skin-cell membranes. Years of sun exposure may lead to malignant melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer. This type of cancer has risen dramatically in recent decades, as has squamous cell carcinoma, a less fatal but nonetheless serious form of skin cancer.

What about artificial tanning devices, such as tanning beds and sunlamps? Many people use these to enhance their attractiveness—in fact, a recent survey showed that more than sixty percent of American adults believe they “look better” if they have a tan. I must admit, living in Florida and being outdoors a great deal, I would find it very difficult NOT to get a tan.

What most people don’t realize is that tanning devices emit ultraviolet (UV) radiation, which browns the skin but also may lead to skin cancer. A recent study involving skin cancer patients found that the use of ANY tanning device was linked to an increased risk for squamous cell carcinoma and basal cell carcinoma, two types of skin cancer. The risk was two and half times greater for developing squamous cell carcinoma cancer if a person used a tanning device, and one and a half times greater for developing basal cell carcinoma.

Some sunlight is beneficial for good health since it increases vitamin D production in the body. Only fifteen minutes of sunlight per day on the face and arms is usually enough, however, for health benefits. This exposure should be in early morning or later in the day to avoid the direct “burning”rays—and even for this time in the sun, sun block is recommended.1

Smoking. People who smoke a pack and a half of cigarettes a day wrinkle about ten years sooner than a non-smoker! One cigarette destroys about 25 mg of vitamin C, which is a vitally important nutrient for building collagen.2

If you smoke and haven’t been able to quit yet, be sure to load up on the antioxidants, especially vitamin C. In addition, free-radical damage occurs any time a person is exposed to environmental pollution, alcohol, and drugs. If you live in an area known for air pollution, or take medications routinely…add extra antioxidant protection to your diet!

Even if you don’t smoke, limit your exposure to people who do.

Other Key Factors Related to Aging. In addition to the “big three” factors above, these factors can also cause skin to age at an accelerated rate:

  1. Environmental toxins
  2. A diet lacking vitamins A, C, E, and folic acid—yet high in fat and salt
  3. Excess alcohol consumption
  4. Stress
  5. Sleep deprivation
  6. Harsh soaps or detergent-based moisturizers

Each of these factors, you will note, are ones that are subject to control on your part!

The Overall Aging Process of Skin

There are seven things that happen to all types of skin as skin ages—either in a normal or “slowed” process, or in an accelerated process owing to the above factors. Skin…

Becomes More Dry. Skin tends to become increasingly dry, beginning significantly after age thirty. The skin’s oil glands simply reduce production.

Has Less “Tone.” Melanocytes begin to burn out during a person’s late thirties or forties. This reduces the skin’s ability to fight sun damage. Uneven pigmentation can also occur.

Is Less Firm. The skin cells known as “fibroblasts” lose their ability to function over the years, resulting in a reduction of collagen and elastin.

Has Diminished Immunity. The skin has Langerhan’s cells, which are receptors for the immune system that register the presence of foreign agents and toxins. As skin ages, the Langerhan’s cells do not function as effectively to give warning signals related to skin irritants.

Is Less Soft and Supple. The dermis and the skin’s fat layer begin to thin at about age forty, and increasingly so in the fifties. The result is a general sagging of the skin and a loss of the lump, softness associated with youth. The skin eventually begins to appear more fragile.

Has Increased Recovery Time. As a person ages, it takes longer for all cells, including skin cells, to repair damage caused by free radicals.

Has a Loss of Temperature Control. Over time, sweat glands slowly lose their ability to function, which makes it harder for the body to regulate itself and register cold and heat.

So what is it that we might do to help compensate for this normal process? A great deal can be done nutritionally and topically!

The Great Importance of Protein to Your Skin

Collagen is the cement-like substance that binds together the cells of the human body. It is called “structural tissue,” and as such, it replaces itself very slowly. The strong white fibers of collagen are actually stronger than steel wire of the same size!

Collagen is what strengthens the skin, blood vessels, bones, and teeth. It comprises about thirty percent of the total body protein.

Any person who embarks on an extremely low-protein diet often begins to see the muscles in their legs and arms begin to sag. That’s a sure-fire sign they have lost collagen.

The place to start in achieving youthful, healthy skin, therefore, must be with protein.

Protein and the Body. We tend to think of protein as just one substance. In fact, it is many different substances. There are more than twenty amino acids, each of which has its own characteristics. In various combinations, these amino acids form literally tens of thousands of substances, each of which serves its own unique purpose. Some proteins are necessary for tissue repair, some for construction of new tissue.

Next to water, protein is the most plentiful substance in the body. Hair, skin, nails, and eyes are made of protein. So are the cells that make up the heart, lungs, kidneys, liver, nerves, brain, and sex glands. The most active protein users in the body are the hormones secreted by various glands—thyroxin from the thyroid, insulin from the pancreas, and a variety of hormones from the pituitary gland. Even the hemoglobin of the blood is 95 percent protein.

How much protein a day? The exact grams tend to vary according to weight— from 50 grams a day for a person who weighs 120 pounds to 120 grams for a person weighing 250 pounds. Pregnant women and nursing mothers need more protein. So do those who are very active physically.

As important as the amount of total protein consumed is the way protein is consumed. Eating five small meals a day, with some form of protein at each “feeding” is ideal for the vast majority of people. I also recommend that you eat protein from a variety of sources. Protein rich foods include fish, chicken, non-fat dairy products, eggs, some red meat, nutritional (Brewer’s) yeast, and quality protein powers.

Protein Deficiency Signs. The hair, skin, and nails may provide good clues about protein deficiency. Here are three signs to consider:

  1. Puffy bags under the eyes, especially in the morning
  2. General water retention—swollen ankles, face, and hands
  3. Nails are very thin, fail to grow quickly, and split easily

These may also be symptoms of other ailments, but protein deficiency is often marked by these symptoms.

Protein and Your Hair. L-cysteine and L-methionine are the amino acids that form the protein structure of hair. Some studies have shown that L-cysteine supplementation may prevent hair from falling out, as well as increase the diameter of the hair shaft. These two amino acids were found to increase hair growth by as much as one hundred percent in one study.3 By the way, egg yolk contains the highest amount of these two amino acids.

Vitamins and Mineral Deficiencies and the Skin

The skin also provides valuable clues to vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Skin, in this section, includes the tissues associated with the eye and mouth:

Vitamin A. Drying out of the skin may signal deficiency—also rough,“horny” skin on upper arms and thighs…the skin starts to look like goose bumps that don’t go away. This dryness can include “dry eyes,”in which tear ducts dry up and a general “tiredness”and red rims appear around the eyes.

In general, a lack of vitamin A causes the cells to die too quickly on the bottom layer of the four layers of skin. The body sends white blood cells to bring these dead cells to the surface— the manifestation may be a pimple, boil, sty in the eye, or a carbuncle.

Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin). One sign of deficiency is lips begin to crack and become rough (often feeling chapped). Tiny flakes of skin may peel from the lips and whistle lines or wrinkles may form from the lips toward the nose. Nose, chin, and forehead take on an oily appearance and fatty deposits accumulate under the skin. A severe deficiency can cause the skin at the corners of the eye to split.

Vitamin B3 (Niacin or Niacinamide). Canker sores are one sign of deficiency.

Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid). Dermatitis and eczema have been related to a pantothenic deficiency.

Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine). The most recognized deficiency is scaly, greasy dermatitis, even between eyebrows, behind the ears, and around the mouth and sides of nose. Skin may be inflamed and scaly. A slight B6 deficiency is dry skin with an oily T-zone (forehead, nose, and chin). Outbreaks of acne just before a menstrual period may also be a B6 deficiency.

PABA (Para-Amino-Benzoic Acid). A deficiency has been linked to vitiligo— a condition in which skin loses its pigment and turns white (also may be low adrenal function). PABA supplementation has helped reverse gray hair in rats.

Biotin. First sign of deficiency is usually scaly dermatitis. Deficiency can result in a burning, prickling sensitivity of the skin. Extreme paleness may also occur.

Inositol. Some studies have shown that inositol supplements have helped prevent thinning hair and baldness.

Vitamin C. A deficiency is marked by bruising (hemorrhaging under the skin). Older people seem to be most susceptible to this, often because the medications they take destroy vitamin C in their body. Vitamin C is vital for forming collagen—the elastic cement— of the skin. It helps keep the skin from sagging and developing “gravity”wrinkles.

Vitamin C is perhaps the most potent antioxidant in helping prevent free-radical damage at the same time it assists in production of collagen. Well-known dermatologist Nicholas Perricone recommends 3,000 to 5,000 mg of Vitamin C.

He also recommends a vitamin C supplement called ascorbyl palmitate (vitamin C ester), which is fat-soluble. A dose of 500 mg a day is adequate in this form.4

Bioflanoids. Bruising and varicose veins, as well as tiny veins that appear on the face, may be a sign of a deficiency.

Vitamin E. Liver spots—brown pigmentation on the back of the hands and on the arms have been linked to vitamin E deficiency. Vitamin E is also an excellent antioxidant to take if a person becomes sunburned. The most potent form of Vitamin E to help the skin is a formulation that has vitamin E tocotrienols and gamma tocopherol.5

Calcium. One sign of deficiency is dark circles under the eyes. (Allergies and parasites can also cause this symptom.) Most people associate calcium with strong bones—and indeed, it is especially helpful to the bones. Why is this important for skin—because good bone structure is essentially to the appearance of the skin draped over those bones, especially the bones of the face.

Iron. Symptoms of deficiency include concave or spoon-like shape of fingernails and toenails; nails may lack the normal half-moon lighter color at the base of the nail; vertical ridges in the nail (may also be zinc or calcium deficiency). Pimples, boils, and other skin lesions are more likely to occur in individuals low in iron.

Potassium. Deficiency in teens may result in acne, deficiency in adults can cause dry skin.

Selenium. Dandruff is a symptom of selenium deficiency. Selenium is a vital antioxidant required to form glutathine peroxidase, one of the most important natural antioxidant defenses. It helps neutralize certain toxins, such as cadmium, mercury, and arsenic—all of which can greatly damage skin. Selenium is a great booster to the immune system.

Zinc. White spots on the nails, or nails with an opaquely white appearance, are signs associated with zinc deficiency. Zinc is a member of a group of enzymes that helps the body maintain its collagen supply. In some patients, zinc has helped with the healing of acne scars, although scientists are still not sure why this occurs. Zinc also does a wonderful job of reducing gray hair.

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