Your skin, hair and nails are a window into what is going on inside your body: vitamin and mineral deficiencies, overtaxed organs and hormone imbalances often make themselves known in the form of rashes, blemishes, dryness in hair or hair loss and imperfections in nails. Listen to what these body parts are telling you, and you can head off many health problems before they become serious.
Organs and Your Skin
There are several organs responsible for the health and appearance of the skin, the body’s largest organ. They include the adrenals, thyroid, liver, kidneys, and intestines.
- Adrenals make many essential hormones, such as estrogen, progesterone, DHEA, pregnenolone and testosterone. Hormonal imbalances can create problematic skin conditions, so adrenal function is important as well.
- Thyroid provides hormones and works in tandem with the adrenals to create energy. Dry skin can be evidence of a weak thyroid.
- Liver and kidneys continuously filter out impurities. A poor diet can exhaust these filtering mechanisms, which may lead to skin problems such as acne and rashes.
- Intestines (small/large) give nutrients to your organs and remove waste products from your body. Clear skin is typically a reflection of clean intestines; when waste languishes in your intestines instead of being eliminated, skin can become blemished and oily.1
Recommended Skin Foods
Nuts. Vitamin E in nuts such as almonds helps your skin hold in moisture and fights skin-aging free radicals.
Citrus Fruits contain Vitamin C, which aids in your body’s production of collagen, the protein that forms the basic structure of your skin. Collagen breakdown can leave your skin saggy, and Vitamin C can help repair its elasticity.
Green and Red Vegetables. Orange-red vegetables (as well as spinach and leafy greens) are full of beta-carotene. Your body converts beta-carotene into vitamin A, which prevents cell damage and premature aging.
Organic Virgin Coconut Oil: Taking 1-2 Tbsp. of coconut oil each day (and/or using it in cooking) can improve skin dryness and firmness. It can also be applied topically (in small amounts).
Filtered water. Keep hydrated with filtered water with lemon, cucumber and orange slices, which provide minerals and electrolytes.
Bone broths and miso soup. Great nourishment for the gut and the skin.
Fermented foods such as sauerkraut and kombucha help repopulate the gut with good bacteria.
Vegetable juicing. Vegetables are high in both water and nutrients (including essential minerals), and promote optimal functioning of your natural detoxification systems. For example, healthy liver function is supported by dark green leafy veggies, such as:
- Romaine lettuce
- Dandelion greens
We recommend using the J8006 Juicer which is designed for greens.
Avoid smoking, trans-fats and minimize alcohol and caffeine.
Recommended Skin Care
Raw Virgin Organic Coconut Oil for Body, Skin, Scalp and Hair Growth is ideal for skin and hair care. It helps protect your skin from the aging effects of free radicals. In fact, physiologist and biochemist Ray Peat, Ph.D. considers coconut oil to be an antioxidant, due to its stability and resistance to oxidation and free radical formation.3 When coconut oil is absorbed into the skin and connective tissues, it helps to reduce the appearance of fine lines by helping to strengthen connective tissue. Coconut oil is an excellent exfoliant of dead skin cells, and penetrates into the deeper layers of the skin to fortify underlying tissues.4
Go to the SHC Grocery Store to see Cheri’s top picks for other skin care products.
How to Achieve Healthy Hair
Healthy hair starts deep inside your scalp. Hair itself is dead, but the follicles are very much alive and in need of nutrients just as much as other areas of your body. You might be doing damage with toxic hair products and a hair dryer, not to mention coloring and commercial processes. Even just changing your shampoo and conditioner can help your hair regain its luster. Many commercial shampoos and conditioners dry your scalp and hair out, particularly if you wash your hair every day.
What causes hair loss and limp, unhealthy hair?
Genetic factors: Male pattern baldness can be passed on genetically, as well as other predispositions that can affect overall health and the health of the hair.
Environment: Environmental factors such as indoor heating and air conditioning can dry out the hair. Treated water in swimming pools can also cause hair to become dry and brittle, as can overexposure to sun.
Hair thinning or loss in men and women can be related to hormones, medications or autoimmune diseases.
- Thyroid dysfunction. As women go through hormonal changes during and after menopause, or after pregnancy, they often experience hair loss. Once hormonal levels become balanced, this loss will be halted. One of the most common causes of hair loss is low thyroid function, so if you’re experiencing hair loss, it’s a good idea to have your thyroid levels checked by an endocrinologist.
- Insulin resistance. Researchers performed a practice-based case-control study on 154 subjects (aged 19-50 years) with early-onset male-pattern baldness (onset prior to 35 years of age) and age-matched controls. The study showed a strikingly increased risk of insulin resistance, hyperinsulinemia, and insulin-resistance-associated disorders in men with early onset of male-pattern baldness (alopecia), supporting the theory that early male-pattern baldness could be a clinical marker of insulin resistance.5
- Smoking: Smoking destroys vitamin C, which is an essential nutrient for nourishing hair follicles and clearing toxins from the body. Nicotine causes blood vessels to constrict, making it harder for nutrients to reach the skin and hair and for waste to be eliminated.
- Medications: Drugs such as those used in cancer treatment (chemotherapy), anesthetics, anticoagulants (used to thin the blood) and oral contraceptives can cause temporary hair loss. Don’t make any changes to medications without first consulting a doctor. Proper supplementation and dietary changes can greatly improve hair and scalp conditions.
Recommended Foods for Healthy Hair
Assuming there is a link with between blood sugar levels and hair loss, you want to maintain steady blood sugar throughout the day. Make sure you have breakfast with protein every day, or at the very least a whey protein smoothie with coconut water, frozen blueberries and avocado or banana.
One of the main factors influencing hair health is a deficiency of iron and good-quality protein. Protein is essential for cell repair and growth, while iron produces hemoglobin in the blood, which carries oxygen for growth and repair of all body cells. Excess sugar in the diet robs the body of minerals crucial to hair health.
To feed your follicles, get lots of essential fatty acids from wild-caught fish, pastured meats and dairy, seeds and nuts. These are vital for the structure of every cell membrane as well as healthy joints, circulation, heart function, glowing skin and shiny hair. The body cannot make its own supply, so it’s essential to get them from foods and supplements.
EFAs fall into two groups:
- Omega-3, found in oily fish such as sardines, salmon and mackerel, and walnuts and flaxseeds
- Omega-6, found in chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and nuts. Hemp seeds are another wonderful source of GLA and omega-3.
Avoid drinking from plastic bottles, and don’t eat commercially raised meats and farmed fish (all contain hormone disruptors).
Minimize or eliminate gluten, which can cause inflammation and aggravate autoimmune disorders.
Organ meats: If you are willing to eat organ meats such as liver or heart once or twice a week, you can supply many nutrients to your hair this way. Compared to regular cuts of muscle meat, organ meats are densely packed with nutrients like the b-vitamins, iron, phosphorus, magnesium, copper, iron, A, D, E and K.
Seaweed: Seaweed contains a wealth of nutrients vital healthy hair, including calcium, magnesium, potassium, sodium, zinc, niacin, iron, iodine, and many other vitamins. Seaweed binds with toxins and removes them from the body. As an alternative, you can take a kelp supplement. See the SHC Grocery Store for the best products that are low in toxins.
Lentils and Chickpeas: Lentils and chickpeas are a great vegetarian source of protein. They’re also a good source of B vitamins, folic acid and iron, nutrients necessary for healthy hair. Combine with brown rice (also full of B vitamins) or quinoa to make a complete protein.
Leafy greens: Leafy greens contain large amounts of vitamins C and A, which the body uses to make sebum, which is secreted by the hair follicles and keeps the hair shiny and healthy. Greens are also rich in minerals, including iron.
Sprouted pumpkin seeds: Sprouted pumpkin seeds are good sources of zinc, an important nutrient for hair health.
Calcium-rich foods: almonds, beans, sardines and leafy greens.
Silica: A trace mineral is an essential nutrient for healthy hair and also for strong bones and teeth. Silica helps the body utilize other minerals such as copper, boron, zinc, magnesium, and phosphorous. There are several food sources of silica, including seaweed, oats, millet and barley — you can also take a silica supplement.
See the SHC Grocery Store for Cheri’s top hair products.
How to Achieve Healthy Nails
Fingernails and toenails are made up of keratin, a hard, strong protein that’s also found in your hair and skin. Changes in the nails can be important warning signs of many dysfunctions. Your nails can tell you what happened over the last six months, as that is the length of time required to create them. Deficiencies and diseases make themselves known in several nail irregularites.
- Melanoma: Dark pigmented bands under the nail, particularly in African Americans, can sometimes be melanoma. The bands may be noncancerous, but must be checked by a qualified physician.
- Nail beading: An uneven, rippled look is often caused by hormonal issues, diabetes or thyroid problems.
- Nail pitting: Small depressions in the nails are common in people with psoriasis. They may also result from nail injuries. Pitting may cause nails to crumble. It is also associated with conditions that can damage the nail’s cuticle, such as chronic dermatitis of your fingers or alopecia areata, an autoimmune disease that causes hair loss.
- Spoon nails: These are soft nails that look scooped out. The depression usually is large enough to hold a drop of liquid. Spoon nails may be a sign of anemia.
- Nail clubbing: Clubbing occurs when the tips of the fingers enlarge and your nails curve around the fingertips. This condition results from low oxygen levels in the blood and could be a sign of lung disease. Clubbing is also associated with cardiovascular, inflammatory bowel and liver disease.
- Yellow nail syndrome: Yellow discoloration in your fingernails may result from a respiratory condition such as chronic bronchitis, or from swelling of your hands (lymphedema). In yellow nail syndrome, nails thicken and new growth slows, resulting in discoloration. Nails affected with this condition may lack a cuticle and detach from the nail bed in places. Yellow nails may also result from any condition that causes the growth of the nails to slow down.
- Nail separates from nail bed: (Onycholysis) Fingernails become loose and can separate from the nail bed. If nails show signs of detaching, this may be associated with thyroid disease, injury or infection, thyroid disease, drug reactions, psoriasis, reactions to nail hardeners or acrylic nails
- Terry’s nails: Nails look opaque, but the tip has a dark band. Sometimes this can be a sign of aging. In other cases, it can signal a serious illness, such as congestive heart failure, diabetes, liver disease or malnutrition.
- Beau’s lines are indentations that run across the nails. They can appear when growth at the area under your cuticle is interrupted by illness or injury. Diseases or illnesses associated with Beau’s lines include circulatory diseases, uncontrolled diabetes, peripheral artery disease, illness associated with a high fever such as pneumonia, mumps, measles or scarlet fever.
- Nails that are brittle or have grooves or ridges indicate a possible thyroid imbalance, a lack of B vitamins and lack of calcium in the body.
- A diet lacking in calcium contributes to dry, brittle nails
- A lack of folic acid and Vitamin C can lead to hangnails.
- Insufficient dietary essential oils, like fish oil, cause cracking.
1., 2. articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2011/01/17/the-best-foods-for-beautiful-skin.aspx
3. Raymond Peat Newsletter, Coconut Oil, reprinted at www.heall.com. http://www.heall.com/body/healthupdates/food/coconutoil.html An Interview With Dr. Raymond Peat, A Renowned Nutritional Counselor Offers His Thoughts About Thyroid Disease
5. Lancet September 30, 2000; 356: 1165-1166.