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During the winter months, most of us in the United States struggle with dry skin. Some even have skin that gets so dry that it cracks and bleeds.
For many people, they tend to think it’s just a part of winter and do nothing about it.
For others, they may head to the local drug store to pick up a lotion or cream to soothe their skin.
Is dry skin just irritating, or could it be more sinister?
Most of you probably know that our skin is our largest organ. And its’ role is multi-functional.
- Regulates body temperature
- Stores fat and water
- Protects against toxins
- Helps prevent dehydration
- Produces hormones
- And…..protects against bacterial and viral invasion
Protecting Our Skin
When our skin gets dry, it’s very common for it to start to crack. And, sometimes those cracks are so small that you might not notice them. However, pathogenic bacteria and viruses do notice those cracks and are happy to break through and make it to our general circulation.
Two bacteria in particular, Staphylococcus and Streptococcus, tend to live on our skin without causing many problems. However, if there is a breach in your skin, these bacteria can make it to your blood stream and cause many, many problems.
Staph infections can cause:
- Endocarditis (an infection of the lining of the heart)
- Septicemia (blood poisoning that will attack internal organs and/or artificial joints)
- Cellulitis (an infection at the deepest layer of your skin)
Strep infections can cause:
- Necrotizing Fasciitis (flesh-eating disease)
- Toxic Shock Syndrome
- Impetigo (childhood illness that’s easily spread)
- Sepsis (circulatory blood poisoning)
- The skin is an effective barrier against viral infections. The outer layer of human skin consists of a layer of dead, keratinized cells. Viruses cannot replicate in, or be transported across, dead cells. Therefore any virus that lands on the skin cannot simply replicate in the outer layer or be transported to the underlying living cells.
- However, viruses can pass through the dead layer of the skin through cuts or abrasions. Many activities, such as scratching your skin, can lead to microabrasions. It is fairly easy to breach the dead layer of cells with a fingernail, and such abrasions cannot be seen.
- At this point, any number of viruses now have a direct path to the blood stream, with the potential to cause harm.
After reading about the bacteria and viruses that can get into your circulation via a small tear in your skin, you might be tempted to load up on anti-bacterial hand washes and sanitizers. But, that’s not the best way to handle the health of your skin.
These sanitizers are very, very drying and actually lead to more tears in the skin. And, these sanitizers kill the good and bad bacteria that live on our skin. We want to make sure our good bacteria remain in tact.
A better approach would be to minimize the risk of bacteria or viruses from making it to our blood stream by maintaining a healthy barrier on our skin.
This can be done in two ways:
- Eat foods that support healthy skin cell production
- Apply topical aids, if necessary
My favorite foods for skin health include:
- Fatty fish, rich in Omega-3 fatty acids and Vitamin E.
This would include fish like salmon and tuna.
Omega-3 fatty acids keep skin moisturized and can protect against sun damage, too.
Vitamin E is an antioxidant that can minimize damage to skin, caused by free-radical production.
- Eggs and pastured dairy, rich in Vitamin A (in the form of retinol and retinyl esters)
Vitamin A is a critical nutrient for healthy skin cell production.
- Bell Peppers (Yellow and Red)
These yummy veggies are rich in beta-carotene (which can be converted to Vitamin A in the digestive tract) and Vitamin C.
Vitamin C plays a key role in the production of collagen, an essential component to strong skin.
- Walnuts contain healthy fats and nutrients to keep skin moisturized and minimize bacterial overgrowth.
- Avocados are loaded with healthy fats to provide moisture to skin. And, they are also a rich source of Vitamin C and Vitamin E.
- Water! Water! Water! Most of us woefully underestimate how easy it is to become dehydrated during the winter months. Drink at least 75% of your body weight in ounces every day. (If you weigh 150 lbs, drink 112.5 ounces of water)
As you can see from this list, most of these foods are rich in healthy fats, to allow our skin cells to stay moisturized. These foods are also a great source of our anti-oxidants, Vitamin A, C and E.
If these foods haven’t been part of your daily nutrition protocol, I would encourage you to start adding them.
However, until you build up a nice store of fatty acids and anti-oxidants, you might need to use a topical lotion or cream to provide a healthy barrier against bacteria or viruses.
Topical Application for Healthy Skin:
But……what you put on your skin is very important…..because as was mentioned earlier…..the skin is an important organ with many functions. It would be detrimental to your overall health to apply most of the store brand products available.
Sadly, most store brand lotions and body creams contain phthalates and parabens, which are chemicals that wreak havoc with your hormone system. They also tend to contain petroleum-based ingredients, which are not helpful to your skin.
If you’re going to use a store-bought product, please look for labels that say ‘phthalte-free’ ‘paraben-free’, ‘SLS-free’ and ‘petroleum-free’.
Or, better yet……make your own lotion or body cream. It’s much easier than you would expect. It saves lots of money. You are in control of the ingredients. And….most importantly….your skin will thank you for it.
Instead of a food recipe this month, I will be sharing with you my favorite body cream recipe.
Here’s to smoother, healthier and stronger skin this winter season.
Homemade Pumpable Lotion for Hands and Body
Ingredients (please use organic products whenever possible)
1 c. water
1/4 c. old fashioned oats
1/2 c. almond oil (olive or jojoba work too)
1/2 c. coconut oil
3 tbsp. beeswax, grated
1 tbsp. vitamin E oil (good for the skin and is also a natural antioxidant, helping it to last longer)
1 tbsp. raw honey
15-25 drops High quality essential oils, optional (I would choose an organic, therapeutic grade oil with a nutrition fact on label, showing that it’s safe for ingestion. There are so many awesome scents to choose from)
Put the water and oats in a bowl. Cover and allow to soak for 12 hours (overnight and then some works well) at room temperature.
Drain the oats, reserving the oatmeal water. Press the oats gently with a spatula to get all the oatmeal liquid. (Save the oats for a yummy meal)
Measure 1/2 cups worth of oatmeal water. Set aside.
In a glass bowl, place the almond oil, coconut oil, beeswax, and honey. Microwave until melted or heat over a pan with shallow simmering water (making a double boiler). Heat until completely melted.
Put the oil mixture in the freezer for about 15 minutes or the refrigerator for about 45 minutes.
Mix together the oil mixture and the oatmeal water plus any essential oils with a handheld or stand electric mixture. Whip until thickened and looks like the consistency of lotion.
Pour the lotion into a pastry bag (as used for cake decorating) or a plastic zip bag (snip off a corner after filling). Squeeze into a empty lotion bottle.
To use, pump out a small amount and rub into skin.
Store at room temperature (75 degrees Fahrenheit) or less. If you know a day is going to be extra hot, you can store it in the fridge to keep it from re-melting.
(Thank you, TJ, of MeasuringFlower.com, for an easy remedy for dry skin.)
About the Author
Dr Becky Spacke, is a course instructor at Nutrition Therapy Institute. In addition, she has a private practice, working with people at risk of developing Alzheimer’s Disease. You can learn more by visiting www.HealingFromAlz.com
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