Book Excerpt: Glow - The Dermatologist's Guide To A Whole Foods Younger Skin Diet
The Right Foods Provide Power: The Power to Prevent Skin Damage and the Power to Promote Skin Regeneration
Your skin is the largest organ of your body, and it is amazing. It protects you from extremes of temperature, from UV radiation, from infection, and more.
And it has a remarkable ability to regenerate. Think about the last time you had a paper cut. (That painful one. On the tip of your thumb. The one that made you wince every time you turned the page.)
Just two days later, and it was gone. Completely healed. On its own.
Healed so completely, in fact, that it was as though it had never been there at all.
That's what your skin can do: it has amazing abilities to repair and regenerate.
The right foods can support and supercharge those systems.
What Can the Right Foods Do For Your Skin?
Quench free radicals
Your skin is under siege. Every minute of every day. Which is why your skin has so many built-in defense and repair mechanisms.
We know that ultraviolet (UV) radiation ages the skin. And the more that hits the skin, the more damage that results. You might see this as a sunburn. But even without a visible burn, that radiation produces free radicals and “burns” your skin on a cellular level, with damage to DNA, collagen fibers, elastic fibers, and more.
Antioxidants act to quench that damage. Some are naturally found in your skin, but they're constantly being used up. That's why the antioxidants in your food are so important: they provide a constant, renewable source of quenching antioxidants.
Block scissor enzymes
UV radiation also damages the skin by increasing levels of "scissor" enzymes. These enzymes, including collagenase and elastase, start snapping away at the collagen fibers and elastic fibers that maintain youthful, resilient skin. The right foods prevent the activation of scissor enzymes.
Activate DNA repair systems
When DNA damage does occur, your body springs into action to repair that damage. The right foods work to activate this system.
Strengthen the skin barrier
The right foods can also help regenerate the skin barrier. Your skin barrier has two main functions: keep moisture in and keep irritants out (along with microbes, allergens, and toxins). As you age, that barrier doesn't work as well. The right foods, including the right fats, can help strengthen that skin barrier.
Promote the growth of good microbes that strengthen the skin barrier
A healthy gut can also strengthen the skin barrier. Certain "good" microbes that live in your gastrointestinal tract can produce substances that actually strengthen the skin barrier. The right foods can promote the growth of these good microbes.
Excerpt from Chapter 3: The Signs of Skin Aging
The signs of skin aging: they've been recognized (and worried over) for centuries.
The ancient Egyptians placed a great emphasis on skin preservation, in this life as well as the afterlife. Egyptian women traveled with makeup boxes containing their cosmetics and beauty tools. This care and concern extended to the afterlife: archaeological evidence has found that skin care products and tools were commonly placed in the tombs of the dead.
Just as in modern times, the ancient Egyptians were fighting the signs of skin aging:
The signs of skin aging
- Fine lines and wrinkles. While some are due to aging itself, a major factor in the development of wrinkles is the amount of UV radiation that reaches your skin and damages the collagen and elastic fibers in the
- Think about an elderly person with jowls, and how that contrasts with the firm jawline of a 20-year-old. That’s due to collagen damage: accumulated collagen damage over a number of years weakens the supportive framework of your skin.
- Loss of elasticity. Someone in their 20s has tight, taut skin that bounces back when you pinch it. As you age, your skin loses that ability to bounce
- Your skin can become more fragile as you age. Many of my elderly patients describe frequent bruising on their forearms. They'll tell me that all it takes is a bump against the wall. This is because our skin thins as we age, which is known as skin atrophy. Sun exposure speeds up this process by damaging collagen.
- Pigment changes. As we age, we accumulate a lot more freckles and dark spots. The medical term for one type of dark spot is solar lentigos. I call these sunspots because they're due to a lifetime of UV exposure finally catching up to your skin.
- Changes in skin texture. As you age, your skin often becomes more rough and dry. That’s because your skin just doesn't hold onto moisture as well. And it doesn't matter how many glasses of water you drink--the loss of natural oils in our skin predisposes us to dry, rough skin as we
- Loss of radiance and changes in the microvasculature. Microvasculature is the medical term for the small blood vessels in our skin. Some people report that their skin looks more "sallow" as they age, meaning that they no longer have that healthy glow or radiance of youthful skin. It’s believed that some of that is due to less blood flow through the tiny blood vessels that supply your skin.
Just as in ancient Egypt, this emphasis on preserving youthful skin was present in many of the advanced ancient civilizations, from China to the Middle East to India. Ayurvedic medicine, one of the most ancient medical traditions, had extensive descriptions of skin care techniques.
Practiced in India and other South Asian countries, ancient Ayurvedic texts describe skin care products (oils, powders, herbal waters) as well as ingested treatments. It's been reported that the ancient texts described over 200 herbs, minerals, and fats to maintain the health and beauty of the skin.
Their rationale for use centered around principles of anti-aging activity that we recognize today. In fact, many of the skin-saving foods we recommend today target the same exact areas: cell regeneration, radiance, anti-inflammatory properties, and others.
Modern scientific research techniques have uncovered properties which may explain why these foods and herbs were considered so helpful. In one study, for example, the fruit Indian gooseberry [Phyllanthus emblica or amla] increased the activity of telomerase in the body, an enzyme with potential anti-aging properties.
Research has now shown that many different foods and nutrients can successfully target different cellular pathways...a number of different foods can help you maintain youthful, luminous skin. The following table contains just a few examples of these foods.
Table 1 - The Right Foods Can Combat the Visible Signs of Skin Aging
Fine Lines and Wrinkles
Foods rich in antioxidants can limit the collagen damage caused by free radicals: tomatoes (lycopene), berries (polyphenols), turmeric (curcumin), green tea (catechins)
Advanced glycation end products (known as AGEs) can cause serious damage to collagen. These compounds are formed when sugar in your system bonds with proteins in your body, and they’re a major cause of wrinkling and sagging. Foods that limit rapid, sharp spikes in blood sugar levels may help limit sugar sag.
· High fiber foods ensure steady blood sugar levels: vegetables
· Power carbs, naturally rich in fiber and protein, limit rapid rises in blood sugar levels: lentils, beans, whole grains
· Some herbs and spices may help stabilize blood sugar levels: cinnamon, fenugreek, garlic, ginger, onions, turmeric
· Healthy proteins can balance out carbs to limit sugar spikes: beans, lentils, tofu, eggs, salmon, shrimp
· Certain phytonutrients (which are beneficial compounds in plant foods), including luteolin, quercetin, and rutin, have been shown to fight the process of glycation: apples, asparagus, cauliflower, figs, onions
Loss of Elasticity
· Research indicates that some foods are able to block the activity of the scissor enzyme elastase. Elastase is triggered by UV radiation and acts to degrade the elastic fibers in the skin: ginger, white tea, pomegranate
· Higher intake of MUFAs (monounsaturated fatty acids) has been linked to more skin elasticity: olive oil
Atrophy and Skin Fragility
Thinning of the skin occurs naturally with age but is accelerated by UV radiation and other factors that cause collagen damage.
· Vitamin C is an essential cofactor in collagen synthesis: broccoli, cauliflower, red peppers, citrus
· Certain polyphenol phytonutrients, including apigenin and luteolin, inhibit the activity of collagenase, an enzyme that degrades collagen: artichokes, celery, basil, cilantro, parsley, thyme
· Certain spices and herbs act to inhibit the production of collagen-damaging AGEs: cinnamon, cloves, oregano, allspice
Foods that limit the damage caused by UV exposure can limit the signs of photoaging, which includes freckling and solar lentigos.
· Foods demonstrated in human research studies to limit the skin damage caused by UV radiation: tomatoes, green tea, cocoa flavanols, pomegranate
· Foods rich in polyphenol phytonutrients: In one study, patients reporting higher intake had lower scores of UV-related pigmented spots
Aging skin naturally exhibits a loss of natural oils and an increase in moisture loss.
· Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to reduce skin roughness and improve skin hydration: ground flaxseeds, walnuts, fatty fish such as salmon and sardines
· Foods rich in prebiotic fiber promote the growth of good gut microbes, which aid the function of the skin barrier: legumes, onions, garlic, asparagus, artichokes, oats
· Foods rich in live, active cultures of good microbes (probiotics) may improve skin barrier recovery: yogurt, miso, sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, some vinegars, some pickled vegetables
· Foods rich in polyphenol phytonutrients may improve blood flow through the small blood vessels that supply the skin: grapes, berries, black beans
· In studies of human volunteers, higher levels of carotenoids in the skin impart a healthy glow: carrots, sweet potatoes, apricots, butternut squash
Watch this video to hear Dr. Rajani Katta discuss more about the amazing skin benefits of whole foods!
Dr. Katta’s Book “Glow” can be purchased on Amazon here.