The Importance of a Healthy Lifestyle
These days, feeling good is just as important as looking good. More than ever, people are appreciating the importance of a healthy lifestyle. This is not surprising since more than 50% of diseases in the United States are caused by an unhealthy lifestyle.[1,2]
Not only are these diseases deadly and costly, but they are also very preventable. A highly processed diet, lack of exercise, excess stress levels, tobacco and alcohol use all contribute to the high, rising rates of chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, depression, and obesity. While modern medicine has done wonders in treating emergent diseases, it has not been as effective when it comes to more chronic diseases.
How are these facts relevant to the skin, you may ask? The skin is an incredibly important part of the body, and all organ systems in the body work together to maintain a balanced state. Chances are if one system is off, other organs are also being affected on some level.
Lifestyle Factors Affecting Health
The effects of an unhealthy lifestyle are also increasingly being noted in dermatology. Proper nutrition is essential for skin health, yet most Americans exceed the recommendations for added sugars, saturated fats, and sodium. We depend on essential vitamins and minerals found in our diet to maintain healthy skin function, yet many people also don’t meet the daily minimum requirements for nutrients in their diet.
Influence of diet on skin health
The typical American diet, high in refined carbohydrates and omega-6 fatty acids, has also been associated with acne. It’s well known that smoking and sun exposure can cause premature aging, but so can high levels of sugar in the diet. [5,6] On the other hand, a low glycemic diet, high in omega-3 fatty acids has been associated with decreased risk of acne and skin cancer.[7-12] The quality of food we eat also makes a difference as food additives and preservatives can worsen eczema.
Influence of stress on skin health
Stress is also another factor of daily life that impacts many of us and has also been associated with worsening of acne, eczema, and psoriasis.[14-16] Furthermore, stress-relieving activities such as meditation and mindfulness practices have been shown to improve psoriasis. Yoga and exercise also offer many benefits for the mind and the skin. [18,19]
What’s the Solution?
Modern medicine’s solutions to dermatological issues typically come from a prescription pill or a cream. While these therapies can be very effective, they also come with many side effects. Antibiotics, for example, can cause antibiotic resistance related diseases and disrupt the gut microbiome’s balance. Pills also can’t change an unhealthy lifestyle, which is why disease prevention and lifestyle modification is key. Fortunately, science, medicine, and alternative healing modalities are coming together to provide people with more options for their health.
Integrative Medicine and Dermatology
Integrative medicine is a newer branch of medicine that aims to provide solutions where conventional philosophy yet has not. It is a patient-centered approach that focuses on the root cause of disease and the whole person – not just physical symptoms. Treatments are not one-size-fits-all, but rather personalized for the individual. Pharmaceutical agents and surgical procedures are recommended when necessary, and the goal is to prevent the need for drastic approaches in the first place. A healthy lifestyle including a balanced diet, exercise, stress management, and adequate sleep are emphasized. Moreover, integrative medicine incorporates alternative healing modalities such as herbs, nutraceuticals, and acupuncture when appropriate with an emphasis on evidence-based approaches.
Emerging research in dermatology
Integrative approaches have been shown to be effective in dermatology. Research has shown how probiotics may help improve acne, as well as prevent eczema and sun damage.[20-23] The colorful Ayurvedic herb turmeric is more than just a delicious culinary spice, as it has been found to contain anti-inflammatory properties that benefit the skin.[24,25] For thousands of years, Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda have considered healthy digestion central to wellness. This ancient concept is now being explored and researched as the gut microbiome appears to influence the whole body.
Integrative medicine also recognizes the effects of the environment on the body. Since our skin is the first point of contact with our environment, it is especially important to protect it. Many skin products contain potentially harmful chemicals that can ultimately be absorbed into the body. Fortunately, the field of integrative dermatology is expanding to include safer skin care products. Cosmeceuticals containing antioxidants, for example, can provide powerful anti-inflammatory, photoprotective and antiaging skin benefits. [27-29] The scientific research in this unique and much-needed field only continues to grow.
Be Your Own Skin Wellness Advocate
With all of the abundant health information at our fingertips, it can be difficult to determine what’s best for our health and skin. Recognizing that we all have a great deal of influence over our health is the first step to developing an optimal skincare regimen. The growing field of integrative dermatology will continue to bring safe, effective skin care products and treatments, providing more options for maintaining healthy skin.
Are you interested in learning more about integrative dermatology? Sign up for the world’s first Integrative Dermatology Symposium here.