How food affects hair and nails

Everything you put into your body can have an impact on your appearance – and your skin and hair are no exception. There are a variety of foods and even supplements that can improve the vibrancy of skin and hair, and a couple of sources have already elaborated on the subject.

The Huffington Post recently indicated that some foods may not be the best choices for people who want to keep skin and hair in tip top shape, while other foods could enhance the condition of hair and nails. At the start of the Post’s article, dermatologist Jessica Wu. M.D. told the news provider that hair and skin may be more significant indicators of good health than many people realize.

“Both are a barometer of how well (or how poorly) you’re feeding the body, as well as your overall health.” she said, according to the news provider.

In light of her advice, here are a few lesser-known tips for keeping up hair and nail health.

Make sure you’re getting enough minerals
Pointing to a report from Reader’s Digest, Huffington Post says zinc is often lacking in the diets of individuals who are finding white flakes under their nails. While some people assume these flakes are calcium deposits, the source states that this is not so. In fact, these white flakes may be the result of not getting enough iron and zinc, both of which are frequently found in certain types of fish.  Wu also told the source that protein may be essential to the growth of healthy hair and nails, as the two sometimes fashionable parts of the body are comprised mostly of protein.

Ditto for omega-3s
While the Huffington Post advises against consuming too much fish with a high-mercury content, ​the website Healthy Food makes the opposite case for many other types of fish. The healthy fatty acid in fish oil – especially as it appears in salmon, sardines and tuna may have positive effects for a person’s “dermatitis” and “psoriasis,” which are scientific terms for hair and nails.

Vitamin C and vitamin A
The Huffington Post also points out that too much vitamin A could actually harm hair. However, Healthy Food points out that a small amount of vitamin A could help keep hair, skin and nails shiny. In addition, vitamin C adds to the creation of skin-supporting collagen, and also been said to have antioxidant effects.

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Skin health and sleep may be closely related

Studies have suggested that getting a regular night's sleep can have all kinds of long-term benefits for cardiovascular health. However, a new article released by Everyday Health dictates that sleep can possibly have significant impact on skin health as well. 

It would seem getting enough "beauty sleep" is more than just an expression, according to some sources.

"Poor sleep can lead to increased stress hormones in the body that increase the severity of inflammatory skin conditions such as acne or psoriasis," Jessica Krant, M.D., a SUNY Downstate Medical Center assistant clinical professor of dermatology, told Everyday Health. "Getting a good night's sleep will help to clear up skin, which allows sleep to improve and, in turn, will improve skin health."

The first two reasons on the Huffington Post's list pertain to acne and other unsightly skin issues, while the third is an example of how immune health related to the skin can be hindered by not sleeping enough. Specifically, it can increase the odds of developing psoriasis. Krant went on to state that psoriasis can harm heart health. On top of the adverse effects not getting enough sleep can have on the external appearance of skin, it can also make weight management more difficult, as being excessively tired has been known to increase appetite while draining the energy a person needs to burn calories.

More reasons to sleep more
Lists of reasons why sleeping enough is good for your health are certainly easy to find. In a Huffington Post blog, psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Jeff Deitz, M.D., compared some people's nonchalant attitudes toward sleep to the tobacco epidemic in terms of how damaging it may be for the well-being of the public. 

But getting a proper night's rest can enhance more than just people's physical appearance and health. The Huffington Post has also reported on a study from the Journal of Sleep Research, which showed that well-rested test subjects did better at a game designed to emulate casino gambling than a group that had been sleep deprived. So if you're planning on taking a vacation to Las Vegas anytime soon, it might be a good idea to make sure you get plenty of shuteye in before you hit the card tables. 

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Enjoy natural skin beauty boosters with these healthy foods

Has your skin been looking a little dull lately? Getting tired of piling on makeup to get the beautiful glow you want? Well, you might want to consider shifting your diet toward more skin-friendly foods. Believe it or not, there are a variety of different dishes that can boost the overall look and feel of your skin. Even better, many of these foods can help with weight loss and cardiovascular health as well. So which foods should you start incorporating into your everyday diet for more beautiful skin? Consider the following dishes for a healthy, glowing appeal.

Whether you say tomato or… well… tomato, these delicious FRUITS (no, they're not vegetables – stop calling them that!) can do wonders for your beauty, notes U.S. News & World Report. That's because they're filled with lycopene, a substance that offers a reddish pigment for your skin. As if that wasn't enough, tomatoes may also treat free radicals and ultraviolet (UV) sun damage, which can prematurely age your skin.

Dark chocolate
While it's not healthy in the traditional sense, chocolate can aid with the look of your beautiful skin, reports Not only is cocoa great for hydrating dry skin, but dark chocolate in particular is rich with antioxidants known as flavonols, which help counteract signs of aging skin. Of course, you might want to limit your chocolate intake if you're concerned about weight management.

Just like dark chocolate, almonds pack quite a punch when it comes to antioxidant levels. According to Men's Health, these delicious nuts contain plenty of vitamin E, which can help combat sun-exposure damage to your skin caused by UV rays and free radicals. So if you're looking for an indulgent snack that's also good for your skin, you might want to consider a few dark chocolate almond squares.

If you're a fan of seafood, you're going to love this next entry. U.S. News & World Report recommends eating mussels to keep your skin from looking worn out and pale. This is because these tiny shellfish are loaded with iron, which can keep your skin looking its best. In fact, even a few ounces of mussels each day can take care of about a third of your recommended iron intake.

Have you noticed a few crow's-feet developing around your eyes? Well, suggests eating a few flavorful peppers for treating wrinkles. The best varieties for improving the skin around your eyes are green and yellow peppers, and the source also notes that antioxidants orange vegetables can help reduce damage from the sun.

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Physician assistant calls antioxidants ‘the James Bond of the body’


In the battle against everyday pollutants, toxins and unhealthy behaviors, antioxidants are one of the best weapons. That's because these vitamins work in the body to fight free radicals, highly charged ions caused by many of the toxins people encounter on a regular basis. Even though antioxidants have been a major health topic for many years now, there are probably a fair amount of people out there who still don't understand exactly what these vitamins are and what they do.

Recently, CNN published an article by dermatology physician assistant Sarah Neumann, who explained how antioxidants are the "James Bond" of the body.

Stealth health heros

"They team up against disease and diffuse free radicals while combating the aging process.Their name: Oxidants – antioxidants. Just like James Bond, they work to save the world and beautiful women from bad guys. Only this time the beautiful woman is you and the free radicals (bad guys) are invading your body. They're working to keep you feeling healthy and looking young," Neumann wrote for the news source.

According to the National Institutes of Health, there are many antioxidant substances. These include lycopene and vitamin C, which can be found in many foods such as tomatoes, oranges, grapefruit, watermelon, bell peppers and some cruciferous vegetables, like broccoli.

For people who aren't big fans of fruits and vegetables, there are alternative sources of antioxidants. Coffee, green tea, beans, ground cloves, cinnamon, ginger and even chocolate are all rich with antioxidants, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Multiple benefits

Neumann wrote that antioxidants can help the body from the inside out. For example, she stated that while sunscreen and moisturizer keep the skin looking young, a person's diet can also have an impact. Studies have shown that consuming antioxidant-rich foods  fight off the effects of aging on the skin. Furthermore, antioxidant serum may help with dull complexions, fight wrinkles and potentially even out skin tone.

The physician assistant added that antioxidants don't only fight off the effects of aging, but also prevent some of the harms caused by everyday pollutants. These vitamins have been shown to help protect the body from pollution and secondhand smoke.

Clearly, there are many reasons to get more antioxidants into your diet. Taking a multivitamin may also help you consume more of these healthy, important substances.

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New study links pycnogenol to skin health support

A powerful antioxidant known as pycnogenol may play an important role in supporting skin health, according to a new study published in the journal Skin Pharmacology and Physiology.

A team of German researchers assessed the appearance and physical properties of the skin of 20 postmenopausal women both before and after pycnogenol supplementation. The investigators were looking for signs of aging measurements associated with poor skin health.

The results showed that pycnogenol supplementation improved skin elasticity and hydration. Additionally, the participants boosted their skin levels of hyaluronic acid, a compound commonly associated with good skin health, and collagen.

Based on the findings, the team concluded that individuals who are looking to support the condition of their skin may benefit from taking pycnogenol supplements. The products were linked to improvements in a number of areas of health.

Findings from the study confirm earlier research linking the antioxidant to support for skin health. The growing knowledge of pycnogenol's dermatological effects could help make the nutrient more widely used.

The antioxidant has gained notoriety in recent years, as a growing number of scientific investigations have linked it to a broad array of health benefits. It is derived the bark of a French maritime pine tree, so there are relatively few natural food sources of pycnogenol. Individuals who are interested in its effects may need to take supplements.

Doing so is easier today than it ever has been, as the growing scientific evidence supporting its use has caused an increase in demand. Pycnogenol supplements are now more common than they have ever been, and shoppers can find them in many retail locations.

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Antioxidants support skin health, experts say

Most people who want to improve their skin health look to creams and soaps. However, experts say that the best thing a person can do is to eat a healthier diet and get plenty of vitamins and antioxidants.

Baylor University researcher John Wolf told the school's news source that many people overlook the importance of diet when it comes to the condition of their skin. They may think that a chocolate bar or fast food meal can cause an acne breakout but they rarely stop to consider the degree to which beneficial nutrients support skin health.

In particular, he said that resveratrol has been shown to have a major impact on supporting the condition of a person's skin. This is because it may neutralize potentially damaging free radicals in the skin.

"Resveratrol is found in dark colored foods such as grapes, blueberries and pomegranates," Wolf told the news source. "These may help slow the signs of aging, in the body and on the skin."

Since resveratrol is not recognized as essential nutrient, there are no formal daily intake recommendations, but research published in the journal Free Radical Biology and Medicine has shown that the body can handle about 250 milligrams per day.

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Pycnogenol® shown to support skin health

Regardless of how old a person is or how the present condition of their skin health looks, it is still possible to support a healthy appearance. New research suggests that the antioxidant Pycnogenol® may play an important role in this.

A team of investigators from the Leibniz Research Institute for Environmental Medicine in Germany assessed the impact of a daily Pycnogenol® supplement on the skin health of 20 women between the ages of 50 and 68.

The results showed that the supplement increased the production of several compounds that are key to supporting skin health, including hyaluronic acid. The researchers said their findings underscore the important role that Pycnogenol® can play in supporting healthy skin.

"To date, Pycnogenol® is the only natural supplement that stimulates hyaluronic acid production in human skin. And, we are encouraged by the molecular evidence confirmed in this study that shows nutritional supplementation with Pycnogenol® benefits human skin," explains Dr. Jean Krutmann, who led the study.

Individuals who are concerned about their skin health may benefit from taking Pycnogenol® supplements. 

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Eat your vitamins to boost your beard

Some men are lucky enough to have been able to grow lush facial hair since their early teen years. Others struggle through most of their adult lives unable to sprout more than a couple whiskers. Fortunately, experts say men in the latter group may be able to support their facial by consuming high levels of vitamins and other nutrients.

"The condition of your facial hair directly corresponds to the health of your body," Jim White, a registered dietitian and spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association, told ABC Montana. "The same nutrients that have a positive effect on our heart and other major organs also benefit our skin and hair."

He added that vitamin A is one of the most important nutrients for facial hair. This nutrient is known to play a role in the growth of new cells, which could be important when it comes to the production of fresh facial hair.

The National Library of Medicine adds that vitamin C provides powerful support to skin health, which may include the healthy growth of hair.

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Nutritional Support for Skin Health

This is part of our ongoing The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging spotlight. Each week, we will be posting some of the great information that’s packed into our book, The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging.

Today’s topic:
Nutritional Support for Skin Health

Skin health is a direct reflection of health overall. What’s on the inside is expressed on the outside. In many traditions worldwide, skin health has been related to “impurities” and “toxins” in the blood. Furthermore, several traditional medical systems advocate supporting the efficiency of the liver and detoxifying organs of the body as a means of enhancing skin health. It makes sense that an excessive level of “toxins” in circulation could potentially cause blemishes on the skin. Thus, supporting liver health as a means of supporting healthy skin is a viable approach.

Besides the liver, poor skin health has been related to digestive function. Our digestive tracts are one of the means for the outside world to make direct contact with our insides, especially in the realm of foods and diet. It’s also where many of our food intolerances are developed, either because of immune deficiencies or because of defects in our digestive capacities. Another contributing factor is bacteria and yeast that normally populate our digestive tract. If the bacterial flora is health-promoting, they help digest our food and aid in extracting skin-healthy nutrients from the diet. If the bacterial flora is unhealthy, we fail to take full advantage of the nutrients contained within the foods we eat. Unhealthy bacteria and yeast can also excrete toxins into the gut that can add to the toxic burden our bodies have to deal with, eventually affecting the health of our skin.

A further aspect related to skin health that is important to keep in mind is that the skin itself is a major barrier, which shields and protects our bodies from the ravages of our environment. Intact skin functions to protect us from potential insults that we are exposed to in the world in which we live. Damaged skin compromises this protective shield, leading to compromises in immune defenses and other health problems.

When considering supporting skin health, think about nourishing the skin (and body) from within. What’s healthy for the body is healthy for the skin. Ensuring that our diets contain nutrients that are healthy and support the structural needs of the skin is the first step. The next step is to ensure optimal digestive function and to ramp up the detoxifying ability of the liver. Finally, limiting the effects of environmental exposures that can compromise skin health is also important.

Keeping Healthy Skin Healthy
Healthy skin is smooth, soft, and supple, with a nice uniform color and the sheen of youthfulness. Discolorations and other blemishes aren’t just unsightly – they alert you to the less-thanoptimal health status of your natural outer covering. The beneficial effects of your favorite creams, which contribute important nutrients and hydration from the outside, can be augmented by including several skin-friendly nutrients in your diet.

Pycnogenol to Enhance Venous Tone and Circulation
Pycnogenol strengthens the ability of small blood vessels in the skin to resist oxidative damage.1 Results of recently published human clinical trials confirm the power of Pycnogenol to promote healthy, well-nourished skin by supporting healthy circulation and vein health.2,3 Pycnogenol also contains compounds that have potent antioxidant properties to support the skin’s immune defenses.

Hyaluronic Acid for Skin Elasticity
Aging skin contains less hyaluronic acid. Because hyaluronic acid is the most abundant water-binding glycosaminoglycan in healthy skin, loss of hyaluronic acid results in loss of elasticity and increased density – giving skin a dry and wrinkled appearance. Adding hyaluronic acid back to skin increases its moisture content and flexibility.

Exposure to sunlight also dries skin and reduces its flexibility. Increasing the hyaluronic acid content of skin increases its resistance to the deleterious effects of sunlight. A paper published recently in the Journal of Pharmacology and Pharmaceutical Science has shown hyaluronic acid to be a powerful antioxidant within the skin that prevents wrinkle-producing free radical damage of the skin as well as maintaining the normal level of hydration within the skin.4

Hyaluronic acid promotes flexible and supple skin, which makes it an ideal candidate for your skin anti-aging program.

Smooth Out Your Coloration with Nutrition
Extracts of pomegranate fruit can help decrease your skin’s tendency to develop spotty pigmentation after exposure to sunlight. In research published recently in Bioscience, Biotechnology and Biochemistry, the consumption of pomegranate extract prevented much of the excess pigmentation that otherwise was caused by sunlight exposure.5 Other research published recently in Photochemistry and Photobiology has shown that pomegranate extract blocks the effects of ultraviolet light on the chemical pathways in the skin that can produce the unsightly signs of skin aging.6

Discolored spots on the skin can be caused by excessive oxidation within the skin – usually triggered by unprotected exposure to a little too much sun. Those great antioxidant vitamins, vitamin C and vitamin E, can intercept runaway melanin production in your skin – a major cause of the undesirable appearance of photoaged skin. But these vitamins never are as powerful as when they are combined with other targeted nutrients such as melatonin, which works in concert with the antioxidant vitamins to keep skin from overreacting to sunlight.

Another key to healthy skin is filling your diet with colorful phytonutrients! A growing body of research shows that men and women who supplement their diets with ß-carotene, lutein and lycopene (along with vitamin C and vitamin E) can increase the ability of their skin to withstand sunlight without burning – powerful additional antioxidant support for a good sunscreen!

Stay Cool and Remain Refreshed – Both Are Good for Your Skin
Iced tea is for beating the heat inside your body – and it also helps you handle the sun’s energy on the outside. Iced tea, and especially green tea, adds nutrients to your skin that increase its natural barrier to sunlight penetration. Research findings published recently in the Chinese Medical Journal and in the Journal of Nutrition testify to the protective properties of the phytonutrients in tea and especially in green tea.7,8 It turns out green tea contains phytochemicals that have superb antioxidant activity. This property of tea allows it to confer potent protection to skin cells.

Lose Excess Fat for a Trimmer Appearance and More Supple Skin
You knew that if you could get yourself to limit your intake of fats you could drop a few pounds and trim your shape. You also need to know that that excess layer of fat you have built up between your skin and the rest of your body acts to dry out and stiffen your skin.9 Take home message – don’t take the fat home – leave it in the store or restaurant and help your skin draw admiration to your entire appearance.

Fish Oil for Skin Cell Communication
The essential fatty acids contained in fish oil are extremely beneficial for the skin. Our diets generally contain a large proportion of unhealthy fats and a high percentage of omega-6 fatty acids. However, cell membranes preferentially use the omega-3 fats from fish for incorporation into their membranes. These fats facilitate cell-to-cell communication and enhance the ability of cells to flush toxins out and push nutrients in, keeping cells healthy. While this is the case with cells throughout the body, this is also certainly true for skin cells. Thus, for truly vibrant skin, eat wild-caught fish that is loaded with omega-3 oils and supplement with a high-quality fish oil supplement.

Healthy Bacteria = Healthy Skin
Digestive function can have a big impact on skin health. Probiotic organisms are bacteria that produce beneficial health effects in the body and support optimal digestive function and nutrient absorption. Thus, supplementing with probiotics can have beneficial effects on the skin as they facilitate nutrient utilization by the body.

Support the Liver, Support the Skin
The liver is the major detoxifier of the body. Keeping the blood free and clear of toxins can have a large effect on the appearance of the skin. By enhancing the liver’s detoxifying efficiency, you can ensure that toxins in circulation are properly neutralized. Herbs such as milk thistle and turmeric, and nutrients such as N-acetylcysteine and other antioxidants, play a role in supporting liver function. See the Liver Support chapter for more information on liver-healthy practices.

Supporting the skin begins with promoting the health of the digestive tract and liver, and providing optimal levels of nutrients that directly support skin health. Incorporating skin healthy dietary practices and therapeutic nutrients into your daily regimen can leave your skin supple, youthful, and glowing. The skin is a reflection of what’s underneath. Keep it happy by nourishing your insides.

Next Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging topic:
Nutritional Support for Bone Health

1. Gulati OP. Pycnogenol in venous disorders: A review. Eur Bull Drug Res 1999;7:8-13.
2. Belcaro G, Cesarone MR, Errichi BM, Ledda A, Di Renzo A, Stuard S, Dugall M, Pellegrini L, Rohdewald P, Ippolito E, Ricci A, Cacchio M, Ruffini I, Fano F, Hosoi M. Venous ulcers: Microcirculatory improvement and faster healing with local use of Pycnogenol. Angiology 2005;56:699-705.
3. Cesarone MR, Belcaro G, Rohdewald P, Pellegrini L, Ledda A, Vinciguerra G, Ricci A, Gizzi G, Ippolito E, Fano F, Dugall M, Acerbi G, Cacchio M, Di Renzo A, Hosoi M, Stuard S, Corsi M. Comparison of Pycnogenol and Daflon in treating chronic venous insufficiency: A prospective, controlled study. Clin Appl Thromb Hemost 2006;12:205- 212.
4. Trommer H, Neubert RH. Screening for new antioxidative compounds for topical administration using skin lipid model systems. J Pharm Pharm Sci 2005;8:494-506.
5. Yoshimura M, Watanabe Y, Kasai K, Yamakoshi J, Koga T. Inhibitory effect of an ellagic acid-rich pomegranate extract on tyrosinase activity and ultraviolet-induced pigmentation. Biosci Biotechnol Biochem 2005;69:2368-2373.
6. Syed DN, Malik A, Hadi N, Sarfaraz S, Afaq F, Mukhtar H. Photochemopreventive effect of pomegranate fruit extract on UVA-mediated activation of cellular pathways in normal human epidermal keratinocytes. Photochem Photobiol 2006;82:398-405.
7. Song XZ, Bi ZG, Xu AE. Green tea polyphenol epigallocatechin-3- gallate inhibits the expression of nitric oxide synthase and generation of nitric oxide induced by ultraviolet B in HaCaT cells. Chin Med J 2006;119:282-287.
8. Heinrich U, Neukam K, Tronnier H, Sies H, Stahl W. Long-term ingestion of high flavanol cocoa provides photoprotection against UV-induced erythema and improves skin condition in women. J Nutr 2006;136:1565-1569.
9. Boelsma E, van de Vijver LP, Goldbohm RA, Klopping-Ketelaars IA, Hendriks HF, Roza L. Human skin condition and its associations with nutrient concentrations in serum and diet. Am J Clin Nutr 2003;77:348-355.

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Supplementation is key to maintaining adequate vitamin D levels

While there may be a number of ways individuals can get more vitamin D, any one on its own is likely to be inadequate. This is part of the reason why many experts recommend that individuals consider taking nutritional supplements.

Mary Ann Giacona, who operates the Center for Wellness in Auburn, New York, wrote in the Auburn Citizen that there are many different ways people can get vitamin D. The most obvious source is food. However, only a few foods, including fish, mushrooms and fortified products, have the nutrient.

The skin naturally produces vitamin D following exposure to UV radiation from the sun or tanning beds. However, these sources may have unintended consequences, such as poor skin health.

"The other option is supplementing through cod liver oil, which is a great source of vitamin D," Giacona wrote.

Alternatively, people can take multivitamins, which contain most of the 600 to 800 international units of vitamin D that an individual should get on a daily basis. For those who think even this level is inadequate, there are also specialty supplements that contain larger doses. 

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