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You Are What You Eat

By: Howard Murad, MD
Posted: August 26, 2009, from the September 2009 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.

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The following foods should be purchased as organic because they commonly are very contaminated with pesticides: peaches, apples, sweet bell peppers, celery, nectarines, strawberries, cherries, pears, imported grapes, spinach, lettuce and potatoes.

Onions, avocados, sweet corn, pineapples, mangos, asparagus, sweet peas, kiwi, bananas, cabbage, broccoli and papaya are consistently clean, according to EWG, and regularly don’t have any detectable pesticide residues.

In addition to fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and healthy fats provide the nutrients the body needs for optimal nutrition. Moreover, consuming scientifically formulated dietary supplements can also be helpful because they offer the nutritional insurance needed to further optimize an individual’s personal nutrition profile. Supplements cannot replace foods, however, especially because good sources of fiber, such as fruits and vegetables, are sorely needed. Supplements should only be used to augment the diet. For supplement recommendations, see Daily Supplements.

Inflammation and cell water loss

Whether eaten in food form or taken as a supplement, an internal skin care program should incorporate plenty of anti-inflammatory foods and dietary nutrients. As a person ages, the body develops an ability to react disproportionately—either too much or too little—to what it perceives as an injury or invasion. Inflammation is really a sign that the body is attempting to protect itself. It is also a sign of cellular water loss. Inflammation causes cell damage and has been linked to countless conditions from Alzheimer’s disease to diabetes to heart disease, and even to wrinkles. When cells are not fully hydrated, they cannot function at optimal levels, and this leads to cell damage and aging. Additionally, when cells deteriorate, the immune response does not function well. So, based on this water principle, the collective idea is to reinforce cellular membranes, prevent cell water loss and encourage the accumulation of intracellular water to ensure that all cells and connective tissues function at their optimum levels. But drinking water isn’t the answer—the cells have to be fed. An anti-inflammatory diet will fortify connective tissues, cells and their membranes with the antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and lipids they need for quick healing, resiliency and supple, youthful skin.

Anti-inflammatory foods

Anti-inflammatory foods include those stocked with antioxidants, or brightly colored fruits and vegetables, and healthful, essential fatty acid (EFA)-rich protein. In skin cells, such as those found in the stratum corneum, EFAs in cell membranes actually enhance the immune system as they strengthen the skin’s barrier function. In other words, EFAs play a part in cutaneous immunity. Obtaining a large amount of EFAs through outside sources is essential to total health. In addition, alpha-linoleic and gamma-linolenic acids are ceaseless inflammation-stoppers, as is durian extract and even sulfur.