Sunday, February 04, 2007

Nails and Skin (And Hair)

Last week, we talked about how to take care of our hair. Since skin, and nails have similar properties to skin, we might as well go on and explore tips for taking care of them, as well.

Remember, skin and nails, like hair, are a reflection of what is going on in your body. Doctors can diagnose many conditions simply by examining the nails and skin, as well as the hair (and by looking at the eyes, teeth, and gums, as well!) So, if you would like to improve the external beauty of your skin and nails, you need to start with the essentials for overall good health: nutrition, hygiene, adequate circulation, rest, fresh hair, pure water, and exercise. If you attend to these, you get a double benefit: you will not only increase your loveliness quotient, you will feel better and have more energy to give to others, as well.

If your hair, skin, and nails are not all that you'd like them to be, start by examinging your diet. If all three are dull and weak, then consider the following: Am I getting enough protein in my diet? (Remember, your body needs protein to produce hair, nails, and skin cells. Thus, people on low-protein diets often have problems with their hair, skin, and nails. If you do not eat any animal-based protein of any kind, you will need to be extra-careful to make sure that you get what you need through sources such as nuts, beans and a grain combination, etc.)
Am I anemic? (Do not diagnose this yourself. You will need to take a simple blood test to be sure, as taking iron when you are not truly anemic can be harmful to your health. As with everything, don't go to excess. But, if you find your external apperance lacks luster, try to add a reasonable amount of healthy protein to your diet).

Do I have a thyroid problem? (Again, do not diagnose this yourself.)

Am I eating a diet that provides me with the range of vitamins and minerals that I need, particularly the B-vitamins, magnesium, zinc, and calcium? (Try to get your vitamins and minerals from food. If you want to back up your diet with a supplement, make sure the supplement is balanced. Taking high doses of one vitamin or mineral can make the rest of your body's chemistry get out of whack. And, some vitamins and minerals are toxic in high doses.)

Am I getting enough essential fatty acids through my diet? Flax oil, evening primrose oil, olive oil, and walnut oil are good sources of healthy fatty acids, as is eating fatty fishes, such as salmon. Note that evening primrose oil is beneficial for female hormone levels, but probably isn't the best thing to give to the men in your family. Also, some peope are allergic to primrose oil or to walnut oil. Also note that eating fish from polluted waters can give you a problem with too much mercury in your system, something that will surely damage your skin, hair, and nails. So, do your research and follow nutritional guidelines for eating fish or for buying pure fish oil supplements. This goes doubly if you are pregnant.

Am I getting enough vitamin C? This affects the health of your skin. Vitamin C is an essentail ingredient that the body uses in producing collagen, the protein that protects the outer layers of the skin. Frequent bruising can indicate a Vitamin C definiciency. Frequent bruising can result from other conditions as well, or may simpy be how your particular body normally responds to the little bumps of life. So, if you or a member of your family bruises frequently, seek medical attention to be sure what the root cause is.

If you have acne, you may have been told that it comes from eating chocolate, fatty foods, or refined starches or some other food. In truth, acne is one skin condition that really isn't affected all that much by our diet -- at least not in the way a lot of common myths claim. Acne results from hormonal influences that cause an overproduction of oil glands. This overproduction of the oil glands interacts with bacteria on the skin to produce the breakouts we associate with acne. Your genes, your stress levels, the type of skin tissue you have, your insulin levels, and where you are in your menstral cycle are greater factors in acne than what you eat at a particular meal. If you do have acne, it's good to eat a generally healthy diet. You do want to increase fresh goods and cut down on processed foods, as there is a possible connection between eating too many processed foods and the hormone/insulin imbalances associated with acne. But, a little chocolate now and again or a reasonable amount of healthy fatty oils or even the occasional french fry probably won't hurt you.

Many skin creams, nail products, and hair products have vitamins. minerals, or anti-oxidants in them. Do these work? Well, some of these agents do act as exfolients, which cause your skin to slough off dead cells more quickly, revealing the younger skin underneath. And, some may provide sunscreen protection. However, overall, I'd have to say the answer to the question is...maybe. Remember that externally applied cosmetic products do not have to meet FDA regulations. That means they do not have to prove claims they make about a nutrient. For example, a company may claim that the Vitamin C in their moisturizer builds healthy collagen without having to pass rigorous governmental standards of proof. So, be wary of paying big bucks for a product simply because it lists a certain vitamin or mineral in its ingredient list. It's doubtful that the vitamin or mineral would hurt your body, but it might hurt your pocketbook!


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