There are many different health conditions that can affect your hair, skin and nails. When you suffer from these, your body will first direct its rejuvenating resources to these attending to the health of your hair, skin and nails. As we have said before in these blogs, beauty begins from the inside of your body. So what are some of these health conditions that can affect my hair skin and nails that I should be paying attention to?
Let’s start with your stomach. Your ability to digest food is directly linked to your eating habits. Poor digestion can lead to dysbiosis, a disruption of the harmonious balance of the different populations of bacteria in your gut that promotes good health. The biological link between how the bacteria in your stomach can effect the appearance of your skin remains a topic of research, but much evidence points to inflammatory responses that result in conditions such as alopecia (loss of hair) and vitiligo (patchy skin), where a direct link between skin patches and bacteria population has been observed. You can help keep the bacteria in your gut in balance by ensuring you are getting sufficient levels of the B-complex vitamins, calcium, magnesium, beta-carotene and zinc, and ensure that your diet contains ample amounts of dark leafy greens, oily fish and fresh meat.
Hormonal imbalances are another common root cause of poor skin, hair and nail health. Hormones are chemicals produced by glands (thyroid, pituitary, thymus, parathyroid and adrenal) in your endocrine system. They are responsible for regulating many processes in your body including appetite, metabolism, sleep, mood, stress levels and even your heart rate. Like your gut bacteria, all is well when their levels are maintained in balance, but often many aspects of our lives creep up on us and introduce imbalances. Puberty, menstrual cycle, menopause are examples, but there are others as well. When these imbalances occur, our skin can be affected in different ways. If too much testosterone is generated, an over production of sebum, otherwise essential for skin health, tips the scales to excess oil production creating an excellent environment on your skin for bacterial growth, inflammation and outbreaks of acne.
On the other hand, if insufficient estrogen is generated (and estrogen levels fluctuate wildly during the menstrual cycle), your skin may become dry and flaky, as estrogen is linked to maintaining skin moisture. It can also increase your susceptibility to skin irritation. As a result, some may find themselves more sensitive to certain soaps, fabrics, and other beauty products, which may lead to an uncontrollable urge to scratch, exacerbating the skin irritation.
And before we finish with hormonal imbalances, let’s talk about your daily stress level. Has your job got you all twisted in knots or are you encompassed by personal problems that have you stressed out? High levels of stress can alter the levels of many chemicals in our bodies including the hormone cortisol. Variations in cortisol levels can lead to flare ups of psoriasis or atopic dermatitis in those already suffering from these conditions.
Finally, there is one more hormone we can briefly mention that is strongly associated with a disease that afflicts more and more people each year – diabetes. And the hormone we are referring to is insulin. We have discussed this in much greater detail in another blog. Suffice it to say that without proper levels of insulin, your body will eventually become dehydrated, and by extension your skin and hair as well. Through a separate biological process (but still insulin and diabetes related) deeper wrinkling, skin yellowing and poor skin elasticity can result.
Now let’s turn to an organ in our body that works tirelessly 24/7 to maintain our health and is generally underappreciated but just as vital as the heart – our liver. At any given time, approximately 13% or about 1 pint of your total blood supply will be located in the liver. It has over 500 functions but some of the most important are the breaking down of food and converting it into energy, the detoxification of our blood, acting as a storage depot for vitamins, minerals and other essential chemicals and for generating the proteins and enzymes responsible for many chemical reactions in the body, such as the repair of damaged tissues. But with an overexposure of toxins, the liver becomes tired less effective, meaning toxins escape its cleansing action and find their ways to other parts of our body such as the skin. The accumulation of these toxins in the deeper layers of the skin can result in the body mounting an inflammatory response which can lead to skin conditions such as dermatitis, eczema, premature skin wrinkling, brown liver spots, psoriasis and acne just to name a few. Another liver related conditional you may be familiar with, but in the context of infant health, is jaundice. But a taxed liver can bring symptoms of jaundice in adults too, and not only can your skin tell you this, but you may also your previously glowing eyes are not as striking as they once were because of a yellowing in their whites.
Finally, they say you are what you eat and we all make dietary choices for different reasons. It is important to fully understand the consequences of these choices because although on the surface they may all seem to be very healthy, there may be some hidden consequences. Some may think that adopting a vegetarian diet will help their skin appearance. And it likely will because it will force you to increase the consumption of fruits and vegetables which promote good skin health. But if you already eat a wide variety and sufficient amount of fruits and vegetables, there is no evidence that introducing fresh meat to your diet will be detrimental to your skin health (processed meats are a different story). However, those that opt for a vegan diet do risk a deficiency of some essential vitamins and minerals (iron and some of the complex B vitamins are the usual culprits) that can lead to darkening of the skin, circles under the eyes and an increased brittleness of hair and nails. Vegans should give dietary supplementation serious consideration, in particular, for those vitamins and minerals mentioned above as well as for omega 3 fatty acids that are rich in fish and eggs.
Take away message
Health conditions that can affect your hair, skin and nails can vary wildly and stem from different origins, ranging from chronic disease to lifestyle choices. All diseases will have an impact on the health of your skin as the body redirects resources to combat those particular conditions. But aspects of everyday life can also impact skin health. Your exposure to toxins may be quite high if you live and work in an urban centre, your day-to-day stress brought about through work or personal problems may be reaching worrisome levels, and hormonal imbalances that may be natural or externally induced can all play roles. Just remember that the health of your skin is an excellent reflection of the health of your body, and if your skin is not looking as beautiful as normal, consider that there may be an underlying reason for this that you may need to address, either through a lifestyle change or consulting a physician.