I've always stressed to my celebrity and model clients the importance of taking care of their skin. Lets put it this way, a beautiful painting begins with a clean and beautiful canvas. You can buy the most luxurious and expensive makeup on the market however, if your skin is not healthy, you're not going to reach your full Glow Up potential. Yes, a good skincare routine is important but did you know that what you eat, as well as the internal balance of your body is even more important than what you apply on the surface? After all, our skin is a reflection of within. While getting my Comprehensive Wellness Analysis done, a service that tests for a range of food sensitivities, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, in addition to levels of cortisol and heavy metals in my system, I sat down with celebrity dermatologist Dr. Julie Russak to discuss. Cheers to healthier and more beautiful skin in 2018!
Are there any foods people with problematic skin (acne, rosacea, hyper pigmentation, eczema.) should avoid?
High sugar/processed foods. Many processed foods are loaded with chemicals our body cannot recognize. Our gut doesn’t know what to do with it and it causes inflammation in the body. Inflammation is the culprit behind every ailment known. On the other hand, a clean diet of nutrient dense foods such as organic vegetables, fruits and organic meat will lower inflammation and heal the body.
Why is it so important for us to find out what our food allergies are? How does what we eat influence how our skin looks?
Over half of the American population suffer from hidden food sensitivities, which when unaddressed stimulate chronic inflammation and may be a trigger for or associated with other medical conditions, such as eczema,
gastrointestinal diseases, allergies, anxiety, fatigue & weight gain.
Food allergies and food sensitivities are very different. A true food allergy causes an immune system reaction that affects numerous organs in the body. It can cause a range of symptoms. In some cases, an allergic food reaction can be severe or life threatening. Food intolerance symptoms are generally less serious and affect the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Since the GI system is responsible for our overall health, overtime unresolved food sensitivities can it lead to health concerns otherwise thought unrelated, such as allergies, anxiety and skin issues. You may not be allergic to a certain food group, but if you body has a hard time breaking it down, it will send out antigens to fight the “foreign invader”, stimulating inflammation in the body. This low-level inflammation builds up over time, depositing itself into your tissue. This cycle also can lead to Leaky Guy Syndrome, also known as intestinal permeability.
In leaky gut disorder, any of several triggers damages the lining of the small intestine, where most food is absorbed. The single most common of these triggering agents is an irritating food. This isn’t necessarily a food allergy, but rather food sensitivity. For example, say you’re sensitive to the gluten in wheat. Every time you eat a wheat product it irritates and inflames the lining of your intestine. Ultimately, this constant inflammation damages the protective barrier between the lining of your intestine and your bloodstream.
After weeks or months of this low-level inflammation, the intestinal lining becomes increasingly porous, and large molecules that were once kept away from your bloodstream now leak through. Once these molecules pass through into the bloodstream, it initiates an immune response to ward off the “invaders. These antibodies attach themselves to the macromolecules, just as they would to a virus or bacteria, creating what’s called an antigen-antibody complex (an antigen is a foreign body that can trigger an immune response).
How does a high in sugar diet negatively impact our skin?
Sugar spikes and dips cause inflammation and effect our insulin and cortisol levels. This up and down roller coaster greatly impacts our health. It's important to avoid foods that cause a rapid rise in blood sugar levels. Because they lack fiber, sugar and refined (white) grains are broken down and turned into glucose by your digestive system very, very quickly. This means that when you eat a lot of these carbs, your blood will very quickly be flooded with glucose. The result is a sharp spike in your blood glucose levels, or your blood sugar. A sudden spike in your blood sugar will give you instant energy but followed by a crash not long after. Your body wants to maintain a mid range blood sugar level. In this effort, a spike in blood sugar will cause your pancreas to start pumping insulin into your system to compensate. One of insulin’s responsibilities is to stabilize blood sugar. Insulin’s goal is to take the extra glucose out of your bloodstream and shove it into your cells. This will ensure the proper blood sugar level.
The problem is that your pancreas always overestimates how much insulin to release. Your pancreas sees a huge spike in blood glucose levels, so it starts cranking out insulin as quick as it can to try to catch up. The result is that too much glucose is removed from your blood. This results in a blood sugar crash, or very low blood sugar levels. Many people, in response to feeling that slump due to low blood sugar, will reach for some instant energy (refined carbs and sweets). This starts the cycle all over again.
Sugar spikes immediately lead to increased inflammation. Inflammation produces enzymes that break down collagen and elastin, resulting in lax skin, and wrinkles. Digested sugar binds to the collagen in your skin through a process known as glycation. Aside from increasing the effects of aging, glycation can also exacerbate skin conditions like acne and rosacea.
Usually, when you eat food, the body breaks down carbohydrates into sugars like glucose and fructose. It then uses these sugars to fuel everything you do. When we consume too many sugary or high-glycemic foods—these sugars react with proteins and fats in an abnormal way, producing harmful molecules called “advanced glycation end products (AGEs).” This process is called “glycation.” The more AGEs we have in our bodies, the more we age.
How do dairy and meats negatively influence our skin?
Dairy- hormones such as progesterone and insulin growth factors make their way into milk, which affect our natural hormones. Even if the milk says hormone free, which means no added hormones are given to the cow, the milk still naturally has hormones.
For patients that suffer from chronic cystic acne, breakouts and skin conditions, I recommend cutting dairy out of their diet for 3 months. At that time, they should see a significant improvement in their skin. They can reintroduce to test if they are sensitive to it, but typically they can tell by how they feel and how their skin looks if they are sensitive. Most patients at that time will opt not to reintroduce.
High quality meat, such as lean, organic protein is great in moderation. Meats that have antibiotics and hormones will negatively affect our gut, thus manifesting on the skin as all types of concerns.
For the meat eaters, is the key in eating organic meats with fewer hormones?
There are so many different labels out there and it can be quiet confusing to keep up with all of them. Cage-free, Grass-fed, All-natural, Non-GMO and Hormone-free to name a few. The reality is, the US Department of Agriculture does not allow use of any added hormones for our pork and poultry to be sold in the US. Hormone-free can be misleading, as the consumer may think one option is better than another. However, according to the FDA:
“The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved a number of steroid hormone drugs for use in beef cattle and sheep, including natural estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, and their synthetic versions. These drugs increase the animals’ growth rate and the efficiency by which they convert the feed they eat into meat.”
The organic label describes what the animal was not allowed to be in contact with. The animal cannot be confined in a feed lot for any extended period of time, cannot be over-crowded or kept in unsanitary conditions, and cannot be directly or indirectly exposed to artificial pesticides, fertilizers, antibiotics, hormones, GMOs, or other synthetic contaminants.
Grass-fed beef- This would be your best route when choosing meat. Choosing grass-fed beef indicates that the cattle was able to graze on their natural food source, grass, which is loaded with more nutrients and produces leaner, better quality meat. If not grass-fed, a common meal for cattle consists of corn and grains.
Organic, Free-Range Poultry- This means the chicken must be fed organic meal and be able graze the pasture for food.
Choosing high quality meat and organic produce will lessen the toxic/chemical load our bodies are absorbing. You are what you eat in every sense of the word. All the years of ingesting these chemicals add up and do manifest as skin conditions and medical ailments. Food is medicine. Our cells and DNA are made up of what we nourish it with. Garbage in, garbage out.
For those with problematic skin such as redness and breakouts, what would your top 3 suggestions be?
I actually have a top 4- Eliminate dairy, gluten, refined sugar and processed foods for 3 months.
What does your Comprehensive Wellness Analysis package include?
Our wellness package, a service that tests for a range of food sensitivities, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, in addition to levels of cortisol and heavy metals in a patient’s system, includes one-on-one health coaching with one of the leading experts in the field, Jennifer Hanway. Jennifer Hanway is a Holistic Nutritionist and Certified Personal Trainer. Rooted in science, Jennifer's individualized sessions create an inspiring and positive experience for each of her clients seeking to better their lives through improved health. Our Comprehensive Wellness Analysis is here to reveal important information about your body, while imparting crucial medical facts that will stay with you for a lifetime.
For more information regarding the wellness package and services, please contact Juliet Cavallaro, Marketing/Communications Director at Juliet@russakdermatology.com or (646) 873-7546 ext. 3.
I hope this has been insightful!