Inflammation has been linked to cancer, arthritis, Alzheimer’s and heart disease.
Here’s how it can also lead to aging skin.
Everyone is talking about inflammation these days, and for good reason. “We’re understanding that inflammation is a huge culprit in certain types of cancer and rheumatoid arthritis,” says Dr. Julie Russak, founder of the Russak Dermatology Clinic in NYC. “And inflammation can really destroy the skin,” she continues. “If inflammation is high, it can destroy proteins and lead to lines and wrinkles, redness and crepey skin.”
When the body is inflamed, according to Dr. Russak, you start losing moisture from the inside, and skin can begin to look dry and dull on the outside. Symptoms of inflammation can also include hair loss, eczema, acne and rough red patches.
Some inflammation, of course, can be helpful. For example, when you catch a virus and your body responds with a fever, then ramps up production of white cells to fight it off, which is acute inflammation. But chronic inflammation is the bad guy. It can throw the body’s balance (homeostasis) out of whack, and put you at higher risk for premature aging and disease.
Dr. Russak recommends reducing inflammation throughout the body by taking a holistic approach. During a wellness consultation, she will ask patients about what they eat, how they eat, their sleep history. She does bloodwork and hair analysis to check on proteins, enzymes, minerals and food sensitivities in the body. By exposing your food sensitivities, she can warn you about foods that create inflammation for you. Gut health and bacterial imbalances in the digestive tract are a common cause.
“A lot of inflammation comes from your gut,” says Dr. Russak. “We need probiotics, but the question is how much do you take, how much do you actually get, and how much passes through the stomach?” Russak recommends live food sources of probiotics as much as possible: yogurt with live probiotics, sauerkraut and kombucha, live probiotic shots that need refrigeration. What to avoid? “Glycation is the bane of our existence,” she says, and recommends no or low sugar and no artificial sweeteners, but says that agave, honey and real maple syrup are naturally processed by the body and don’t create nearly as much inflammation.
It’s also important to find ways to manage your emotional or physical stress, which raises our cortisol levels and leads to inflammation. Environmental toxins in our food, water and air, as well as dehydration (drink water!), too many caffeinated beverages, lack of exercise and sleep, can all contribute.
And if you’re not getting enough protein, or if inflammation is destroying the proteins in your body, you will not produce enough collagen and that can lead to premature lines and wrinkles, and loss of skin tone. Dr. Russak recommends supplementing daily with collagen, by adding one scoop of collagen powder to a smoothie, and hydrating your skin with hyaluronic acid.
“As a dermatologist, we do a lot for the outside of the skin,” she says. “The skin is an organ. You can’t treat it from the outside without taking care of the inside.”
Read more about Inflammation here.