The skin is the largest organ in the body, encasing all of our vital organs, glands, muscle tissue, skeletal system and blood vessels. It is responsible for maintaining our internal body temperature and eliminating toxins through perspiration. It is the part of our body that is visible to others, the face we show to the world. Our facial skin in particular, is where inner vitality shines through and where the first signs of aging begin to surface.
Since ancient times, humans have sought out the secret of youthfulness, ingesting and applying herbal elixirs and more recently, powerful drugs to clear up the complexion and retard aging. The cosmetic industry has exploded with topical preparations promising to make us look years younger in rapid time. What if the secret to beautiful skin and longevity was as simple as selectively eating certain foods and taking particular supplements, managing stress, exercising, and providing protection from environmental pollutants?
Exciting research in the field of skin science and nutrition has revealed that there is a lot we can do naturally to improve the quality of our skin, and in the process rejuvenate the entire body. Dr. Nicholas Perricone, noted researcher, dermatologist and author of the books, “The Wrinkle Cure,” “The Acne Prescription,” and “The Perricone Prescription” has practically revolutionized the field of dermatology with his theories on aging, disease and skin care. Over the years, I have worked with many clients who have suffered from various skin conditions, including acne, eczema, rosacea, and other problems. In holistic medicine, it is known that the skin is the largest eliminative organ in the body, and is a reflection of the state of the internal systems. Cleansing the body of toxins and improving nutrition have worked wonders for many skin conditions, but the information provided by Dr. Perricone’s research has enabled me to help more people with remarkable success.
In the early years of medical training and his practice as a dermatologist in New York, Dr. Perricone observed that in every case of disease including acne, cancer, arthritis, diabetes and heart disease, inflammation was always present. In fact, the suffix “itis” on the end of many disease names (i.e. sinusitis, bronchitis, dermatitis, colitis, etc.) means inflammation in Greek. Perricone theorized that the chronic inflammation that our bodies experience over the years resulted in the wear and tear of our bodies that we call aging. He sought to discover the cause of this inflammation and consequently devise a therapeutic approach that would help his patients to heal and rejuvenate their skin and improve overall health.
Having always had an interest in diet and nutrition, even when nutrition wasn’t popular with his peers, Perricone looked at the foods we eat and their effect on the body. He surmised that high-glycemic carbohydrates, which are foods that have a high sugar content or that rapidly convert to sugar in the body, were a major cause of cellular inflammation throughout the body. High glycemic foods include all sugar-laden desserts and processed snack foods, refined floured baked goods, pasta, rice, alcoholic beverages, potatoes, corn, beets, carrots, sodas, jams, bananas, pumpkin, peas, maple syrup, molasses, honey, dried fruits, fruit juices, and many others. An extensive listing of the glycemic index rates of foods can be found on the internet at http://www.mendosa.com/gi.htm.
High-glycemic foods trigger an insulin response from the pancreas in an attempt to control the level of blood sugar in the body. Diabetics with poorly controlled blood sugar actually age one-third faster than non-diabetics. As can be seen in diabetics, high levels of blood sugar cause widespread inflammation, and can lead to kidney failure, blindness, heart attacks and strokes. Studies show that when diabetics keep their blood sugar controlled their health problems decrease by 70%.
Even in healthy people, elevated blood sugar causes chemical reactions in the body that create inflammation. Excess blood sugar reacts with the minerals in our body such as iron and copper, creating free radicals that damage cell membranes and accelerate aging. These free radicals oxidize fats which cause arterial plaque buildup and coronary artery disease.
When foods rapidly convert to sugar, they cause glycation, which is a browning of the protein in the tissues. This is the same process that discolors food in storage. In glycation that occurs in the skin, sugar molecules attach to the collagen fibers causing cross-links between adjoining collagen molecules, making them stiff and inflexible. Extensive cross-linking of collagen causes loss of skin elasticity and wrinkles. Dr. Perricone points out that the process of skin glycation is like tanning a hide. He says, that “over time, skin begins to resemble a cross between beef jerky and an old boot, unevenly discolored and heavily striated with deep lines and grooves.” Glycation throughout the body can also destroy the vital organs including the kidneys, lungs and brain. Sugar can also attach to the cell plasma membrane forming chemicals called advanced glycosation end products, known by its appropriate acronym AGES, which can lead to cellular malfunction.
Dr. Perricone stresses the importance of eating “good carbs” that are rich in vitamins, mineral and antioxidants that slow or reverse aging, and that have a high water content to hydrate the skin and body. Some of these foods are apples, avocado, berries, broccoli, zucchini, cabbage, olives, cantaloupe, leafy greens, kale, cauliflower, celery, plums, almonds, pecans, rolled oats, barley, and lemons.
He also emphasizes the benefits of eating high quality protein which makes up all of the body’s tissues, including the muscles, bones, skin, cartilage, vital enzymes, and antibodies which comprise our immune system. Without protein the body cannot function, grow or repair itself. In his practice, Perricone has seen chronic low-grade, long-term protein starvation lead to loss of face and body muscle and skin tone, including sagging breasts and stretch marks. He has observed that within weeks of starting a diet rich in high-quality protein, his patients’ skin begins to firm up on the face and body with visible lifting and improvement of skin tone and texture.
Perricone states that while vegetarian protein has its benefits, diets that rely solely or heavily on grains, vegetables and legumes to provide protein can result in metabolic problems due to their high concentration of carbohydrates. Research indicates that women need a minimum of 65 grams of protein daily, while men need 75 to 80 grams of daily protein. Perricone advocates high quality animal protein in the form of fish, poultry, eggs and some dairy such as goat cheese. He is particularly fond of wild salmon which is also high in omega 3 essential fatty acids and DMAE, a nutrient which is considered brain food that has anti-inflammatory properties and can help to firm up loose sagging skin. He has seen dramatic results in skin quality with patients just by eating salmon at least three times per week.
Healthy fats such as monosaturated fats found in olive oil, nuts and avocados are essential to a skin-rejuvenating diet. Perricone recommends supplementation of the essential fatty acid gamma linoleic acid (GLA), which is naturally found in borage and flax seed oils.
Additional nutritional supplements can be taken orally to heal and condition the skin and reverse aging. Perricone highly recommends alpha lipoic acid which is a natural substance known to be one of the most powerful antiaging, antioxidant, anti-inflammatories available. Both fat and water soluble, this nutrient protects the DNA and the energy-producing mitochondria in the cells from free radical damage including damage from the sun. It inhibits glycation and collagen breakdown, improves insulin function, decreases insulin resistance, increases cellular energy and vitality, and slows down the degenerative process of aging.
Perricone also advises oral supplementation of vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin C ester (ascorbyl palmitate, a fat soluble form vitamin C), B-Complex, Vitamin E (tocopheral-tocotrienol blend), calcium, magnesium, chromium, coenzyme Q 10, selenium, L-carnitine, and DMAE.
Applied topically in a skin cream, alpha lipoic acid reduces inflammation, restores collagen and remodels scar tissue. Combined with DMAE and vitamin C Ester in a cream, dramatic results have been seen in skin tone, elasticity, and repair, including reduction of acne, discoloration, redness, fine lines and wrinkles, spider veins and sagging skin.
Perricone also recommends drinking several glasses of purified water each day to hydrate the body and skin. Since stress contributes to activation of damaging cortisols by the adrenals, he also advocates regular exercise. Aerobic exercise and yoga or tai chi help to reduce stress and tone the body, contributing to an effective overall health regimen.
The information presented in Perricone’s books includes a specific 28-day diet plan and an extensive selection of delicious recipes that inspire the reader to adhere to a lifestyle that promises radiant beauty and vibrant health that is more than just skin deep.