Skin Health and Nutritional Deficiencies
Dr. Renata Trister
The skin is the largest organ in the body, it accounts for about 12 to 15 percent of total body weight. It separates, and protects the organism from its surroundings. Keratin based skin, hair and cuticles are all part of the integumentary system. The system comprises the skin and its keratin based appendages (including hair, scales, feathers, hooves, and nails). The integumentary system has a variety of functions; it cushions and protects the deeper tissues, excretes wastes, and regulates temperature, and is the attachment site for sensory receptors to detect pain, sensation, pressure, and temperature. With exposure to sunlight, the integumentary system is a site for vitamin D synthesis. Your skin, hair and cuticles are also a reflection of your overall health. If you are deficient in anything, it’s going to affect you silently on the inside, but many times it will affect you on the outside as well.
The following lists a few common deficiencies and how they may appear on your skin, hair or nails. By noticing these signs, you can often avert a more serious illness if you address the problem immediately.
Signs of Deficiencies
• Inadequate stomach acid, likely from taking long-term antacids can cause your fingernails can develop ridges.
• Hair loss can be due to inadequate folic acid, B vitamins and essential fatty acid intake. It can also be due to vitamin A toxicity. (Yes, it is possible to take too much of a vitamin, especially if it is a fat soluble vitamin such as vitamin A.)
• Chronic dandruff caused by too many skin cells from your scalp drying and flaking off. Consider increasing your essential fatty acid (EFA) intake and add a selenium supplement.
• Acne can also be due to deficiencies in zinc, EFAs, and eating too many trans fats.
• A sore tongue means you could be deficient in B12, folate, zinc, or iron. B12 supplementation requires a visit to your doctor. Folate, zinc, and iron can be improved through diet and nutritional supplements.
• Fingernails and cuticle area are important to look at. If the cuticle is inflamed, you could be suffering from a zinc deficiency. Pumpkin seeds are a good source of zinc. If your nails are spooning you may be deficient in iron; discuss with your doctor, up your intake of red meat, or cook in cast iron cookware, especially with tomato products. People who regularly cook with cast iron are rarely deficient in iron. Hangnails are a normal problem, but if you have a more compelling issue, increase your zinc intake.
• Dry skin can either mean you’re chronically dehydrated, or it means that you need to increase your essential fatty acid intake, vitamin A, and vitamin E intake.
• Small red bumps on the back of your arms can be due to vitamin A and E deficiencies, zinc, and essential fatty acids.
• Most Important – if you should suspect and new or abnormal clinical findings -Please consult with your Physician first.
Food Sources of Nutritional Supplements
While it is possible to just pop some vitamin and mineral supplements, it is usually far better to include foods that will provide what your body needs. Usually food form gives your body the best chance of being able to incorporate what it needs.
- EFA – the human body cannot synthesize Essential Fatty Acids. They must be included in your diet in the form of flaxseed, canola oil, and cold-water fish such as salmon.
- Vitamin A – Liver, eggs, milk, orange fruits, and green vegetables
- Vitamin B – Wheat germ, brewer’s yeast, potatoes, bananas, lentils, and chilies
- Vitamin C – Broccoli, pomegranates, blueberries, acai, kale, bell peppers, strawberries
- Vitamin D – Fortified milk and sunshine
- Vitamin E – Wheat germ oil, toasted almonds, and safflower oil
- Zinc – Pumpkin seeds, red meat (beef, pork, and lamb)
- Iron – Red meat, cooking in cast iron cookware
- Selenium – Brazil nuts, garlic, and fish