Glow: The Nutritional Approach to Naturally Gorgeous Skin by Nadia Neumann (Page Street Publishing, 2017) helps you get healthy and gorgeous skin by adjusting your diet and skincare routine. In this excerpt, the author explains the link between skin health and hormones.
Balance is the Key
Hormones are chemical messengers that tell your body what to do, when to do it and how. Yeah, they’re a pretty big deal.
There are dozens of different hormones in the human body, each with a vital function. The sex hormones androgens and estrogens and the stress hormone cortisol wield the most influence over the skin.
Any pubescent teen knows the intimate connection between the sex hormones and the skin, particularly acne. We typically start experiencing breakouts during adolescence, when androgen levels spike. This stimulates the sebaceous glands to grow and produce more sebum. Elevated androgen levels also increase the rate at which skin cells shed. When these shed skin cells get stuck in the pore, they trap the sebum and create a feasting ground for P. acnes. Yes, it is a perfect recipe for acne. But the connection between hormones and acne doesn’t end when the clock strikes midnight on our twentieth birthday. Many adult women experience breakouts around menstruation and while pregnant — androgen levels increase before ovulation and in the first two trimesters of pregnancy, activating the sebaceous glands and increasing the opportunity for breakouts. For this reason, acne also typically accompanies polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a female hormonal disorder that is characterized by elevated levels of androgens.
The stress hormone cortisol also greatly impacts the skin. Ever noticed how you may break out in blemishes or your eczema may flare when you are stressed? Well, cortisol creates an inflammatory state and stimulates the oil glands, increasing sebum production. Cortisol also reduces the skin’s ability to retain moisture and is a supervillain when it comes to skin aging — it damages collagen and slows its rate of repair, inhibits the skin’s synthesis of skin-plumping hyaluronic acid and thins the top layers of the skin. Chronic stress and high cortisol levels also impact the skin by throwing the sex hormones off balance — since the body prioritizes survival over reproduction, the adrenal glands use up all of the precursor hormone pregnenalone (aptly named pregnenalone steal), which is used to create both cortisol and the sex hormones.
When it comes to keeping hormones happy and skin healthy, it’s a matter of:
1. Ditching the foods that raise acne-causing androgen levels
2. Removing stressors to put cortisol back in its place
3. Supporting the liver for proper hormone detoxification
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Nadia Neumann is a nutritional therapy practitioner, nontoxic-living advocate, author of The Complete Home Detox Guide, and founder of the healthy living website Body Unburdened.
Reprinted with permission from Glow: The Nutritional Approach to Naturally Gorgeous Skin by Nadia Neumann and published by Page Street Publishing © 2017.