Nutrition for Healthy Collagen
Nutrition and the Health of Skin,
Hair and Nails
Why we need protein
Herbs, Homoeopathy and Skin Health
The health of the skin is of prime importance because it is the largest organ
of the body. Skin forms a protective barrier between internal organs and the
external environment. We rely on the skin to protect us from heat, moisture
and cold; also from invasion from bacteria and viruses, unless they enter the
skin through a wound, bite, or sting.
The skin is composed of two distinct and interdependent layers, the epidermis
on the outside and the dermis on the inside. Both rely on adequate nutrition
for their integrity and normal function. Dietary imbalance, whether caused by
a lack of or an excess of one or more nutrients can disturb the equilibrium
of the skin. Metabolic stress may contribute to large areas of skin disease
or prolonged skin disease.
The epidermis provides the body with a waterproof barrier from the outside
environment. The barrier function of the epidermis depends on normal keratinisation
of the external layer (stratum corneum); this relies on adequate vitamin A being
present. The epidermis also relies on lipids being present in its structure;
approximately 10% of the dried weight of the epidermis is made up of lipids
in the form of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs). The skin may be vulnerable
to physical damage by defects in the formation of collagen caused by deficiencies
in essential fatty acids (EFAs), vitamin C, copper or protein.
The dermis contains follicles that produce hair and nails; blood vessels, lymph
vessels, nerve endings and sebum glands. Glands that eliminate toxins are found
in the dermis; so is melanin, the pigment which protects the skin from harmful
radiation. The first stages of the synthesis of Vitamin D from cholesterol takes
place in the dermis.
Nutrition for Healthy Collagen
Collagen is often referred to as intracellular cement. It is one of the most
abundant proteins in the human body and is incorporated into the skin, bones
and all connective tissues including tendons, ligaments and blood vessels.
All proteins are made of amino acids. The protein in collagen fibre is built
using a repeating sequence of three particular amino acids - glycine, proline
and hydroxyproline. The hydroxyproline is produced by the addition of oxygen
to proline once it is incorporated into the collagen structure; this process
needs vitamin C.
If vitamin C is absent from the diet, severe deficiency will result in scurvy.
Early symptoms of scurvy include excessive bleeding of the gums. As the collagen
fibres break down, the integrity of connective tissue becomes weakened.
It is particularly important to prevent Vitamin C deficiency because human beings
(together with fruit bats, guinea pigs and some primates) are unable to synthesise
Vitamin C in the body and need to obtain it from the diet through the daily
consumption of fresh fruit and vegetables. A shortage of Vitamin C will result
in tissues that are high in collagen such as the skin, bones and mucous membranes
suffering structural changes.
If skin, hair and nails are in poor condition, or affected by stress, a standard
release multinutrient should be considered because deficiencies in vitamin A,
B complex vitamins, Vitamin C and minerals will all have an effect on collagen
Nutrition and the Health of Skin, Hair and Nails
One of the most important nutrients for the health of skin, hair and nails is
water. Water is vital for optimum functioning of the whole body. Inadequate
water dries the skin and puts a great stress on body systems particularly kidney
and immune function.
Air-conditioning and central heating may cause the body to become depleted in
water if enough is not consumed. Dry skin and headaches can be symptoms of dehydration,
especially if suffered in air-conditioned environments. Sweating increases the
demand by the body for water and the electrolyte minerals (sodium, potassium
PUFAs are important to human health because they are involved in all cell membrane
structures, in particular helping maintain the health of the skin and its permeability
to water. The EFAs omega 6 (evening primrose and/or borage) and omega 3 (as
fish oil) could be of great benefit for those with skin conditions such as acne,
eczema or psoriasis.
Zinc is involved in wound healing and cell reproduction. Good food sources include
pumpkin seeds, oysters, pulses and meat.
Silica is a constituent of bone, tissue, organ and nerve sheath, hair, nails
and skin. Richest food sources of silica are oats, barley, dates, dried figs
People with skin problems should avoid refined carbohydrates, sugar, tea, chocolate,
coffee, alcohol and perfumed cosmetics. The elimination of toxins will be encouraged
by exercise, plenty of water and regular bowel habits.
Skin Facts - Could go in a box please Lise?
A man weighing 11 stone (70 kg) contains about 24 lbs (11 kg) of protein, of
which 15% is in the skin. Skin is approximately 16% of body weight. It is the
largest organ in the body and covers an area of 2.0 - 2.6 m2 (15 - 20 ft2).
Approximately 30g (1 oz) of skin is lost and renewed a month = 18kg (40lb) a
Hair grows, has a fortune spent on it while it stays and then it falls out!
Age slows down the rate of new hair growth. Stress, through various life factors
such as pregnancy, job change or severe illness can cause the hair to fall out
at a faster rate than the new hair grows.
Permanent causes of hair loss are not common, they include the conditions ringworm
or lichen planus that destroy hair follicles and cause permanent patches of
baldness; however, with alopecia areata, bald patches can appear quite suddenly
and all but a few hair follicles become inactive, sadly, the reason for this
phenomenon is unknown.
Hair that is regularly bleached, dyed, straightened or permed is more fragile
than natural, untreated hair. Washing and conditioning the hair too often can
cause the hair to dry out and encourage greasiness. One shampoo and a thorough
rinse should be adequate to wash out any dirt and dust. Hair is best dried naturally,
if possible. Good circulation to the scalp can be encouraged by scalp massage.
To encourage healthy hair, the B complex vitamins, vitamin C, zinc and iron
are recommended, together with enough protein from both vegetable and animal
Nails can be affected by nutrition status. Iron deficiency shows as
spoon-shaped nails; respiratory or heart problems may affect nails and the ends
of fingers. Psoriasis may cause the nails to become pitted; old-age may show
as vertical ridges (generally brought about by poor absorption of vitamins,
minerals and EFAs), while infection or injury may cause horizontal ridges to
develop. White spots on the nails may indicate zinc deficiency; very pale nails
may indicate anaemia; whitish nails may be caused by liver problems. Keeping
the nails short, wearing gloves for gardening and chores; and wearing shoes
that fit correctly around the toes should all help the physical health of nails.
Why we need protein
An adequate supply of dietary protein is essential for the maintenance and integrity
of cells; also for general health and reproduction. Proteins are essential constituents
of all body tissues. Cells are lost from the surface of the skin; through digestive
secretions, production of hair, skin and nails; protein is used to produce new
cells to replace those lost through normal wear and tear.
Protein provides amino acids used by the body to produce both structural and
"Structural proteins" form the tendons, ligaments, muscles, intracellular
matrix, hair, fingernails, skin, bone and teeth.
While "working proteins" are in enzymes, nucleic acids, antibodies,
hormones, cellular pumps and oxygen carriers.
Protein is best obtained from the diet through lean cuts of meat, skinned chicken,
fish or a combination of grains with pulses or beans (for example rice with
lentils). The diet should contain 10 -15% protein, 55 - 60% mostly unrefined
carbohydrate and 30% fat of which at least 20% should be polyunsaturated.
Herbs, Homoeopathy and Skin Health
Echinacea inhibits inflammation of the skin, strengthens the immune defences
and fights bacteria, it also promotes healing by strengthening connective tissue.
A few homoeopathic remedies that may be of particular help are:
Arsenicum 6c ~ dry, sensitive scalp, very hot, unbearably itchy at night; round,
bare patches of scalp show
Sulphur 6c ~ thick dandruff, scratching at night causes skin to burn, scalp
made drier by washing hair
Phosphoric acid 6c ~ for hair loss after grief or extreme emotion
Sepia 6c ~ for hair loss related to changes in hormones through childbirth or
Silicea 6c ~ if the nails are malformed with white spots
Graphites 6c ~ if nails are thickened, brittle, crumbly, deformed, inflamed
or painful, with blackening
We all like to look and feel healthy. To encourage good health, the diet should
include lots of fresh fruit and vegetables and a regular supply of quality protein.
Adequate exercise in the fresh air and plenty of water are also important to
maintain a healthy body together with healthy skin, hair and nails.
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