Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Is Your Acne Worse in Winter? Skin Drier?

Apply Yogurt to Soothe Winter Skin
Increase ceramide production in your skin with yogurt.
You've probably seen them in the ingredient list on many moisturizers.  Ceramides are natural lipids that are found in high concentrations within cell membranes. They make skin strong and impermeable and thus less easily ruptured and less sensitive to irritations. The amount of ceramides in your skin are lower in winter, making you more susceptible to whatever skin ailments you are prone to--such as acne.  It weakens your epidermal barrier making your skin more sensitive and affects how skin cells are formed, die and exfoliate freely without clogging pores.

You can improve all these things by applying plain live-culture yogurt to your skin topically.  A study found an increase in ceramide production and reduction in inflammation after 7 days of topical use yogurt. And a reduction in acne.  Some strains of the beneficial bacteria also secrete peptides, another thing you've no doubt seen on your moisturizer bottle.  And then moisturize with plant oils such as safflower, grapeseed or hemp seed to make up for the loss of the lipid barrier.

For more info see the study which is primarily about the importance of probiotic cultures in your digestive tract:
Acne vulgaris, probiotics and the gut-brain-skin axis - back to the future? 

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

My Garden--Eating Well Can Be Cheap

Filled with greens, onions and herbs.  The plants are actually much bigger and prettier now. Soon, I'll have to post a picture of my vertical Strawberry planter sitting in one of the few other tiny patches of sunlight.
Picture of my garden filled with acne and disease fighting greens, onions, herbs and leeks
It's a small raised bed at the very edge of my front yard, the only spot that gets enough sun year round in my home that faces entirely the wrong direction at angles to the sun. That's the neighbor's driveway. It was built this past October with the help from Transition Houston in a program they call a Permablitz--the group spends one day doing various permaculture and sustainable projects around your home.

A raised bed garden like this can be trouble free for years if you follow a few simple tips. You don't even have to remove sod. Just put down many layers of newspaper or one layer of corrugated cardboard right on top of your lawn. Then arrange your cinder blocks, timbers or whatever you are going to use. Fill with good soil. Plant. Run a soaker or drip hose around your plants.

Many food producing plants are quite attractive and there's no reason not to include them in your landscape.  Greens, sweet potatoes, pea and bean vines and blueberry bushes are some examples of truly lovely plants. Tomatoes can be made more atractive if you use nice trellises to support them. Put flowers here and there to pretty up the space.  Marigolds repel many pests. Nasturtiums are edible.

I've yet to eat much from this garden though, as I get more fruits, greens and other veggies than I can eat for free each week in exchange for 2 hours volunteer work at a community supported farming and organic coop.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Add Ginger to Your Diet

Ginger and it's many anti-inflammatory health benefits for acne and health.

Ginger isn't just delicious, it is filled with beneficial compounds that have been found to aid common ailments such as nausea, cramps, headache, and joint and muscle pains.  And it prevents and and relieves symptoms and complications of the common cold as well as more serious conditions such as diabetes, stroke, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and cancer.  It's antibacterial, antifungal and helps clear intestinal parasites.  There has even been research that finds it effective in treating heartworms in dogs. 1

Most of its benefits are due to it being a powerful anti-inflammatory.  And remember, we want to reduce inflammation for clear, acne free, youthful skin.

And like I said, it's delicious.  The two easiest ways to make ginger a habit are to carry candied ginger with you to ward off nauseau and various aches and pains. And to add it to your drinks.  The simplest recipe is to put about 1 cubic inch of ginger in a cup of boiling water for ginger tea.  Or do what I do and add a few slices to my morning cup of green tea or my evening cup of chamomile. I  nibble on the slices after finishing my tea.

Ginger tips:

  • Peel ginger by scraping the skin off with the back of a spoon.
  • You can freeze it to keep peeled and sliced ginger on hand ready to drop into your tea. Or you can leave it in small chunks. Once defrosted it is soft and you can squeeze the juice into your drink.
  • Freeze grated ginger in logs making it easy to break off just what you need for your stir fry!  Spread a row of grated ginger a couple inches thick on a piece of waxed paper or plastic wrap. Roll up and pop in the freezer. 
  • Some people claim good results from applying the juice topically to an inflamed pimple. I shall try to remember to try this next time I get one.  There is research into the anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial effects of topical ginger.

Drink Recipes:

Sassy Water

This recipe is part of the Flat Belly diet. It's delicious and has good stuff in it. Anti-inflammatory and good for digestion. It's meant to reduce bloating.

2 liters water (about 8 1/2 cups)
1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
1 medium cucumber. peeled and thinly sliced
1 medium lemon thinly sliced
12 small spearmint leaves

Combine all ingredients in a large pitcher and let flavors blend overnight.

Iced Ginger-Green Tea
Both green tea and ginger have fat-blasting properties. The green tea contains nutrients that help block fat absorption. And both the tea and ginger help raise metabolism and help your body utilize carbs more efficiently.

12 quarter-inch slices of fresh ginger
4 tbsp loose green tea or 12 bags
3 cups water

Bring the water to a boil. Turn off the heat and let the tea and ginger soak in the boiling water for 5 minutes. Remove the tea bags or leaves and pour the concentrated tea into a jug. Fill the rest of the jug with cool water. Put the tea in the refrigerator for 2-3 hours to chill. Then enjoy!

And did you know you could Make Your Own Ginger Ale? 

It's used so much in bar drinks. Make your own so you can indulge a little.  These recipes of course, calls for sugar. You will want to use a substitute and use it to taste and according to the directions for using that substitute in place of sugar in recipes. Hopefully your tastebuds are adapting to your better diet and you no longer like things to be as nauseatingly sweet as most commercial products.

2 Cup cold water
1 Cup lime juice
4 tsp fresh ginger - mince or grate
3/4 Cup superfine sugar or substitute of course, use to taste
3 Cups sparkling water or seltzer water

Process water, lime juice and ginger in blender

Strain through cheesecloth into pitcher

Stir in sweetener to dissolve, add sparkling water.

If you like it, it might be worth getting a seltzer maker so you can make the seltzer water from your own filtered water.

Here's another:

Ginger ale

3 1/2 cups water
3/4 cup peeled and chopped ginger root
2 TBS vanilla
1 TBS lemon extract
1/4 tsp stevia concentrate powder
Carbonated or sparkling water

How to Prepare:
Rapidly boil ginger root in water for 10 minutes. Strain and place liquid in a jar. Stir in vanilla, lemon and stevia. Cool and store in the refrigerator.

Alton Brown's Ginger Ale:

This one is fermented with yeast to provide the carbonation. I'm sure you can reduce/substitute most of the sugar, but you probably need at least a tablespoon to feed the yeast. And you might want to read all the comments before trying it or if you don't like the results of your first batch. Reviewers suggest quite a few variations, doubling of ginger, using brewers yeast instead, etc.


* 1 1/2 ounces finely grated fresh ginger
* 6 ounces sugar
* 7 1/2 cups filtered water
* 1/8 teaspoon active dry yeast
* 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice


Place the ginger, sugar, and 1/2 cup of the water into a 2-quart saucepan and set over medium-high heat. Stir until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from the heat, cover and allow to steep for 1 hour.

Pour the syrup through a fine mesh strainer set over a bowl, pressing down to get all of the juice out of the mixture. Chill quickly by placing over and ice bath and stirring or set in the refrigerator, uncovered, until at least room temperature, 68 to 72 degrees F.

Using a funnel, pour the syrup into a clean 2-liter plastic bottle and add the yeast, lemon juice and remaining 7 cups of water. Place the cap on the bottle, gently shake to combine and leave the bottle at room temperature for 48 hours. Open and check for desired amount of carbonation. It is important that once you achieve your desired amount of carbonation that you refrigerate the ginger ale. Store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks, opening the bottle at least once a day to let out excess carbonation.

1 Ginger's Many Evidence-Based Health Benefits Revealed

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Resolve to Take Charge of your Health and Your Skin. Eat right. Sleep right. And move right.

All these things are so important for your health. And for your skin.  We've discussed how to eat right at length and touched moving right, but for a reminder move around a lot every day. Now. About sleep.

Yes, sleep affects acne and aging of skin.

So much is timed by a proper wake sleep cycle, including the production and release of hormones. All kinds of hormones.  And hormones are what control how your body functions.They are your metabolism.

Sleep affects insulin sensitivity

Lack of sleep plays just as important a role in developing diabetes as diet and obesity. The connection has been known for several years, but this past fall researchers discovered that lack of sleep reduces insulin sensitivity in fat cells by 30%.1   And remember, elevated blood sugar and insulin stimulates the excess hormones, over production of skin cells and chronic silent inflammation that lead to acne formation and loss of elasticity in skin.2

And speaking of obesity, sleep also negatively affects leptin and ghrelen which stimulate appetite and let your brain know you are full. People who sleep less, often weigh more. Besides the leptin/ghrelin thing, when you are less tired, you are less likely to crave those quick energy sugary refined carbs.

And speaking of chronic inflammation, people with poor quality sleep or sleep deprivation exhibit increased levels of interleukin-6 (IL6), the chemical that causes inflammation throughout the body.3 Start browsing through studies on acne and you'll find talk about IL6 everywhere!

And of course, lack of sleep affects your mood and ability to cope with stress, brain function and more.4  But we'll have to explore those things in another post.

So, You need to sleep well. And doing so requires regular exposure to bright light and to darkness.

Get outside during the day!

Bright light stimulates the pituitary and hypothalamus and thus influences the levels of nearly every hormone in your body.  And by bright light, I mean going outdoors.  Even the bright fluorescent office lights aren't enough.  Ever notice how hard it is to read your laptop or tablet display outdoors, even in the shade?  That's because it's brighter out there.  This bright light stimulates seratonin production.

Seratonin is a neurotransmitter responsible for the regulation of mood, appetite, and sleep and has some influence on cognitive functions involving  memory and learning.  This bright light exposure is step one to getting a good night sleep.

Bright light exposure even affects your digestion 5  We are meant to be outdoors. Try to get outdoors before or during lunchtime. Walk to lunch and eat outside if possible.

While you are at it, try to spend some of your outdoor time exposed to the sun to produce vitamin D, a vitamin that's really a hormone and incredibly important to the immune system, bone formation and more. And one of the many things it affects is how skin cells are formed and shed, which means it affects acne.

Avoid artificial light at night!

Reduce exposure to artificial light at night.  Darkness signals that it's time to start converting that seratonin to melatonin, the neurotransmitter that puts you to sleep and keeps you asleep.  Dim the lights in the evening. Avoid blue tone lights in particular, such as that coming from your computer screen.  If you need to work into the evening, there are filters and software that can change the light hitting your eyes to a reddish tint that won't interfere with melatonin conversion.  F.lux is free downloadable software that automatically changes the tone of the light on your monitor to red each evening near sunset.

Sleep in complete darkness and do not turn on lights if you get up during the night. You'll stop the melatonin!

The Circadian Cycle

This daily cycle of exposure to bright light in the daytime and darkness at night is called your circadian cycle or rhythm.  And it regulates so many processes in your body.  You want to mimic as natural a cycle as you possibly can.  Spending all day indoors in dim light and nights in artificial light muddy up the whole seratonin/melatonin cycle making you feel fatigued during the day and impairing your ability to sleep at night. If you find it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep at night no matter how tired you are, look to your circadian cycle.

1 http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/251504.php
2 http://dietforclearskin.blogspot.com/2012/12/chronic-silent-inflammation-is-aging.html
3 http://jcem.endojournals.org/content/85/10/3597.full
Scientists Finding Out What Losing Sleep Does to a Body
Effects of dim or bright-light exposure during the daytime on human gastrointestinal activity.

Good Things for Sleep

-Keep a regular sleep schedule with an early bedtime. Mimic the natural pre-electricity age as much as possible.
-Get plenty of bright light, preferably sunlight, during the day. Get outside. Do it in the morning, before lunch and before you get that afternoon slump. 
-Slow down and relax in evenings. No exercise within 3-4 hours of bedtime.
-Darkness at night. Dim lighting in evening. Sleep in complete darkness. Again, mimic nature as much as possible. Avoid the blue light from electronics. Don't turn on lights if you get up during the night. Get dim night lights for bathroom if you must.
-Exercise during the day to very early evening. Not within a few hours of bedtime. But do stretch and try some deep breathing before bed.
-Wear socks to bed. warm feet and hands cause blood vessels to enlarge, allowing more heat to escape your body, which in turn lowers your core temperature faster. 
-Shower or bathe before bed. Also about body temp, but also just plain makes you feel better. 
-Eat dinner early and have only a very small snack of some sleep enhancing food near bedtime. 
-Consume nutrients that boost seratonin production:
---methionine, folate, B12, B6, TMG (betaine), zinc, C, calcium, magnesium and potassium. And of course, the amino acid tryptophanFoods containing tryptophan or melatonin include banana, dairy products, oats, rice, pumpkin/sunflower seeds and any complete protein. Consume some early in the day to produce seratonin.

Magnesium also relaxes muscles and affects the  function of the pineal gland that detects light and dark. A great way to get it is via an epsom salt bath. Epsom salts are magnesium sulfide.The magnesium is absorbed through the skin and the sulfur is healing for skin problems, including acne.

Also try chamomile tea to help you relax in the evenings. And green tea in the daytime.  Green tea is one of the richest sources of L-Theanine which supports the production of GABA which helps you deal with stress.   But because of the caffeine, avoid it in the afternoon and evening.