Understanding Fat Intake as a Contributor to Healthy Skin

If you find yourself with relentless skin conditions, including acne, irritation and itchiness, there may be more you can do than simply look for topical treatments.

Jun. 11, 2018
By Laura Peill

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Healthy skin, that is blem­ish free and reg­u­larly exhibits a vibrant com­plex­ion, is about more than the exter­nal appli­ca­tion of top­i­cal prod­ucts.

In fact, the health of your body’s biggest organ starts on the inside and is influ­enced by sev­eral fac­tors, includ­ing intake of healthy fats, gut health and micro­biota sta­tus, as well as your exter­nal liv­ing envi­ron­ment.

Understanding the role each of these plays and how to max­i­mize their pos­i­tive influ­ence is the key to healthy, glow­ing skin.

The anatom­i­cal make-up of the skin, join­ing its acces­sory struc­tures to con­sti­tute the body’s integu­men­tary sys­tem, is a series of lay­ers, which act as a pro­tec­tive bar­rier to the inter­nal ele­ments and organs of the body. The der­mis layer of the skin con­tains a series of blood ves­sels, lymph ves­sels, hair fol­li­cles and sweat glands, many of which act as exit paths or pores from inside the body. The body’s nat­ural meth­ods of detox­i­fi­ca­tion send flu­ids and waste out through these pores to the exter­nal envi­ron­ment to be elim­i­nated.

Keeping the pores and skin func­tion­ing opti­mally is influ­enced by sev­eral fac­tors, and fail­ure to max­i­mize the effec­tive­ness of each of these can lead to acne, break­outs, dry skin and over­all poor com­plex­ion.

One of the main fac­tors that play a role in healthy skin is diet and nutri­tion. Many stud­ies have shown the inter­sec­tion between gut health and healthy skin, exam­in­ing the influ­ence of pro­bi­otics and pre­bi­otics in opti­miz­ing skin health via the absence of skin con­di­tions.

Most of the work of pre­bi­otics and pro­bi­otics comes from their abil­ity to mod­u­late the immune sys­tem, whereby they can pro­duce anti-micro­bial pep­tides which fight pathogens. Furthermore, the skin itself is made up of mil­lions of microbes. Consuming ade­quate microbes in our diet is essen­tial to replen­ish the skin micro­biota and help ensure it remains in an opti­mal bal­ance.

The argu­ment for diet, how­ever, goes beyond sim­ply con­sum­ing gut-healthy foods and also addresses the role of healthy fats and other macro and micronu­tri­ents in our diet and how these impact the health of our skin.

A study look­ing at the inter­sec­tion of diet and acne found sup­port in improv­ing skin health through the con­sump­tion of omega‑3 and omega‑6 fatty acids. Known as the essen­tial fatty acids (EFAs), due to the body’s inabil­ity to make them inter­nally, these have strong anti-inflam­ma­tory prop­er­ties, play­ing a key role in secret­ing the desir­able prostaglandins within the body. Prostaglandins are hor­mone-like sub­stances that can dic­tate actions to be taken by spe­cific organs and spe­cific path­ways.

When you reduce inflam­ma­tion in the body, through ade­quate intake of EFAs, you opti­mize skin health by increas­ing the body’s amount of linoleic acid. This nutri­ent is a pre-cur­sor to EFA extrac­tion and indi­vid­u­als who suf­fer from acne have been shown to be defi­cient in linolenic acid, indi­cat­ing it is an essen­tial com­po­nent of the body’s path­way to gen­er­at­ing nor­mal­ized skin cells. In addi­tion, fur­ther stud­ies have shown that inter­ven­tion with dietary lipids in those who are show­ing signs of skin irri­ta­tion, can prove to be an effec­tive treat­ment.

Obtaining ade­quate EFAs through diet is made very acces­si­ble through things such as fish, flaxseed and olive oil. Rich in Omega 6 and Omega 3, olive oil is a great plant-based oil selec­tion to increase your intake of anti-inflam­ma­tory pro­mot­ing fats, espe­cially valu­able given that for many peo­ple, fish may not be a food they choose to eat reg­u­larly.

But if you are con­sum­ing lots of olive oil, dili­gently work­ing to main­tain a healthy gut, and still find­ing your­self fac­ing down unhealthy skin, here is one other fac­tor which may be to blame: your liv­ing sit­u­a­tion. That’s right, your cohab­i­tants just might be caus­ing your acne.

A recent study showed that house­hold occu­pancy is asso­ci­ated with changes in the skin micro­biota.

The first of its kind, the study inves­ti­gated the rela­tion­ship between the micro­bial envi­ron­ment of the res­i­dent, his/her co-habi­tants and other non-cohab­i­tants, look­ing at how these phys­i­cal human inter­ac­tions or non-inter­ac­tions could affect skin health. They showed that house­hold occu­pancy is cor­re­lated with cer­tain types of bac­te­ria and the changes in bac­te­r­ial diver­sity within the skin, and that can lead to both a pos­i­tive and neg­a­tive impact on the res­i­dent.

While fur­ther research is required to spec­ify how to directly ensure the effect of cohab­i­tants is ben­e­fi­cial, and not the cause of skin out­breaks, the foun­da­tion of this research show­ing that there is an impact on our skin health based on our day to day human inter­ac­tions is fun­da­men­tal. It offers a great deal of room for expan­sion and fur­ther research as we seek to under­stand how to obtain and main­tain opti­mal skin health.

Whether through increased con­sump­tion of fat, improved cohab­i­tant rela­tion­ships or a more ded­i­cated effort towards max­i­miz­ing pre­bi­otic and pro­bi­otic based gut health, being cog­nizant of your skin con­di­tion and envi­ron­men­tal fac­tors, as well as your daily dietary pro­file, is the first step in work­ing to achieve opti­mal skin health.


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