Healthy living: skin protection – from the inside out

I love going on a sunny summer vacation, don’t I? But I want to make sure my skin, which hardly sees the light of day in Ireland for most of the year, is protected. In truth, we shouldn’t neglect our largest organ all year round to prevent premature aging and cancerous changes.
There are countless anti-aging and SPF creams out there, but they can only penetrate the first few layers of the epidermis, where skin cells are mature, calloused, and have lost their core, and these products are often loaded with chemicals that tend to be more irritating than to help the skin.
Since our skin reflects the health of the rest of the body and is formed from the deep base layer, wouldn’t it make sense to support it from within?
Aging affects all of our cells, not just our skin, but that’s where we see it most. When a cell is damaged by free radicals (toxins, UV radiation, inflammation and even the life-giving oxygen) it needs to be replaced. But did you know that we can renew our cells a maximum of 60 times? The more we damage our cells, the faster we wear out our bodies, dealing not only with wrinkles and sagging skin, but also with chronic degenerative diseases.

Antioxidants – found in fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, avocado, olives, green tea, dark chocolate, herbs and spices can provide relief; neutralize free radicals to minimize their damage. A wide variety and quantity of antioxidants are necessary to combat modern day stressors, so make sure you eat the rainbow and include these powerful herbs and spices in your daily diet.
From studying the longest living people on earth, we know that calorie restriction – regular fasting can slow cellular aging as it activates our “longevity gene”; SIRT 1. This gene has a profound impact on our metabolism and is able to reboot our immunity and reduce inflammation. The only antioxidant proven to have the same effect as calorie restriction is resveratrol from red wine grapes. Resveratrol has been studied for cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity and memory loss – and in recent human clinical trials improved skin moisture levels and reduced itching. However, you would need at least 17 bottles of wine to even come close to hitting the longevity gene, so look for a quality supplement instead.
Another fascinating antioxidant is astaxanthin, the red pigment that gives salmon and shellfish their pink color. Dubbed the king of carotenoids, it has the strongest protective properties of any pigment-type antioxidant. Once absorbed it is distributed to all tissues and protects against UV damage like an internal sunscreen and in a recent study 4 milligrams per day also improved skin’s moisture levels, reduced dryness, roughness and itching. Astaxanthin also protects the macula, the most central part of the back of the eye responsible for central and color vision, which is damaged by UV and blue light.

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