February 22, 2018

Have You Tried These Non-Dairy Pro-biotic Foods?

Living life dairy-free or sugar-free?  Yes, you can enjoy the health benefits of yogurt without actually eating it.  When popular yogurts can have as much sugar as a small can of cola, looking elsewhere for your pro-biotics is a good idea.

Here are four non-dairy sources of active pro-biotics that don’t come stacked with a ton of sugar:

Sauerkraut:  Not to be confused with coleslaw, sauerkraut is a European-style fermented cabbage side dish or condiment that may be cooked or eaten raw. Note: the real thing has NO VINEGAR added to it.  The sourness comes from the lactic acid created by the bacteria that soften the cabbage to a mildly-crunchy texture. Try it cold on top of a green salad or baked potato. Look for it in the refrigerated section of your grocery or health food store.

 

Kimchi: This is a Korean style of fermented nappa cabbage. I was told by a Korean woman that there are over 300 different ways to make kimchi!  In contrast to sauerkraut, kimchi usually has garlic and often, sriracha as key ingredients.  Find it in the fridge of better stocked health food stores and use it just like you would sauerkraut.

 

Kombucha:  This is a fermented green tea beverage that offers pro-biotic cultures as well as anti-oxidant benefits.  Properly produced kombucha is mildly effervescent,  smells reminiscent of beer and should be enjoyed chilled.  However, beware:  there are some varieties that are sweetened.  Drink it any time.

 

Coconut yogurt:  at first glance, it looks like ordinary yogurt. Simply by adding living bacterial cultures to coconut milk produces this creamy snack.  It tends to be a lot less sour than dairy yogurt, so if sourness is not your thing, this may be your best choice of pro-biotic food! Add a few berries and you are all set.

 

No matter which pro-biotic food you choose to try, each one will offer up different species of beneficial bacteria.  To get the most from pro-biotic foods, eat them regularly, rotate them, and keep them cool (refrigerated).  Enjoy!

 

 

Are You Zinc-Deficient?

Zinc is a metallic element essential to human health.  Insufficiency shows up in a myriad of ways.

How many of the following apply to you?

1. Fatigue
2. Reduction in the ability to taste or smellDead smile
3. White spots on finger nails
4. Acne
5. Prostate enlargement
6. Slow wound healing
7. Recurrent infections
8. Hypoglycemia or diabetes
9. Weight gain, stretch marks
10. Indigestion from meats
11. Sensitivity to light
12. Perspire heavily
13. Take oral contraceptive pills
14. Under physical, mental or emotional stress
15. Difficulty conceiving

16. Eat chocolate daily

17.  Disordered eating (anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, megarexia, orthorexia,etc.)

18. Depressionhappy pregnant woman or obsessive-compulsive disorder

19. Vegetarian diet

 

Functions of Zinc in the Human Body

Here are some of the many ways zinc is needed by the body:

1. Digestion. Proteins cannot be digested without enzymes and acids made from this mineral.
2. Fatty acid metabolism. Proper utilization of dietary fats.
3. Sugar metabolism. Insulin requires zinc for its manufacture.
4. Bone health. Zinc is one of many nutrients that keep bones strong enough to resist fracture.
5. Sex hormone synthesis. Low zinc will negatively affect reproductive functions in women and men.
6. Skin and Immune Health. Together with beta carotene, zinc is used to make vitamin A, necessary for wound healing and skin maintenance.
7. Mental Health. Zinc supports neurotransmitter production, which affects our moods, neuro-muscular function and ability to concentrate.

Highest dietary sources of zinc include oysters, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, eggs and meats.????????????????????????????

Assessment of Zinc Status

Warning: blood is not a reliable place to look for this mineral!  Zinc status can be more easily assessed via a ‘taste test”.  All of my clients are entitled to a zinc tally assessment.  This is usually done at the first appointment. If the client fails to detect the correct flavour, the client could benefit from supplemental zinc.  Remember: adequate zinc (for ex., the RDI) does NOT mean optimal! 

Safety of Supplementation

Zinc is one of the safest minerals to take.  Unlike iron, there is no known toxicity for zinc.  However, for optimal well-being,  be sure to take it with food–never on an empty stomach.

The Difference Between Food Allergy, Sensitivity and Intolerance

Clients often ask me, “how do you know if it’s a food allergy or a food sensitivity or a food intolerance?”

First,  it’s important to define allergy. An allergic reaction describes what happens when the immune system inappropriately identifies, labels and attacks a substance that it finds dangerous to the body. This substance is usually something that does not cause any such reaction in the majority of individuals. More broadly, the reaction is called a hypersensitivity reaction.

The time is takepeanut butter sandwichs for these symptoms to appear along with the degree of severity of the symptoms mirror what type of of hypersensitivity is occurring. For example, a classic allergy describes an immunological response to a substance within 4 hours of exposureAnaphylaxis is the most dangerous type of classic allergic reaction, but most classic allergies are not actually this severe.  Allergists tend to be very confident diagnosing classic allergies because they can be reproduced while at the doctor’s office using the skin prick test. Here, food particles are applied to the skin and the skin is scratched with a needle.  If the client experiences a skin reaction to the substance within 15 minutes they are said to be allergic to that substance.

Why We Can’t Depend on the Scratch Test

The skin prick test cannot be viewed as the definitive test for food sensitivity because it can only identify IgE antibody-mediated reactions that affect the skin. However, classic allergies to pollens, animal dander and other airborne substances can be accurately diagnosed using this test.  But it is important to recognize that most food reactions are actually IgG-mediated and occur anywhere inside or on the body, more than 4 hours after exposure.  This is why if your results of the skin prick test are all negative for foods yet you experience symptoms more than 4 hours after consumption of the food, you may still have an unidentified food sensitivity.

In contrast,  food sensitivity / food intolerance are terms used interchangeably to describe an immunological reaction that occurs between 4 hours and 3 days from the time of exposure. Medical doctors may deny that food sensitivity or intolerance is a form of allergy because there are so many variables interacting with the client after the 4 hour period that is hard to link to a substance.  For instance, the client may eat a combination of foods, change geographic locations (from office to home, for example), and experience various other stressors and exposures such as to viruses or bacteria within the 3 days that it can take for a delayed hypersensitivity reaction to an ingested food to occur. This makes it hard to trace which food one reacted to.

A Useful But Costly Test

Fortunately, there is an accurate blood test for hypersensitivity identification available through your physician or Naturopathic doctor.  This blood test for food intolerance/sensitivity measures IgG antibodies which are involved in delayed reactions (4 hours+). It is accurate as long as one has eaten the food within the past month or so. However, this test costs about $350.  Note that this one is not covered by OHIP (Ontario Health Insurance Plan).

So, while both tests have good accuracy when applied correctly, they cannot be used interchangeably as they provide different information.

Is Self-Assessment Accurate?

CB043875Undeniably, it can be difficult to self-assess and correctly determine one’s food sensitivities.  A holistic nutritionist can provide instruction on how to most accurately self-assess without compromising nutritional status. This method will involve removing all ingredients of suspect foods for a given length of time, and then re-introducing them in a systematic way.  When done properly, without ‘cheating’, this is an inexpensive way to go. In my practice, I have found this method very helpful for numerous clients, who often will say, “after doing this procedure, I can see that ‘x” is what’s aggravating my symptoms.”   It will be obvious after un-masking the allergy—that is, taking a break from the suspect food for a specified period of time and then re-introducing it back into the diet—when the food is involved in deterioration of well-being.

What foods do you react to?

Please note:  holistic nutritionists cannot diagnose allergies or sensitivities; they provide instruction on how to help clients isolate which foods may be involved in their health complaints.

 

How to Get Your Optimum Magnesium Intake

mixed nutsMagnesium is one of the forgotten essential nutrients, overlooked by the food industry and the medical community in favour of ‘superstars’ like calcium and iron. Why is this so, when no other nutrient can perform the work of magnesium?

1.  Magnesium’s role in the human body cannot be categorized into merely one box.  So it’s tougher to market in a culture programmed to see things as ‘the cause of A (disease) is B ( habit) and the solution is C (drug, surgery, etc.)’. You may have noticed that things are rarely resolved so easily.  In fact, in nutritional science, the solution is usually the inverse of B!  All that is to say that magnesium is required in over 300 chemical reactions that keep you alive. Nerves, muscles, bones, hormones, the liver, the brain, ….all of these require sufficient magnesium to function properly.

2. We tend to think of natural supplements as ‘natural remedies’ instead of the essential nutrients that so many of them are.  Saying that magnesium “helps” with high blood pressure, constipation, PMS and headaches keeps us from remembering it doesn’t just cover up our ills like an analgesic (pain reliever) would; rather magnesium is an essential nutrient that maintains health (and therefore the absence of symptoms, the latter which occur when a nutrient is deficient).

3. There is no one disease that has been directly linked to magnesium deficiency.  Instead, there are probably hundreds of diseases, or symptoms that it is linked to. Compare this to scurvy, the disease of poor immunity that cannot be cured by anything but vitamin C.  Medicine likes to simplify and look for ‘the’ cause because too many variables make it too expensive or difficult to test using the scientific method.

 

In short, magnesium has not gotten the media attention it deserves.   You need it daily.  But consider this:

  • The foods richest in magnesium are the hardest to get enough of in your daily diet.  The richest sources—nuts— are banPile of Two Chocolate Brownies on a Platened from schools; greens are a kid’s worst dinner-plate nightmare. The health benefits of cocoa–also a very high source of magnesium—are arguably reduced by the detrimental effects of the excess sugar, fat and caffeine that chocolate-flavoured treats contain.  So  I challenge you to achieve the upper end of the RDI (recommended daily allowance) for magnesium–500 milligrams daily for adults—through diet alone.
  • We each have unique nutritional requirements.  Even if you calculate your intake to be close to the RDI, consider that due to a variety of genetic factors and lifestyle stressors, you may not be getting enough to function optimally. You may need 20 milligrams, or you may need 3 grams to prevent fatigue, muscle twitching or cramping, sugar cravings, insomnia, headaches and many other symptoms that are associated with inadequate magnesium intake.

Now for the information I promised you:

Here’s How You Can Find Out Your Optimal Daily Intake:

Step 1: Obtain a good quality magnesium supplement, such as magnesium glycinate in capsule form.  (By the way, by “high quality”, I mean highly absorbable.)

Step 2: Without changing your diet, begin taking one capsule of magnesium each day.

Step 3: Increase the dosage by one capsule each day (in divided intervals, such as morning and night). Be sure to record how many capsules and the total intake in milligrams, you have taken that day. This will be important later!

Step 4: Keep taking the magnesium in increasing amounts until you experience a very loose stool.  This means you have exceeded the amount of magnesium you can absorb in one day.

Step 5: Reduce the amount of magnesium by one capsule a day until the bowels produce a solid well-formed stool again. Not sure what that is? Aim for #3 or #4 on this chart: 460px-Bristol_Stool_Chart

Congratulations! You have identified your optimal magnesium intake.  Record the amount and any improvements in your health while you’re reaching your required intake. Improvements may include increased energy, fewer food cravings, lessened PMS (in women), prostate gland support, fewer headaches and muscle cramps, and more! Tell me about your experience here:

Important note: if you suffer from any diagnosed health condition, please talk to your medical or naturopathic physician before taking magnesium supplements.

Skin Benefits of Avocado

Sliced Avocado HalfAvocados are a wonderful food for dry, oily and problem skin alike. The monounsaturated oils they are composed of are the same as those in olive oil, supporting healthy moisture levels in the skin without fostering excess sebum production.

Since they are high in healthy oils, avocados are also a rich source of vitamin E. This antioxidant vitamin protects cells from damaging chemicals and UV radiation.

Avocados are rich in potassium, a nutrient that supports cellular hydration.  Impressively, a hass avocado contains twice the amount of potassium that exists in the average banana, without the sugars that can feed the micro-organisms that promote breakouts. In addition, avocados are high in fibre, supporting balanced blood sugar levels and the timely elimination of wastes through the colon.  And yes, for these reasons they are permitted in my Clear Skin Detox Program!

Here’s a recipe that pairs avocados with other skin-supportive foods and can be enjoyed as a nutritious, satisfying snack:

Avocado Salad with Tomatoes

3 hass avocados

¾ cup tomatoes, your choice of type (plum, cherry, grape, etc.), chopped

½ Videlia (sweet) onion, chopped

juice of ½ lemon

¼ tsp sea salt

black pepper to taste

½ cup cilantro leaves, minced

1 – 2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and minced (optional, for extra kick)

How do you like your avocados?

How to Stay Healthy in a Cold Winter Climate

Man Plowing Snow with SkisI don’t know about you, but I’ve been living through Ottawa’s cold winters throughout my entire life, and I have to say I’ve never gotten ‘used to’ the cold.  We’ve all heard the complaining that is acceptable conversation fodder: how cold it is today, who in the family is sick with a cold or flu again,  how depressing the weather is, what a pain it is to shovel all the snow, etc. —basically that winter in Ottawa is awful.  I admit, there are days when that belief crosses my mind and tries to plant itself there.   But when it tries, I try harder.  How do I do it?  I prepare for it and embrace it.  If you’ve lead an indoor life these past 3 months or so, and are not an invalid, you can be out there, benefiting from winter!

I know, there’s only about a month or so of winter left, you may say—-but why not start practising  so that you can be prepared for next winter? Here’s how to start replacing your old beliefs about winter:

Woman Wearing Hat and ScarfBelief #1: ” It’s too cold to go outside.”

Solution: Wear under-layers. If you’re thinking about those very un-sexy, beige ‘longjohns” your grandpa used to wear, think again. They are extinct! They’ve been replaced by a whole realm of colourful underlayers for legs and body available in an assortment of fabrics that fit every shape.  In fact, now’s the time to buy them because they go on sale at end of season (again, that’s now!).

Here are my top picks:

For 100% Merino wool products, check out www.icebreaker.com   The great things about this wool?  It’s remarkably soft, doesn’t hold odours, and is breathable yet warm! (Obviously, if you are allergic to wool, you should probably opt for another choice).

At a lesser cost, you can buy synthetics, such as those sold by Mountain Equipment Co-op:  www.mec.ca

Pros: Very cozy, and surprisingly warm! Cons: Synthetics hold odour. Wear them once, then wash.

icebug gripBelief #2:  “It’s too slippery.”

Solution: Icebugs. Next time you see me, ask to see my winter boots. In wintertime, I’ve been wearing Icebug boots exclusively for the past 7+ years.  The outersoles of these Swedish- invented boots and runners are outfitted with carbide ‘studs’ that provide superb grip on icy surfaces. My Icebugs give me confidence walking on icy streets. Check out the variety of styles at www.icebug.se

Belief #3:  “Everyone gets sick and feels blue in winter. It’s normal.”

sun raysSolution: Take your vitamin D.  Statistically, it may be so that the rate of infectious disease skyrockets in winter, but it need not be necessary. Take your Vitamin D to support mental health and immunity, and take it all year round.  The idea that ‘if you spend 15 minutes outside per day you will make the vitamin D you need’ is misleading to Canadians as it is NOT applicable to our location on the globe in winter time (when the sun is shining directly on the Tropic of Capricorn, in the southern hemisphere).  Make sure you are taking at LEAST 1,000 i,u. of vitamin D-3 daily. If you’re skeptical about needing this, go and have your blood levels of vitamin checked. Note that it will cost you $30 to do this, and you are better to use that money on a couple of bottles of quality vitamin D-3.  I recommend an emulsified vitamin D, or liquid form D for optimal absorption. Oh, and stay away from sugars as much as possible! They suppress the immune system.

Belief #4:  “Winter is boring, tiring and depressing.” 

Girl Making Snow AngelSolution: Get some fresh air Our homes and workplaces are more polluted with unhealthy off-gases in winter than any other time of year since our windows remain closed.  Wearing your layers (and a hat, may I add), go for a walk on one of the National Capital Region’s many Greenbelt trails. If you enjoy dogs, check out Bruce Pit (off Cedarview Drive north of Hunt Club Rd.) If you don’t enjoy dogs, go to a trail such as Jack Pine, Lime Kiln, or Sarsaparilla (all west end trails).

Belief #5: . “Winter is only fun for athletes.”

Solution: Participate!  If you enjoy watching a winter sport on TV chances are you may like to participate in it yourself to some degree.   Whether you choose to go tobogganing, a casual road or ice-hockey game,  skate on the Rideau Canal, try snowshoeing in Gatineau Park or learn to downhill ski on one of the half-dozen mountains, you will benefit from the outdoor air and the good energy that surrounds you from others enjoying their activities. It will rub off on you!

bottles glassBelief #6: “It’s too dry! My hair is brittle and my skin cracks”.

Solution:  Keep hydrated by drinking water every waking hour , take an omega-3 fatty acid supplement such as flaxseed or fish oil, and nourishing your body with natural oil-based lotions and creams as soon as possible after toweling off from bathing. Good ones to use are coconut oil-based  or shea nut butter-based with a short ingredient list of unpronouncables (even better: NO unpronouncables!).

Remember:  Every thought we think–negative or positive— is creating our future.  Good news: A thought can be changed.

Now, go make an effort to enjoy what’s left of a beautiful season.

 

 

 

 

 

Five Ways to Contract Parasites

apple wormParasites. For many, this word conjures up frightening images of 10-foot-long worms, like tapeworms, the eggs of which have been reported to be found in ill-prepared sushi.  Parasites are actually any organism that derives nourishment and shelter from its host, but in doing so, is detrimental to the health of its host. They can damage the intestinal lining, the blood cells, the liver, the heart and so on. Most of them cannot be seen with the naked eye, so neither can their eggs.

Here are the 5 most common ways you can get parasites:

1.Eating ill-prepared raw foods. One recent article suggested that over fifty percent of Atlantic salmon is infected with a parasitic louse. There are dozens of fish parasites, which is why fish farms rely on pharmaceuticals to protect their stock.  It’s also why fish being prepared for use in sashimi and sushi  must be prepared carefully before use and are served with very pungent condiments!  Not a sushi fan? Even organically grown fruits and vegetables should be washed thoroughly before eating them raw.  Prefer cooked vegetables? Your risk may be reduced. The heat of thorough cooking will destroy parasites and their eggs.

2. Drinking water directly from a freshwater lake, river or stream. Ever heard of ‘beaver fever’?  Giardia lamblia is a parasite that North Americans hikers and campers can acquire in one gulp, resulting in chronic irritable bowel-type symptoms that can go unsolved for years. That’s right; it is uncommon for medical doctors to test for giardia before assigning a diagnosis for IBS. 

Samoyed Sitting3. Your pets. Yes, your cat or dog may contract a parasite that could be transmitted to you via a slobbery kiss. One such parasite is cryptosporidium, which veterinarians and medical doctors believe to be highly infectious.  Children are most vulnerable to this parasite because they are close to the ground and they tend to put fingers in their mouths. Unlike canine heartworm, there is no vaccination against it.

4. Unprotected sexual activities. It should come as no surprise that if a virus as small as HIV can pass through blood, semen and vaginal secretions then parasitic micro-organisms can also pass through.  For example, trichomonas is the most common parasitic STI (sexually transmitted infection) worldwide.

5. Foreign travel. Visiting a region where sanitation and hygiene are not on par with western, industrialized regions can increase your risk of acquiring a parasite.  Walking barefoot on infected soil is a risk factor for old-world hookworm, for instance.

I could keep this list going, but you get the point. These tiny organisms are everywhere, and even if you sit at home with a cat on your lap and make your own food you are at risk .  Even a healthy immune system may not offer protection against most parasites.

Parasite Cleansing

Assorted basil herbsOur grandparents and great-grandparents were wise to ‘de-worm’ the family a couple times per year with homemade concoctions. When’s the last time you de-wormed the kids?  Why we stopped this practice may have a lot to do with the false sense of security created by the success of antibiotics; however, antibiotics only kill bacteria–not nematodes (worms), nor fungi, nor protozoans (like giardia).

You don’t need to wait until a doctor diagnoses you with a parasite to enjoy the benefits of a parasite cleanse.  If you have an inflammatory skin condition, chronic digestive difficulties, or any other health challenge, parasites could be part of the problem. Cleansing the body of parasitic organisms is a form of detoxification that can result in better sense of well-being.  But it requires nutritional modifications and lifestyle modifications to prevent re-infection. Read more about cleansing and detoxifying.

You Can’t Detox Without This

human organsThere are a lot of detox programs out there. I don’t mean for alcohol or other drug addictions; I am talking about nutritional detox programs.  Many of them are reputedly “easier”  to do, or ‘faster’ to do; some are ‘cheaper’ than others.  Some claim that you have to feel worse before you feel better, and so if you feel hungover you must be doing it right, and the toxins must be coming out. Right? Actually, this is a misconception. Beware of detox programs that tell you this is normal. Why? Because it doesn’t have to be this way in order to work.  In a moment I will tell you how to recognize a good nutritional detox and why it should make you feel BETTER while you’re on it, not worse. But first, some Elimination 101:

Each of our bodies’ thousands of metabolic processes can be grouped into one of three types of activities. These 3 main daily activities are:

1. Building new tissues, hormones, enzymes et cetera, with nutrients.

2. Cleansing itself of toxins and waste products via the five channels of elimination, with nutrients.

3. Maintaining structure and function–with nutrients.

So, as you can see, none of these 3 essential activities that keep you alive and well can happen without NUTRIENTS.  Nutritional modifications are the key to keeping the five channels of elimination working for us: the liver, colon, kidneys, lungs and skin.

The Liver

See, the liver serves as a kind of  ‘transformation station’ that converts toxins into less harmful substances before they can be excreted via the other channels of elimination.  This process is impossible without the production and action of enzymes: specialized protein molecules that make chemical reactions happen. Enzymes cannot be made without nutrients—vitamins, minerals and amino acids.  So, if we can’t transform toxins without nutrients, then we cannot detoxify without nutrients—and it goes without saying, the right balance of nutrients is required to be effective.

Headache woman If it feels bad, it may NOT be working

A well-designed, balanced nutritional detoxification program will increase your energy, promote clearer skin, better sleep, better digestion, et cetera. In essence, it should help you feel better.  If your symptoms worsen or you get new symptoms while doing a detox, then you are not getting the nutritional support you need to get the detoxification work done.  Take these juice fasts, for instance. While they contain some essential vitamins,  minerals and carbohydrates, they are devoid of protein.  Proteins are essential for providing the building blocks for those liver enzymes I mentioned!  This is why my detoxification program contains quality proteins, and in effect, I believe in turn that this is why clients have such positive experiences: they are getting the liver support they require during the cleanse.

Are you ready for a detox? Find out if you may be a good candidate for my program,  here.

 

 

 

Safety of Vitamin A: Part 3

Who Shouldn’t Supplement Vitamin A for Skin and Why

I’d like to begin with an interesting fact:

The Eskimos learned the hard way that although the polar bear was a good source of nutrition for its peoples, its liver was NOT to be eaten.  Why? It contains a toxic dose of vitamin A. How much is that?  A polar bear’s liver has been measured to contain more than 1,000,000 i.u. of retinol!

So, assuming you don’t have access to polar bear meat or organs, here are four types of people who should NOT take supplemental retinol:

  1. If you are a pregnant female, or wish to become pregnant, you are wise to avoid any supplementation of pre-formed vitamin A (i.e., retinol) beyond a standard multi-vitamin. Sticking  to a dose of less than 2,600 i.u. retinol per day is a is a safer bet.  But the safest bet here is a multivitamin that lists all its vitamin A as “mixed carotenoids”.  These are vegetable-sourced. water-soluble and safe.

2. If you are on Accutane (isotretinoin), you are already ingesting very, very high amounts of a synthetic derivative of vitamin A. Keep in mind that this is because Accutane, or isotretinoin, is taken in doses equivalent to upwards of 100,000 i.u. (international units) per day! Excess vitamin A is drying to mucous membranes, eyes and skin and toxic to the liver. This is why your dermatologist requires you to have liver enzymes tests regularly while you are on Accutane. If you are female, you will asked to use birth control while using this acne drug because it causes severe birth defects to the fetus in utero.

3.  Anyone using prescription medications of ANY kind should speak to their prescribing physician(s) or pharmacist before taking extra amounts of retinol.  Drugs add to the detoxification workload of the liver, so any additional fat-soluble nutrients that are normally stored there can add to the burden on this organ.

4. Anyone with compromised liver function, as diagnosed by their doctor. Those with hepatitis, cirrhosis or fatty liver disease should not use vitamin A. In hepatitis, the liver is inflamed and burdened with an infection so adding to its workload is not recommended. In cirrhosis, the liver is scarred, resulting in fewer functioning liver cells and poor blood flow through the organ. Finally, a fatty liver carries an excess of fat, potentially allowing  for additional storage of this fat-soluble vitamin; however, this is not desirable as it may increase the potential for liver damage.

Good news:  Unless any of the above conditions describe you, it is unlikely that a vitamin A supplement taken as directed on the label will hurt you. Having said this, I’d like to ask that anyone thinking of trying vitamin A for acne control discuss it with their healthcare practitioner before starting.

Still note sure if your skin problems could benefit from extra vitamin A? Check out my Clear Skin Program.

Vitamin A for Acne: Part 2

In my previous post, I discussed the functions and features of different forms of vitamin A.  So why is vitamin A important if you have acne?

Well, we know that retinol (known commonly as vitamin A) is responsible for healthy keratinisation of the skin. In other words, it is important to the normal shedding of the skin cells that line the walls of the hair follicle—where acne arises from. Skin cells are ‘born’ in the epidermis, the deepest layer of the skin.  Maturation of the skin cells occurs as they migrate up from the epidermis to the top layers of the skin.  Since retinol controls the turnover of epithelial cells, having enough of this vitamin is important to those who have a dysfunctional rate of turnover. Acne and psoriasis both involve excessively rapid turnover of skin cells lining the follicle walls. This is termed hyper-keratinization.  This process means that cells can build up, causing obstruction of the pore, and ultimately, an acne lesion, or the plaques of psoriasis.

Vitamin A and Sebum Production:  The other function of vitamin A as it related to skin health is regulation of sebum production.  Sebum is an oily substance produced by the sebaceous glands, which are adjacent to each hair follicle. Acne occurs more easily in individuals who have  overactive sebaceous glands because the sebum acts like ‘fly paper’, where bacteria and yeasts can get stuck. The immune cells attempt to solve the problem, but to no avail. The result is inflammation—identifiable by swelling, redness, heat and pain.  So, it makes sense that acne sufferers would want  to reduce their sebum production—which vitamin A (retinoids) can help them accomplish.

In fact, retinoids have worked so well for some acne sufferers that dermatologists have been prescribing them for decades. However, both the topical and oral use of these synthetic versions of vitamin A have side effects, including but not limited to excessive drying of the skin, and a worsening of acne before improvement occurs. Could the fact they are synthetic versions of an essential vitamin, used in high doses, be the reason for these side effects?

So, should you take a natural vitamin A supplement for your acne?  Stay tuned for Part 3, in which I’ll tell you who should NOT use vitamin A supplements and why.