Skin, Nails and Hair
Hair, skin and nails provide a look at the inner health of the body. These outward "signs" can tell you a lot about the condition of your inward health.
Often we may have problems with our skin such as dull skin, skin likely to break out in blotches or skin that dehydrates easily. All of these problems and many more indicate the lack of proper nutrition.
Poor diet, drugs, alcohol, excessive sun exposure, environmental toxins and tobacco smoke increase free radical damage and decrease enzyme activity. Both free radical damage and the reduction in enzyme activity can hasten the appearance of the following problems; wrinkles, age spots, sagging skin and ultimately to serious skin problems.
Free radicals oxidize cells, making normal cell metabolism impossible. Enzymes can help prevent or treat skin damage by fighting these free radicals and reducing stress on bodily systems.
The skin reflects our overall health and acts as a barrier against the outside world, is the largest organ and is composed primarily of collagen. Collagen fibers form an elastin network that makes up connective tissues. The skins elasticity, strength and smoothness come from the makeup of the collagen fibers.
The Skin's Vitality Can be Measured - To measure the amount of free radical damage you must perform the skin elasticity test. Grasp the skin on the back of the hand between the thumb and index finger. Raise the skin and release it. The skin fold should immediately flatten. If a ridge remains, the skin is aging and damaged by connective tissues and muscles binding together. Enzymes battle both by improving blood supply and then the nutrient supply by the skin's dermal layer.
Protects internal organs and tissues from injury
Preserves valuable moisture and helps maintain normal body temperature
Protects the body from toxins, viruses and bacteria
Enzymes and Skin - The skin is loaded with natural enzymes that serve a vital purpose in running cellular machinery. They are the catalysts of virtually all biochemical activities in the body. Their vast responsibilities include food digestion; brain stimulation; and tissue, organ and cell repair. The body's enzymes are often divided into two groups-digestive enzymes and metabolic (or systemic) enzymes. Digestive enzymes are secreted along the gastrointestinal tract and break down foods, enabling nutrients to be absorbed. Their three main categories are protease enzymes, the protein digesters; amylase enzymes, the carbohydrate digesters; and lipase enzymes, the fat digesters.
Digestive enzymes are not active inside cells but are produced in the pancreas and released into the small intestine where they chemically break down proteins, carbohydrates and fats. The body's ability to produce digestive enzymes decreases with age, and the enzymes produced are not as active. This enzyme deficit leads to poor digestion and therefore poor absorption of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and other nutrients necessary for healthy skin. For example, without sufficient enzymes, the body can't extract beta-carotene from foods and convert it to vitamin A, which is critical to skin health.
Cancer is probably the most serious skin damage caused by free radicals. In fact, one out of every three cancer cases diagnosed this year will be skin cancer, and one out of every five Americans will develop skin cancer sometime during his or her life time.
There are many kinds of skin cancer, including basal cell carcinoma, the most common type, which affects nearly 1 million Americans each year. Squamous cell carcinoma, the second most common skin cancer, affects 100,000 Americans yearly. Although not diagnosed as frequently as other skin cancers, malignant melanoma is the most dangerous skin cancer and affected 41,600 people in 1998. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation of New York, the incidence of malignant melanoma is increasing at an alarming rate.
The Enzyme Deficit - Free radicals are not the only culprits destroying enzymes and damaging skin. Many people develop an enzyme deficiency because of the foods they eat. Although raw foods contain the enzymes necessary for their digestion most people eat foods that have been cooked and processed and are, therefore, "enzyme dead." A diet lacking in enzymes puts an additional burden on the pancreas.
Steps to Healthy Skin
- Drink lots of water to keep the skin hydrated and minimize wrinkling.
- Eat plenty of raw fruits and vegetables
- Get sufficient rest
- Quit smoking, stop alcoholic beverages and excessive sun exposure
- Get sufficient exercise to improve circulation and enzymatic activity
- Eat more whole foods avoiding processed and artificial ingredients
- Avoid coffee and tea (tea has the substance used to tan leather)
- Eat foods rich in enzymes (avocados, papayas, pineapples, bananas, mangos and the richest food: sprouts
- Use only skin products with natural and healthful ingredients, like Natria
"Fingernails are made of protein," Adelle Davis stated in her book, Let's Get Well. "Fingernails that split, break off, are extremely thin, or fail to grow, indicate a lack of protein or Vitamin A, and the rate of nail growth has been used as a measure of protein adequacy."
Possibly, our diet lacks adequate protein. Dairy products, fish, poultry, beans, tofu and eggs provide high quality protein. Egg yolk which contains sulfur helps nail growth the most. Other excellent protein sources containing sulfur are beans, nuts, seeds, grains, and vegetables such as asparagus.
Sulfur is an essential mineral and our body needs 850 mg. of all kinds of sulfur per day, most of which is supplied by food protein. Vegetarians can be lacking in sulfur, particularly if they do not consume eggs. Sulfur is present in every cell of our body and an absolute necessity to normal growth. It has been estimated that an adult's daily consumption of sulfur totals less than 140 mgs., less than 16 percent of an adult's daily requirement.
Foods high in sulfur are onion, garlic and the sulfur-containing protein sources mentioned above. Natural herbs and nutrients high in sulfur are garlic, horsetail and MSM.
Nails are an extension of both the hair and skin. They've long been an indicator of health-related problems. Sometimes they don't grow fast enough, they may split or contain ridges or even white spots. Healthy nails should be pink, smooth and shiny. Changes in their color, shape and texture may signal the presence of disease. Disorders affecting the blood, such as thyroid conditions, poor circulation and heart, liver and kidney disease, can contribute to a change in nail condition.
- Bluish Fingernails - circulatory problems
- Vertical ridges - May indicate an iron deficiency
- Spoon-shaped nails - Those that curve upward, can be a natural sign of aging or a sign of anemia. This can be caused by deficiencies or iron and/or B12.
- Thickening of the Nails - insufficient oxygen reaching the nail, a sign of lung disease.
- Holes or sharp pits - may be a sign of psoriasis (a skin disease that causes redness and scaling)
- Yellowish discoloration (of the nail or the skin under it) - If nicotine use is not applicable or either nail polish or hair dyes, it can be a sign of fungal or yeast infection, psoriasis, lymph disorder or even liver disease.
- Disappearance of the lunula (the light colored "moon" at the base of the nail. Lung disease is possible.
- Broadening of the nail - a sign of possible lung disease. It's called a watch glass deformity because of the way the nail's convexity is accentuated.
- Brittleness - Usually caused by detergents, chlorinated water, nail polish remover, or aging. Vitamin A and calcium deficiencies cause dryness and brittleness of the nails. Andrew Weil, M.D. in "Natural Health, Natural Medicine", says try black currant oil, 500 mg. twice daily for this situation.
- Ridging or buckling - which may be accompanied by inflammation of the skin around the nail. It's a sign of possible fungal infection. The condition can be particularly dangerous when it occurs in the toenails.
- White spots on nails (medical term: leukonychia) - injuries frequently bring on such spots, the primary cause seems to be a zinc deficiency. According to Dr. Carl Preiffer, research scientist and director of Princeton's Brain Bio Center, the entire world population is probably deficient in zinc, and he recommends 20 mg. of zinc gluconate be taken twice daily.
- Spots or furrows - caused by virus infections, colds, high fever or other severe stresses
- Nail abnormalities - often seen in people with hypertension who are know to have high serum copper - the nail will be constricted in from where the nail normally is located.
- White nails - may signal poor circulation or anemia (when circulation is poor, the nail bed - skin under the nail doesn't receive enough blood - this causes the color to change from healthy pink to pale or white
- Green nails - indicate a bacterial infection which usually occurs when the nail is slightly separated from the skin, leaving an open space where bacteria can thrive
- Red splinters - tiny hemorrhages in the capillaries in the nail bed - they may be caused by minor injury to the nail or in rare cases by liver trouble or psoriasis
- Dark horizontal streaks - may indicate an underactive adrenal gland - the streaks usually fade after the adrenal gland begins to get stronger
- Hangnails - lack of protein, folic acid and Vitamin C can cause this nail problem.
- Splitting nails - lack of Hydrochloric Acid (HCL) contributes to splitting nails.
- Fungus in and around the nails - can be caused by lack of friendly bacteria in the intestinal system. Andrew Weil, M.D. in "Natural Health, Natural Medicine", says Tea Tree oil will clear up fungal infections of both toenails and fingernails even if they are resistant to strong systemic antibiotics.
References: "Health Store News" - October 1986, page 14 "Bestways" - June 1979, page 97 "Better Nutrition for Today's Living" - May 1992, page 34 "Nutrition Science News" - April 1998, page 210-214