Food, menopause and healthy skin
As the days finally become sunnier and brighter and we can peel off the layers of clothing, we tend to become more aware of our bodies, our appearance and most definitely our skin. As we begin exposing our paler skin, we scrutinise our faces and the skin on our bodies too.
As we transition through the perimenopausal and menopausal stage of our lives, we all become familiar with the terms “bingo wings”, “saggy stomach” and even worse, “wrinkles”!! Whilst we cannot stop the ageing process altogether, there are dietary choices that we can make to help with our skin tone and elasticity.
What happens to your skin during your 40s and 50s?
Whilst we naturally associate our reproductive hormones such as oestrogen and progesterone with our fertile years, there are many other mechanisms in which these hormones are involved throughout the body. Oestrogen is involved in the production of:
- Ceramides (a type of fatty acid called lipids which essentially keeps our skin barrier intact and healthy, derived from fat and protein sources.)
- Hyaluronic acid (an acid which helps the skin remain flexible, supple and low in wrinkles. It is also excellent at retaining water, keeping the skin hydrated and plump.)
- Sebum (another oily substance derived from fat molecules to hydrate and protect our skin.)
- Collagen (the most abundant protein within the body used to make connective tissue.)
As our reproductive hormones start to fluctuate and decline, so we can see how our skin could be affected. Declining oestrogen promotes a catabolic (i.e. breaking down) effect in the body, leading to a loss of skin integrity and elasticity and an increase in skin dryness and flaking. Post menopause, collagen synthesis lowers, skin thickness reduces by approximately 13% whilst collagen content reduces by approximately 2% per post-menopausal year.
In addition, a high sugar diet does not help matters; sugar glycates (literally bonds to) proteins and lipid substances within the body, leading to the synthesis of advanced glycation end products (known as AGE). Collagen, as a functioning protein, is not immune to this process – once collagen is glycated, skin flexibility is reduced and therefore much more susceptible to damage. High UV ray exposure, smoking and a higher than average consumption of fried/fatty foods such as crisps can all contribute to the increase of AGE products.
What can you do to improve your skin health?
The ageing process and menopausal years are not all doom and gloom! It is also a great time to reflect on what is important to each of us, and as our thoughts turn to our longer-term health, you can make some positive changes to your diet which can have a great impact on many areas of your life, including helping create healthy skin.
6 positive changes you can make to your diet for healthy skin:
1. Include plenty of ‘good fats’ in your diet
Having plenty of ‘good fats’ in your diet is vital for hormone synthesis and balancing. Include foods such as olive oil, avocado, a wide variety of nuts and seeds and other cold pressed oils. These foods can also have a calming effect on inflammation within the body, so if skin flare-ups do start to occur such as rosacea or adult acne (not uncommon during the perimenopausal years), these essential fats can help.
2. Reduce saturated fats
Reduce “trans” or “saturated” fats and avoid more AGE products or inflammation occurring, these are generally found in factory produced foods such as crisps, some processed ready meals and fast food, and of course biscuits, cakes and any processed sweet treats. These foods also include simple carbohydrates, the fast energy releasing sugars, which we know can greatly increase AGE production.
3. Increase good quality protein
Ensure you increase the good quality protein in your diet and include it with every meal, including breakfast. This will assist with collagen synthesis and the strengthening of connective tissue. Protein is found in lean poultry, all fish (particularly oily fish such as salmon, mackerel and sardines), eggs, dairy products, tofu, nuts and seeds.
4. Include fibre in your diet
Aim to include as much fibre in your diet, particularly vegetables, in order to help eliminate any unwanted, unhelpful products such as old hormones and inflammatory substances. Regular detoxification and elimination can also enhance gut health which can have a positive effect on your immune system and therefore can help reduce any skin flare-ups or inflammation. This could include a wide variety of vegetables including dark green leafy veg, cruciferous veg such as broccoli and cauliflower, onions, garlic, some fermented foods such as kimchi, kefir, miso soup and live natural yoghurt. These foods can help to nourish and protect the gut microbiome which in turn work tirelessly on a number of systems such as hormone production, the immune and digestion, all of which can enhance the quality of our skin.
5. Variety of vitamins
A wide range of vitamins and minerals are required to aid in these processes within the body. Two important examples are firstly, vitamin C, found in foods such as citrus fruits, strawberries, kiwis, blackcurrants, beans, broccoli and peppers. Secondly, the mineral zinc, found in foods such as lamb, beef, ginger root, almonds, shellfish and mushrooms.
6. Stay hydrated
We read so much about drinking enough water each day. It is indeed vital for healthy skin as well as many other systems. At its peak the water content of your skin should be 70%. This is necessary to keep skin supple, elastic and moisturised. You should aim for two litres of water per day, which can include hot water with lemon and ginger or mint, and herbal teas.
This article was written by Registered Nutritional Therapist and Hormone Health Associate
Antonia de Gier
At Hormone Health we are here to help. If you would like to book a consultation for specific skin conditions such as acne, rosacea, eczema, dermatitis, hives or general dry/itchy skin, or you are simply looking for a pre-summer health and dietary reset, we can advise, research any possible underlying causes and provide a tailor-made protocol to suit your individual needs.