Skin: Healthy from the Inside-OutSkin: Healthy from the Inside-Out

By J. Matthew Brand, L.Ac., Certified Clinical Nutritionist

When we show our face, we are exposing a part of our innermost selves to the world. While the outermost layer of skin is composed entirely of dead cells, the condition of the epidermis is the result of not only what happens on its surface, but also what is happening inside the body.

Our skin provides protection from the external environment, being our first line of defense against bacteria, viruses and other microorganisms. It also makes us waterproof (and, in turn, helps keep moisture inside), helps regulate temperature through sweating, and produces vitamin D when exposed to the sunlight. Skin turnover time is, on average, between 30 and 40 days, meaning that whatever steps you take to make positive changes to your skin will take at least this long to become evident. The most effective way to improve your skin is to first make changes from the inside out, including managing your emotions, monthly cycles, sleep, diet and digestion.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, we view the body’s internal organs as playing an important role in determining how healthy our skin is, and lungs have a special relationship with our skin. The skin is like an outer lung and the pores are seen as the “doors of Qi” because the skin also breathes and exchanges substances with the outer environment. When the lungs are particularly weak during the dry autumn months due to the change in weather, the skin becomes more fragile and less able to maintain both a balance of moisture and the ability to fend off colds and flus, which may compromise skin health and attractiveness.

So, what steps can you take to nourish your skin? In Chinese medicine, the large intestine is the companion organ to the lungs. The foods that can help us maintain regular and healthy bowel movements, can also moisten the lungs, supporting more supple skin. These foods include mung beans, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, tofu, green beans, turnips, cucumbers, apricots, loquats and pearl barley. Foods that are dark green or orange are rich in vitamin A, which is of particular value to the skin as well, so think about incorporating persimmons, carrots, winter squash and kale into your skin-healthy diet.

A classic autumnal Chinese recipe is based on the moisturizing quality of the Asian pear, which is harvested in late August and available in grocery stores now. For this easy dessert of steamed Asian pears, you need 2 Asian pears, 2 teaspoons of brown sugar, and 10 grams of the herb Chuan Bei Mu, crushed. Core the pears and stuff 3 to 5 grams of the herb and 1 teaspoon of brown sugar into each, then steam for 20 minutes or until soft. Serve warm, one pear per serving, and enjoy!

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