The Skin Microbiome – what is it and how to keep it healthy?

The Skin Microbiome – what is it and how to keep it healthy?

When the skin is healthy, it is covered by a diverse mix of microbes, including bacteria, viruses and fungi.  When in balance, these microbes have a symbiotic relationship with our body and interact with our genes to support immunity, barrier function and to help protect against disease.

In skin conditions such as eczema, the microbiome loses this diversity and becomes imbalanced.  These imbalances can affect immunity and barrier function, resulting in inflammation of the skin.  

So what can we do to keep our skin microbiome healthy and reduce the risk of eczema flares?

The good news is there are some simple dietary and lifestyle changes we can make that can make all the difference:

  • Time to get dirty– hygiene has its benefits but also its drawbacks.  Excessive cleanliness can reduce our exposure to diverse microbes, especially in the beginning stages of life.  Research shows that early exposure to animals, fresh plant foods and outdoor time can have a positive impact on our immune system and reduce risk of allergic diseases such as eczema.
  • Nourish your bugs– microbes won’t feed themselves.  Good bacteria rely on their host (that’s you) to eat a healthy diet to survive.  Plant foods in particular help to nourish the good bacteria, which means an extra  serve of fruit and veg a day can make all the difference
  • Put back what you take out– there may be times where your diet and lifestyle are less than ideal and may include foods or medications which reduce microbial diversity, such as alcohol, processed foods and antibiotics.   During these times it may be beneficial to top up your good bugs with a probiotic until you are back on board with steps 1 and 2!

For further information on the skin microbiome and how it can affect your eczema, contact the Psoriasis Eczema Clinic – the centre for Complementary and Alternative treatments for eczema Melbourne.

How does collagen help skin health?

How does collagen help skin health?

Jessica Simonis – Nutritionist and Western Herbalist

Collagen is a protein and a vital ‘building-block’ of skin and joints. For this reason has become a popular supplement in the health and beauty industry. So how does collagen help with skin health? In today’s blog we will break down the facts about collagen and whether this latest craze is really worth the hype.

Skin benefits of collagen

Translating to the word “glue” in Greek, collagen has been well known for its role in tissue renewal and wound repair for many years. Some other skin benefits of collagen can include;

  • improved skin structure
  • Improved skin hydration
  • Improved skin elasticity

For those with chronic skin conditions, wound repair is an important part of healing and therefore optimal nutrition is essential to help restore healthy barrier function. Whilst collagen supplementation is lacking research in regards to specific skin conditions, having enough protein in your diet to support healthy skin function is a good place to start.

How do you know if you are getting enough collagen?

The human body has the ability to self-regulate collagen production. Therefore, a healthy individual will typically have enough collagen to maintain good skin and joint health, simply by eating a healthy balanced diet. However, during times of increased emotional and/or physical stress, the body’s ability to supply enough collagen can be impaired. *For other ways in which stress can affect your nutrition – see here.

Other factors that can increase demand in collagen can include:

  • Low protein diets
  • Conditions affecting digestion or absorption (eg. coeliac disease)
  • Certain medications (eg. antacids or protein pump inhibitors)
  • Liver or kidney disease
  • If you have a chronic, inflammatory skin or joint condition which requires ongoing repair

If you say yes to any of the above, chances are you could do with some extra collagen.

So, should you join the collagen powder craze?

Not necessarily.

Collagen proteins come from both animal and plant sources and therefore a balanced diet, rich in proteins will generally supply you with what you need. One of the richest sources of collagen is bone broth, a traditional food that is both nourishing and restoring. The perfect remedy for skin repair!

For vegetarians and vegans, it is recommended to eat a balanced diet including legumes, nuts, seeds and dairy (if tolerated). Where diet is insufficient, spirulina is a great supplement rich in vitamins, minerals and plant proteins. *See here for more science behind the health benefits of spirulina.

To conclude, collagen forms plays an important role in skin health and adequate amounts of collagen can be obtained by consuming a healthy balanced diet. In cases where diet is inadequate or demand is high, dietary supplements such as spirulina or collagen powders may be of benefit.

For the best advice on natural psoriasis and eczema treatments in Melbourne, contact our friendly reception staff on 03) 9770 5337.

Celery Juice – Is it all it’s cracked up to be?

Celery Juice – Is it all it’s cracked up to be?

Celery Juice is the new “it” trend in health and wellness, but does it really live up to its reputation when it comes to skin health?

Who could have thought so much hype could surround the humble old celery stick? Until recently, celery has been the perfect platter veggie, the cracker replacement when you are in a healthy conscious state of mind. Now, celery is on trend and hailed by celebrities far and wide as the cure-all for chronic disease. Let’s dissect fact from fiction and see if this new trend has much to offer when it comes to improving skin health.

In the context of “food as medicine”, celery is considered a ‘cooling’ vegetable, which is handy given it is a great addition to a summer salad. ‘Cooling’ foods are considered particularly beneficial for ‘hot’ skin conditions such as rosacea, acne, certain types of psoriasis and eczema. ‘Hot’ skin conditions tend to present with significant redness and inflammation of the skin. According to Traditional Medical Systems such as Ayurvedic Medicine, celery is said to possess many medicinal qualities, some of which include;

  • Enhances digestion
  • Supports Liver detoxification
  • Purifies blood
  • Reduces excessive appetite
  • Promotes elimination of uric acid
  • Relaxes the nerves
  • Neutralises acids
  • Reduces inflammation
  • Maintains healthy  joints
  • Acts as a diuretic

Sounds pretty good so far.

Nutritionally, celery provides a dose of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Sodium, Silica and Folate as well as fibre if you are eating it raw (not juicing). Celery also contains additional antioxidants which have their own medicinal benefits.

Ok, so far we haven’t really found a reason NOT to eat it, so are there any down sides?

Apart from a rare group of people who may have an allergy to celery, most people can benefit from consuming celery in their daily diet. Despite being known for its liver supportive properties, celery is also one of the most highly pesticide-sprayed vegetables, and therefore taking care to adequately wash before use, choosing organic celery or growing yourself is advised if you wish to consume frequently. Celery is also very low in calories, which is beneficial for those wishing to lose but no so much for those who are underweight if it is at the expense of more calorie rich foods (*Quick fix – just add nut butter!).

So what is our official verdict here at the PEC? Celery is a fantastic addition to your daily diet, particularly if you suffer from a chronic, inflammatory skin condition.

Professor Tirant contributes to “Renew your body” feature article-Wellbeing Magazine

Feature article-Wellbeing Magazine

Professor Tirant has contributed to a special report on “Renewing your body” in the latest edition of Wellbeing Magazine. “Skin cells are in a constant state of renewal” Prof. Tirant says. “Free radicals, DNA damage and inflammation severely reduce the skin’s ability to regenerate”. Following steps such as getting enough sunlight (but not too much), antioxidants, hydration, nutrition, exercise and relaxation in your life can go a long way to improve signs and symptoms of skin conditions. For an optimal skin care regime, customization works best. Due to different skin types, conditions, presentations, ethnicity and environments, there is no one size fits all approach. For your copy of the magazine, see here:https://www.wellbeing.com.au/

How can gut health affect your immunity?

Immune Health

How can gut health affect your immunity?

Written by Jessica Simonis – Nutritionist, Western Herbalist, Holistic Skin Practitioner

Immune health plays a key role in multiple skin diseases, including psoriasis and eczema, but what does gut health have to do with your immune system? 

The health of our gut plays a significant role in determining the health of our immune system.  Gut associated lymph tissue (GALT) is the largest immune organ in the body, and the primary route of exposure to pathogens.  Essentially GALT acts as the gate keeper, keeping the balance between health promoting microbes (eg.probiotics) and disease promoting microbes (eg. pathogenic bacteria, fungi, yeasts and viruses).   When we are healthy, the gate keeper is fairly tolerant, ignoring a certain amount of nasty microbes as long as the balance is in favour of probiotics.

When we experience an imbalance in the gut microbes, the gate keeper becomes intolerant and hyper responsive leading to imbalances in the immune system, including chronic inflammation, allergy, autoimmunity and vulnerability to infection.

How will I know if my gut is out of balance?

Research has shown that those with chronic skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis and acne, demonstrate alterations in their gut bacteria.  Symptoms of an imbalanced gut microbiome are not always expressed in digestive symptoms and therefore further investigations via stool testing may be required. 

So, how can you keep your gut in balance?

Frequent exposure to a diverse range of probiotics is important in order to keep the nasty microbes in check but also to help maintain the health of the gate itself (aka the gut barrier).  Ways to increase your microbial diversity include:

  • Increase consumption of plant based, fibrous foods (fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds)
  • Include fermented foods, such as yoghurt and kefir (these are best kept to small amounts for those with inflammatory skin conditions due to histamine content)
  • Spend plenty of times outdoors immersed in nature (get your hands dirty!)
  • Avoid unnecessary antibiotics and opt for antibiotic-free/organic  meat and dairy products where possible
  • Avoid high sugar and high fat diets, which promote inflammation and growth of pathogenic microbes

If you would like to know more about how your gut health could be affecting your immune system, contact the Psoriasis Eczema Clinic today.