The effects of food on your skin: healthy eating

I never realised how much eating the right food could affect your skin.

Everyone’s heard the old saying, “You are what you eat“. And it’s not just a fable that if you eat too many carrots, you will turn orange – the high beta-carotene content means that if you eat a sufficient amount, your skin will take on an orange pigmentation.

I also knew that too much chocolate and other junk food could make your skin greasy.

What I hadn’t realised was how sensitive your body really is to the fuel you supply it until recently when we experimented on my daughter.

I will rephrase that.

My six year old daughter suffers from a mild eczema. She gets an itchy rash on the insides of her arms, and sometimes on her back and the backs of her knees. She has had this for a few years, and when younger would scratch it excessively, making it much worse and sore.

The doctor advised the usual creams and to some extent they have helped soothe the itching, but they never really prevented it.
DoubleBase was probably the best. My daughter being a little older now has more control over scratching it, but on occasions when it becomes particularly itchy, sometimes succumbs.

In spring this year my girlfriend and I went on holiday with my daughter to Portugal for about 6 days. Her skin was particularly
bad at this stage and the sun tan lotion caused it to itch further.

The first two days were a typical holiday. We ate ice cream, lots of sugary desserts, and my daughter regularly ate sweets from
the resort shop.

Her rashes became very angry looking and the itching almost unbearable.

My girlfriend also suffers from a skin condition and after avoiding ‘bad’ foods and potential allergens such as seafood and nuts, her skin had improved.

Also aware of the fact that sugary foods tended to make my daughter rather hyperactive, and with the combination of a day in the heat of the sun tiring her out resulting in unpredictable behaviour and sleeping patterns, we decided to adopt a much healthier diet for the next 4 days.

No sweets or lollipops, no ice creams, no sugary desserts.

Fortunately for me, my daughter is very logically minded and listened to the plan with reason; after all, the itching was driving her mad. She also loves tomatoes and fruit so we were able to keep her happy with healthy alternatives.

At the end of the holiday, even after using sun lotion and the occasional dip in the chlorine filled pool (which also seems to be a source of irritation), her skin was much better.

Did the diet help? Or was it just that the Mediterranean sun had healed her skin?

A few weeks passed and then she went away for a weeks holiday with her Mum, visiting her Grandmother.

Her Grandmother owns the village store, that stocks a mouth watering array of sweets, chocolate and cakes.

My daughter came back with her skin worse than ever.

A healthy diet for a few weeks and her skin cleared up again.

True, sun tan lotion may be playing a factor too; we try and use a mineral based one now. It seems pretty clear though from the combinations of food and lotions that food is playing a major role in her skin condition.

We now maintain as healthy a diet as we can. She used to get a sweet every morning from ‘the sweet fairy’ if she’d been good/got ready on time/cleaned her room etc. I’ve now phased that out, and try to avoid giving her sweets at all. If I do, I go for the ‘healthiest’ ones without preservatives, unnatural colourings and fake sugars (sugar is better than most of the alternatives). Her mum or other relatives occasionally give them to her so I don’t feel she’s missing out; I’m just trying to reduce the overall negative side effects on her.

Don’t get me wrong: on a sunny day, if we pass an ice cream van, we won’t say no.

On a rainy day, if we pass a coffee shop and there’s a particularly appealing looking chocolate cake, we won’t say no.

But we are more reasonably in general and we won’t ‘pig out’ as often as we used to, and we will share a cake, rather than over eating. If there’s several we like and we can’t choose, previously we’d get them all!! Nowadays I argue that we will come back in a few weeks and try the others.

She asked me the other day why she no longer got “sweets from the fairy”. I reminded her of the holiday and the trip to her Grandmothers and the effect that ‘bad’ food had on her skin. She accepted this and has only mentioned it a couple of times since, with the occasional sad ‘awww‘ sound, but gets over it quickly, and is mollified by the occasional ice cream. She also has a dollop of honey on her yoghurt most days – although I only give her half the amount I used to and she doesn’t seem to have noticed.

Besides, honey is a natural sugar – its the sweets, processed food and other junk food containing the preservatives, colouring and chemical Es that I believe are the source of the problem.

We’ve also cut back on juices; the sugar content is way too high (there was an interesting photo on Facebook showing sugar content in popular drinks: Sugar in drinks). She’s always loved lemons and
is very happy with our ‘home made lemonade’ drink which is simply half a lemon squeezed into soda water. It’s a little sour for some, but she loves it – and it’s very healthy. Although it’s not so good for her teeth so I’m making sure she at least uses a straw!

She still has some dry patches on her arms that occasionally itch, but the bad bits of the back of her knees have gone and it’s rare that her back is affected.

So the next time your skin looks or feels bad, don’t reach for the creams – think about what you ate over the last few days, and try to eat healthier food.

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