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10 Aug 2022

Laurann O'Reilly: Nutrition and lifestyle top tips for easing common skin conditions

This week's column

Tipperary Tipperary Tipperary

Laurann O'Reilly

We have all experienced some form of skin complaints throughout our lives. Skin conditions can affect many areas of our body, can cause huge amounts of irritation, soreness and in some affect our quality of life.

Thankfully many of them are treatable through the right combination of medications, skin care, lifestyle changes and diet.

In fact, research has found that diet can play a key role in the treatment for many skin conditions.

Here, nutritionist Laurann O’Reilly and owner of Nutrition By Laurann, guides us through her nutrition and lifestyle tips for easing common skin conditions.

1.Rosacea: Is a condition that causes redness to the skin. This is caused by the swelling of blood vessels in the face, making the skin appear red and flushed. It may also be accompanied with bumps similar to acne. It most commonly affects the cheeks, forehead, nose and chin, whilst some the eyes may also be affected (Irish Skin Foundation). The exact cause of this particular skin condition is unknown, but it’s thought that the immune system, environmental factors and genetics can play a role

Nutritional Triggers: Common triggers can include alcohol, hot drinks and spicy foods.
Helpful Foods: Foods such as kale, ginger, and avocados are anti-inflammatory and high in antioxidants and vitamin B, which may help in the management of rosacea.

2. Eczema: Is characterised by itchy and inflamed skin. This skin condition often causes itching, dryness, rashes, scaly patches, blisters, and skin infections. It can often begin in childhood and in some the symptoms can improve as they get older. Whilst there are many causes of eczema, it can often stem from a combination of an immune system response, nutrition, genetics, environmental factors, and stress.
Treatment: Whilst there are many treatments that your GP, pharmacist or dermatologist can recommend, nutrition can play a role too as it may be food allergy or intolerance related.
Nutritional Triggers: In some cases, foods may exacerbate eczema symptoms so it’s best to avoid foods which are highly processed, containing artificial ingredients and foods which are high in sugar.
Helpful Foods: It can help to include foods in the diet which have natural anti-inflammatory properties such as oily fish (salmon, tuna, mackerel and sardines), onions, colourful fruits and vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers, apples, broccoli, cherries, spinach and kale

3. Acne: Is a common skin condition which affects most people at some stage of their lives, causing spots and oily skin which can often be painful to touch. Whilst there are many different types of spots that can occur, they mostly develop on the face, back and chest (HSE). It can be most commonly found in teenagers and young adults, with approximately 80% of 11-30 year olds affected by it (HSE). This can often be due to the hormonal changes which accompany puberty, however acne can begin at any age and continue into adult life. It’s also extremely common for women during their ‘time of month’.
Helpful Foods: Whilst it’s important to eat a clean and healthy diet for overall health, it can also be helpful to avoid foods which are processed, high in sugar (such as fizzy drinks, chocolate and sweets) and high in fat (such as take away foods) to allow the liver work as effectively as possible.

4. Hives: Also known as urticaria, are raised, itchy bumps on your skin that appear like a rash, which usually settle down within a few minutes to a few days (HSE). They can be as a result of a reaction to foods, medicines, and other allergens.
Whilst they can often go away on their own, your pharmacist can provide you with an appropriate over the counter or and/or topical medication if required.
Note: If your symptoms don’t improve after 2 days, the rash continues to spread, you have a high temperature please contact your GP. If you have more severe symptoms such as shortness of breath, swelling of the face, throat or mouth, difficulty swallowing, vomiting or dizziness please go to your nearest A&E, phone 999 or 112 as this could be the sign of an allergic reaction.

5. Cold Sores: Are small fluid filled blisters on the face which are caused by the herpes simplex virus (in adults they may be also present on the genitals). Whilst it’s extremely common it’s also infectious by direct skin to skin contact (HSE). Symptoms can begin with a tingling, itching or burning feeling followed by a blister. They can often reappear during periods of stress or when the immune system is low.
Treatment: Your local pharmacist can assist you with over-the-counter treatments for this.
Helpful Foods: It can help to drink plenty of water, eat cool and soft foods. It’s recommended to avoid foods which are salty or citrus foods as these can make the blisters sting (HSE).
Recommended Supplement: Lysine has been found to help reduce the duration and intensity of cold sores. A good brand of this is the Solgar L-Lysine supplement.

6. Nappy Rash: Is a red, moist or broken area on your baby’s bottom. Whilst most babies can get nappy rash at some time, some are a little more sensitive than others. It may happen if the baby is wearing a wet nappy for too long, reacts to the material of the nappy, a reaction to the baby wipes, your baby is teething or if they have recently been on antibiotics.
Treatment: The HSE recommends keeping your baby’s skin clean and dry, changing more often and giving some nappy free time to help prevent nappy rash. If you are concerned, please contact your pharmacist or GP for advice.

7. Ingrown Hairs: Are hairs that are removed and begin to grow back but curl underneath the skin. Your hair structure and directional growth can play a role in creating ingrown hairs.
Treatment: Prevention is key and it can help to wash the affected areas with warm water using a washcloth, exfoliating brush, or exfoliating gel or scrub. Tip: Why not make up your own scrub using sugar or coffee grounds and melted coconut oil.
Note: If you’re concerned about any of these conditions or your skin doesn’t improve, please consult your pharmacist or GP who can assist you.

Nutrition tips for skin health

Hydration: As our skin is made up of approximately 30% water, it’s important to drink plenty of water. For adults it’s best to aim for a minimum 1.5-2 Litres of water per day.

Avoid Processed Foods: Overly processed foods with artificial ingredients aren’t good for our body, they provide little to no nutritional value and can put pressure on our digestive system.
Instead opt for ‘clean’ fresh fruits, vegetables, lean protein, dairy, nuts and seeds.

Reduce The Sugar: Eating foods which are high in added sugars not only is bad for our blood sugar levels but can also lead to inflammation in the body, which can aggravate skin conditions. Opt for wholegrain and high fibre foods instead.

Limit The Alcohol: As excessive alcohol consumption can put extra pressure on our liver. It can be helpful to reduce our alcohol intake to allow the liver to filter out toxins from our body more efficiently

Include Probiotic Foods: These contain the healthy bacteria that promote your gut health and rebalance our skin’s natural microbiome.
Food Sources: Probiotic yogurt, kefir, kombucha and sauerkraut.

Increase The Sleep: We know that getting enough sleep is important for energy and repair, however, this goes for our skin too. Interestingly during our slumber blood flow to the skin increases, and much of our healing occurs. Aim for a minimum of 7-9 hours sleep per night.

Omega 3 Fish Oils: These are an absolute allrounder for overall health and pop up frequently in my articles. Research has found that they play a very important role in promoting skin health, as well as specific skin conditions, such as eczema and acne. This is due to them being able to reduce inflammation, regulate the skin’s oil production, promoting skin healing, and collagen is rebuilt.
Food Sources: Fish and other seafood (such as salmon, mackerel, tuna, herring, sardines); nuts and seeds (such as flaxseed, chia seeds, and walnuts); plant oils (such as flaxseed oil, soybean oil, and rapeseed oil).

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