To understand how we can help reverse the ageing process we need to look skin deep.
Why is it that some of us are better at aging gracefully than others? Take Helen Mirrin or Michelle Pfeiffer for example. Not a jowl or turkey neck in sight! Does it merely come down to genes and bone structure or is there something we can do to slow down or even reverse the ageing process? Most celebrities are obsessed with anti-ageing and include supplements herbs and cosmetic acupuncture in their beauty routines.
The skin is the largest organ of the body made up of multiple layers of tissue. The skin contains about 70% water, with the remainder being protein, fats, trace minerals, nucleic acids, and numerous other elements. The inner layer is made up of a cartilaginous matrix, which consists mainly of "soft" keratin, elastin, collagen and other substances called proteoglycans or glycosoaminoglycans (GAGs).
Like everything in the body, the skin requires certain nutrients to make keratin, elastin, collagen and GAGs. Essentially we should get all these nutrients from our diet but some of us are more deficient in these nutrients than others. This may be why some people look so good for their age. Without these nutrients, our skin will begin to deteriorate and signs of aging, such as wrinkling and age spots, will occur. By supplementing with skin nutrients we can slow down the aging process.
What's skin made of?
Keratin is a structural matrix, which makes the outermost layer of the skin almost waterproof, and along with collagen and elastin, gives skin its strength. Keratin is made up of the proteins called glycine and alanine.
Elastin, is also a protein in connective tissue that is elastic and allows skin to resume its' shape after stretching or contracting. It is primarily composed of the proteins called glycine, valine, alanine, and proline. Approximately one third of elastin fibres are comprised of glycine and there are also high levels of proline.
Collagen is the main protein that makes the skin. Collagen has great tensile strength, and is also the main component of cartilage, ligaments, tendons, bone and teeth. Interestingly collagen also strengthens blood vessels and is therefore important in the treatment of varicose veins. Along with soft keratin, it is responsible for skin strength and elasticity.
Aging and collagen
As we age, collagen production declines, leading to the wrinkle formation and sagging. Chondrocytes are cells that make collagen. They are responsible to produce and maintain the cartilaginous matrix of the skin, which consists mainly of collagen and proteoglycans. Nutritional therapy including glucosamine stimulates the chondrocytes to make cartilage.
Proteoglycans- Polly filler for the skin
Proteoglycans are one of the major constituents of the skin matrix. Proteoglycans, also called GAGs, are long chains of water holding carbohydrates attached to a protein. In regard to skin, the GAGs are responsible for holding moisture in the skin and are the body's natural moisturisers. GAGs help the skin stay plump and provide mechanical support for skin cells. Loreal have introduced a cream with hyaluronic acid that is a GAG for example.
Sulphur bridges, collagen and elastin
Something called disulphide bridges provide additional strength to the skin by cross-linking elastin and collagen fibres. The sulphur-containing protein, cysteine, is required for these bridges. Human hair is approximately 14% cysteine. The pungent smell of burning hair is due to the sulphur compounds formed from the breakdown of cysteine. Sulphur is essential for healthy skin and hair.
Free radicals and aging
One of the major problems with tissue destruction that results from aging is the formation of free radicals. A free radical is an unstable molecule that roams around in the blood stream stealing electrons from healthy cells, thereby killing that cell. Anti-oxidants simply stabalise the free radical by providing it with the electrons needed. Wrinkling is caused by free radical damage to connective tissue. Age spots are pigments damaged by free radicals. Neutralising free radical formation aids in the anti-aging process. The major anti-oxidant nutrients are zinc, vitamin A, C, E and selenium.
Nutritional therapy for the skin
The quality of skin is dependent on the supply of proteins that we should obtain from our diet and can additionally obtain from supplements. Vitamins and minerals also play important roles since these substances regulate enzyme reactions responsible in the remodelling of connective tissue. The following substances are recommended as nutritional support to assist in skin repair and to act as anti-aging nutrients.
Vitamin C is fundamental for tissue repair. Research has shown that vitamin C promotes collagen repair. In addition, vitamin C is also a free radial scavenger or antioxidant. Even more remarkable is that Vitamin C will regenerate other antioxidants, especially vitamin E. The dose is 500mg six times daily as small frequent amounts are the best way to take this vitamin.
Vitamin E is the "lightening rod" of the cell, allowing reactive molecules to strike the cell, like lightening, without damaging the skin. Research studies show that topical vitamin E prevents UV damage. Polyunsaturated fats are incorporated into the cell membrane of every cell in our body. Vitamin E's other contributing effect to skin repair is as an antioxidant, preventing these fats from what is called lipid peroxidation commonly described as free radical damage. Dosage is 400 iu. per day. This supplement should not be taken by those on warfarin or blood thinners.
This amino-sugar is a fundamental component of GAG formation. Glucosamine has shown promising results not only promote cartilage growth but also inhibit cartilage breakdown. Glucosamine sulphate is traditionally used for osteoarthritis but can also be used to remodel skin. A supplement will essentially firm and moisten the skin. Dosage is 1000mg twice daily.
Essential and sulphur containing amino acids
Amino acid supplementation helps support all major components of connective tissue; GAGs, keratin, elastin and collagen formation. The amino acids proline, lysine and cysteine are the three most important.
Good "Skin Formulas" contain all three. Good food sources are organic poultry, yoghurt, egg yolks, red peppers, garlic, onions, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, oats, and wheat germ. An excellent supplement to provide sulphur is Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) often sold as a supplement for osteoarthritis in combination with glucosamine, but now finding it's way into skin formulas. The dose is at least 3000mg per day.
Anti-Ageing herbal medicine
Carina Harkin BHSc.Nat.BHSc.Hom.BHSc.Acu.
Cert IV TAE. ARCHTI mem.