Your Skin - A Window to Your Health?

How to support healthy skin.

Whatever time of year the weather can take a toll on our skin.  Cold, windy weather in winter and sunshine in the warmer months both have a potentially damaging effect on our skin.  A good skin care routine and sun protection are vital; and so too is your diet.

As our skin is on show every day, it can profoundly affect the way we feel about ourselves.  If your skin looks good, you feel good too.

It’s amazing the difference eating the right foods can make not only to the appearance of your skin, but also helping ensure your skin at all levels retains its health and integrity.

Skin is your body’s largest organ.  It weighs about 4 kg (9lbs) and has a surface area of around 2 square metres (22 square feet).

We rub off millions of dead skin cells daily and create a completely new top layer of skin about every 40 days.

Each square centimetre of skin contains approximately 70cm (28”) of blood vessels, 55cm (22”) of nerves, 100 sweat glands, 15 sebaceous (oil) glands and 230 sensory receptors.

No other organ is so exposed to damage and disease from exterior sources.  This can be from injury, sunlight, smoking, environmental pollution and germs.  Your skin also reflects internal conditions and emotions such as blushing, uneven skin tone and fatigue.

To keep skin healthy, it must be supplied continually with oxygen, vitamins, minerals, essential fats and protein via the body’s tiny arteries.  Its network of small veins removes carbon dioxide and other waste materials.

Skin is not just a simple, thin layer that holds the body together. It has several key functions.

Insulates and Protects – it acts as a barrier protecting underlying tissue from physical damage, bacterial invasion, dehydration and UV damage.

Regulation of Body Temperature via perspiration helps lower elevated body temperature to its normal level.  In response to low temperature production of sweat is decreased.  Changes in blood flow to the skin also help regulate body temperature.

Sensation.  The skin has many nerve endings and receptors that detect stimuli related to temperature, touch, pressure and pain.

Excretion.  As well as removing heat and some water from the body, sweat is also a vehicle for removing a range of organic compounds.

Immunity.  Certain cells in the epidermis are important components of the immune system, protecting us from foreign invaders.

Blood reservoir.  The dermis carries a network of about 8-10% of our total blood flow, and during moderate exercise this may increase further.

Synthesis of vitamin D.  This begins with activation of UV rays from sunlight.  Vitamin D is subsequently transported by the blood to where it is required in the body.

Absorption.  Topically applied substances are absorbed through the surface of the skin.  Products that work in this way include nicotine patches and patches to prevent motion sickness.

Approximately 24% of the population consult their GP with a skin problem in any 12-month period and this figure is increasing at a rapid rate.

Individuals consult on a wide range of skin conditions including atopic eczema, cold sores, rashes, athletes’ foot, acne, alopecia and skin cancer.

Unfortunately, skin cancer rates are increasing and outcome often depends on early diagnosis.

The epidermis is the layer of skin “on show” which consists of about 5 layers of cells.

Underneath the epidermis is the dermis, where there is a real hive of activity.

This is where collagen, elastin and reticular fibre are found.  These proteins give our skin its strong, yet elastic properties.

The dermis is packed with tiny arteries, veins, lymph vessels and nerve fibres.  This is where the oil producing glands are found, along with the hair roots that cover the skin on your face and body.

To function optimally and retain its health and integrity we need to supply our skin with the right balance of essential nutrients on a regular basis.  A good diet nourishes the skin from within.

A low nutrient diet will have a detrimental effect on your skin.  This type of diet will typically be high in sugar, refined and processed foods and caffeine.

Here are my top tips for healthy, radiant skin.

Anti-ageing.  Help prevent skin damage by minimising the effects of oxidation from external pollutants and environmental factors.

Oxidative damage contributes significantly to serious forms of skin damage and also the formation of wrinkles and lines.

By including antioxidants in your diet, you can help control this damage.

Foods high in antioxidants include sweet potatoes, carrots, apricots, berries, citrus fruits, watercress, rocket and kale.

Detoxification.  Minimise the “toxic load” you give your body by reducing your intake of caffeine and alcohol which gives your liver an extra burden to deal with.

Caffeine is found in tea, coffee and cola drinks.

By cutting down on these you will help support liver function and may also reduce any dark shadows under your eyes.  Healthy skin has an unmistakable vibrant glow.

Herbal or green teas are good alternatives to caffeinated drinks and plain water is a great substitute for cola.

Identify Food Sensitivities.   These will affect skin health, so investigate and identify any sensitivities.  The most common are gluten and diary intolerances.

Strong and Supple.  Collagen is a protein produced by our cells that helps retain the skin’s elasticity and firmness.  When we’re young our skin stays strong and supple because the collagen constantly regenerates itself.

As we age collagen production slows and our existing collagen may become damaged, often due to sun exposure and poor diet.

Vitamin C is essential for the formation of collagen, so make sure your diet contains good levels of this vitamin every day.  It is found in many fresh foods including citrus fruits, tomatoes, green vegetables and salad ingredients.

Texture and Tone

Some fat is good for you and eating the right type of fat is essential.

Most people do not include enough foods that contain essential fats in their diet.  These Omega 3 and Omega 6 essential fatty acids give good, even skin tone and help prevent dry skin.

Excellent sources of essential fats include oily fish, such as salmon, tuna fish, mackerel and sardines, natural nuts, such as almonds and cashews and seeds, such as sunflower and pumpkin.  Also use extra virgin olive oil to make dressings and in some of your cooking.

Youthful Glow

Anthocyanidins found in berries, such as strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and raspberries help maintain the springy texture associated with youthful skin.

Try adding these to your breakfast cereal, smoothies and natural yoghurt.

Plump and Hydrated

Water and foods with a high-water content help keep the skin plump and hydrated.  Aim to drink about 8 glasses of still water each day and include foods in your diet such as bell peppers, celery, cucumber, salad leaves, pineapple, kiwi fruit and melon.

Skin wound healing. A good diet containing optimal levels of essential nutrients will help support healthy wound healing and ensure the epidermis is restored to normal thickness.

Exercise. Regular exercise is one of the key factors in having a healthy skin.  Anything that promotes good circulation will also help keep your skin vibrant and youthful.

Regular exercise helps tone muscles, and firmer muscles improve the appearance of our skin.

Combine good diet and regular exercise and see the difference it makes.

Whatever your age it’s never too late to start eating healthily to improve not only your skin, but your overall health and wellbeing.

Start today and see the difference!

Fabulous Flavonoids

We may think of “nutrition” as a recent phenomenon, but flavonoids along with vitamin C were discovered by Albert Szent-Gyorgyi who received the Nobel Prize in 1937 for his discovery of the properties of these nutrients.

He came across flavonoids by accident whilst isolating vitamin C when helping a friend with bleeding gums.  He discovered the combination of flavonoids with vitamin C was more potent and effective in healing and preventing re-occurrence of the problem than just vitamin C on its own.

He went on to show that the clinical symptoms of scurvy are the result of a deficiency of both vitamin C and flavonoids.

More recent research has shown that there is a potentially unique relationship between flavonoids and vitamin C, which is thought to involve the enhanced activity and transport of vitamin C in our bodies.  This greatly increases the effectiveness of these powerful antioxidant nutrients.

Flavonoid is a generic term for a group of flavone containing compounds that are found widely in nature.  They are often referred to as semi-essential but their importance in our optimal health seems to be as important as the better known essential vitamins and minerals.

Along with carotenoids, flavonoids are responsible for the vibrant plant pigments found in fruits and vegetables, which exert a wide variety of physiological effects in our bodies.

These brightly coloured compounds also function as pigments that attract insect pollinators.

Flavonoids are found in almost all vegetables, fruits and many other foods.  They are the largest group of phytonutrients (plant compounds) with currently more than 6000 known types.

A key function of flavonoids is to support the detoxification of potentially tissue-damaging molecules.

The vegetables, fruits and other foods rich in flavonoids are generally also high in fibre and a wide range of essential vitamins and minerals.

The antioxidant power of flavonoids can work in numerous ways; for example

  • Interfere with the enzymes that create free radicals
  • Involvement in the deactivation of free radicals
  • Protection and increased antioxidant defences in the body

When antioxidants stop free radical damage cancer, premature aging and other diseases may be slowed down or prevented.

You may have heard of some of the best known flavonoids such as quercetin, rutin, hesperidin and naringin.  Good dietary sources of flavonoids include citrus fruits, berries, onions, legumes, parsley, apples (in the skin), cabbage, broccoli, green tea, almonds, sweet potato and tomatoes.

Allergy fighting properties

The development of allergic diseases is frequently associated with free radial damage.  As flavonoids are thought to help scavenge free radicals this may lead to fewer allergic reactions.  They may also help reduce inflammatory responses that contribute to diseases such as asthma.

Cardiovascular disease

The antioxidants in flavonoids may help protect your heart and reduce your risk of stroke, by reducing oxidative stress and inflammation.  Research has shown that even small amounts of potent flavonoids can enhance your health.

Brain function

There has been a great deal of research carried out linking chronic diseases and oxidative stress, including dementia.  Flavonoids may help with blood flow to the brain and help maintain, and even improve brain and cognitive function.

Support of the nervous system

A regular intake flavonoids has been shown to protect nerve cells from oxygen-based damage and help slow the process of nerve degeneration.

There is also some research showing that the onset of certain chronic neurological diseases may be delayed when good levels of dietary flavonoids are including regularly.  Diseases that fall into this category include age related dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Impact of storage and cooking

Flavonoids are susceptible to damage by heat and their potent properties also diminish with storage.  When storing flavonoid rich foods it’s best to keep them whole, rather than cutting, peeling or slicing in any way.  Wherever possible prepare these foods when you are ready to consume them.

Flavonoids are often concentrated in the skin and outer portions of vegetables and fruits, so try to avoid discarding this part.


Flavonoids are widely recognised for their anti-oxidative, anti-inflammatory, anti-mutagenic and anti-cancer properties along with other key cellular enzymatic functions.  Information on the working mechanisms of flavonoids is still not fully understood and this is an exciting area of current research.  Current trends in research and the development of flavonoids relate to their isolation, identification, function and finally application and health benefits.  You are likely to hear a lot more about flavonoids over the next 10 years!


It’s a good time of year to explore new ways of serving flavonoid rich foods.  With their vibrant colours and textures, they lend themselves to fresh summery recipes.  I hope you enjoy my ideas!

Eat Smart, Keep your Brain Sharp

Memory is as natural to us as breathing.  It is an ability we all have and yet rarely think of it. Unless we think we may be losing that ability. Everyone has annoying memory lapses, but worse is the anxiousness that comes with these lapses if they become more frequent and probably the greatest fear is dementia.

People have come to expect that, as they age their ability to remember and recall information may deteriorate, but this is not necessarily true. Occasional forgetfulness is natural, but with consistent good diet and optimum nutrition your memory should remain sharp and focussed well into your nineties and beyond.

Memory loss is linked to an insufficient supply of nutrients to the brain. Our blood, via the circulatory system, is designed to carry the nutrients our brain needs to function properly and removes unwanted matter too. Although the brain is only approximately 2% of our total body weight it receives approximately 20% of the body’s blood supply.

Low Glycaemic Foods

Our brain runs on glucose, a simple form of sugar. Brain cells can’t store energy and need glucose delivered steadily, and not in short bursts. A low Glycaemic Index (GI) diet, rich in wholefoods and essential nutrients, will help achieve this and work towards improving and maintaining mental clarity, focus and attention span.

Ideally glucose generated from these foods is released slowly into the blood stream keeping blood glucose levels evenly maintained. Extreme swings in blood sugar levels affect brain function and memory, especially if this happens on a regular basis.

Essential Fats

Our brain is about 60% fat (dry weight) and needs good levels of Omega 3 and 6 Essential Fatty Acids to help you “Stay Smart” and healthy.

Fish has been acknowledged for many years as an exceptionally good food choice for supporting brain heath due to its high levels of Omega 3 Essential Fatty Acids. These fats are found in abundance in oily fish, such as salmon, tuna, mackerel and trout. Ideally choose a variety of fresh fish, both white and oily, in your diet regularly.

Tree nuts (such as almonds, cashews, walnuts and hazelnuts) and seeds (including sesame, sunflower and pumpkin) and their oils are all good sources of Omega 6 Essential Fatty Acids.

Protective Antioxidants

Protective antioxidants also play a key role in cognitive function and memory. A five-year study of 4500 people found that the group with carefully monitored levels of the antioxidants selenium, zinc, beta carotene and vitamins E and C had better decision-making skills, long term memory and overall cognitive function than those in the placebo group.

Oxidative damage to brain cells may impair mental clarity and the ability to retain and recall information.


Make drinking water a healthy habit.

Even slight dehydration of your brain can cause serious problems with memory recall. Research has found it takes only 2% dehydration to negatively affect your attention span and other cognitive behaviour.


Stress has been linked to cognitive decline. Try identifying any stressors you may have and consider ways to minimise these or seek professional advice to help with this.

Exercise helps reduce stress and is extremely effective in improving mental focus and alertness. This can be especially beneficial when combining physical training with mindfulness practice, such as yoga.

Even 5 minutes aerobic exercise can have an anti-anxiety effect!


Exercise stimulates the release of chemicals that support the health of existing brain cells and the growth of new ones.

The many benefits of exercise include a reduced risk of physical and cognitive decline. Exercise increases blood flow to the brain and helps optimise the delivery of oxygen and nutrients.

This is vital for clarity of thought and mental focus. Exercise increases the biochemical process of respiration and energy which explains why we feel so good when exercising regularly.

Eat Smart – Top Tips

Eat a diet rich in wholefoods, especially wholegrains, beans, pulses and fresh seasonal vegetables and salad ingredients. Eat regular meals and avoid snacking.

Eat foods rich in essential fats, including fish, eggs, natural nuts and seeds (and their oils), olives and avocado pear.

Brain cells are particularly susceptible to free radical damage, so protect yourself from environmental toxins by eating foods rich in protective antioxidants, such as seasonal fruits and berries, colourful salads and vegetables.

Identify and address any ongoing stress.

Get enough sleep – sleep helps our body and brain rest, restore and repair.  Lack of sleep will affect clarity of thought, concentration and your attention span.

Maintain a regular exercise regime.

Avoid or minimise.

Fats from fried and processed foods

Refined foods made from white flour and sugar.

Caffeine and alcohol intake

Chemical food additives

Strengthen your Self Defences - Top Tips for Immune Support

There is no better time to support your immune system to ensure your bodies response to potential attack is robust and appropriate.

Healthy immune function is linked to many aspects of our health.  When performing well it protects the body against bacterial and viral infections, cancer cells and unwanted foreign substances.  A strong immune system will leave you less susceptible to illness.

Your immune system is composed of lymphatic vessels and organs (lymph nodes, thymus, spleen and tonsils), white blood cells (cells of the immune system), specialised cells in various tissues and specialised chemical factors.

If the immune system weakens, its ability to defend the body also weakens.  This can allow pathogens, including a wide range of viruses to grow and flourish in our bodies.

Any imbalances in your body will reflect in your immune response.

Common signs of a weakened immune system include fatigue, listlessness, repeated infections, inflammation, allergic reactions and slow wound healing.

Nutrient Deficiencies are the Most Common Cause of Low Immune Function

Poor nutritional status effects immune function and even one nutrient deficiency can impair the functioning of the immune system.

A diet with a wide variety of vegetables, fruits and good quality protein will provide the broad spectrum of nutrients needed to optimise immune function.

Too much sugar in your diet can lead to lowered white blood cell activity.  Good blood sugar balance helps support immune function.

Alcohol inhibits white blood cell function and increases susceptibility to infections leading to lowered immunity.

Poor digestion impacts gut stimulation of immunity, absorption of nutrients and reduced gut barrier integrity.

Aim to achieve and maintain your optimal weight for optimal immune function.

Studies have shown that both under and overweight individuals suffer from more frequent infections than those who are their optimal weight.

Immune Supporting Foods

Pumpkin seeds, fish (especially shellfish) and lean meat are good sources of the mineral zinc, which supports immune response and good wound healing.

Berries, dark green leafy vegetables, watercress, peppers and citrus fruits are rich in vitamin C.  Vitamin C, when combined with bioflavonoids have potent antiviral properties.  Vitamin C helps detoxify bacteria and prevents it from replicating.

Garlic and onions have beneficial anti-viral properties.

Ginger, fennel and chilli are rich in immune supporting nutrients including iron, magnesium and manganese.

Manuka honey has natural protective and antibiotic properties.

Beneficial bacteria from certain foods keep the immune system primed to effectively fight infection from invading pathogens.  Examples of foods containing beneficial bacteria are natural yoghurt and fermented foods.

Red, yellow and orange coloured vegetables and fruits contain beta carotene which the body converts to vitamin A.  This essential nutrient supports the body’s defence system and helps fight infection.

Green tea contains good levels of vitamin E, which works alongside vitamins A and C – a powerful antioxidant combination.

Unhelpful Foods

Fatty meat and fatty meat products.

Processed and refined foods.

Sugar and foods containing added sugar, including fizzy drinks.

Other Considerations

Monitor your consumption of alcohol and caffeine and reduce if necessary.

Avoid stressful situations and address any ongoing stress.

Ensure you have enough sleep on a regular basis.

Follow a regular exercise programme.

Do not smoke.


Stress can play havoc with your immune system, and those individuals who experience ongoing stress are more prone to frequent and more serious viral infections.  An individual’s mental state can suppress immune function.

A positive outlook is important in building a strong immune system.  Taking time to appreciate the simple things in life can have a profoundly beneficial effect on physical and mental wellbeing.


This herb has been found to enhance immune function and is available to take as a supplement.

If your GP recommends you have a vaccination to protect yourself and others, then please follow their advice.


For optimal immune function, the correct balance of exercise is key.  Too little or too much will act as an immune suppressor.

Regular, moderate exercise to suit your own lifestyle is ideal.


A good night’s sleep is essential for good health – as important as eating a healthy diet and regular exercise.

Ongoing poor or disrupted sleep can have a major impact on overall health and can weaken the immune system.

See my article on the importance of sleep!

If you would like to discuss your health concerns, please call me for a free 15 minute consultation.

Top Tips for Coping with Menopause

Menopause is a stage in the life of every woman that can’t be ignored or avoided.

Menopause and the symptoms associated with it are different for each woman.

For some it just passes without incident and for others it is a difficult and ongoing challenge involving a series of debilitating symptoms that effect their daily lives.

The fluctuations in oestrogen levels before and during menopause can cause symptoms such as tiredness, hot flushes, poor and interrupted sleep, headaches, night sweats, mood swings, fatigue and lethargy and feeling low and tearful.

Oestrogen stimulates bone formation and its decline at menopause increases the loss of bone mass density that occurs with age & the associated risk of osteoporosis.

The longer-term effects of lower oestrogen levels post menopause increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Eating the right combination of foods and certain lifestyle adjustments may help reduce menopausal symptoms and ease the transition.

Ongoing good diet and lifestyle will help you achieve and maintain optimal health and vitality in the years after your menopause.

Key Dietary Factors

Increase your intake of plant-based foods, especially those rich in naturally occurring plant compounds called phytoestrogens.

These dietary oestrogens have been found to reduce certain menopausal symptoms such as hot flushes, night sweats and mood swings.

In simple terms phytoestrogens are thought to work by mimicking the action of oestrogen.  Their chemical structure is very similar to that of oestrogen from the body. There are a wide range of additional benefits of including phytoestrogens in your diet:

  • Normalising blood sugar levels
  • Protecting bone mass density
  • Reducing plaque deposits in the arteries
  • Lowering cholesterol levels
  • Regulating the menstrual cycle

Balance this increase in plant-based foods by reducing the amount of inflammatory red meat in your diet and substitute with lean white poultry and a variety of fish.

Regularly include a wide variety of antioxidant fruits and vegetables, especially those rich in flavonoids.

In addition to helping alleviate menopausal symptoms, these antioxidant foods offer protection from degenerative diseases including arthritis and heart disease.

Phytoestrogen rich foods

Good sources of phytoestrogens include flaxseeds, soy beans and other soy-based foods, garlic, sunflower seeds, olive oil, beans, chick peas, lentils, pistachio nuts, cashew nuts and walnuts.

Flavonoids and Vitamin C

Studies have found that these antioxidant nutrients, found in numerous everyday foods such as citrus fruits, berries, green tea and apples maybe effective in relieving hot flushes.  They act in a similar way to phytoestrogens.

Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs)

Regularly include food sources of EFAs in your diet which will help balance your hormones.  Include sesame, sunflower and pumpkin seeds and oily fish such as fresh mackerel, salmon, tuna and trout.  Avoid canned fish as the delicate EFAs are destroyed during the canning process.

Consider avoiding or minimising your consumption of alcohol, caffeine, sugar and very hot & spicy foods which may trigger hot flushes and mood swings in some women.

Blood Sugar Control

As various changes are taking place in a woman’s body during menopause it’s easy to confuse menopausal symptoms with poor blood sugar balance.

Dizziness, excessive perspiration, irritability and poor concentration could all result from hormonal changes or poor blood sugar control.

To improve and maintain good blood sugar balance:

  • Eat small, frequent meals with each meal containing some good quality protein.
  • Focus on a wholefood diet with a variety of wholegrains and fresh produce
  • Always eat a high nutrient, low GI breakfast.
  • Avoid sugar and all foods containing added sugar
  • Restrict consumption of pure fruit juices and dilute them with water.
  • Cook from scratch where possible – you then know exactly what you are eating.
  • Avoid foods containing additives and preservatives.
  • Avoid alcohol and caffeinated drinks
  • Take regular exercise
  • Avoid stressful situations, where possible.

Weight Management

Maintaining your optimum weight and following a healthy lifestyle can not only reduce the severity of menopausal symptoms but will also protect against long term health problems associated with loss of oestrogen, as previously mentioned.


Physical activity has been shown to help alleviate menopausal symptoms and decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis.

Many health benefits are associated with regular exercise during menopause; improved stress management, improved circulation and heart function, improved oxygen and nutrient absorption, increased energy levels, improved self-esteem & mood and reduced blood pressure.


A study published in January 2019 by the Mayo Clinic suggests that Mindfulness may be associated with fewer menopausal symptoms, and especially individuals struggling with irritability, anxiety and depression.  Mindfulness involves focusing attention on the present moment and observing thoughts and sensations without judgement.  This can help reduce stress and improve overall quality of life.  For further reading on “Mindfulness may ease menopausal symptoms” see:

Water and Hydration


The average adult is about 60% water and every body function depends on it, including your brain and nervous system.

Your body uses water in all its cells, organs and tissues.  Each day we need over 4 pints of water to function normally.  Some will be obtained from the food we eat, but most is provided from what we drink.  If you exercise you will need a higher water intake.

Water is involved in the breakdown of food we eat and nutrient absorption – drinking enough water helps the whole process of digestion work efficiently.  If you don’t drink enough water, you are more likely to experience constipation.


Good hydration supports your mental focus, alertness and memory and helps avoid brain fatigue and brain fog.

We generally sleep better when we are hydrated

Water helps keep your joints well lubricated.

When exercising water supports your strength, power and endurance.

We need water to keep our skin hydrated too.

Not drinking enough water puts a great stress on the body.  Your kidney and immune function may be impaired; you may feel dizzy and lethargic too.