Our skin is a natural barometer of our overall health. The healthier we are on the inside, the more we shine from the outside—and who doesn’t want glowing, clear skin with no blemishes? However, our skin is important in other ways as well. It acts as an armor to guard our organs from physical harm. It protects us from invasive microorganisms, maintains body temperature, and helps our brain process information through our sense of touch, which transmits pain, heat, and pressure, to name a few. Surprisingly, your skin reveals a lot about your health.
That’s right. The human skin has some seriously impressive superpowers. It’s our largest organ, and it can send us the first warning signs of potentially serious underlying health problems. If you encounter any of these seven warning signs below, it’s time to pay a visit to your dermatologist.
#1. Beard Acne
Pimples can be an annoyance. But abnormal acne can be a sign of something worse, such as the hormonal disorder known as polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). If you experience any unusual acne, specifically around your chin and mouth area (“beard acne”), combined with irregular periods, see your doctor.
# 2. Dry Skin and Chapped Lips
Some of us have naturally dry skin, which isn’t generally a health concern. But if you experience abnormally flaky, dry skin and chapped lips, something might be amiss. Sure, it may be the result of winter weather, but it could also be a sign of dehydration, or worse, eczema. Hypothyroidism and diabetes can also lead to dry skin, much like nutrient deficiencies can trigger eating disorders.
If you don’t drink enough water to hydrate your skin, it can become dry, flaky, and more prone to wrinkles. According to the Mayo Clinic, drinking eight glasses of water a day should be enough to keep you hydrated (though this has yet to be scientifically proven).
#3. Burning, Itchy Rashes
A blistering, burning, itchy skin rash can be a sign of dermatitis herpetiformis (DH). An itchy rash that shows up repeatedly in the forearms or on the elbows, knees, scalp, buttocks, or face is a hallmark of celiac disease. People with this autoimmune condition cannot eat gluten, a protein found in cereal grains such as wheat, barley, rye, and oats.
If you notice any weird rashes on your body, immediately book an appointment with a dermatologist.
#4. Signs of Physical and Emotional Distress
“You look tired.” We’ve all heard this at one point or another (especially if you’re a woman on a no-makeup day). Our skin can reveal our emotions and reflect our feelings to the world. And most of all, it can show the amount of stress we’re holding.
Consider the words of Chicago dermatologist Ronald Sulewski, MD: “Many times skin conditions are the outward appearance of psychiatric conditions.”
Researchers say that our body releases the stress hormone known as cortisol when it experiences depression and/or anxiety. Fatigue, pale complexion, wrinkles, skin pigmentation, puffy eyes, and acne can all be signs of too much stress.
But the most common skin condition associated with psychological distress is acne. Research shows that 55 percent of patients experienced acne flares when there was more emotional stress in their lives. Too much stress can wear you down both physically and mentally.
Constant anxiety combined with poor nutrition can also lead to hormonal imbalance. Unusual acne, thinning of hair, and abnormal hair growth on your face are signs that your body is stressed. Try to relax your mind with some exercise and meditation. If the stress gets too overwhelming, don’t hesitate to seek professional help.
#5. Slow-Healing Wounds
Have you noticed any unusual changes in your appearance? Dark spots around your neck or armpits? Does it take a long time for your wounds to heal, even for small cuts? If so, you may be at risk of type 2 diabetes.
Slow-healing wounds can be caused by high blood sugar, which affects blood flow and causes nerve damage. According to the American Diabetes Association, certain types of skin problems are visible signs of type 2 diabetes. However, other factors can also delay or complicate the healing of wounds, including zinc deficiency, vascular disease, and rheumatoid arthritis.
#6. Pale Skin
If you notice your skin becoming noticeably pale, you could be at a risk of anemia, which is caused by a deficiency of red blood cells. A yellow tone to your skin could indicate liver problems. A bluish discoloration on your lips or nail bed can be a symptom of a serious heart or lung disease. If you notice any such signs, seek medical attention immediately.
Pale skin can also indicate dehydration, multiple sclerosis, hepatitis A, B, or C, hyperthyroidism, and lung cancer, among other medical conditions.
#7. Lines on Your Palms
Have you ever noticed the skin of your palms darkening or red lines forming in the creases of your palms? This could be a symptom of Addison’s disease, an endocrine disorder that occurs when adrenal glands in your body produce an insufficient amount of certain hormones.
Some other symptoms include:
- Weight loss/decreased appetite
- Muscle or joint pains
- Darkening of skin (hyperpigmentation)
- Low blood pressure
- Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia)
- Nausea, diarrhea, or vomiting
- Hair loss
While the list above is worth paying attention to, not all skin conditions are problematic. Aging, for example, is a factor in some skin problems. But it’s still a good idea to keep an eye on your skin as it can tell you a lot about your health. If you’ve ever experienced these symptoms, consult with your doctor.
Tips for Skin Health
Now let’s talk about keeping your skin healthy. Nutrient dense food is more effective at giving you glow-from-within skin than any products you may slather on it. Holistic nutrition enhances your inner and outer beauty, and many beauty experts swear by its effectiveness for maintaining happy, healthy skin. Plenty of water, healthy exercise, compassion, self-love, and forgiveness can impart a glow that radiates from within.
A basic premise of holistic nutrition is that the mind, body, and spirit work together to keep you looking and feeling your best day after day. That’s why it’s so important to nourish your body with the highest quality nutrients and foods that energize you.
Now here are some tenets of holistic nutrition that will help you along the path to super-pretty glowing skin:
Eat Real Foods
Eliminate all foods with processed, artificial ingredients from your diet. Eat a diet of whole foods, including plenty of fruits and vegetables, pasture-raised eggs, and cultured dairy products. Grass-fed meats also make a great addition. Together these foods can do wonders for your skin, hair, and nails—and give you a major power-up for your day ahead. Eat smarter now!
Get Friendly with Fermented Foods
Homemade fermented foods such as sauerkraut, veggies, kefir, and even organic yogurt are essential for a healthy diet. There’s a whole world of foods you can ferment (and of course, ferments make alcohol as well). The lactic acid in fermented food is what feeds the intestinal flora. No matter how many pre- or probiotics you take, without lactic acid they can’t permanently set up colonies in the gut. Fermented and cultured foods are full of beneficial bacteria that support digestion and boost the immune system. When you add them to your everyday diet, these foods will definitely help clear up skin troubles. The Art of Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz and Udderly Cultured by Phyllis Quinn are two great resources for learning how to make your own fermented foods.
Focus on Fatty Acids
If your skin is dry and inflamed after a lifetime of neglect, moisturizing is the only way to bring it back to life. But while you slather on that lotion, indulging in fatty-acid rich foods will help moisturize and replenish the skin from within. Foods such as salmon, avocados, coconut oil, pastured eggs, and a variety of nuts and seeds contain holistic nutrients that can help bring your skin back to life and prevent dryness and eczema.
The Last Word
The pharmaceutical and beauty world would have you believe that we’re all just a random collection of specific parts that require individual attention. But the skin, heart, kidneys, and all other parts of the human body are interrelated, and the function of one impacts the function of all. Holistic nutrition ensures the betterment of the entire body rather than each separate and distinct part.
It’s only natural that the same powerful foods that lower your risk of disease and obesity can also improve your skin. Why not take advantage of holistic nutrition and start living a better life today?
Image from iStock/AntGor.