Saturday, June 28, 2014

Eat to Heal: Sun Damage Edition

tropical sunset
Sunburn, sun poisoning, sun allergy.  Now your skin is paying, but fortunately there's a way to stop the damage (or at least speed up your skin's recovery system) if you're willing to listen to your body.  Here's the scoop!

Glycation is the name given to a chemical reaction that combines fats and proteins with sugars like glucose and fructose in the presence of heat.  The process of glycation leads to Advanced Glycation Endproducts--the stiffened proteins that have reacted to sugar under heat.  Cells whose proteins have been stiffened this way do not function as they should, and are commonly associated with chronic aging conditions.  In skin, the presence of AGE's presents with a yellowish color, less firmness and bounce (glycated proteins in collagen and elastin cells), and wrinkles.  Cells affected by these pathogenic glycated proteins in the skin are also less likely to heal and replicate properly, meaning that skin will appear damaged for longer after any instance of inflammation.

grilling meat
Three ways to overload your skin with these harmful compounds are by eating smoked, broiled, and barbecued foods, exposing your skin to smoke (whether it comes from cigarettes, bonfires, or the barbecue itself), and of course by experiencing sun damage.  Remember that "sun damage" is a catchall phrase that refers to any and of the effects of the sun on skin, from tanning all the way to severe photodermatitis (sun poisoning).
So to recap: grilling, sun, and smoke...  Sound like a familiar trio this time of year?

As an added bonus, a lifetime of eating sugar promotes the formation of these glycated proteins from the inside out.

Any time the skin's barrier function is compromised (whether caused by the contribution of exogenous glycated proteins, topical irritants, any sort of pathogen, or the endogenous presence of damaged cells that exit as a natural but undesirable part of the aging process), the inflammatory cascade is activated in order to return this vital organ to homeostasis.  When this happens, your capillaries dilate to increase blood flow to the area (which is why skin typically turns pink or even purple where it's wounded), physiological changes occur in the vascular structures and plasma begins to leave the bloodstream and enter tissues at the site of the damage.

So obviously your next step is not going to be to chow down on a burger and ice cream, but are there particular foods you can eat to help undo some of this damage?  Yep!  According to the National Institutes of Health, eating more fruits and vegetables, certain low-fat dairy products, less animal protein, and exposing our foods (especially fats and proteins) to acids such as vinegar and lemon juice are all great ways to slow and reverse the glycation process.  Cooking with liquids (for example, steaming or poaching) also inhibits the "sticking" that occurs between proteins, fats, and sugars during the glycation process.  Consuming AND applying antioxidants like Vitamin C and green tea reverse damage too, so load up this season while the sun's high!

Of course, where would we be if I didn't point out how important it is to wear a broad-spectrum SPF of at least 30 every day to save your skin :)

Happy Summer!

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