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Cleanse Skin with a Detox Diet

Cleanse Skin with a Detox Diet

Clear, radiant skin requires more than lotions and potions, no matter how religiously you baste yourself. Those products help, of course, but to have beautiful skin you really need to cleanse your whole body, inside and out. That’s why skin-care professionals emphasize a wholesome diet as the path to healthy skin and suggest an occasional fast or cleanse to purify your system. Done properly, a nutrient-rich detoxifying cleanse can boost your complexion’s intrinsic beauty and revive your youthful appearance.

“A cleanse is a way to eliminate toxins from the body,” says Hali Sofia Schatz, author of If the Buddha Came to Dinner: How to Nourish Your Body to Awaken Your Spirit (Hyperion, 2004). Look at it as a seasonal cleaning of the body’s closets, a way to help the body rid itself of the ill effects of a buildup of impurities–environmental contaminants from the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the toxins we consume in our less-than-healthy diets.

Looks don’t lie.
Nutritionist and author Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, says the face seldom lies about your dietary indiscretions. “Simply put, what you put into your body comes out on your face.” But even though she sounds negative, Gittleman actually offers hope. “Dryness, oiliness, pimples, bumps, dermatitis, blotchy skin, large facial pores, brown spots, wrinkles, collagen loss–all of these conditions can be managed, treated, and controlled with diet and proper nutrition.”

Think of skin as a shell that protects us, says Jen Murphy, esthetician for Pangea Organics. It’s the first line of defense for the immune system and readily reacts to any systemic assault by swelling up and turning red, a sign of inflammation. Unfortunately, Murphy says, this exacerbates the aging process because “the body then uses all its energy fighting off irritants rather than making healthy cells.”

The body eliminates fully one-third of its alien invaders’ bacteria, viruses, and toxins–through the skin, according to Gittleman. When the organs of elimination (like the liver, colon, and kidneys) become overwhelmed, the skin picks up the slack. The body pushes toxins through the pores to the surface of the skin, where they do less harm systemically. Overall that’s good news, but at skin level, those toxins can clog pores and cause irritation, leading to breakouts, redness, and inflammation.

A skin-oriented cleanse (and subsequent diet) typically reduces or eliminates substances that trigger problems for your skin. The worst offenders include hydrogenated vegetable oils (trans fats), sugar, caffeine, alcohol, red meat, excess dairy, processed foods, and refined carbohydrates.

Feed your face.
Along with getting rid of the bad stuff, you must consume more vital nutrients so your digestive system can handle the heavy lifting and sifting of toxins. Without plenty of antioxidants and other vitamins, your body can’t break down these toxins, and they continue to work their poison.

It’s also important to transition properly from your regular diet to one that will help your body detoxify itself. “Unprepared fasting in today’s world can make you really sick,” Gittleman says. “Your liver can be overwhelmed by the process of breaking down and purifying toxins that have been stored for decades. Detoxifying stimulates the release of fatty deposits that can dump toxins into your system. If this happens too quickly and without nutritional support, you can exceed your liver’s capacity for detoxification.”

To avoid those conditions, dietary experts recommend ramping up your daily dose of fruits and vegetables, substituting whole grains for refined carbs, replacing fatty red meat with omega-3-rich fish, cooking with olive or sesame oil instead of hydrogenated vegetable oil, consuming nuts and seeds and foods with high levels of antioxidants, and drinking plenty of fluids, especially purified (but not distilled) water.

Of particular importance to skin-conscious detoxers: foods rich in the “skin” nutrients vitamin A and zinc. Butter and cod liver oil contain ample amounts of vitamin A, while eggs and pumpkin seeds are packed with zinc. And you should probably consider taking these “beauty” supplements: vitamin B complex, which helps your body cope with the skin-taxing stress of daily life; vitamin C, which aids in collagen building; and vitamin E, which rejuvenates. Both C and E are strong antioxidants that break down toxins and help the skin rebound from sun damage and other assaults. Also include some manganese and magnesium, two beautifying minerals that help eliminate toxins from the liver.

Taking additional essential fatty acids (EFAs) is also vital for skin-oriented detoxing. They not only help reduce cholesterol, but they provide many skin-related benefits as well. “EFAs are key to moisturizing the skin, decreasing wrinkles, and protecting the skin from sunburn,” says Gittleman. “They help treat dandruff, eczema, psoriasis, dry skin, and other sensitive skin conditions. They also help maintain the fluidity of skin’s natural water-loss barrier, which prevents dangerous substances from inflaming the skin.”

Omega-3 fish oils may grab most of the EFA headlines, but the unsung hero of radiant skin is actually omega-6, specifically gamma-linolenic acid (GLA). Found mostly in plant oils, such as black currant seed, hemp, borage, and evening primrose oils, GLA moistens the fatty layer beneath the skin and increases cellular resistance, making it one of the best internal moisturizers. GLA supplementation can reduce sun damage by decreasing the dehydrating effect of sun on the skin, and the oils help block androgens, male-based hormones linked to everything from acne to baldness. Research has also shown that GLA deficiencies lead to weakened capillaries. “This is significant for people who complain of redness and sensitivity,” says Gittleman. She recommends 500 mg to 3 grams of GLA a day, depending on your weight and specific needs. Keep in mind, however, that the body needs to maintain a specific ratio of omega-3s and -6s to protect the heart, and hemp oil provides both of them in that correct ratio.

Keep it clean.
Remember to cleanse your skin regularly during a detox. Routinely brush your body (but not your face) to remove dead cells and other detritus from the skin’s surface. Take frequent hot showers and spend some time in a sauna or steam room–both activities will help speed up the elimination process. Symptoms (blotches, breakouts, and rashes) sometimes can get worse during a detox before they get better. In any case, a symptom should last no more than a week. If it does, check in with your healthcare provider–the last thing you want to do is exceed your body’s ability to cope with the detoxification process.

Valori Treloar, MD, who is a board-certified dermatologist, takes a holistic approach to skin care at her Integrative Dermatology clinic in Newton, Massachusetts. She views detoxing as a lifestyle, not an isolated event. The best results come from long-term changes to diet and behavior, not a drastic, temporary overhaul of eating habits. “The problem with a detox diet is that some people take it as permission to toxify, as if a detox will undo all these lifestyle habits that aren’t conducive to good health,” says Treloar. “A better approach would be to maintain healthier practices consistently.”

Gittleman recommends an initial detox, followed by an extended maintenance program. Her year-round plan suggests a restorative focus for each season: Spring tones the liver; summer targets the heart and small intestines; autumn highlights the lungs and large intestines; and the kidneys and adrenals get their due during winter. Throughout the program, the diet and nutritional focus remains on seven beauty fundamentals: a detoxified system; purified water; proteins; essential fatty acids; immune-boosting fruits and vegetables; balanced hormones; and vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

Pregnant women and nursing moms shouldn’t undertake a cleanse. Nor should those with a delicate constitution or other health issues that make it unwise for them to risk the potentially negative symptoms that may accompany the release of dormant toxins. But if you’re generally healthy and ready to make a rejuvenating change–give it a go. And then adopt a healthy, skin-friendly diet. The rest of your body will love you for it.

Natural Solutions: Vibrant Health, Balanced Living offers its readers the latest news on health conditions, herbs and supplements, natural beauty products, healing foods and conscious living. Click here for a free sample issue.

Read more: Beauty, Diet & Nutrition, Eating for Health, Food, Health, Skin Care, , , ,

By Jeff Kent, Natural Solutions

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Natural Solutions: Vibrant Health, Balanced Living offers its readers the latest news on health conditions, herbs and supplements, natural beauty products, healing foods and conscious living.


+ add your own
9:16AM PDT on Mar 18, 2012


6:38AM PST on Nov 12, 2009

I think about detoxing even though it has never done anything for me (as I posted here: It's kind of like the hype about trying some new trend (cranberry lips and teal eyeliner this fall!). As I no longer care about seasonal colours, and don't buy "toxic" or animal-tested products any longer, detoxes and healthy living trends seem like better things to waste time with even though I would probably be better off doing something else. But this is a hobby.

Don't get me wrong--getting rid of toxic cleansers for face, body, and home are all good things. Ditto with eating pesticide free things. But my husband also reminded me of another extremist--the "breathist" who promoted the idea that one could live off of nothing but the air (It's pure, real, and God given! You don't need anything else!), who was later caught eating at McDonald's. Extreme eating can be alienating, which is fine if it is your choice to be alone in perfect health.

There are problems in the world and our personal environments, but people really need to chill out. Detoxing used to mean getting illegal drugs out of the system at some rehab center. There's garbage in the air, water, food, buildings, transport vehicles. Radon and botulism spores. Rats and pigeons are good, no they're bad. Eggs and butter, bad for 60-100 years, now good again.Perfume is a sign of wealth, no it's a mark of being less educated; ditto tanning &

7:17PM PST on Nov 10, 2009

Been using the Dr Max Powers 15 Day Cleanse for 3 years now (about 3 x per year) and I am SO happy I discovered it on the internet. I had never been regular even as a child, but these pills work magic for me. I'm guaranteed results the next morning. No cramps or other problems, just good results.

In the past 3 days I have lost 6 pounds of waste. My appetite is down and I feel great. I'm taking 2 pills a day, 1 in the morning and 1 in the evening. There is no stomach cramping, although my stomach has made a couple of growling noises at me a warning that it is time to go to the bathroom..but other than real problems

Looking forward to more waste (weight) loss...hip-hip-hooray!!! I definitely recommend them for women looking for a great cleanse to do!

9:53PM PDT on Sep 19, 2009

:-D Well, I failed on my vegetarian commitment - but I guess that in life it's all about not giving up - specially on the healthier lifestyle.

8:54PM PDT on Jun 14, 2009

11:19AM PDT on Apr 22, 2009

Excellent article.

12:05AM PDT on Apr 14, 2009

Diet, exercise, DNA, sun, lotions & such, over exfoliating, harsh chemicals in environment, not enough water, too much coffee etc. ALL play in our skin. Yes, this article IS accurate, but following just this won't ensure beautiful skin, but will help you in acquiring it on one level. I've been vegan for quite a long time and people think I'm about 20 years younger than I am. Yet my smoking, suntanning, meat eating, sister looks older than even her older sister. And she didn't always. She used to be mistaken as much younger than she is. I NEVER take fish oils, they get their omegas from eating seaweed anyhow, it's NOT the fish, so it can easily be acquired through plants. Vit B's another one, and plenty of water. But using natural products, even cleaning ones, cleansing & detox etc., are all beneficial.

5:24PM PDT on Apr 6, 2009

I think there are valid points in the article, but that adequate rest, soap and water, exercise, in other words total health is also a factor. I am almost 50, and up until nearly 40 I had no wrinkles, even though I've always gardened. I do wear sunscreen below my eyes and a cap, but imperfectly. I tend to have a bit of a tan by April. My daughter who is 25 with the tanning booth habit has had wrinkles to go with her acne for a couple of years despite buying the tanning oils that sell for $100 a bottle and taking hormones to quiet her acne. Her diet is reasonably healthy, but "normal" - dairy,fast food, etc, and she doesn't smoke. (I do). So I think that some of the dietary stuff is valid. I find that a positive attitude helps everything though.

12:21PM PDT on Apr 6, 2009

i am a careful vegan who makes sure to get the necessary amounts of protein and supplements, and my skin is a disaster. the skin /diet connection is not that clear cut.

9:28AM PDT on Apr 6, 2009

When I stopped drinking milk my face cleared up. Now I rarely get a pimple. And I prefer the taste of rice milk over cow's milk.

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