The Integumentary System and Nutrition : How Diet Affects Your Skin Health

The integumentary system is a critical organ system of the body comprising of the skin, nails, hair, and glands. It is one of the ten bodily systems that work together to ensure our well-being. The integumentary system forms the first line of defense of the body and it is the largest organ. This system is also the only one that is located outside of the body, acting as a physical barrier to protect us from harmful pathogens and environmental factors like sunlight, air pollution, and others. The skin, an integral part of the integumentary system, plays many critical roles in the body apart from serving as the first line of defense. By taking good care of our skin, we can ensure that we remain protected and in good health. In order to do so, our diet plays a very essential role. Read on to find out about the integumentary system, nutrition, and how diet affects the skin.

The Integumentary System and Nutrition

A healthy diet is important for ensuring good health and overall well-being. Consuming a nutritious diet ensures that all the organ systems of your body are getting the best possible nutrients to continue functioning at an optimal level. A healthy and well-balanced diet boosts the immune system, increases your mental alertness, and also reduces the risk of developing chronic diseases like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure or hypertension, high cholesterol, and many other such conditions. The integumentary is the largest organ system of the body and it has a very important role to carry out – that of being the first line of defense to keep us safe. The integumentary system is the first physical barrier that any harmful pathogen or environmental factor has to battle with to get across. If you do not consume a good, nutritious diet, it can lead to malnutrition, which poses a big risk to your health. At the same time, it has a big impact on your skin.(1234)

Essential nutrients are vital to the well-being of your skin and overall health. Unhealthy eating habits can have an impact on the health of your skin as well. Being the largest organ of the body, your skin is constantly changing, regenerating, and also susceptible to damage. While there are innumerable skincare products available on the market that boast about giving you more youthful and healthier-looking skin, the fact is that if you are not nourished well from within, your skin will also suffer.(56) External skin care can only go so far, but when complemented with the essential nutrients from your diet, you will get the healthiest skin possible. Let’s see how this happens.

How Diet Affects Your Skin Health?

The skin has a critical role to play in the body. From being the first line of defense and having a barrier function, to having thermoregulatory, sensory, endocrine, and immune functions as well. It has an important role to play in the synthesis of vitamin D and is also involved in the process of respiration, and elimination of waste, while playing a role in your mental well-being as well. There are many factors that affect the skin’s appearance, and your diet is one of the most important ones.

How Diet Affects Your Skin Health?

From smoothening fine lines and wrinkles to fighting against free radicals, there are many types of foods that are packed with all the good things that your body needs for glowing skin. So if you want glowing and youthful skin, you should follow the old saying, ‘you are what you eat.’ Since the older skin cells are continuously being shed and replaced, you need to maintain a steady supply of nutrients to support this turnover of skin cells. Eating foods from all the major food groups will help you look your best without having to spend extra on buying an assortment of skincare products. Your diet will also help improve many skin conditions. For example:(7)

  1. Acne and Pimples

    What you eat can trigger your acne, causing your symptoms to flare up. Getting rid of processed foods and sugary drinks can help you keep your acne under control. Acne breakouts are common in teenagers and anyone undergoing hormonal fluctuations. Frequent acne breakouts are often a sign of a bad diet. Foods like French fries, pizzas, burgers, or other fast foods can cause pimples. Regularly having such foods can lead to frequent acne breakouts, not only in teenagers but also in adults. Diets that contain high quantities of refined carbohydrates are known to promote inflammation in the body, causing more acne and pimples.(8)

  2. Wrinkles and Fine Lines

    What you eat also affects the development of fine lines and wrinkles. While you may assume that only older people get affected by wrinkles and fine lines, but if you don’t watch what you eat, it is very much possible for young people to also get them. Elastin, collagen, and protein are three of the most important things that the skin needs to remain wrinkle-free, supple, and smooth. Eating deep-fried and oily foods does not provide you with enough proteins to ensure your skin remains supple and free from wrinkles and fine lines. At the same time, the skin’s exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays further aggravates things. These UV rays give rise to free radicals that damage the collagen and elastin of the skin, causing wrinkles and fine lines.(9)

  3. Other Chronic Conditions

    Your diet plays an important role in preventing or reducing the severity of many other chronic skin conditions. These include:

    • Dry Skin: It has been observed that the skin becomes more dry if you consume a high-fat, high-sugar diet for a long time, combined with smoking and alcohol consumption. It is possible to prevent skin dryness by consuming foods that are high in water content such as fruits and vegetables, and also increasing your fluid intake.
    • Eczema: Known as atopic dermatitis, eczema is a skin condition that is often triggered by allergies in certain people. To reduce the flare-ups of eczema and to prevent aggravation of your symptoms, you should focus on eating more foods with anti-inflammatory properties.(10)
    • Rosacea: This is another skin condition that may be triggered by spicy foods, alcohol consumption, or hot drinks. Avoiding these things may reduce the severity and frequency of flare-ups.

    Since diet has such an important role to play in the well-being of your skin, here are some foods that are great for keeping your skin healthy.(1112)

Best Foods for the Skin

  1. Fatty Fish

    Fatty fish like mackerel, salmon, herring, and many others are excellent for healthy skin. They contain high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential for maintaining your skin health. Omagea-3 fatty acids are required by the body to keep your skin supple, moisturized, and maintain the level of thickness. In fact, if you do not get a sufficient amount of omega-3 fatty acids in your diet, you can develop dry skin.(13)

    These fats in fatty fish also help bring down inflammation in the body, which can be a cause of acne and redness on the face. They also work to make your skin less sensitive to the harmful rays of the sun.(14)

    Many studies have also found that even taking supplements of fish oil can help fight against autoimmune and inflammatory conditions that affect the skin, including lupus and psoriasis.(15)

    Fatty fish is also a rich source of vitamin E, which is one of the most critical antioxidants required for the skin. Getting a sufficient amount of vitamin E is necessary to keep your skin safe from damage caused by inflammation and free radicals.(16)

    At the same time, fatty fish are rich in zinc, which is an essential mineral needed to regulate inflammation, the production of new skin cells, and the overall health of your skin. Being deficient in zinc can cause skin lesions, skin inflammation, and also prolong the time it takes for wounds to heal.(17)

  2. Flaxseeds

    Flaxseeds are tiny brown seeds that have grown in popularity by leaps and bounds in recent years. This is because this superfood is rich in alpha-linolenic acid, or ALA, which is a type of omega-3 fatty acid found in plants. Omega-3s, as discussed above, are the healthy fats you need for keeping your skin safe from the harmful effects of smoking, pollution, and UV radiation. They also help reduce wrinkles on your skin, while also improving dry skin.

    Flaxseed oil made from pressed flaxseeds is known to reduce the appearance of scales on the skin and also make the skin smoother.(1819)

  3. Avocados

    Avocados are another food that is excellent for the skin as they are rich in healthy fats. The fats in avocados help with many functions of the body, including maintaining the health of the skin.(20) Eating avocados regularly can help keep your skin moisturized and flexible.

    A study done on over 700 Japanese women found that a high intake of total fat, especially the type of healthy fat found in avocados, was directly associated with having supple and springy skin.(21)

    Avocados also contain compounds that help keep the skin safe from sun damage, which can cause wrinkles and speed up the signs of aging.(22)

  4. Kiwis

    An interesting fact that most people are unaware of is that kiwis actually contain more vitamin C than oranges. Kiwis are a powerhouse of benefits for your skin as it is a powerful antioxidant. Being rich in vitamin C, kiwis help destroy the free radicals in cells and protect your skin from damage. Vitamin C in kiwis also protects the skin from UV damage, keeps it more hydrated, and also helps boost the production of collagen, which is an essential protein that your body needs to keep the skin supple, thick, and moisturized. Collagen also lends structure to the skin.(23)

    You should ideally aim for having kiwis when they are fully ripe, which is when they contain the maximum antioxidants.(24)

    Some other foods that are high in vitamin C and should be included in your diet include blueberries, citrus fruits, blackcurrants, parsley, strawberries, broccoli, guava, and red peppers.

  5. Walnuts

    Walnuts are a food item that should be included in everyone’s diet for the many health benefits it provides. They make an excellent food for skin health and are also a great source of essential fatty acids that the body is unable to produce by itself. In fact, it surprises many to learn that walnuts are actually a richer source of both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids than most other nuts.(2526)

    While studies have shown that a diet that is too high in omega-6 fatty acids might increase inflammation in the body, the good news is that omega-3 fatty acids actually reduce the inflammation, including inflammation on the skin. So even though walnuts are rich in omega-6 fats, the presence of omega-3 fatty acids balances it out nicely.

    Since walnuts contain a near about perfect ratio of both these fatty acids, it helps fight against the potential inflammatory response to the consumption of excessive omega-6 fats.

    Furthermore, walnuts are also rich in many other nutrients that your skin needs to stay healthy and function properly. For example, one ounce (28 grams) of walnuts can easily meet eight percent of the Daily Value of zinc. Zinc is important for the skin to carry out its role as the first line of defense and a physical barrier to keep the body safe. Zinc is also necessary for proper wound healing and to fight off bacteria and inflammation.(2728)

    Walnuts also contain small amounts of antioxidants selenium and vitamin E, along with four to five ounces of protein per ounce. Vitamin E, selenium, and protein are all some of the other essential nutrients that your skin needs to remain healthy and function properly.

Conclusion

There are many other foods as well that are important for the well-being of your skin. These include spinach, kale, collards, yogurt, different varieties of berries, green tea, olive oil, carrots, a variety of nuts and seeds, sweet potatoes, a variety of bell peppers, broccoli, dark chocolate, and many others.

Good nutrition will help take care of the body both from the inside and on the outside. What you eat has a huge impact on the health of your skin. This is why it is necessary to ensure that you consume plenty of essential nutrients to protect your skin and to keep it strong and healthy. Remember, the skin is the largest organ of your body and the first defense you have.

Taking care of it will ensure that you remain in good health.

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