Your skin is an important part of the immune system— it is the fi rst line of defense against outside "intruders" such as bacteria, allergens, and foreign objects (like dirt or splinters). When the skin is breached by one of those unwelcome guests, your body sends a rush of investigative immune cells to the affected area, triggering inflammation in the form of redness, heat, and swelling. That is why your eyes will puff up during allergy season, why you'll spike a fever if you have an infection. Typically, your body's natural immune response is temporary. Once you've recovered from any trauma, infection, or allergy, the associated redness and swelling will subside. For some people with imbalanced immune systems, however, that infl ammation never really dies down; and the longer their body stays inflamed, the worse it is for their health.
Recently, chronic inflammation has become a hot topic in the medical world as more and more studies suggest that it's a root cause of conditions ranging from heart disease, cancer, and Alzheimer's to osteoporosis and other diseases associated with aging. Doctors now think that cardiovascular disease, for example, is caused in part by inflammation of the arteries, not just an accumulation of plaque. Long- term inflammation can damage healthy tissue, including your arteries (leading to atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries) and your joints (causing arthritis).
Inflammation is also a hallmark of skin conditions such as acne, eczema, psoriasis, rashes, and even sunburn. And while you might be tempted to think of acne as a form of infection (due to the pus), it is really your body's inflammatory response that produces redness, swelling, and whiteheads. In fact, a number of the antibiotics we use to treat acne are prescribed not for their ability to kill bacteria (the dosage is too low) but to reduce inflammation. Learning how to manage and prevent infl ammation is important for your overall health and is essential for maintaining the health of your skin. And one of the most eff ective tools in regulating and preventing infl ammation is— you guessed it— eating the right foods. Altering your diet can help modulate the eff ects of infl ammatory conditions such as eczema and acne as well as help slow the signs of aging. Keep reading. I'll show you how.
Your Skin Is the Body's Main Source of Vitamin D Back in the early 1900s a childhood disease called rickets, which leads to softening of the bones and skeletal deformations, was a growing national problem. Hundreds of thousands of children, particularly in the industrialized cities of the Northeast, suffered from bowed legs and weak, crumbling teeth. It wasn't until the 1930s, when the government started fortifying milk with vitamin D, that rickets all but disappeared.
Vitamin D is extremely important not only in preventing rickets in children (and osteoporosis in adults) but for bone health in general (it helps your body absorb calcium from the GI tract) as well as muscle function and reduction of infl ammation. Studies show that vitamin D may even help prevent both breast and skin cancer; however, there are only a few ways to get vitamin D in the body. Some foods (including milk, egg yolks, salmon, and tuna) and nutritional supplements are two ways, but the largest source by far comes from a chemical reaction that begins the minute we walk outside.