skin close-up
How much do you really know about your skin? It may surprise you!

Skin is our interface with the outside world - it's the place where we're in constant physical contact with the environment that surrounds us. But we tend to take the health of the skin for granted. Skin problems are often regarded as cosmetic - 'surface level problems' - and we often think creams, lotions and topical medications are the best way of dealing with them.

However, the skin can be, and usually is, a reflection of what's going on inside the body. Problems with the liver and detoxification, an imbalance in the microbiome or any number of other imbalances can all be reflected in the state of the skin. This is why dealing with skin issues often requires going beyond 'Skin Deep'.

Join us for this episode of Objective:Health as we give the straight skinny on skin health - what your skin could be telling you, how to deal with skin issues and look your glowing best!

Also stay tuned for Pet Health with Zoya. This week she shares with us how to deal with a pet that excessively licks its paws.

Running Time: 01:20:12

Download: MP3

Here's the transcript of the show:

Elliot: Hello and welcome to Objective: Health. I'm going to be your host today. My name is Elliot, and today I'm going to be joined by Doug, Tiff anyand Erica. Welcome everyone.

All: Hello!

Elliot: So, on this show today, what we are going to be looking at is the skin! So, we're going to be examining some cool facts about the skin, some things that people probably didn't know about, and then later on we're going to be going into some of the things that can go wrong with the skin. We're going to be looking at some of the nutrients that you need for healthy skin and some of the things that are involved in various disorders of skin health and what people might be able to do. Hopefully there will be some practical recommendations involved in that.

But first of all, I'd just like to introduce the topic of skin actually because it's quite fascinating. There are loads of things that I didn't previously know about it. It's technically classed as the largest organ in the body. Now, we don't really tend to view the skin as an organ, but it is, because an organ is defined as a part of the body that is essentially self-contained and plays a specific role, and that is what the skin is.

So we see it's the largest organ, but essentially, the way that it differs from many other organs in one way is that it can stretch really quite far. It has a unique stretching ability. Oher organs can't really do that. If you look at the skin on your knuckles, it can stretch a lot more than the skin on your arms, for instance. There's multiple different layers to the skin as well. You have the epidermis, the dermis, and the subcutaneous layer as well. The average person's skin weighs around nine pounds. If you were to skin a human being and sort of stretch it out, it spans 21 square feet, so that's quite large. [laughter]

Every 28 days or roughly every month your skin completely renews itself. So the skin you currently have on your hand and on your arm and on your face will not be there next month. I find that quite interesting.

Tiffany: Even though it does regenerate you still have the same moles and scars and everything that you had 28 days before.

Doug: Tattoos.

Tiffany: Yeah, and the tattoos. So, does it generate its vitamin content because it doesn't completely regenerate itself I would argue?

Elliot: [laughter] I don't know the answer to that question.

Doug: Neither do I. Maybe the skin just regenerates but it just keeps on regenerating... like I don't know how tattoos work that's for sure. But for moles and stuff maybe it just keeps on regenerating in the same pattern that it did before. Same with scars too right? I mean scars will stay there regardless of that skin regenerating.

Tiffany: So you have your same template basically but it's just newer cells.

Doug: It's the morphogenic field.

Tiffany: Yes, that's a good one.

Doug: Just keeps on regenerating according to that same thing.

Elliot: Yeah, well apparently every minute your skin sheds 30,000 dead cells.

Doug: Wow!

Elliot: Those dead skin cells essentially are released into the air, you can't see them, but I guess if you shone a really bright light you could see all of the dust. It essentially makes up about 50% of dust. So, if you were to dust your home, the dust around your home on your furniture, about 50% of that is apparently dead skin.

Tiffany: Another 50% is cat hair. [laughter]

Doug: Yeah no doubt.

Erica: Well we could add to that too that dead skin is responsible for about 1 billion tonnes of dust in the atmosphere.

Doug: Wow, that's kind of gross to think about actually.

Doug: It's kind of gross to think about.

Tiffany: Maybe humans really are responsible for global warming!

Doug: [laughter] Yeah. Well they're talking about dimming the sun right now, maybe they just need more skin dust to stop global warming. So that's pretty interesting stuff about the skin. I always found it interesting that some ways considered part of the immune system, because it's like a physical barrier between the outside world and our internal world. So, it's like that physical barrier and there's a lot of things on the skin that are there as defences and determining what gets absorbed, what doesn't get absorbed. We've got an extensive microbiome on the skin as well that forms. It has defensive capabilities as well as other capabilities. There's an entire ecosystem going on on your skin that we're completely unaware of all the time. So I always found that to be pretty fascinating.

Erica: And it's responsible for one-fourth of the body's detoxification process, so sometimes it's known as the third kidney.

Doug: Just be excreting stuff right?

Erica: Yeah.

Elliot: So when you think of your skin you typically see it as some kind of inert substance like a rubbery kind of thing that covers you, but actually it's highly metabolically active and there's lots of things going on. As Erica said one of the ways you not only get rid of things, but it's actually, on multiple fronts, how you can allow things to come into your body as well. The skin is waterproof, but at the same time it's also semi-permeable, so it's permeable to various things, especially fat soluble things.

So the things that you come into contact with can actually enter through the skin. When you think of things entering your body, especially when we're talking about toxic chemicals and whatnot, you think "Okay, if I'm not breathing it in, and I'm not eating it, if I've got a clean diet and I'm not ingesting or not inhaling exhaust fumes and whatnot then that's a cool way to be healthy." But we often tend to neglect the amount of things that our skin comes into contact with, especially if we're talking about things like cleaning products. I think that a big one, because many of the cleaning product that we're using are inevitably going to touch the skin, especially if people don't wear gloves and that is being absorbed directly through the barrier.

There are some interesting studies showing that the absorption of various chemicals increases significantly through the skin, because if you were to ingest it orally, your body has certain inbuilt defence mechanisms to be able to metabolise that and be able to prevent the absorption, or if it is absorbed, go to the liver and dealt with, and then be excreted back out through the urine or faeces. Whereas when it's touching your skin, you're bypassing that mechanism and it has a quicker route to get directly into the bloodstream.

So for instance, if we're looking at things like shampoos, sodium lauryl sulfate or phthalates in shampoos, there are all these kind of chemicals and you're putting them directly on your head, especially under hot water, you're potentially getting stuff into the brain or very close to the brain and that's a major concern isn't it?

Doug: Yeah

Tiffany: Well the same thing goes for cosmetics. Women put all this makeup on their faces, not realising that whatever they put on their faces is going to get absorbed into your skin. I usually don't wear makeup but the times I have, I've noticed that if I put some makeup on during the morning, then go out and come back later, there's no makeup on my face/ Where does it go? I didn't rub it off, so it'd have to of gotten absorbed. The FDA doesn't regulate cosmetics the way they do food stuffs or medication or supplements that you take into your body. But really, it's going to go into your body, it's just going by a different route.

Doug: Yeah, the cosmetics industry is self-regulated on that front because the FDA has determined it's not the same thing as food, therefore, they don't need to regulate it, so.

Tiffany: So if you can't eat it, you probably shouldn't be putting it on your skin. [laughter]

Doug: Yeah, although the interesting thing is that kind of goes both ways, like there are a lot of things we need to be cautious about but there are methods for actually taking in nutrients or medicines or that sort of thing through the skin. If you do a magnesium bath or a sodium bicarbonate bath or something like that, essential oils, those kinds of things you can put those on the skin and they'll actually get absorbed in that way. So, particularly if you're trying to get more magnesium and you just don't want to be doing a lot of supplements or you don't want to hit bowel tolerance with the supplements or something like that, taking a magnesium bath is actually a good way to do it because your skin will actually take it in.

Elliot: Yeah likewise if someone's got some sort of gastric condition whereby there is severe malabsorption, but you need to get nutrients into someone, transdermal application of other things like a type of thiamine I frequently recommend which is in a cream. Certain sulphur compounds which, when people ingest via the gut, because there's such a strong dysbiosis, they just can't tolerate the sulphur because it produces all kinds of toxic gasses and things, they need to get it into the body in another way, and transdermal is fantastic for that. So that's a really good point.

Erica: That could be one of the benefits of mineral whirlpools or mineral application, hot springs or mud baths.

Tiffany: Or hormonal creams that don't get broken down by the stomach acid, because you can rub it on yourself and it can still have an effect.

Doug: Speaking of sulphur compounds Elliot, there's DMSO. I don't know if people have ever tried that before but it's like a solvent that will permeate the skin much easier and will actually bind onto other things to permeate the skin. I've heard stories about people using that. One time a person I know actually cleaned an area with rubbing alcohol and then put on the DMSO cream and they said they actually felt a buzz because the DMSO actually like pulled the alcohol in with it when it was going into the skin. So that DMSO stuff is actually amazing, it has a lot of health benefits in and of itself, but itès also very good as a vehicle for getting other things in through the skin. But you have to be very careful with it because if there's anything on your skin that shouldn't be getting in and you use the DMSO cream on it, then that's going to get in, so you have to be very careful with it.

Elliot: And I guess you'd probably also want to make sure that it's a good quality DMSO, that it's not contaminated with anything, and at the same time probably contained in some kind of container that's not plastic.

Doug: Yeah I think that's a good idea.

Erica: And the same can be said for essential oils. So some people have a real sensitivity to essential oils, something like tea tree is touted as a good treatment for skin ailments but sometimes it causes a major reaction, almost instantaneously.

Tiffany: Yeah I kind of burnt myself with tea tree oil once. Some of these essential oils need to be diluted quite a bit before you put them on your skin.

Doug: Yeah I've had bad experiences with oregano oil before using it topically, where it was kind of just like why did I do that? That was terrible, it just burns! [laughter]

Elliot: So, if we're talking about skin, the first thing that probably comes to mind, or if we're talking in the context of healthy skin, for many people the first thing that comes to mind, I guess in our modern world is some kind of cosmetic, some kind of external applicant that you can put on your skin or that you can wash your skin with. Since this is a show on health and wellness, since we're talking about the skin, people generally associate good skin with creams, with ointments...

Doug: Products...

Elliot: Products. And I think that's probably due to all of the marketing that's happened in the past sort of 50-60 years. But the question is, is there any truth to that? I grew up to believe, or I was told, or led to believe, that if you want to have healthy then what you need to do is you need to use this assortment of products to apply locally onto your face everyday, in the morning, in the afternoon, before a shower, after a shower, before bedtime and whatnot. I knew lots of people who did that. I personally never did it, but I didn't have very good skin either and I didn't know much about it. But the point that I'm trying to make is that this is the route that people generally go. If they've got poor skin or if they've got something like eczema or dermatitis or acne or rosacea, they will go the external route.

Whilst there way be sort of many beneficial natural options in terms of applying things locally to your skin, I think that what we're going to be talking about during the show today especially is how I think it's important to shift how we perceive skin health, from rather than focussing on things external to the body, actually seeing the skin as a window for what's going on inside of the body. This is something that many people do not necessarily acknowledge. But as we know, healthy skin generally indicates that something inside is working, and unhealthy skin generally demonstrates some kind of dysfunction.

Tiffany: Good skin comes from the inside. So what would we say that good skin is? Is this skin that is uniform in colour, free from blemishes and sores and rashes? Oicture a young child's skin, how smooth it is and how it kind of glows. It's soft, there's no rough patches. It's really indicative of good health. Everyone kind of has their own skin town and facial features and things that define what looks good for them, but you can kind of tell when you see somebody that looks healthy, even though they might not always be healthy on the inside, we can always identify that that person has really good skin.

Elliot: Yeah it seems one of those things that's... I guess you could try to categorise it. You can try to sort of classify, give it various attributes and say "This is what constitutes good skin," but at the same time someone could have all of those attributes but not necessarily have good health. It's almost like an inbuilt, innate part of human perception. It's hard to put into words, but there's almost like a glow you know. It's not very often you come across someone in the modern world with really healthy skin. It seems that, like you say Doug, sometimes someone can have really healthy skin and they may actually not be very healthy inside. I've met people with things like chronic fatigue syndrome who have really good skin, but they can't get out of bed in the morning and they sleep for 14 or 15 hours every day. So they're not healthy. But what I would say is that if someone's got healthy skin it doesn't necessarily mean that they're unhealthy, but if someone's got unhealthy skin it's a good chance that they are unhealthy, in some way.

Doug: Yeah I think that's a good way of looking at it. It's interesting too because when we think of good skin we think of somebody having products and it's like 'oh I see this person as has healthy skin, what product are you using?'

I think it's unfortunate because as we're about to get into, the skin grows from the inside. Your skin is constantly regenerating like you said and if your skin is unhealthy that is an indication that something on the inside isn't right. But people's first go-to for that is an external solution, and the problem is that in holistic health circles where people probably should know this kind of thing and be more on board with this kind of thing, they really aren't. They're still looking for external stuff, it just has to be natural. It has to not have all these phthalates and other kinds of garbage in them, which I think is good, but at the same time they're still not going to what the root cause of what the problem is.

Where the root cause, obviously, is something internal is going wrong, and that is reflecting on the skin. It's now almost like this cosmetic industry has kind of absorbed this natural thing and it's kind of like all their products are 'natural' and that's still everybody's go to. So it's kind of like 'I want to be natural,' but instead of going to the root cause of the problem and trying to solve it that way they just go for natural products. I think it's unfortunate because to solve skin issues, you've got to dig pretty deep, both literally and figuratively.

Erica: Well I have a question for you Elliot, or all of you here. What about delayed reactions? Say you have an allergy to something and you eat it and you don't get an issue in your skin for days or weeks? It could be anything really. All of sudden you have patchy dry spots or itching, and it's kind of hard to pin down what it is. I know in the past we've talked about the importance of the elimination diet, but how would you track something like that or how would you know if it was something out of the ordinary, that was causing this ailment?

Elliot: If you're looking at a three or four day delayed reaction, it's going to be pretty difficult. It's going to be really hard. I think in that regard to really identify what it was, simply from looking at what you've got right in front of you, without doing any kind of testing or anything, then you would probably have to go on a really restrictive elimination diet to be able to find that out. It's unfortunate that it's sometimes the way that the immune system works. You have different types of immune cells. They're called immunoglobulins and some of them are really fast acting.

So if someone's got a problem with a type of food and it evokes what we call an immunoglobulin-e reaction, an allergic reaction, they will know within a very short period of time. They know to stay away from that kind of food. But ultimately if its an IGG reaction, as we know, it can take days, it can take weeks. It's so very difficult to identify something like that. It also depends on what kind of problem you're looking at as well because if it's something like acne, then there seems to be a very common set of foods or lifestyle factors which seem to be implicated in this in most people.

So it's like okay, if someone gets acne, you can guarantee it's probably dairy, if they eat dairy, and if they don't, if it's not dairy it might be sugar. There are a very specific set of things which are likely to cause acne in someone's diet. Now if it's something like hives, that's a little bit more difficult to break down because there's no types of foods per se which are known to cause hives. There are certain foods which are high in histamines but actually they could be reacting to any component in the food and that could be affecting downstream metabolites and downstream reactions involving things like histamines. So they might associate it with certain foods which contain histamine, whereas actually it could be their phyllosilicates, it could be their phenols, it could be their oxalates. Ot's very difficult to say you know. Does that answer the question?

Erica: Yes

Tiffany: And then there's also the confounding issue that everybody reacts to everything differently. So one person might have a skin reaction to eating a strawberry and another person might get diverticulitis or something. Who knows? [laughter]

Elliot: Some people, some people have reactions which don't involve the skin, but which are typically a lot more covert, lets say, or less identifiable. It might be brain fog, it might be anxiety, it could be insomnia, it could be something like that which is a little more difficult to pinpoint as a dietary-induced problem. Most people don't associate these things with diet, whereas I can say for me personally, my skin tells me when I'm eating something that I'm not meant to be eating, and I kind of see that as a gift, while at the same time a curse because it's not nice to have not very nice skin sometimes but at the same time it's like a radar. Some people have that. Other people don't have that. It kind of depends where the weak point is in the body and how it communicates that, so everyone needs to try and get in touch with their own body and find out how it tries to communicate various things, you know?

Doug: Well you brought up acne Elliot. I learned something interesting while I was doing the research for this show. Apparently around the turn of the century they were calling acne 'skin diabetes'. The reason for that is because they were detecting sugar in the skin, if I'm not mistaken. I don't know if it was in the actual acne itself or something or they detected that in people with acne, there actually was sugar in the skin. I found that pretty interesting because I've known for a long time that acne is related to sugar. Teenagers learn that. If somebody's breaking out a lot, people will tell them 'Oh you shouldn't be eating sugar', or 'You've got to lay off the chocolate bars' or something like that. It seems like it's common enough knowledge. It's even at the point of being hearsay at this point. But they have found that there is a connection there, that eating sugar actually can lead to acne in some people. I just found that interesting.

Tiffany: Well I think that one of the reasons why acne affects teens more, something that I learned, is because it's tied to insulin-like growth factor 1, or IGF1, and teens since they're still growing they have a lot of this hormone in their bodies, and combined with excessive consumption of sugar, it can trigger acne.

Elliot: With acne it's interesting because there seems to be multiple different angles from which to approach acne. For one person it could be an insulin resistance, like in the skin, but also systemic. I think the theory goes that if someone is insulin resistant they are going to need to be producing more insulin. They're going to have higher blood glucose, but they're also going to eventually produce more insulin.

Now insulin is anabolic and it has several downstream effects. So one of them is producing insulin growth factor. Another one is through enhancing the conversion of testosterone to a downstream metabolite called dihydrotestosterone. So there's an enzyme called 5-alpha reductase and this takes testosterone and converts it into DHT it's called. Insulin-like growth factor speeds up this conversation. Now when this happens in the skin, the skin is triggered to start producing more sebum. The sebum is made up of fatty acids and cholesterol and that kind of stuff.

So typically if someone's got acne they will have oily skin as well. In a simplified way, it clogs up the pores of the skin and then you have inflammatory markers in the skin, proinflammatory cytokines and then you have the infiltration of some kind of bacteria and the skin barrier is disordered in some way. This is what typically contributes to inflammatory acne. We know that sugar does this, it causes this kind of high insulin growth factor, but they're also saying that that might actually be one of the reasons why dairy does as well, because dairy - not so much butter but for certain people it does seem to be with butter as well - but especially cheese, milk - milk is a big one, yoghurt, these kinds of things - I think they either contain insulin-like growth factor or they contain certain things which increase IGF1 in the body.

So dairy just seems to be such a massive trigger as well, but it's only for some people and not for many other people.

Tiffany: So is it the case that in some skin conditions, say the skin is an excretory organ, and you have the liver and the kidneys that cleanse the blood and detoxify the blood, could you get some kind of skin ailment because your liver and your kidneys are not keeping up internally with cleansing the blood and detoxifying? So thereby certain bacterias or toxins get pushed out through the skin, where if your internal organs were healthier and doing their jobs then your skin would be better?

Elliot: Yeah that's quite well established. That's what the naturopaths and the traditional Ayurveda or traditional Chinese medicine have said for thousands of years. The mechanism is quite well established in science, up-to-date. That does happen in your two primary routes so things are processed in the liver, either they go via the kidneys, or they go through the gut. I think this is why gut issues and IBS are really tied to so many different skin conditions. We'll talk about this a little bit later I'm sure, but if we look at practically any different kind of skin condition, there's always some kind of dysbiosis or imbalance with the digestive system in some way.

So the digestive system is really the main way in which you're going to be excreting a large majority of your toxins, and those are processed in the liver and are ideally meant to go back into the gut. Unfortunately you can have all sorts of blockages in the gut and if there's any kind of inflammation or anything then it's going to kind of stop you dumping all the toxic stuff from the liver into the gut, and then that over burden will go to the kidneys and be added to whatever is being offloaded in the kidney. But ultimately the kidney can only deal with so much, because the kidney tubals, or the nephrons, the cells in the kidney are very sensitive to oxidative stress. So if you're pumping through lots of stuff through the kidneys, that's potentially going to spell trouble.

So what you're going to do is divert it towards the skin and there's a very good reason to think that, especially things like eczema and many other kinds of rashes and things may actually be this over burdening of the other routes of detoxification and you're actually using the skin as the last ditch resort because if you can't get it through the skin there's a good chance it's going to circulate around the organs. That's not what you want.

Doug: It's interesting because I was reading about a guy and I can't remember his name unfortunately, but he was kind of a health practitioner around the early part of the century, like around the 1960s or 1970s and he did this test. He would stand in a closet and he had some plastic laid out so it would catch everything and he did skin brushing and he did that for a couple of weeks or something like that, and then he took all of the stuff that had come off and had gathered on the plastic on the floor and had it analysed, and he said it was indistinguishable from urine.

Tiffany: What?

Doug: So it kind of shows that it is the same thing. What you're putting out of your skin is excretions from inside the body, all the stuff the body actually needs to get rid of.

Tiffany: Very interesting experiment. [laughter] I will remember that the next time I do my skin brushing, which after researching for the show I think I want to start doing again because I did it for a while and it felt good, but I don't think I did it long enough to notice any real benefits, except that it's supposed to be good for the lymph and blood circulation and exfoliating your skin, so it might be a good experiment to try.

Doug: Yeah, I was doing it for a while too, but I similarly fell off because I didn't notice anything. I also, while reading for the show was kind of like 'Oh yeah skin brushing. Maybe I should pick that up again'.

Tiffany: 'How did I forget about that?'

Doug: Yeah [laughter]

Elliot: That's the rationale for doing saunas as well isn't it? I think that's why it's so cherished in various parts of the world, Russia or Scandinavia. They love their saunas and I think probably because it makes them feel so good. There's a reason that it makes them feel so good apart from releasing endorphins and all this kind of stuff. It's actually really helping their body to get rid of a lot of the waste.

Doug: Yeah I think so. I remember reading somewhere about how saunas are really good for detoxifying from heavy metals, actually just getting stuff out of your system, it's actually really beneficial for that. I even remember reading that it was more efficient actually than like the urine and getting rid of metals that way, I don't know if that's true though.

Elliot: Yeah aside from the metals as well, especially when it's a far infrared sauna, not only metals but you're looking at things like plastics as well, plastics, mould toxins and organic chemicals, BPA, pesticides, all of these kinds of things. Some of them are really quite difficult to get rid of into the faeces, if there's some kind of got this dysfunction. So it seems to be a key part. Many of the doctors who do functional medicine who specialized in things like detoxification, one of the key parts of those protocols is actually like daily infrared sauna and it seems to help people massively. But I think it's one of those things that you kind of take for granted because it seems so easy. It's kind of cheap and you can't see anything in you sweat can you? Like you can't you can't see anything coming out but it's there.

Tiffany: Sometimes you can taste it though.

Elliot: It depends if you taste you sweat. [laughter]

Tiffany: If you lick your lips like around your lips it's not just the salty taste that you taste sometimes. Sometimes I've tasted things that I can't quite identify, like what is coming out of my skin? But then there are some people who can't tolerate getting into a sauna and there's some people who don't sweat. Like I've gotten into far-infrared blanket a few times recently and I just did not sweat, I just got very, very hot and other times I've sweated buckets.

Doug: I remember sherry Rogers saying something, she's the one who wrote that book Detoxify or Die and she said that the longer it takes you to sweat, the more toxic you were. Yeah so bad news for you there Tiff.

Tiffany: [laughter] But exercise is a good way to sweat I mean if you can tolerate exercising hard enough to make yourself sweat. You have to be in fairly good physical condition, no joint problems or things like that. I think that's maybe a way that some people who are not technically healthy, like back in the day 20-some years ago, my diet was not that great, I would still exercise and sweat out tonnes. Maybe that was part of what made me be as healthy or not as healthy as I was at that time, just because of the detoxification of sweating every day.

Elliot: There's lots of things that can go wrong in the liver and actually, just going back to acne as well, I said briefly before that in some cases of acne at least it can actually be caused by what is known as a deficiency of glutathione in the liver. There's an inflammatory component to acne. This isn't necessarily something that many skin cosmetics kinds of things, not something that they factor in, but essentially it's an internal inflammatory process, an inflammatory process in the skin and really if there's some kind of oxidation in the skin, you need your cells to be able to basically counteract that. They use something called glutathione.

But also in the liver you have glutathione which is basically binding up with loads of crap that you come into contact with daily and carrying that out in some way. And so, if there is any kind of deficiency in any one of the detoxification pathways, then it's potentially going to, not necessarily come out in your skin, but rather it's going to foster an environment that allows bacteria to live on your skin and infiltrate into your skin. So either way it seems that your liver plays a key role in this. I think that's the way from various of the traditional schools of thought, they would say you're hot or cold or your liver is not working. They didn't have access to specialized liver function tests in a laboratory. They just palpate and look at your skin and say "Well okay your liver or your kidneys."

It seems that that is actually where science is actually taking us now. But aside from that there's also the gut and the question is does the gut actually precede problems with the liver and the kidney? Because the gut is the first point of call. The first way that most things are going to get into the body. We've spoken about things that get into the skin, but really most of the contact with the external environment is actually in the gut. So when you look at the clinical research it's so clear. It's not clear whether it's causative or not. I would bet it probably is causative, I can't guarantee, but there are very, very strong associations between things like acne vulgaris, rosacea atopic dermatitis or eczema in other words.

What else are there? Psoriasis, psoriatic arthritis, many different kinds of skin conditions, what do they find? They find certain pathogens living in the gut. They find intestinal permeability. They find elevated levels of bacterial lipopolysaccharides. If you've got a state of some kind of gut dysfunction, malabsorption, hypochlorhydria, low stomach acid, this is frequently found in people with acne. You foster an environment in the gut where you're not digesting your fats, you're not digesting your proteins, you're not digesting your carbohydrates, and so you're allowing certain bacteria to thrive, say in the small intestine. You develop something like an IBS, something like that. You're producing loads of this bacterial metabolite let's say, it's called lipopolysaccharide and that can essentially cause leaky gut, or it can get through the gut barrier, it can get into the bloodstream, and sort of go around the organs. It can get to the skin, it can get to the liver. It can deplete the livers resources of glutathione and all the other antioxidants, then it can cause inflammation, systemically. And it's like many of the skin eruptions and things could also be a manifestation of gut dysfunction. So that's a key point in this as well.

Doug: Yeah, absolutely. So anything that's interfering with your digestion, or just eating crappy food essentially, can change the bacterial balance of the gut, which has all kinds of downstream effects that can then therefore end up showing up in the skin. So it's not necessarily a direct connection, but the bacterial balance of the gut can have an indirect effect on the skin. Is that essentially what you're saying Elliot?

Elliot: Yeah basically. That's what it seems like from the research. And in terms of anecdotal reports, people who have skin issues, the flare-ups of the skin issues generally tend to correlate well with when they've eaten something they don't agree with, when they've eaten something that they can't digest, when they've eaten something that causes them a flare-up in their IBS symptoms, it manifests in the skin. Like I said, in my own case, I don't digest dairy very well at all, and whenever I ate dairy I know about it, because it comes out of my skin. It seems to be a very common thing.

But at the same time, you've got the bacterial component but then if someone has digestive issues, that is also very likely going to stop their body's ability from absorbing certain nutrients, and there are certain nutrients which are so important for skin health. Look at zinc. So if someone's eating a diet really high in grains - grains contain phytic acid and phytic acid basically binds with zinc and stops it from being absorbed. Likewise coffee. If someone's drinking six coffees a day with every meal, then that inhibits zinc absorption. If you don't have enough zinc, or if you have chronic diarrhoea for instance, good chance you're not absorbing much, and zinc is so essential for the skin and that could be the route by which the gut affects the skin, do you know I mean?

Doug: Yeah, I heard something interesting about zinc actually. There was some speculation that perhaps the reason teenage boys tend to have bad skin is that they're engaging in a certain activity quite frequently that depletes them of zinc. I don't know how much truth there is to that. [laughter]

Elliot: Well I looked at some of the research on the amount of zinc that a male would typically lose via ejaculation, Chris Masterjohn spoke about this a couple of times I think and he basically says that anything sort of less than two times, or two times in a day is probably not going to have that much of an effect, but more than that, then it's theoretically possible.

And what we have to consider about teenagers as well is that teenage males, specifically, are building a body structure, they're building muscles, they're building bone, they're broadening out and to be able to build muscle you need so much zinc. In fact much of your zinc stores are actually in your muscle, and so on every single protein in the body, practically, when a protein folds like that it sticks together. It does that via these things called zinc fingers. So zinc is essentially a component of every enzyme in the body in every single protein or it's needed for the synthesis of every protein and every enzyme. It does lots of cool things basically. And so if an adolescent male is building muscle, they're physically active, they're going to the gym, playing football or whatever, then their zinc requirement is going to be much higher. Likewise you need zinc to synthesize testosterone, and if their testosterone is high, that's going to place more requirements on their zinc status. So if their zinc is going towards all of these different things, then there's a good chance that the skin is not going to be prioritised.

Doug: Yeah, Yeah.

Elliot: That would make sense no?

Doug: Yeah, absolutely.

Tiffany: So do we want to talk about another weird skin issue? Like skin tags, those little hanging balls of flesh that are usually found in your folds or on the back of your neck your armpits. One thing that I learned not too long ago was that they could be a sign of pre-diabetes.

Doug: Mm-hmm. Apparently they're correlated with insulin resistance. That's some way that insulin resistance could actually show up externally. And one thing they were saying about it actually is that doctors can use this, not as a diagnosis necessarily, but as something to look for if their patient shows up, and starts having skin tags and it's something they hadn't had before and suddenly they start showing up, then it's an indication that maybe they are heading towards diabetes.

Tiffany: People who have skin tags have higher blood glucose readings and higher triglycerides, and one of the things that causes high blood glucose and triglycerides is overconsumption of carbohydrates. But one of the questions I have about these skin tags is is it a protective mechanism? What's the purpose of having these little fleshy protuberances. Is there something the body is trying to push out? I can't figure it out.

Elliot: That's a good question. I've read about that in the past. You have this weird discolorations in the neck, yeah, like hyperpigmentation in the folds of the neck, and the thickening like edema of the neck. But then also these weird skin tags, especially on the back of the neck. I don't know what the mechanism of that is. I have absolutely no idea why that would happen. I'd like to know. I'm sure there's a reason for it, but yeah, seems a bit bizarre doesn't it?

Erica: Well maybe it's some sort of early warning signal?

Doug: What a strange signal.

Tiffany: Maybe it is protective in some way some way, to protect the internal organs from the burden of too much sugar, and they just push it out. But I guess that's how it comes out. I don't know.

Elliot: Well in the context of skin tags, I'm not sure what they're referred to in the public eye. It might be liver spots, but essentially they're discoloration. It's like small blobs of darkened material on the face, and it's usually in older or elderly individuals, and I think that they refer to them as liver spots. I'm not entirely sure. I don't know why or how they knew to say that it's liver spots, but there's a good correlation with the mechanism of what that is. It's basically oxidized polyunsaturated fatty acids. So you have omega 6 fatty acids and basically they oxidize and they form like a pigment called lipofuscin. The reason it goes dark is because of the iron. So it oxidizes the iron, and you have like these dark discolourations.

If you look at a picture of Morgan Freeman, you'll see he's got them all over his face. I'm sure if you just google it you can see. I think there's a pretty good correlation between when you get those spots on your face and the fact that your liver is not very healthy. It's overburdened with all of these pro-inflammatory fats and you're oxidizing iron. So there's a ton of oxidative stress. Your liver'ss not necessarily dealing with it and for some reason you get these deposits on your face.

Doug: Are they actually deposits? Like they're little bumps? Or is it just a discoloration?

Tiffany: If you look at Morgan freeman's face, it looks like little moles to me. I have some and I have relatives who have that too, and if you look at recent pictures of Bill Cosby, his face is like that too. So I don't know if they had that when they were younger, or if it's something that just got more pronounced as they got older.

Elliot: Yeah generally they look a little bit like moles. They can happen on people's hands as well. So they're discolorations and some of them can look like moles. Other times it just looks like brown patches or freckles on the hands. If you look at a ninety-year-old's hands you usually see that the hand goes really kind discoloured and that you've got all of these sort of brown spots on the skin. That's basically like oxidized degraded toxic fats, which for some reason deposit in the skin. I guess the reason I'm trying to say is, is just to reinforce the point that the skin is quite an amazing communication system, it tells you when something is essentially going wrong inside.

Doug: I had a skin tag show up at one point in my life. I might've been in puberty or something. I don't know, it was a long long time ago and it's never gone away, so it's kind of interesting that these things seem to show up. But even if you correct the problem they don't disappear, at least as far as I can tell, they don't disappear unless there's still something wrong with me. [laughter]

Tiffany: Could be.

Erica: But I think it says something about aging too. Back to what Tiffany was saying earlier in the show about babies having glowing skin and very clean and a nice smell, and then you'll notice with children who have allergies like usually after they stop breastfeeding them, start introducing foods, almost instantaneously they'll break out in rashes, whether it's diaper rash or even thrush. And then if the child continues to eat that way throughout life, maybe these skin tags, these things show up later in life because the system is overburdened.

Elliot: Yeah it seems to be that way.

Tiffany: Well maybe there's some correlation too between stopping breastfeeding or formula and starting introducing some food, and then you notice maybe around the ages of four to six that's when you get these skin eruptions, like the chickenpox or measles or something like that. It seems almost universally all children go through that. What does that mean?

Erica: And it seems like a lot of children now have chronic eczema issues or allergic reactions, the whole peanut thing. So it seems again like they're overloaded.

Tiffany: Well maybe chicken pox and measles is a detoxification that everybody needs to go through at that point in their life and then once that kind of immune responses gets learned, then later in life you can become healthier. Because there have been some studies where like if people don't get chickenpox as a child or measles as a child, they end up with more allergies. Or if they catch those diseases when they're older, it can be fatal in some cases.

Elliot: Yeah, I've read a study actually. It was a really recent one posted the other day and it was talking about how the measles virus was one of the most potent anti-cancer agents known.

Doug: Yeah, I read that as well.

Elliot: It was killing cancer cells selectively, not killing other cells. It was just killing the cancer cells. So, it's like, 'Oh is there some kind of relationship here? That's very interesting." There was once someone in alternate health circles who postulated that maybe chickenpox is actually one of the ways that babies, similar to what you were just saying Tiff, one of the ways that babies or children actually detoxify certain metabolic products that they've gained from their mom, that they don't necessarily need. This person was speculating that it's a way for babies to actually get rid of oxalates. So, they're getting loads of oxalates from their mother's breast milk, whatever's stored in the body and actually by having chicken pox they work with the virus to essentially get all this stuff out really quickly without the overburdening of the detox pathways. I don't know if there's any truth to that because there's no evidence for that whatsoever, but it was just an idea and I think it's interesting to contemplate.

Doug: Well when we interviewed Stephanie Seneff a while back, she was postulating different things like this, that different bacteria or viruses or stuff like that, actually do have kind of a symbiotic beneficial effect, even though they might have a negative effect as well. Overall, they might actually be helping to compensate for something, so it's interesting. It's very difficult to actually know whether that's true or not, but it's really fascinating to think about actually.

Tiffany: Yeah maybe it's just some sort of health rite of passage that everybody should go through in order to strengthen their immune system.

Erica: Yeah since the introduction of vaccination, especially for chickenpox, now we see adults getting shingles at really scary rates. I never had chickenpox as a child, but I did get them at 21 and it was the worst experience I've ever had. I broke out in them so badly, they were in my nose and my eyelids and I actually had to be in the hospital. Well they have to separate you right, because you're 'contagious' and they ended up giving me a very strong medication for herpes virus, and that seemed to be the only thing that actually did away with the intense itching on every single nerve ending in my body.

Doug: Oh my god.

Erica: I will say one thing that helped, if anyone as an adult gets chickenpox, is taking a bath with goldenseal root. That really seemed to help eliminate the intense discomfort with it.

Tiffany: So do we want to talk about some remedies since you mentioned goldenseal?

Doug: Sure.

Tiffany: Well witch hazel has a pretty good reputation. It has been used for a very long time. I guess Native Americans used to use it and they say that it helps certain skin ailments. It helps swelling. It's astringent because it can make the proteins and the skin cells draw more tightly together. It's been used for varicose veins, haemorrhoids, sunburns, bug bite stings, stretch marks. People have really good testimonials about using witch hazel.

Doug: Yeah.

Tiffany: I always forget about that one, like if..

Doug: I do too. Oh yeah.

Tiffany: Witch hazel doesn't really come up when I think of things to help cure.

Doug: What I might go to usually is aloe vera. I find that aloe is really good especially if it's like a wound or something like that on the skin, or some kind of abrasion or something, I find that aloe works really wellé Even just for razor burn or something like that, aloe seems to work amazingly. It's my go-to for a lot of different stuff. I think that's why they put it in so much stuff. I don't know, I think fresh aloe is probably a lot better than a lot of the products you get out there.

Erica: And you can drink it too!

Doug: You can. Although it does have a laxative effect.

Tiffany: It is disgusting!

Doug: Yeah it's really gross, I agree. Like we were saying about the skin a lot of it is coming from internally, what you're feeding yourself. I think in general, if you're having skin issues and your skin is not good, the thing you really have to do is look at your diet. You know witch hazel, aloe, all that kind of stuff is probably not going to do very much. Cutting the sugar out, cutting the carbs in general, out. Try cutting out dairy as well, because a lot of people do seem to have problems with that. Going low-carb ketogenic. I think those are the first steps really. Doing things that will boost your collagen, like bone broth. Bone broth is fantastic as far as getting your collagen and other amino acids as well, glycine. Those things are all what you need to actually build skin. So, I'd say those would be my first go-to, before saying try a herbal or something like that.

Elliot: Yeah. Also just to add to that, things that I found work fairly well are vitamin E for dandruff. I've had quite a few people who say that that works fairly quickly. At the same time there's quite a lot of research on vitamin E for eczema as well. It has kind of like an immuno-modulatory effect but it's also an antioxidant in the skin. So the research is quite clear that vitamin E can be really helpful for atopic dermatitis.

For acne, zinc and vitamin A. They used to use Accutane some people still do. Accutane is basically is Isotetrinoin or Tetrinoin and that is like a synthetic vitamin A analog. It's a synthetic form of vitamin A, but vitamin A is seriously potent in improving acne. So if someone's got acne there's a good chance that it's either something to do with zinc or vitamin A and by taking those two things, which I mean which you get on like an animal-based diet or with a diet really high in animal products, especially things like liver. Liver is great in zinc it is really great for vitamin A as well.

The thing is, in terms of vitamin A it's important to understand that just eating carrots other orange and red fruits and vegetables isn't necessarily going to cut it because unless you know your genetics would I would err on the side of caution. If you're Caucasian, if you're from the northern hemisphere like I am, there tends to be a lot of us who have a certain genetic profile. I am one of those people. It's called the BCR01 one I believe, and it basically codes for an enzyme which converts plant derived vitamin A like carotene and the carotenoids, into usable vitamin A. So you can't you can't use the stuff that you find in plants to protect your skin. You need to convert it into active vitamin A and if you've got a certain genetic profile, then you may not necessarily be able to do that very well. I find that my requirement for organ meat is really quite high and can't just eat things like carrots and stuff. My skin is generally of suboptimal quality when I rely on those things for my vitamin A. I need to have things like organs, heart, liver, egg yolks, and that kind of stuff. That's something important.

Also another thing that has been shown to be helpful is actually taking probiotics. Oral probiotics has actually been shown to be really helpful, along with some kind of digestive enzymes or something if you feel like it's coming from your gut. But probably the most significant factor if it's coming in from your gut is actually getting rid of the foods that don't agree with your gut at the moment. You can take all the supplements in the world but if there's something that your body is not agreeing with, in my experience in all of the stuff that I've read over the years, I don't think there's any amount of supplements that you can take which can fix an intolerance or a lack of tolerance to a food. I think maybe it could be done long term after you've sort of like had a long period away from it, but I seriously don't think that you can just eat a modern diet if you skin issues are a problem and you want to fix them, you're going to seriously need to change your diet. You're going to have to.

Doug: I think dropping grains is actually another thing. I know specifically with psoriasis, grains are supposed to be really bad. So many people drop grains from their diet and their psoriasis clears right up. Not everybody so it's not necessarily a cure-all but honestly, I don't think grains are really food. I think that people are really doing themselves a disservice by eating those, and so, I think if you are having skin issues, yeah, it's like Elliot is saying, look to the diet.

Elliot: There's also something else which is external but also sunlight is pretty good in some cases. In other cases it can actually exacerbate a skin issue. In general terms with things like psoriasis or things like eczema or acne, it's usually quite good. In other conditions, sometimes hives and things like that, sunlight can actually trigger something like that. So you have to find your tolerance. But also things like photo-biomodulation - so low-level laser therapy, or red light therapy. That's generally got some really good research behind it in terms of improving the skin health. Living an indoor lifestyle just probably isn't the best thing.

Also watching what you put on your face as well. If you're coming into contact with like all of this toxic stuff, these artificial chemicals and everything, and you're touching your face all the time. I wouldn't be bothered about the bacteria. If you, if you're working out in the garden, touch your face all you want. I don't think that will be a problem. But when you're dealing with receipts, or touching all these plastics, or when you're on your computer and all the plastic from your computer is actually like getting into your fingers and then you're touching your face and stuff, be mindful about what you're putting on your skin and stuff like that. I think that's quite important as well.

Erica: You know it's interesting, to add to that is that now they're actually making in the 'natural health line' probiotic lotions, so lotions with probiotics added to them. So they must be on to this theory, about the gut issues and skin issues but I couldn't believe when I saw they were carrying a product line that is actually called probiotic lotion.

Doug: I wonder about that. It might be a bit of a gimmick. But honestly, I remember we talked about it on the show a while back, when we did our show about MRSA, there was the guy who actually cured his MRSA skin infection by using topical kombucha. So I even occasionally will take like kombucha, I've got something like a spray bottle that I brewed myself, and I just spray it on my skin. I think it's a good idea to just keep the bacterial balance, balanced.

Erica: And stay away from hand sanitizer.

Doug: Yeah definitely.

Elliot: Yeah constantly washing your face as well, I think this is bizarre. I don't think human beings ever did this. I honestly think you would wash your face with water. The idea that you should be washing your face multiple times every day, lhat's problematic, because what you're doing is when you use soap to wash your face, you're washing off all of the natural oils the sebum, the sebaceous liquid and everything like that. You've got natural antimicrobials on your skin designed to protect your skin from the various bacteria which cause things like infection, which cause things like acne, or inflammation on your skin, and when you're washing your face, what you're doing is you're actually washing off the oil and you're triggering it to produce more sebum. You're triggering it to produce more, but at the same time you're taking off all of the antimicrobial protection from your skin. There are so many testimonials of people who finally just stopped washing their face and their skin cleared up.

Erica: Well I'm so glad to hear that because I've never been a face washer.

Elliot: Don't touch it, just leave it! [laughter]

Doug: I wash my face in the shower.

Tiffany: I just put water on my face in the shower but I rarely use soap on my face.

Doug: Maybe I should stop using soap on my face. I learned something today.

Tiffany: And just in general for skin that gets a little dry, lI have to wash my hands a lot, tallow is really good for moisturizing your skin.

Doug: I've read that yeah.

Erica: And even things like jojoba oil or Kukui nut oil. I use massage oil on my face and people are horrified. They can't believe that I'm putting this on my face, but I don't get a reaction from it at all as long as it doesn't have any ingredients but just one of those good healthy oils, seems to work.

Elliot: Yeah sounds like some pretty good advice there. Does anyone else have anything to add on skin?

Doug: I think we've covered it pretty well.

Elliot: Okay so shall we should we go to the pet health segment?

Doug: Yeah let's do that.


Zoya: Hello and welcome to the pet health segment of the health and wellness show. The spring is upon us and it means all kinds of skin allergies, and there are animals, particularly dogs and particularly Labradors, but not only, that are sensitive to all kinds of allergens and they can excessively lick their paws and other body parts. So watch the following video in order to learn possible solutions that you can try at home, and don't forget to stay until the end to watch a funny animal video. Have a great weekend and goodbye.

Video: If your dog is excessively licking his or her paws then you need to watch this video.

So for the majority of dogs who have this, where they're excessively licking their paws, the first big thing I say is like just check them, do a basic exam. Just make sure there isn't some type of foreign body, there's not anything in between your in your dog's pad, in between the digits. Have a good look.

The most common cause by far is dog allergies. Your dog is having some type of allergic reaction, be it to food, be it to something environmental such as what's happening now with this spring, we have all this pollen, causing them to itch and it's just showing up as excessive paw licking. But secondarily, many of these dogs have an underlying a yeast infection. So what happens is that they've got in a primary allergy causing their skin to react, secondarily yeast can overgrow making them very itchy. So this is my anti-paw licking foot soak. So what you're gonna need is one cup of green tea. I've used one tablespoon of loose green tea leaves, I put it in about two cups of water in the Bodum. You want to let it sit for about 15 to 20 minutes until it cools down, cool enough that it's comfortable to touch to your skin. A cup for me and a cup for Pippi's foot or your dog's foot.

So we're using two tablespoons of this. It does especially well at being anti-yeast and we know that is a problem with many of the dogs that have excessive paw licking and primary skin allergies. Third in this wonderful smelling concoction you have one tablespoon of salt. Here is nice Himalayan salt from the co-op just plain old sodium chloride. Regular table salt is fine. Forth we're going to add ten drops of lavender essential oil. I especially like the essential oils from Young Living based on the quality of the product, how well it works and how it's been backed up by research.

So we're just gonna mix this all together - the cup of green tea, with two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar, the one tablespoon of salt and ten drops of lavender essential oil. And now that I've added in the lavender oil it actually smells pretty good. Okay Pipster, let's try a foot. So here's my cup or so of fluid. You just want to immerse your dog's toes in it. Okay you want to ideally leave that for full five minutes. OIf your dog has any type of open wound, don't use this because the apple cider vinegar can be quite irritating. I'd rather you just use something like the green tea as a soak first. Five minutes later Pippy's foot is soaked, she actually has kind of a pleasant smell, now let's just see, will she lick it, or not? You can soak your dog's foot twice daily for seven days and then assess whether or not it has been effective.

Doug: That was cute.

Erica: I thought it was a squeaky toy.

Doug: Yeah it did sound exactly like a squeaky toy. Kind of looked like one too actually.

Elliot: Right well thank you everyone for listening. I think that's everything for today. We had a look at the skin, we saw how it does some weird and wonderful things and hopefully you have a bit of a better idea about how to troubleshoot some of your skin issues. I think the key is to look inside rather than outside! So yeah, I want to thank my co-hosts and thanks everyone for listening. You tune in next week for the next show. So thank you everyone.

All: Bye!