Nutritional supplements can alleviate sun damage and wrinkles
and relieve numerous skin conditions
As the largest organ of the body, skin reflects the state of our health. Skin is the body's gatekeeper, keeping out pathogens and holding in the moisture needed for survival. Skin filters out internal toxins, helps regulate body temperature, allows us to feel sensations through dermal receptors, and helps regulate immunity. Yet, its aesthetic attributes are often more noted than its practical functions. As the wrapping on our bodily package, clear, beautiful skin has been prized since the days of Cleopatra, who reportedly went to great lengths to maintain her complexion.
Rosacea, psoriasis, teenage
and adult acne, eczema, aging skin and wrinkles are some of the most common skin
complaints. Antibiotics (topical and oral) and vitamin A derivatives (the
retinoids) are the treatment of choice for teenagers and adults suffering from
acne, rosacea, or psoriasis. Prolonged administration of retinoids, however, can
result in severe side effects such as bone abnormalities, arthritis, myopathy
and vasculitis (inflammation of blood or lymph vessels) as well as ocular side
effects such as inflammation, dry eye, contact lens intolerance,
photosensitivity and reduced night vision. Minocycline,
a tetracycline antibiotic used to treat acne vulgaris and rosacea, has caused
two deaths and turns the thyroid gland black in animals and humans.
Disturbingly, a substantial number of minocycline-induced
lupus cases also have been reported. (1-6) Even topical benzoyl peroxide has
enhanced lipid oxidation in vitro, an indication of free radical damage. (7)
Exposure to ultraviolet light creates its own set of risks. Sun exposure is responsible for increased incidence of skin cancer, the most common form of cancer. More than 1.3 million cases of basal cell and squamous cell skin cancer are expected to be diagnosed this year. Since the early 1970s, the melanoma skin cancer incidence rate has increased significantly -- on average 4% annually. Although skin cancer has a high survival rate, statistics mean nothing for the 9,600 individuals who are estimated to die from skin cancer this year. (8)
Ultraviolet radiation also is responsible for many of the wrinkles and hyperpigmentation occurring in the aged. Although some wrinkles are genetically determined, many creases and crevices are the price paid for having enjoyed a day under the sun. (9)
Research indicates that natural substances can play an important role in protecting and healing damaged skin. In clinical trials, numerous natural alternatives have prevented or alleviated a host of skin disorders.
Sun Damage and Cancer
A barrage of sunlight-generated free radicals damage skin, reduce its elasticity and eventually result in "age spots," wrinkles, and an increased risk of skin cancer. In clinical trials, a number of nutrients and antioxidants have protected against the free radical epidermal attack generated by sunlight, including vitamins E and C. In one prospective, randomized, placebo-controlled study of 40 healthy volunteers, ascorbic acid and alpha tocopherol (vitamin E) were administered together over 50 days and offered substantial protection against the sunburn reaction. This and other studies suggests that vitamin E has a synergistic effect with ascorbic acid, due to vitamin C's ability to recycle alpha tocopherol. (10)
Vitamin E also can work synergistically with carotenoids. In human clinical trials, the carotenoids alone have significantly inhibited erythema (sunburn) formation, but the combination of carotenoids and vitamin E offered even greater sunburn suppression. (11) Furthermore, researchers have found that beta-carotene can protect against suppressed immunity seen after exposure to ultraviolet light. (12)
Other nutrients found to protect against UV-light induced oxidative stress include selenium and ginkgo biloba extract, beta-1,3/1,6-glucan and aloe vera. (13-15) Furthermore, squalene is one of the major components of skin surface lipids and is not easily oxidized; therefore, it does not easily break down during free radical attacks. When oxidative stress resulting from sunlight accosts the skin, squalene is the first target lipid and the first line of defense. (16-17)
A growing body of evidence suggests alpha-hydroxy acids such as glycolic, citric, and lactic acid (found in VRP's Renu II Skin Care), can improve sun damage and offer protection against ultraviolet radiation. In one double-blind, randomized, clinical trial, 67 subjects were treated on the forearms with 8% glycolic acid cream, 8% lactic acid or a placebo. After 22 weeks of treatment, glycolic and lactic acid were superior to the placebo in reducing overall severity of sun damage and sallowness. Lactic acid cream also was significantly superior to the placebo in reducing mottled hyperpigmentation, sallowness and roughness. (18) Furthermore, glycolic acid has accelerated the healing of sunburn. This effect likely is achieved by increasing collagen synthesis as glycolic and citric acid can thicken the epidermis by as much as 25%. (19)
Recent studies have pinpointed the role the hormone DHEA plays in maintaining a more youthful appearance. In one double-blind, placebo-controlled, year-long study, researchers gave 280 healthy, 60- to 79-year-old women and men either 50 mg of oral DHEA daily or a placebo. The DHEA-treated subjects experienced increased sebum production, significantly increased skin surface hydration, and improved epidermal thickness, benefits that translated into healthier-looking skin. Furthermore, DHEA rejuvenated the skin color of the subjects, an effect more pronounced in women over 70 years old. (20)
Acne is often associated with teenagers due to the estimated 60 to 80% of them who reportedly have this condition. (21) Acne, however, can strike at any age, and many adults find themselves engaged in the battle of the blemish.
It is generally recognized that acne -- both teenage and adult -- may be the result of excess androgen production, either by the ovary or the adrenal gland. (22) However, a Hong Kong researcher has presented another theory on the origin of acne. He proposes that acne vulgaris is a result of a pantothenic acid deficiency. By supplementing acne patients with this vitamin, the Hong Kong researcher has achieved, in his words, "a complete cure" of this condition. (23)
Other nutrient deficiencies have been linked to acne. In an open trial, 29 acne patients took 0.2 mg of selenium and 10 mg of tocopheryl succinate (vitamin E) for 6 to 12 weeks. The researchers described the treatment as offering "good results." (24) Furthermore, University of Southern California and University of California researchers have achieved a high success rate without antibiotics by treating acne patients with: (1) 50,000 iu twice daily of water-soluble vitamin A before meals; (2) 400 iu of Vitamin E in the form of alpha-tocopheryl acetate or succinate, twice daily before meals, with a reduced dosage for diabetics; (3) for women who break out before or during menstruation, 50 mg once or twice a day of pyridoxine (vitamin B6); (4) A well-balanced diet, low in fat and sugars. The patients also used benzoyl peroxide 5% gel at night, after gently washing affected areas with a non-medicated soap.
In addition, the researchers asked the patients to avoid substances that inactivate or antagonize vitamin E such as inorganic iron (including that found in cereals and breads), birth control pills, extra iodine, including iodized salt and kelp, and commercial soft drinks. They also recommended avoiding excessive milk, which contains acne-aggravating hormones, and to avoid large quantities of vitamin B-12, because studies have indicated this vitamin can trigger or aggravate acne.
The researchers used the above treatment in 98 patients with mild, moderate and severe acne. After treatment, 90 of the patients demonstrated a good to excellent response and only two had a poor response. In fact, 42 of the patients experienced a 90 to 100% clearing of the acne in two months or less. After the acne cleared, the researchers found that patients could gradually reduce the vitamin A and E dosage to a maintenance level, but could continue the treatment safely over a period of several years if necessary.
The researchers concluded that vitamin E and vitamin A inhibit the formation of milia (white, pinhead-sized cysts) and comedones (whiteheads and blackheads), which serve as the ideal breeding ground for the acne-causing bacteria Propionibacterium acnes. By preventing the formation of milia and comedones, vitamin A and E deprive P. acnes of its culture medium. Vitamin E also can halt the lipid peroxidation of sebum. (25)
Other nutrients shown to help acne vulgaris include zinc (levels have been lower in acne patients than in controls) and berberine, an alkaloid found in goldenseal and Oregon grape root. (26-27) Topical application of the antibacterial colloidal silver may also induce an improvement. In addition, grapefruit seed extract, orally and used topically diluted with water, has benefited acne patients.
Patients with persistent acne should also explore the possibility of a candida infection (see articles on candida in VRP's website library at www.vrp.com). At least one study has found a higher incidence of acne in patients with candida. In his book the Authoritative Guide to Grapefruit Seed Extract, Dr. Sachs also points out that individuals with candida are prone to acne. (28-29)
Rosacea and the Candida Connection
Rosacea is a chronic disease of the skin of the face that usually begins between the ages of 30 and 50 and affects an estimated 13 million Americans. (30) It is characterized by papular and pustular acne, redness of the face, and, especially in men, of nodular swelling of the nose called rhinophyma. Rosacea can sometimes be eliminated by large doses of MSM, but this is a particularly stubborn problem to treat.
Although no one knows what causes rosacea, I would like to present a theory, based on my own case study. Four years ago, I was diagnosed with rosacea by a dermatologist. Not long afterward, I reluctantly opted to treat the condition with antibiotics and a topical cream, which were ineffective. I discontinued the treatments. Gradually, my rosacea worsened. Since childhood, I also had symptoms and predisposing factors of candida and test results from Great Smokey Mountain Laboratories indicated I had an excessively high yeast level. I began to wonder if rosacea and candida could be connected.
I found several references on Medline drawing a similar conclusion. Although the references were from foreign journals without abstracts, two titles in particular ("Rosacea caused by Candida," and "Are Yeast Infections Important in Rosaceal Dermatitis?") suggest that the researchers did indeed make a connection between the two diseases. (31-32) In another study of 1996 patients, those subjects with acne, psoriasis, atopic dermatitis and other skin diseases suffered from a candida infection significantly more often than controls. (28)
As I followed an anti-candida, anti-parasitical supplement program (caprylic acid, an acidophilus, bifidum, and fructooligosaccharides supplement, a multi-vitamin formula that included high doses of vitamin A, garlic extract, berberine (goldenseal), sorbic acid, pau d'arco) and a strict anti-candida diet, my rosacea regressed in stages. Either because my candida was tenacious or because I wasn't using the most effective fatty acid available (undecylenic acid such as that found in VRP's KandidaPlex has been found to be 4 to 5 times more effective than caprylic acid), my symptoms were slow to disappear. However, once I included olive leaf extract, also a potent anti-candida supplement, and beta-1,3/1,6-glucan, I experienced two even more intense die off reactions and a temporary worsening of my rosacea followed by a significant improvement in my skin condition. (33-34) My candida symptoms now are 99% gone, and the rosacea on my face is roughly 97% improved.
Alternatively, researchers have hypothesized that rosacea is caused by the bacteria Helicobacter pylori. Olive leaf extract and beta-1,3/1,6-glucan have been shown to exert potent antibacterial abilities, and many herbs that kill candida also destroy H. pylori. Another hypothesis, then, is that I've nearly eliminated my rosacea by eliminating H. pylori. (35-36) However, the intensity of my die off reactions and the near-elimination of my candida symptoms suggest that the amazing improvement in my skin is the result of eliminating the pathogenic yeast from my body.
For more than 30 years, fumaric acid has been used as a psoriasis treatment in Germany and the Netherlands. Fumaric acid is important in the citric acid cycle, which plays a pivotal role in cellular energy production. Therefore, fumaric acid is likely present in every cell of the body. Normally, fumaric acid is formed in the skin after sunlight exposure. In psoriasis patients, however, this process is defective and prolonged exposure to ultraviolet light is necessary in order to produce fumaric acid.
Extensive research has confirmed fumaric acid's benefits. In one multicenter, prospective study of 70 psoriasis patients, fumaric acid-supplemented patients showed an overall 80% decrease in the amount and severity of psoriasis after four months. In a larger study, 285 psoriasis patients were treated with fumaric acid and a restricted diet. This treatment strongly reduced the symptoms in 80% of the subjects, with 52 patients experiencing complete and long-lasting disappearance of psoriatic lesions as long as the patients adhered to the restricted diet. (37-38)
In European clinical studies of fumaric acid treatment, researchers obtained the best results when patients consumed the proper diet. Psoriasis patients should avoid pepper, cloves, nutmeg, mustard, caraway seeds, licorice, cinnamon, paprika, pre-spiced dishes such as luncheon meats, salami and bullion cubes, mayonnaise, orange syrup, lemon flavoring or extract, all nuts except almonds and coconut, citrus fruit skins, artificial or canned citrus fruit juice, wine, brandy, champagne, sherry, port, and orange liqueur.
Dose-related gastrointestinal complaints and flushing, which decrease in frequency through the course of treatment, are the most common side effects of fumaric acid treatment. Fumaric acid is found naturally in the human body and is used as a food additive. It is on the FDA's generally recognized as safe list. As one group of researchers stated, "Fumaric acid derivatives were found to be effective and safe in the treatment of psoriasis." (39)
Eczema and Dermatitis
Atopic dermatitis is a skin condition of unknown origin marked by itching and irritation. Researchers believe the condition may be the result of allergic, hereditary, or psychological triggers. About 3% of all infants have atopic dermatitis, which may appear in adults as well. Researchers interchangeably use the terms atopic dermatitis and atopic eczema.
Research indicates that
infants who contract atopic dermatitis have lower than normal levels of long
chain polyunsaturated fatty acids and that mothers of these infants have
significantly decreased proportions of long chain polyunsaturated derivatives
(such as gamma linolenic acid-GLA) in their breast milk compared to controls.
When treated with GLA-rich evening primrose oil, children and adults with atopic
eczema dramatically improved their condition in as little as four weeks. (40-41)
Healthy skin reflects a healthy body. Therefore, it's not surprising that oral supplementation with vitamins A and E, carotenoids, selenium, DHEA, gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) and a host of other supplements can offer a number of epidermal advantages. Research suggests that proper supplementation with nutrients essential for healthy skin, combined with topical application of alpha hydroxy acids, should become an important part of any skin care regimen.
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38. Altmeyer PJ, Matthes U, Pawlak F, Hoffmann K, Frosch PJ, Ruppert P, Wassilew SW, et al. Antipsoriatic effect of fumaric acid derivatives. Results of a multicenter double-blind study in 100 patients. J Am Acad Dermatol. 1994; 30(6):977-81.
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