With the summer months fast approaching, the health of our skin comes to mind. As we shed our winter layers, dryness, rashes and acne once hidden become visible and more of a concern. Often the cause of imbalances observed on our surface layer are due to other imbalances within. Topical ointments and lotions can do only so much, as our internal milieu of hormones, chemicals and proteins that travel within our blood both feed our skin and are excreted by it. With so much more skin being exposed in the summer, keeping it healthy and safe is very important.
Dryness: After a long Wisconsin winter, almost everyone has experienced some aspect of this! Proper hydration, healthy dietary fats (essential fatty acids) and topical support with herbal and nutritive healing salves go a long way in restoring tissue moisture and health. Coconut oil, something many people only know as a cooking agent, can also be used as a skin wash and topical moisturizer, saving skin from the drying action of commercial soaps.
Psoriasis and eczema: These are also very common, and many people experience ups and downs with them on a lifelong basis, often seasonally. Although these conditions have different etiologies, similar nutritionally focused changes or supplementation can lead to complaints associated with psoriasis and eczema.
Acne: It often has a hormonal aspect, but acne can also be related to things nutritionally. Vitamin B6 is often useful for hormonal acne that menstruating women experience. Dysregulated blood sugars are a contributor to acne, and studies have shown that normalization of this and related hormones lead to a lessening of symptoms. Other aspects of hormonal imbalances, such as is often seen in pubescent acne, also contribute. Conventional treatment for acne often includes topical and oral antibacterials, hormone altering agents such as oral contraceptives, and anti-inflammatories. Naturopathically, these same concepts are also considered, but the greater focus is to address the contributing factors, whether this be in diet, hormones or systemic elimination.
Sunburn: As the sun comes out, we are all outside trying to get our Vitamin D! Vitamin D is activated in the skin, and a mild amount of sunshine in your day is sufficient to achieve this. However, when we are first out in the sun, and particularly for individuals with susceptible skin, some aspect of sun protection is very important. Consider natural sunscreen, hats and appropriate clothing. And don’t forget the tops of your ears and feet! Many times a sunburn can sneak in on these often forgotten about places.
Lyme disease prevention: In the United States, Lyme disease is most commonly caused by infection with Borrelia burgdorferi via a tick bite. With summer hiking and increased skin exposure, there are obvious increased risks of encountering a tick carrying this pathogen. Andrographis and astragalus are two immune modulating herbs which increase the body’s immune response, and help prevent infection. In endemic regions, these herbs should be taken on a continuous basis to help the body fight and prevent infection.