The Link Between Chronic Inflammation & Our Skin

Inflammation is part of the body’s immune response. It is our body’s attempt at self-protection to remove harmful stimuli (such as bacteria) and begin the healing process. Inflammation can be beneficial in the short-term. For instance -let’s say we get a cut or a graze to our skin. Immediately, our immune cells step in to protect against pathogens and heal the wound. This is called acute inflammation. Your white blood cells step in to do their job and then go away.

However there’s another type of inflammation that sticks around way longer than it’s meant to. This is called Chronic inflammation and can cause harm to our bodies in many ways.

Chronic inflammation can be the root cause of common skin disorders such as acne, eczema, psoriasis & rosacea. It can also contribute to premature aging, some mood disorders, hormonal imbalances, certain autoimmune disorders and disease. 

Our skin is our body’s largest organ, and when inflammation is out of control, it can manifest in multiple skin problems.

Skin Inflammation

Numerous things may fuel chronic inflammation. This includes inflammatory foods we eat, certain medications, environmental factors and stress.  This then leads to systemic inflammation affecting the entire body. See gut blog for more information.

Triggers of inflammation

  • Stress
  • Viruses, bacteria, yeasts or parasites
  • Food allergies
  • Long term use of certain medications
  • Toxins such as mercury and pesticides
  • Lack of exercise
  • Mold
  • Lack of sleep
  • Environment allergies
  • Inflammatory foods

What FOODS cause inflammation and should be Limited?

  • Refined Sugar
  • Too much Omega-6 fatty acids – as mentioned above.
  • High-fructose corn syrup – not only increases inflammation but can also inhibit the anti-inflammatory effect of omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Processed meat
  • Gluten
  • Too much caffeine
  • Dairy (ie non-fermented dairy)
  • Processed foods, especially those that are high in high-fructose-corn-syrup, sugar and sodium.
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • See more on inflammation/ gut health here

Omega-3 Vs Omega-6 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids are essential fatty acids that the body needs for normal growth and development. However these two fatty acids compete for absorption. Our bodies need a healthy balance of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. It is Omega-3’s that help reduce inflammation in our bodies. So …an excess consumption of omega-6s (and not enough Omega-3) can trigger inflammation.

Omega-6 fats are derived from linoleic acid and are found in certain oils like peanut, corn, sesame, sunflower, soy, and safflower. These oils need to be limited in our diets. 

A recent study showed a significant reduction in psoriasis flare ups (ie reduced area of rash, and improved thickness and redness of psoriasis) – after supplementing with a high quality omega-3 fish oil supplement (containing EPA & DHA). The study authors suggested doses of 0.45 to 13.5 grams of EPA and up to 9 grams of DHA daily.

Foods which help reduce inflammation 

  • Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids – such as extra virgin olive oil, oily wild caught fish such as salmon, sardines, t rout, anchovies and mackerel. Flaxseeds, sea buckthorn walnuts. A good quality Omega-3 supplement can also help ease inflammatory skin issues. 
  • Green leafy vegetables, such as spinach and kale. Also other colourful fruit and vegetables (the deeper or brighter the colour the richer it is in nutrients and antioxidants).
  • Fruit esp berries – berries (such as blueberries, strawberries, raspberries etc) contain antioxidants called anthocyanins which have anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Note:- Grass fed meat is better than grain fed meat.
  • Foods high in antioxidants help reduce damage caused by inflammation.
  • Probiotic rich foods (or supplements).
  • Turmeric root & ginger
  • See more anti inflammatory super foods here.

Victoria Isherwood (Registered Nurse)

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