The quest for great hair, skin and nails seems a lot more difficult to achieve in the winter months. Dry itchy skin, brittle fly-away whispys, chipped nails – sound familiar? The tell tale signs of winter are in the air! Understanding why colder temps affect our skin can go a long way to help remedy the problem areas, but it is important to understand the role a balanced endocrine system plays as well.
Inflammation is the single most important contributor that affects our skin, hair and nails due to the stimulation of free radicals, which accelerates aging by attaching to and damaging cells. In addition, studies have shown that there is a connection between sugar and inflammation in the body.
The main hormones that play a direct role in contributing to the decline from inflammation include:
I have written in the past about how these hormones become imbalanced, which leads to external changes we see. But for this month, I would like to focus specifically on how colder temperatures become a factor.
As we have understood, the fundamental rudimentary cause for the external changes we see is due to hormonal imbalances. The same carries true during winter months.
The longer, darker days lowers our Vitamin D levels. The waxing and waning of the temperatures directly impacts our thyroid levels. Estrogen, Progesterone and Testosterone levels ebb and flow to try and keep the body in balance. This endless cycle causes a rise in cortisol, therefore triggering an inflammatory response which leads to cellular inflammation, disruption and malfunction.
Other contributing factors include:
- Drier air from vents
- Poor hydration
- Increase in consumption of comfort foods (mainly sugar)
- Lack of exercise
- Prolonged hot showers/baths
- Irregular sleep patterns
Until Spring can shine upon us, here are some simple tips to help :
- Increase hydration. It is vital to keep the body hydrated with at least 90 oz/water/day. Without the essence of water, cellular healing cannot begin.
- Humidifier. Worth the investment. Having one by the bedside and in rooms that are frequently occupied helps prevent skin dry out.
- Limit hot showers/baths. Skin that is immersed for prolonged periods of time in hot water strips the natural oils causing hair and skin to become dry. It does feel great to stay for extended time in that warmth, but that causes more harm that good. Limit showers to 7 minutes at most.
- Coconut oil/butter. Nothing like solid saturated fats to hydrate the skin. Apply to hair and skin and allow it to soak for 45 minutes to an hour and shower afterwards. Or leave it on overnight for better absorption.
- Limit sugar intake. This is not specific to winter only! Refined sugar causes insulin levels to spike thereby leading to inflammation. Be mindful of this hidden culprit.
These are very simple, yet effective means to help control and possibly prevent winter skin ailments.
As the saying goes, we can’t stop the clock. Spring will be here before we know it as soon as we get through the craziness of St. Louis winter swings!
Hormones can have a major affect on your hair, skin and nails. Skin, the single largest organ in the human body readily tells the story of what is really going on beneath those layers.
Do any of these symptoms sound familiar?
- Hair loss in clumps or strands
- Slow or no hair growth
- Thinning eyebrows
- Sparse eyelashes
- Brittle or cracked nails
- Nail ridges
- Dry skin
- Fine lines and wrinkles
- Eye circles
Contrary to popular belief, these symptoms are not from getting older. While aging causes a decline in hormones, environmental and dietary factors also have a hand in speeding up the aging process. While we can’t control our biological clock, what if we could get a handle on things we can control? It starts with our endocrine system.
The endocrine system is comprised of eight main glands:
The glands, located in separate areas of the body, must work in perfect alignment and synchronize to achieve optimal balance. If any part of the pathway “short circuits,” the body immediately signals its distress and begins the healing process. The symptoms you experience are nothing more than indications of the dysfunction occurring at the cellular level.
So why do we develop these symptoms and what can we do to reverse them?
Good question. The reasons are many. The most important thing to identify is WHY you are having the symptoms? For example, the emotional impact of hair loss is likely the same for everyone, but the cause of why it is occurring is starkly different for each individual.
Here are some of the most common causes of endocrine imbalance and its effect on the hair, skin and nails.
- Declining Estrogen. Estrogen stimulates collagen production and blood flow and contributes to the smooth, firm appearance of skin. As estrogen levels drop, so does collagen production. Without adequate collagen, the skin loses its elasticity, hence developing the appearance of wrinkles.
Treatment: Topical estrogen use has shown some improvement in appearance, but the risks of estrogen outweigh the benefits. Although not a permanent solution, some temporary options to enhance collagen stimulation include:
- Vitamin C
- Alpha hydroxy acids
- Chemical peels
- Laser resurfacing
- Elevated Androgens. Estrogen dominance results when estrogen is higher in RELATION to progesterone. Although the absolute value of estrogen declines, the estrogen/progesterone ratio favors estrogen dominance. Estrogen dominance causes estrogen to convert to testosterone. Elevated levels of testosterone triggers a chain reaction which ultimately leads to the typical “male pattern baldness” in both men and women.
Treatment: Balance estrogen/progesterone ratio with natural compounded progesterone. Restoring depleted progesterone levels helps decrease estrogen dominance and thereby decreases conversion to testosterone.
- Bacterial/Fungal Infection. Any compromise to the immune system can weaken hair follicles and dermal layers of the skin. While treating the infection is important, it is even more important to identify WHY an infection is present. Infections are red flags that there is something more going on.
Treatment: Oral Nystatin may be used to treat if there is any suspicion of a systemic fungal infection. Antibiotics for bacterial infections must be used with caution and only given once a definitive cause is identified. Developing antibiotic resistance only worsens the problem. Use with caution.
- Everything is blamed on the thyroid. Whether the thyroid gland is under functioning (Hypothyroid) or over functioning (Hyperthyroid), the wrath it leaves on the hair and skin is emotionally scarring. IT IS IMPERATIVE THAT THYROID LEVELS ARE TESTED IN ITS ENTIRETY. Too often the diagnosis of thyroid disease is missed due to an inadequate testing of thyroid panel. To fully evaluate a thyroid condition, the following levels should be done: TSH, Free T4, Free T3, Total T3, Thyroid Peroxidase Antibodies, Thyroglobulin Antibodies, Magnesium, Vitamin B12, Vitamin D, Iron levels.
Treatment: Once an accurate diagnosis of Hypothyroid or Hyperthyroid is made, appropriate treatment is given and monitored. If hair and skin continues to be effected after thyroid is in balance, LOOK FOR ANOTHER CAUSE.
- Medication Side Effects. Answers we seek the most often sit right under our nose. Always, always assume a medication can cause side effects, until otherwise proven. Even if the symptom is not listed in the package insert, don’t assume that is can’t happen. Simple to identify and simpler to reverse.
Treatment: Revisit all medications and ALL SUPPLEMENTS.
- Leaky Gut. This requires a whole article in itself. GI health and “Leaky Gut” are single handedly catapulting modern medicine to all new heights. EVERYTHING STARTS WITH THE GUT. LET ME REPEAT………HEAL THE GUT…..HEAL THE BODY! Foods we consume are infested with hormones, antibiotics and other unknown chemicals. Going up against the food industry to change their habits can leave us frustrated and defeated. But changing OUR habits can leave us complete and empowered. As the gut flora is disrupted, it creates a “hole” in our ozone in the gut. This leak causes release of many known and unknown cytokines. The inflammatory nature of the cytokines triggers a disruption in the normal hormonal pathway. As mentioned above, we can now understand what happens when hormones are not aligned. Assume even the healthy foods you consume contribute to the leak.
Treatment: Navigating through the lumen of the GI tract is a winding tortuous ride to unknowns. Begin by decreasing consumption of high reactive foods: gluten, sugar, dairy, non-organic meats and produce. To track your body’s response, maintain a food journal and monitor any physical or emotional improvements. You can also restore the gut’s natural flora with a pro-biotic. You may also consider having an extensive food sensitivity panel testing done. The MRT Leap test measures 150 of the most common food sensitivities.
The complexity of the endocrine system and its effects on the body is quite extensive and many entities are still unknown. The points discussed here are only a mere entry point into the depths of what lies within our cells. Skin is that glorious organ that blankets and shields us from the daily trauma we endure. Waiting around for science to discover the answers will only leave us feeling more impatient and confused. But taking charge of our own health proves to be our greatest ally.
LISTEN TO YOUR BODY! THE SYMPTOMS YOU EXPERIENCE ARE YOUR BODY’S ATTEMPT TO GET YOUR ATTENTION. Every symptom is just as important as the next. Don’t ignore when your body is talking to you. It could be the most important conversation you will ever have! If you are listening to your body and ready to move forward with healing, contact our office today!