This is a real struggle for most of us as the weather changes and the days and nights becomes dry and cold. In my health coaching practice, many of my coaching clients suffer from chronic skin conditions and have a tough time keeping their skin moisturised at all times of the year. The winter season can be especially hard for those who have very sensitive and dry skin.
There may also be other potential causes for dry skin like low estrogen, nutritional deficiencies, bathing too much. However, most people benefit quite a bit by focusing on foods which address nutrient deficiencies and keeping our bodies well hydrated.
6 ways to nourish your skin this winter
- Hydration is key and is always the FIRST step that I recommend. Many of us can become chronically dehydrated as we usually end up drinking less water as we sweat less and feel less thirsty during this season. Ensuring adequate amounts of water intake is critical in maintaining good skin health as it serves many purposes including cleansing toxins from our body.
- Decrease your intake of tannins. Black tea (and to a lesser extent in green tea and coffee) is loaded with tannins which are polyphenols or phytonutrients that plants produce to protect itself from predators like insects and germs. Tannins are dehydrating and are what gives tea and red wine their distinct bitter flavour. Make sure to reduce intake of all forms of tea (black, green, white) as this has nothing to do with whether it is caffeinated or not.
- The third thing that I recommend is to increase the intake of omega 3 fatty acids. This is another key driver of dry and flaky skin. Most of us are deficient in this essential fatty acid since it is very low in our modern diets. The best sources of omega 3 fatty acids are fatty, oily fish like salmon, cod, sardines, seaweed and algae, chia/flax/hemp seeds, walnuts, soy bean. I also usually recommend a high quality omega 3 supplement for most of my clients since it is often difficult to get adequate quantities of omega 3 fatty acids from these food sources.
- Focus on foods rich in Vitamin A, Zinc and Vitamin E as they are all important for skin health. Zinc is critical for the formation of collagen, a protein molecule that forms connective tissue and skin. Foods rich in Zinc are meat, shellfish, legumes (chickpeas, lentils, beans), seeds (pumpkin, hemp), nuts, eggs, dairy, whole grains (wheat, rice, oats). Vitamin E helps to combat oxidative stress and keeps the skin youthful. Foods rich in this fat soluble nutrient are sunflower seeds, almonds, avocados, other nuts (like hazelnut, pinenut), spinach and other greens. Vitamin A is a fat soluble nutrient that plays an essential role in body growth, immune health, vision, reproductive and skin health. Good sources of vitamin A are animal liver, cod liver oil, egg, sweet potato, carrot, spinach, broccoli, mango, watermelon and papaya.
- Low vitamin D level is yet another major contributor to dry skin. Ideally, you should be getting adequate vitamin D naturally from sun exposure but this becomes doubly hard in this season. Supplements can help in boosting the levels once you know what your current levels are. Also, food sources which are high in vitamin D are pretty much similar to the food sources for Vitamin E.
- Bone broth or collagen supplement is another thing that I recommend for my clients who consume animal products. Collagen is the protein most abundant in our body and is the building block for connective tissues which you find in joints, bones, muscles, ligaments, skin and hair. We start making less and less collagen as we age and it lessens the skin elasticity and hydration leading to dry skin and the formation of wrinkles. Bone broth is a simple way of harnessing the benefits of collagen through food sources like bone broth, organ meats and egg yolks. For those of you who are unable to make this at home, you can add collagen to your daily smoothie or juice in the form of a supplement. My favourite supplement is this one. For those of you looking for a plant based option, check out this one.