The Not So Sweet Side of Sugar

That sweet tooth! Who knew it could get us into so much trouble? When we consume sugar in all its forms – especially the refined type – it attaches itself very quickly to proteins and fats in our bodies. This is called GLYCATION. The really bad news is that sugar has a particular affinity for dermal proteins, the deeper layers of the skin. The by-product of glycation is known as advanced glycation end products (or AGEs) and age us it does, causing stiffening of the connective tissue, inflammation, wrinkles and sagging.

Cross linking in proteins is part of the natural aging process, but if you add poor lifestyle to the mix – smoking, UV exposure, drug use, lack of exercise and poor diet – then you have the perfect storm.

ELIMINATE REFINED SUGARS:

Eliminating all sugars from our diet is not advisable either. Complex carbohydrates supply much needed glucose to fuel cellular activity throughout the body. BUT we can eliminate certain foods to help the skin retain some of its natural youthfulness and tone. These would include refined sugars, white bread and all simple carbohydrates, and the worst culprit of all, high-fructose corn syrup.

READ LABELS:

Fruit flavored drinks and even crackers often contain very high levels of sugar and so do most processed foods, so scrutinize any pre-packaged products before you put them in your shopping basket.

TAKE SUPPLEMENTS:

We can further counteract the damaging effects of glycation by adding the amino acid, CARNOSINE, to our supplement list, GREEN TEA to our fluid intake and other anti-oxidants to our diet, such as vitamins A, B1 and B6, C and E. These are all potent AGE inhibitors.

CHECK GLYCEMIC LEVELS:

Checking the glycemic levels of the fruits and vegetables we consume can make a big difference. This information can be found easily on the internet. For example, carrots, corn and potatoes contain a lot of sugar but spinach, Swiss chard, broccoli and cucumbers contain very little. Plus, they are alkaline in nature and help to maintain the pH balance in the gut (refer to my previous post Healthy Skin and the Value of pH Balancing).

So, next time you have a hankering for something sweet, reach for a handful of cherries, berries, an apple, peach or a plum. And if you want to follow the example of our French beauty experts, a piece of dark chocolate.

How we feel about ourselves and the way we look has a huge influence on our ability to succeed in life, connect with others and experience joy and happiness. All this is reflected in the skin. Over the years I have been a facialist, I have realized that it is the inner layers of a person I am working on as much as the outer layers. Self acceptance is admittedly a life-long quest and at different times, we feel good about the way we look or very unhappy about our appearance.

Everything from aging to illness is clearly expressed on our faces. It takes work and daily commitment to keep our skin looking fresh and youthful. However, a clear, healthy and radiant complexion is not only extremely attractive but sends a message to the world that we are confident, successful individuals that are worth knowing. These positive feelings can in turn boost our immune system, overcome inferiority complexes and lift depression.

We live in a fiercely competitive society where people are quickly dismissed at a glance if all does not present well. Like it or not, looks matter especially when living under the super critical lens of Los Angeles.

Just applying cosmetics to disguise skin imperfections can make an enormous difference to how a person feels. Look Good, Feel Good (www.lookgoodfeelgood.org) – a support organization that helps patients going through chemotherapy and radiation, promotes the importance of applying make-up every day. Their experience has taught them that looking better helps patients feel better and recover more quickly. For many of my clients, simply coming for a facial without make-up is a big step, one that makes them feel uncomfortable and vulnerable at first. Teenagers who are struggling with acne rarely make eye contact on their first visit with me because they are ashamed about how their skin looks. As their skin improves, so does their demeanor. They smile and look at me directly and obviously feel more confident about themselves.

Confucius once said: “True quality of life comes from a lasting harmony between the body and the mind.” More than that, it affects how we exist in the eyes of others. This is not vanity; it is survival and over the years, has made me realize I am doing something important for my clients. That is good for my self esteem!

Balance – finding it in everyday simple activities.

I have been reading many articles recently about the importance of having a purposeful, balanced life. Maybe because there has been a lot of instability and uncertainty over the last few years, but the quest for balance is everywhere. Balanced nutrition, budgets, lifestyles, relationships and energy. Maybe this is because more people at the moment don’t have a job or career and have been forced to consider how they are spending their lives. Maybe they do have a job and very busy work schedule and feel unbalanced or tilted in that direction. Whatever the reason – balance seems to be popping into many conversations these days.

When we are out of balance, life can seem less comfortable, overwhelming, less safe.

Every day we wake up, get out of bed and begin routines that have become automatic to us. They actually mold our lives and provide anchors as we navigate our entry into our daily activities.

These could be walking the dog, reading the newspaper, gardening, going to the gym, calling loved ones, getting the kids ready for school, preparing breakfast, grabbing a coffee.

Sometimes these things get disrupted for other activities like travel, heavier workloads or even emergencies but it is always comforting to get back to these routines.

Maybe this is where the balance begins and even provides us with a momentary sense of control, in a world that seems to be going wildly out of control at the moment.

We are all different. My idea of a balanced life might seem unbalanced to others but I spend a lot of time talking to clients about their lifestyles and have noticed a re-calibration of values being adopted among many. A concern for sustainability in the environment, recycling, more moderate living styles, home cooking and home grown vegetables, reconnecting with old friends, mending family rifts, and in some areas more of a community spirit. The internet has certainly helped here in the guise of Facebook and other social media formats. If we are lucky enough, we have certain people in our lives that are our anchors, ports in the storm. They are always accessible, reachable and present. They make us laugh, can be wise when we need guidance or just listen when we need to blow off steam. They can restore a sense of balance and some level of control.

So what or who are YOUR anchors? If you are currently unemployed or over employed , what activities do you choose or have changed to shape your day and make you feel more productive? Have you adopted new habits and interests in more recent times?

How do you maintain balance in YOUR life?

Dr. Edward Bach, a British physician and homeopath, began developing a series of essences prepared from non-poisonous flowers, plants, trees and bushes in the 1930’s. They are completely safe, have no side effects and are not addictive. You really can not overdose on these remedies and because there are 38 in total, the choice of blends that can be mixed together for treatment is endless! They are also very affordable ($10-50 a bottle) and easy to use.

The principle behind these essences is to re-balance the physical manifestations of emotional upset and discomfort. For example, Rescue Remedy, which is a pre-blended formula of five flower essences – Rock Rose, Impatiens, Clematis, Star of Bethlehem and Cherry Plum – is great to treat nervousness and stress caused by shock, travel, visits to the vet, separation anxiety and sudden change. There are blends and essences for a dog or cat that soils at home, (Cherry Plum), or suddenly becomes aggressive or fearful (Vine). Trauma and abuse can be treated with Star of Bethlehem. A dog or cat getting used to a new home can be treated with Walnut and when training a puppy or kitten, Chestnut Bud is useful. Mimulus is used for everyday fears, Aspen for fear of the unknown and Rock Rose for terror and panic. (A good one for July 4th fireworks). Wild Rose is great for apathy, Holly can tame a bully, Vervain can calm a highly strung animal, Chicory can break dependency and Olive can energize a tired dog.

Of course, all these remedies apply to human behavior so pet and owner can be treated at the same time. Even grief, depression and obsessive cleaning can be addressed. The time taken for each essence or blend to work can vary. Sometimes the benefits are immediate and in other cases it can take a number of weeks. The essences can be dropped into water, wet food or any liquid, or it can be applied to paws or ears. (2-4 drops for a small animal and 5-6 drops for a larger animal.) Atomizers can also be used.

Call for more information or ask for a questionnaire to be sent to you. You will see for yourself how effective Bach Flower Remedies can be.

Life in this fine country of ours has been difficult for many people over the last few years. Even if you have not been affected by the Great Recession, or do not have a loved one fighting overseas, these events take their toll on our psyche and general sense of well-being. And just trying to keep up with the fast pace of life these days can be overwhelming. So it is very important to find time every day – even if it is just for a few minutes – to regroup and re-focus your energy. Meditation is a wonderful tool for doing this…

…Meditation, however, can be hard. Trying to sit comfortably while concentrating only on your breath can be a little challenging. Those chattering monkeys tend to take over. So, try adjusting your focus. Imagine the air around you and therefore the breath you are inhaling to be a certain hue or color. This is called Chromotherapy and dates back to Egyptian times when solariums were used with different colored glass to achieve and maintain good health and well-being. The art of color breathing, which is what we are talking about here, can be done anywhere – at home, lying on the floor, in the car driving to and from work, sitting in the garden or while waiting in the doctor’s office. Start off with a few deep breaths to get calm and then continue breathing deeply through your nose while imagining your selected color saturating your body and mind. Some people find it easier to do with the eyes closed but it isn’t necessary and certainly not advisable behind the wheel of a car. Here is a color chart to guide you…

BLUE – to treat insomnia, gain confidence, improve high blood pressure and lessen tension.

YELLOW – to imbue a sense of freedom, gratitude, joy and optimism.

RED – to increase energy and love life.

GREEN – to treat depression, eating disorders, respiratory problems and infertility.

ORANGE – to overcome procrastination.

TURQUOISE – to strengthen the immune system.

PURPLE – to boost self-worth and gain wisdom and finally,

PINK – to let go of negativity and anger.

Essential oils can be a great accessory to focusing the mind on the moment – Sandalwood, Bergamot, Cedarwood and Patchouli are especially effective for this purpose. Use them in a diffuser or simply sprinkle a few drops on a Kleenex and inhale. Finally, there is a set of wonderful CD’s which you may want to invest in that can also help your meditation practice. The four CD set is called Guided Mindfulness Meditation by Jon Kabat-Zinn and can be ordered from www.mindfulnesstapes.com.

As well as helping to cure what ails you, color breathing combined with meditation can make a big difference to how each and every day unfolds for you. Om…

It is a new year and time to Feng Shui your home and business. The energies shift on a solar calendar beginning February 5th. Annual changes should be in place no sooner than February 1st.

Using the five elements of water, wood, fire, earth and metal, this ancient practice of encouraging a healthy energy flow in your working and living environments really makes a difference to your life. Bring harmony, peace, prosperity and success to every area of your life with a few easy adjustments and the right guidance.

We have been using Kartar Diamond for many years. To receive her e-newsletter Time & Space, register at kartar@FengShuiSolutions.net.

Wishing you a very healthy, abundant 2010.

In the skin care business, it is not unusual to talk about the pH of a product. The letters pH stand for potential hydrogen, as hydrogen is the element that controls the levels of either alkalinity or acidity in a formulation. Acidic products range from 0 – 6.9 and are often used to exfoliate or peel the skin; alkaline products range from 7.1 – 14 and can be used in cleansers or to neutralize acidity. Very often moisturizers are formulated to be neutral (a pH of 7) to bring the skin back into balance. Too much acid or alkalinity is irritating for the skin, so the pH is always carefully calibrated.

More recently, the principle of pH balancing has been applied to our bodies. This holistic approach believes that the foundation of healthy digestion is built on a simple eating system that maintains an ideal acid/alkaline (pH) balance in the body. Seventy per cent of the immune system is based in the abdomen and 90% of the tryptophan needed to make serotonin for the brain – essential to ensure we feel good – is made here. So in order to live a long and happy life it obviously pays to keep our abdomens happy!

How do we do that? The suggested pH ratio would be a diet of two-thirds alkaline and one-third acid-forming foods. This takes some adjustment. So, to take a step in the right direction, let’s outline a few alkaline foods that we can incorporate in greater quantities and some acidic foods we can eliminate.

Raw, green leafy vegetables like chard, kale and spinach are all excellent alkaline-rich foods. So are avocados, celery, cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, broccoli, coconut, cherries, grapefruit, lemons and watermelon. A healthy way to start and end each day with an alkaline system for example, would be with a cup of warm water flavored with half a lemon.

Things to avoid would be white flour, coffee, red meat, too much alcohol and artificial sugar.

And how does all this reflect in the skin? Well, too much acidity triggers eczema, acne, boils, rosacea and wrinkles – so all of these conditions could be greatly improved by maintaining a more alkaline system. Obviously, exercise and relaxation are essential and drinking the right amount of water. Men need more water than women on a daily basis, but if you eat plenty of the above listed vegetables and two or three fresh fruits a day, you can fill half your required fluid quota easily.

There are several books that discuss this subject at great length. For recommended reading material and a list of nutritionists who recommend pH balancing contact us.

Water is essential for the survival of all known forms of  life. Dehydration sends hundreds of people to the hospital every day and it has been estimated that a healthy body needs a minimum of two liters of water daily to avoid dehydration. Some people claim we as humans, are 65% water – others 70% water. Whatever the exact percentage, the fact of the matter is clear. We are a highly complex irrigation system that needs constant hydration. Let’s list some of the overall benefits of drinking water…

*  Appetite suppressant – when you drink the right amount of water for your body weight, natural thirst returns and hunger diminishes.

* Weight reduction – by increasing water intake, we reduce fat deposits by increasing liver and kidney function. This in turn speeds up metabolism. Remember, the larger you are the more help you need to give your body to metabolize. Go to our Past Articles section and click on our Six Ways to Detox article to find out how much water you should be drinking daily.

* Drinking water helps with fluid retention. It is Nature’s own diuretic. So check your salt intake and make sure after a long flight to have a long cool drink of water. Anything in the water – sugar, electrolytes – slows down the absorption of water, so keep it pure and simple. Soda, even teas and juices don’t count.

* Water also regulates body temperature, relieves headaches, hypertension, arthritis, kidney stones, fatigue, morning sickness.

* Very important – water relieves constipation. When the body becomes constipated, it siphons water from internal sources. By keeping the body properly hydrated we maintain normal bowel function, keep the skin clear and  prevent many serious diseases.

* Finally, water is great for improving endocrine-gland function – and helps PMS and cramping.

Recommendation for exercising:

Drink about 8 ounces of water before exercise and top up every 15 minutes you exercise.
It is best to drink cold water because it burns more calories.

Quenching the skin’s thirst

Traditionally, we have relied on oils and waxes – lanolin, mineral oil, for example – in skin care products to hydrate the skin by trapping water on the skin’s surface. The new hydrators however, come in the form of serums.  A serum can be a light emulsion or a water-soluble gel that is generally thinner in texture. Serums contain humectants and non-occlusive ingredients that attract and attach water to the skin. Hyaluronic acid, peptides, Vitamin B3 & B5 and botanical extracts are ideal for this purpose. Serums contain more active ingredients and give an extra boost – every morning and evening – to other creams and moisturizers you may be using. The double layer slows down moisture evaporation and gives the skin a healthy, lasting radiance. They are good for all skin types, fast to apply and penetrate easily.

Hydration from the inside out and outside in is clearly essential to great body and skin health. So drink up and slather on!

The youngest Baby Boomers are now hitting 44 years of age. They are many in number and seem to be fighting the aging process every step of the way. Fitter, better educated and more financially savvy, many exercise vigorously, have super healthy eating programs and strive hard to keep their lives in balance. All good stuff. Interestingly enough, the same statistics apply to a younger generation between the ages of 25-35 years. So this article applies to both demographics – the Boomers and the Bloomers – and really to anyone interested in aging well.

In the skin department the battle is particularly fierce and even seems to be defying gravity in some areas. Options for looking younger and maintaining that radiant glow still include plastic surgery although face lifts are no longer the only choice. In fact, a recent survey done by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons showed a 19 percent decrease in plastic surgery procedures between 2000 and 2005. More men are seeking the cosmetic route to fight the aging process and less invasive procedures and injectables have become much more popular with both the male and female sectors. But science and technology have recently provided many more tools that we can all include in our daily lives. Terms like cosmeceuticals, photoaging, actinic keratoses, fibroblasts, collagen, pigmentation, ATP and MMP’s seem to be popping up everywhere in the media and on product labels like plum blossoms in Springtime. So what DO they all mean and how can we best utilize them in our own efforts to look the very best we can at any age?

Let’s first summarize how we age. There are two ways – naturally or intrinsically, or through sun exposure – photoaging.

The amount of sun you have been exposed to during your life plays an enormous role in how your skin ages. Photoaging is a term we have all grown used to hearing and was first coined in1986. It describes the damage done to the skin by UV (ultraviolet) exposure. We have learned to apply and re-apply sun screens when we are outdoors for extended periods of time but skin cancer is on the rise, partly because of the depletion in the ozone layer but also because we tend to overlook how much incidental sun we are exposed to every day when we run errands and go to and from work.

Daily, liberal application of a broad spectrum sun screen containing an SPF15 is essential. Ecamsule, marketed as Mexoryl, has recently gained FDA approval and is a good chemical block. Titanium and zinc oxides are effective physical blocks that reflect both UVA and UVB rays and help to prevent the formation of premalignant lesions, hyper and hypo-pigmentation, broken capillaries and small growths called seborrheic and actinic keratoses. Earlier, I mentioned MMP’s. These enzymes are activated by sun exposure and break down collagen – in other words, MMP’s are responsible for wrinkle formation. So don’t forget that daily SPF.

Intrinsic aging starts pretty much from the time we are born! Up to the age of thirty our skin cells turn over every 25 to 28 days but after thirty, skin turnover slows significantly, as does the production of collagen and elastin in the dermis – the second and deeper layer of the skin. Collagen, which comprises 90% of the skin’s total protein, is particularly important because it keeps the skin firm and plump. Because men shave every day the mitotic rate tends to work longer and harder and because they often have more oil glands in their skin to start with, men tend to age more slowly. But the news is not all bad for women. To maintain the production of collagen in our skin, we now have an interesting array of cosmeceuticals at our disposal – products that involve a good deal of cosmetic chemistry. Ingredients like peptides, which act as messengers between the dermis and epidermis, particularly Argireline, Matrixyl and Collaxyl, produce a variety of effects from triggering hormonal or immune system activity, healing and rebuilding skin tissue and stimulating the fibroblasts in the dermis to produce more collagen. Hyaluronic acid is a naturally occurring substance in the human body. It is a super hydrator and especially calming for sensitive skin. ATP (adenosine tri-phosphate) is a glucose type fuel that is stored in the mitochondria of each cell and helps fuel cellular energy. Sun and general aging diminish the ability of the cells to produce ATP so by adding this ingredient to skin care products, we help to re-energize the whole process. Oxygen kills bacteria and helps to lessen the appearance of pigmentation. Retinol (Vitamin A), texturizes the skin by stimulating collagen production, treating acne and diminishing fine lines. There are also many EPF’s (environmental protection factors) available that protect our skin against pollution and the damaging effects of free radicle activity. In particular, Green Tea, Pomegranate extract, vitamin C and red wine extract. EPF’s are best used during the day. All other actives are recommended for night time application because they tend to make the skin photosensitive – more prone to sunburn. The general rule of thumb is to be consistent once you have found a skin care regime that suits your skin. Cleanse, tone, hydrate and protect during the day and cleanse, tone and treat at night.

Hormones effect men and women lifelong – puberty and menopause don’t discriminate! Throughout puberty, surging hormones can cause break-outs and acne. As we age, the production of estrogen and progesterone diminishes which can result in dryer skin, wrinkles, more break-outs, uneven skin texture and hair loss. Estimates show that skin loses up to 30% of its collagen in the first five years after menopause and without intervention collagen depletion continues to affect the tone, elasticity and turgur of the skin. Hot flashes can cause redness and inflammation and inability to sleep is often apparent during this transition, which greatly affects the appearance of the skin because it is during sleep that the skin does most of its work. Lifestyle adjustments at this time should include:

* Increased Water Intake – drink half your weight in water.

* Minimal sugar intake – to cut back on break-outs and glycation.

* Intake of healthy oils – Fish oils and/or flaxseed .

* Plenty of Sleep/Rest/Relaxation. Not only does this give the skin time to use all those great actives you are applying but it also allows the brain to reboot and the digestion to settle. By the morning your whole body is ready to go.

The body and mind loves rhythm and rituals. All of the above suggestions can create a balanced approach to life no matter what age you are and that rhythm and balance will certainly show up in your clear, glowing skin.

According to the experts, we don’t establish our circadian rhythms until we are about six weeks old. That’s about the time when babies can hold more milk in their bellies to sleep longer periods. Sleep helps us fight illness, manage stress AND keeps our skin youthful and fresh.

When we are tired, our skin will look tired too. Lines deepen and look more ingrained, the complexion looks dull and eyes are often shadowed. When we get enough rest the sleep hormone, MELATONIN, is able to go to work. It lowers blood pressure and core body temperature, regulates hormonal levels and increases our alertness the next day. Just losing one hour of sleep a night can reduce day-time attentiveness by one third.

And to add insult to injury, because the lack of sleep interferes with ghrelin and leptin – the eat and don’t eat buttons in our bodies – we tend to snack irregularly and eat more sugary and starchy foods. This leads to a spike in our sugar levels, creating glycation and inflammation. Check out my recent blog “The Not So Sweet Side of Sugar“. This can age us very rapidly, create break-outs, wrinkles, rosacea, dryness, and even depression and chronic illness.

So, if you can get eight hours of sleep a night – perfect. If not, try napping. Recent studies have established that just a short nap can clear and recharge the brain just as effectively as a longer sleep. Your eyes and skin will be brighter and you will be more productive each and every day.