Skin is more than a decorative covering for the body. Weighing in at 10 pounds, this expansive organ is vital for survival. It holds us together and keeps the world out. In fact, losing too much skin, due to a major burn for instance, can lead to death. This article will outline a few of the most common skin conditions and how you can find relief through nutrition, herbs and other natural therapies.
Skin is several layers thick starting with the outer most barrier or epidermis. This external layer not only provides physical protection, but shields us from disease and excessive sunlight as well. The melanocytes, found in the epidermis, are cells that give skin color; the more pigment in your skin, the less chance you'll suffer from sunburn or skin cancer. Langerhan cells are members of the immune system that reside in skin. They offer a first line of defense against bacteria and other infectious agents. Because the epidermis is most susceptible to wear and tear, replacement cells are continually dividing in this segment.
Underneath the epidermis is the dermis which provides physical support and nourishment for the busy epidermis. It's in this second tier that nerves, blood vessels and hair follicles are kept. Although hair is primarily decorative in humans, hair follicles are found all over the body except on the palms and soles. In other animals, when hair or fur stands on end it provides warmth and even dissuades predators. While humans possess the anatomy, that is arrector pili muscles abutting hair follicles, to achieve the same thing, the effect is less than spectacular. Without a heavy coat of hair to fluff up, a chill or fright in people creates only goose bumps.
Sebaceous glands, another resident of the dermis, secrete an oily substance and skin moisturizer called sebum. Two types of sweat glands are also housed in the dermis. The eccrine sweat glands cool the body during intense physical activity or hot weather by secreting perspiration onto the skin's surface where evaporation can occur. Besides water, sweat contains sodium chloride (salt), urea, lactic acid and potassium. When required, two and a half gallons of sweat are produced per day. The apocrine sweat glands, found mainly under the arms and in the genital region, create body odor.
The third layer is composed of fat which cushions the skin, resists cold and injury, and stores extra calories.
Skin problems can originate within the skin, for example a poison ivy rash, a local allergic reaction. Infections, systemic allergies, nutritional deficiencies or metabolic disorders may afflict skin. Sometimes recurrent skin infections or rashes are the tip of the iceberg in a more pervasive condition.
Exposure to chemicals or taking certain medications can create a rash. Immune depressing states, such as pregnancy, increase your susceptibility to infections. You need to be aware of contagious skin diseases; be careful of genital herpes and genital warts if you're sexually active. Prolonged sunbathing, especially for the fair skinned, is an invitation to skin cancer.
Some skin diseases are linked to nutrient imbalances and lifestyle habits. In these cases, natural medicine offers many safe, effective and often long-term solutions to common skin ailments. I've outlined three common skin conditions below: acne, eczema and psoriasis. Besides explaining our current understanding of these problems, I've offered a few therapeutic suggestions.
Acne is by far the most common skin problem. Most teenagers, at least in this culture, suffer the embarrassment and frustration of pimples. The bad news is acne can begin as early as eight years old or may persist into the fourth decade of life. The good news is with a few dietary and other health precautions, this condition needn't be a rite of passage.