This is just a sample. For the complete lists of superfoods, supplements and external treatments, read the Kindle version of Firm L o o s e Skin or order the paperback version from Amazon.com.
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Once thought to be un-repairable, connective tissue is now known to be able to recover and heal from injury. Scientific evidence now supports the idea that nutritional therapy is a key factor in repairing connective tissue. It’s important to take in nutrition–either through supplements or as they naturally occur in foods, assuming the foods are permitted on any diet you may happen to be following–that concentrates on supporting and repairing connective tissue, skin, muscles and the lymph system.
The key to firming our skin is to repair our connective tissue, our overall skin health and our lymph systems while eliminating excess fat and cellulite and building a strong musculature underneath. We are going to examine vitamins, minerals and extracts that strengthen and repair these vital systems. The substances listed below can be taken in the form of vitamin supplements or as “superfoods.” All are healthy, natural and you may already consume many of them on a daily basis. Many of them also are available as topical solutions.
Some natural food proponents claim it’s more effective to ingest vitamins as food rather than in pill form. Our bodies may absorb them more readily from food than from supplements–but it’s more important to get them in you than to be overly concerned about what form they go in as.
Below is a comprehensive index of vitamins, minerals, supplements and other substances that support and enhance skin, lymphatics and connective tissue. Consuming as many of them as you reasonably can on a daily basis will give your body the fuel it needs to do its job. As with anything, please consult your health care provider before making changes to your diet.
You can buy many of the substances listed below as individual topical ingredients that you can combine to make your own customized skin-firming treatments. This is a great way to have better control over the substances you’re putting on your body and to reduce associated costs. In most cases, when you make your own at-home solutions, you’ll want to use the freshest ingredients possible and keep them refrigerated between uses to help them stay fresh and effective.
Maximum benefits will come from 1) consuming these effective substances either as healthy superfoods or as supplements and 2) using these effective substances as external lotions at the same time. This two-pronged approach will ensure our skin gets the repairing substances it needs via two effective methods–internally and externally. I have noted which agents are appropriate to take internally, which are external only, and which are both. The most effective use when a substance can be taken internally or externally may be to do both–consume it, and use it as a lotion–as long as your doctor agrees.
To save you time and effort in trying to hunt these various substances down, visit this book’s website at www.firmlooseskin.com where you will find links to all these substances on Amazon.com. You can also shop for these skin-firming substances directly on Amazon at http://astore.amazon.com/firlooski-20. The Amazon tie-in site is organized by substance, making it easy to find the supplements and extracts detailed below. Each substance recommended below also is hyperlinked to Amazon to make it even easier to shop.
You also can visit your local grocery store or pharmacy, specialty supplement store (like GNC) or search the Internet for the very best prices and highest quality on these. If you order online, be sure to factor shipping into the total price you pay. The prices listed below are not meant to be comprehensive but are suggestive of what is available as of fall 2012, and I strongly encourage you to shop around to compare price and quality before purchasing since price and availability of anything varies from minute to minute on the Internet, as you know.
When shopping for supplements and external treatments, measurements, unfortunately, aren’t standardized. You may see g (grams), mg (milligrams), mcg (micrograms), IU (international units) or other units of measurement. Always take note of the amount you should be taking and the amount the substance you’re purchasing has.
If you need to convert measurement units from grams to milligrams to micrograms to international units, a quick Internet search for “mg to mcg” or “IU to mg,” etc., will take you to a conversion calculator. If the RDA of a substance is 55 mcg you don’t want to confuse that with 55 mg or you may be wasting money on a product that’s far stronger than you need, or even putting yourself at risk for overdose. 1 g = 1,000 mg = 1,000,000 mcg; IUs vary from substance to substance and should be searched individually.
When purchasing these supplements and substances, compare the RDA or other suggested amount with the actual active ingredient percentages in what you ultimately buy. If the RDA is, for example, 300 mg, and the tablets you buy are 600 mg, you can use a pill cutter to halve the tablets, saving you a lot of money.
Unfortunately, you can’t split capsules or gelcaps without making a big mess–don’t try. Instead try to find purchases as close to the RDA as possible. For example, if the RDA is 400 mg there’s no need to take 1000 mg capsules instead, and so on.
RDA as a measurement is more important for supplements you take internally than for external treatments since possible overdose risks for external supplements tend to be lower. Unnecessarily high concentrations of substances may be irritating to the skin, however, so exercise caution, use common sense and clear it with your doctor before you incorporate any of these items into your daily routine.
Hundreds of lotions are marketed to consumers for tightening skin, but are any of them effective? A lot is going to depend on what the lotion or crème targets and what it contains. As we have learned, building and repairing collage and elastin is the key to tightening skin since loose skin needs to rebond to the underlying muscle through connective tissue. Strengthening our connective tissue, primarily through supporting the repair and production of collagen and through supporting the health of our lymph systems, is a key way to firm our skin.
Be wary, suspicious and discerning when selecting external treatments to help repair your skin. Topical treatments that don’t target the right things simply aren’t going to be effective. That being said, it’s certainly not impossible for a lotion or other treatment to help. In fact, dozens of scientific studies show that collagen repair is possible and that some external treatments are effective.
In making a determination on which substances or treatments to purchase, we will want to examine each using the following criteria:
• amount/percentage of active ingredients
You will notice I have not factored in cost as a criterion. This is because, to me, cost does not matter. This is not because I have a money tree growing in my yard! I look at it this way: it doesn’t matter how inexpensive a lotion that claims to firm skin is; if it doesn’t work, I’m not going to buy it. On the other hand, if a lotion comes along that has ingredients I know make sense, in amounts that make sense, with enough real testimonials to its effectiveness, and that has an iron-clad money-back guarantee, then frankly, cost isn’t going to be the deciding factor, because I’m not going to choose a less expensive and less effective substitute, nor should you. That truly would be a waste of money.
Try to avoid external crèmes or lotions that contain alcohol and fragrance. These ingredients won’t help firm your skin and may cause you unnecessary sensitivity. This may mean you’ll need to mix and create your own customized crèmes and lotions–which in the long run may prove much less costly and far more effective. Where available, oils, extracts and serums will probably be a better choice because they will have fewer extraneous ingredients that we simply don’t need to use or to pay extra for.
To be truly effective, presumably a lotion should include as many of these ingredients as possible. Since no crème or lotion contains every single ingredient mentioned below, using a variety of external preparations, or, better yet, combining individual ingredients to make our own custom preparations, seems to make the most sense.
To avoid possible interactions, it would be best to use different topical treatments on a varying schedule of your choosing–every other day, morning/evening, and so on. And, as with internally taken supplements, check with your doctor before using any of these, and be sure to test each on an inconspicuous area of your body, such as the inner fold of your elbow, before slathering them on. Your face is your billboard–never put anything on your face before you’ve tested it somewhere else on your body. Any substance listed below may be used externally; however, I wouldn’t recommend taking any of the external-only substances listed below internally.
I also would not recommend going out and buying every single supplement on this list and taking them all for the first time at once, particularly if you are not in the habit of taking a daily multivitamin. Incorporate them one or a few at the time to give your body time to adjust as needed and as your doctor advises.
Again, you can visit the website, www.firmlooseskin.com, which links to a frequently updated list of all of these substances on Amazon.com to make them easy to find. Since a book can’t stay as updated as a website, visit the website or shop Amazon directly at http://astore.amazon.com/firlooski-20.
Below is the list of skin-firming substances that seem to provide the best results in helping to repair connective tissue through building collagen and elastin, reduce cellulite, support healthy lymph functioning and/or improve skin. Several easy-to-use resources are included at the end of this chapter. First is a list of substances by which skin-firming approach they target: collagen growth, connective tissue repair, lymphatic repair, cellulite reduction, skin repair and muscle repair, to help you assess which areas you need the most support for.
Next is a table of recommended daily allowances of each substance listed below. Note that typical recommended daily allowances are based on adults over the age of 18 and by gender, where applicable. Typically, these substances do not come with recommended dosages specific to firming loose skin–however, ensuring that you are getting the recommended daily allowance of each should be a good start. Use this list when researching which substances to purchase.
Following that is a list of internal substances, alphabetically, then external substances, alphabetically, and finally a list of superfoods by food group and some of the vitamins and minerals each contains. These lists can easily be reproduced in the paperback version of this book and will be useful when shopping for or discussing these substances with your health care provider. If you’re reading this on a portable device like a Kindle or Nook, you can visit www.firmlooseskin.com to request to have copies of the charts emailed to you in a version suitable for printing.
It’s worth mentioning again–none of the information in this book constitutes medical advice and it should not be treated as such. Get your doctor’s permission before you add any new substances to your diet or put any new substances on your skin. Some substances may cause side effects, which are noted in abbreviated form in the table at the end of this section. Some substances may interact with medications which is another reason to check with your doctor before taking anything new. Most importantly, do not use any of these supplements or external treatments (or any supplement or treatment!) if you are pregnant or nursing unless your doctor specifically tells you to.
Skin-Tightening Substances, Vitamin A to Zinc
External and Internal: Vitamin A as Beta-Carotene is an antioxidant that gives certain vegetables and fruits a distinct orange or red color. It promotes connective tissue growth and repair. It may also have a positive effect on sun-damaged skin. Beta-carotene is a very safe supplement. The U.S. government reports that ingesting large amounts of beta-carotene generally is not dangerous. The RDA (recommended daily allowance) of vitamin A is 900 mcg for men and 700 mcg for women. Beta-carotene supplements start at around $3 per 100 for 25,000 IU which converts to 7,500 mcg–6,600 mcg more than is needed, possibly overkill. A daily multivitamin tablet should have more than enough vitamin A for you to get your RDA and then some.
Vitamin A as Retinol may be even more effective as a topical treatment in crèmes and lotions than as an internal supplement. Vitamin A helps our bodies produce collagen according to scientific studies conducted by the U.S. government and a major university. Retinol is a key component of many skin care products. It has been proven to improve skin tone, texture and color, lines and wrinkles and hydration levels.
Note that retinol can cause skin irritation so use sparingly at first, or use gentler solutions before stepping up to stronger ones to build up your tolerance to it. Retinol is available as crèmes and serums and prices vary from under $2 per ounce to over $50 per ounce.
Many foods that contain vitamin A are very healthful and should contribute to your overall skin health. It’s best to incorporate both an oral form and a topical form of vitamin A into your skin-firming regimen. Healthy foods that contain vitamin A include:
• collard greens
• egg yolks
• low-fat dairy products
• palm oil
• sweet potatoes
Internal: Antioxidants prevent molecules in our bodies from oxidizing which can produce free radicals and cause cellular damage. They have been widely studied for their potential to prevent and treat diseases such as cancer and heart disease, among others. Discussed and priced out separately, vitamins C as ascorbic acid and vitamin E are antioxidants. Antioxidants can have a positive effect on the overall condition of our skin and our health in general. The following foods are high in antioxidants:
• black currants
• concord grapes
• green tea
• purple cabbage
• purple figs
Internal: The B Vitamins are safe, inexpensive and important both to the lymph system and to connective tissue. Vitamin B-2, or riboflavin, is essential to the creation, growth and repair of cells and of connective tissue. Low levels of vitamin B-2 are associated with lymphatic abnormalities. The RDA of vitamin B-2 is 1.3 mg for men and 1.1 mg for women; taking excessive amounts of B-2 daily (over 10 mg) can increase eye sensitivity to sunlight and can contribute to eye damage if you don’t wear sunglasses outdoors, so don’t overdo it. Vitamin B-2 is found in the following foods:
• dark green leafy vegetables
• oily fish
• organ meats
Vitamin B-3, also known as niacin, is used to treat circulatory problems and a vitamin B-3 deficiency can lead to skin that is sensitive to light, thick, rough, dry and prone to outbreaks and eruptions. The RDA for vitamin B-3 is 16 mg for men and 14 mg for women; taking amounts in excess of 50 mg per day can cause skin heat flushes, liver damage and stomach ulcers so don’t overdo it. Foods that contain vitamin B-3 include:
• whole wheat
Vitamin B-6, also known as pyridoxine, has been shown to improve lymphatic drainage which is important for carrying toxins away from the skin throughout the entire body. It is involved in metabolizing fats and carbohydrates and it promotes healthy skin. The RDA of B-6 is 1.3 mg for men or women. Taking excessive amounts of B-6 (over 100 mg per day) can cause serious nerve damage so definitely don’t overdo it with this one either. Vitamin B-6 is found in:
• wheat germ
• brewer’s yeast
B-Complex vitamins combine all three and are very inexpensive, starting at just over $14 for 360 tablets, or you can purchase the B-vitamins separately as well.
External and Internal: Vitamin C as Ascorbic Acid, its purest form, is involved in hundreds of vital processes within the body and it promotes the development of strong connective tissue. It forms collagen and new blood vessels and it slows the erosion of cartilage. It can help reduce the swelling of connective tissue as well as joint and muscle pain and stiffness. Vitamin C eliminates free radicals, the highly charged oxygen molecules mentioned in Section 1, caused by ultraviolet rays. Vitamin C is the only antioxidant that stimulates the synthesis of collagen. Studies have shown that vitamin C minimizes lines and wrinkles. Vitamin C as L-Ascorbic Acid should be used externally. It is available as a crème or serum and prices vary widely–from just under $8 for 1.8 ounces to over $30 an ounce in serum form. Work your way up slowly to a 25% percent solution, the most effective dose, to avoid skin irritation.
Internal vitamin C deficiency can keep wounds from healing. In fact, extreme vitamin C deficiency causes scurvy, a painful connective tissue disease which causes tooth loss, skin discoloration and makes wounds much harder to heal. Scurvy was fairly common two centuries ago among sailors at sea and others deprived of vitamin C-containing foods. Vitamin C truly is crucial to a healthy body, a healthy immune system and healthy connective tissue.
The RDA of vitamin C is 90 mg for men and 75 mg for women but it’s easy to find C supplements with dosages in the thousands of mg. Side effects at high doses are mild and generally include stomach upset. At a minimum, get your RDA of vitamine C; this is one supplement where the more, the merrier, as long as your physician agrees. C is easily found in daily multivitamins and that’s probably the most cost-effective way to get your daily vitamin C. Also sold separately, vitamin C supplements are relatively inexpensive, starting at around $9 for 150 tablets. Foods high in vitamin C include:
• bell peppers
• Brussels sprouts
• Goji berries
• leafy greens, particularly kale and spinach
• oranges and citrus fruits
External and Internal: Calcium, a mineral, is well known as a building block for healthy bones and teeth but it also positively impacts muscle growth and overall health. Calcium also helps maintain cell permeability. Calcium is rare to find as a single ingredient in a lotion but often is combined with other age-fighting ingredients.
The RDA of calcium is 1000 mg for men and women both; high doses may cause constipation, stomach upset, irregular heartbeat and kidney damage so don’t overdo it. Calcium supplement prices vary widely, starting at around $10 for 100 500 mg capsules. Foods high in calcium include:
• blackstrap molasses
• chia seeds
• dairy products
• dark leafy greens
• dried fruits and nuts
• dried herbs
• flax seeds
• sesame seeds
• soy milk
• sunflower seeds
External: Collagen Supplements like DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone, a steroid hormone produced by our adrenal glands) are controversial as skin firming ingredients. Claims exist that hydrolyzed collagen supplements can restore collagen and reverse the aging process. Many products marketed as collagen supplements or collagen-based beauty products contain hydrolyzed collagen. However, there is a lack of evidence that collagen supplements can benefit your skin. Further, DHEA treatments may cause hormonal side effects, particularly in men. In this book, we are concentrating on effective treatments that help your body rebuild and strengthen its own collagen so, until DHEA and other collagen supplements come with more substantive proof, let’s skip them in favor of other treatments with a better track record.
External and Internal: Vitamin E is an antioxidant that slows bodily oxidation due to free radicals and promotes skin health and longevity. It is important to protecting and maintaining cell membranes, promoting the healing of injured tissues and it is believed to reduce scarring from injuries. Vitamin E is critical to healthy skin. It protects the epidermis and contributes to repairing connective tissue. Vitamin E is used to increase skin health as a food, a vitamin supplement, and as an external crème.
Vitamin E crème can be found very inexpensively, with prices starting at less than $4 for 4 ounces. Capsules are also inexpensive, starting at just over $12 for 500 of 400 IU. The RDA of vitamin E is 15 mg (22.4 IU–E is commonly dosed in IU) for men and women. High doses may thin blood and E may interact with medications so check with your doctor to avoid possible drug interactions.
This is another vitamin it’s probably more cost-effective to take as part of a multivitamin if possible. Vitamin E is found in these foods:
• almonds and other nuts
• sunflower and other seeds
• vegetable oils
Internal: Manganese supports bone growth and repair, it enables the body to utilize the B and C vitamins and it acts as an antioxidant. Manganese contributes to building collagen and it is active in DNA repair. Note that small amounts of manganese are plenty and overdoses can be very dangerous, causing nervous system damage and a host of other problems including hallucinations–don’t overdo it. Most individual manganese supplements seem to contain far more than you’re going to want to take unless your doctor specifically directs you too.
The RDA of manganese is small–2.3 mg for men and 1.8 for women. Supplements start at just over $7 for 100 10 mg capsules which is a lot so look for a multivitamin with a lower dose instead, look for tablets you can split with a pill splitter, or just rely on these superfoods for the manganese you need:
• brown rice
• leafy greens
• whole grains
Internal: Protein is necessary to support every system in your body and it is necessary to build strong connective tissue. Protein supports the functioning of every other potential treatment listed in this section. Protein supplements typically will be unnecessary. Foods high in protein include:
Internal: Water! Water makes up between half and two-thirds of the human body. Women are on the lower end, towards half, men on the higher, closer to two-thirds. Obesity can lower this percentage to less than half. In contrast, infants’ bodies may be composed of nearly three-quarters water. Water is crucial to good health.
Do you drink enough water every day? Many diets recommend that, at a minimum–minimum!–you should be drinking eight 8-ounce glasses of water daily, more if you are trying to lose weight or tighten your skin. It’s not uncommon for people on diets to drink double this amount–a gallon–or more, daily. Drinking adequate water is necessary for your health, your body, to lose weight, and to improve your complexion as well as the condition of your skin. Drink your water!
Note that I specified water. Not diet drinks or colas, not coffee or tea, not beer or wine, not other flavored beverages–water. You should be drinking your water in addition to any other beverages you drink on a daily basis.
When you don’t drink enough water you can become dehydrated. Most of us have experienced dehydration at one time or another, and, as you know, it’s unpleasant and uncomfortable. Being dehydrated dries out your skin, and, over time, can cause it to wrinkle, sag and droop. Lines and creases can stand out more. In contrast, hydration will have a positive impact on your skin and more importantly on your connective tissue and lymph system.
In the first section we learned that connective tissue is crucial to tightening skin. One published scientific study examined the influence of hydration on aging connective tissue and found that connective tissue and tendons elongate and are more flexible when enough water is present. This is very important. Hydration improves how flexible your connective tissue is, and the flexibility of your connective tissue is a major factor in getting your loose skin to adhere to the underlying muscle.
Drinking water alone won’t firm up all your loose skin if you have a lot, like I do. But not drinking water is not doing your connective tissue any favors. For the sake of your connective tissue, drink your water!
External and Internal: Zinc is essential to the production of connective tissue, cartilage and bone, and it has been shown to help arthritis. Zinc is an antioxidant and, along with copper and manganese, it helps neutralize free radical activity and joint inflammation and it stimulates the immune system.
The RDA of zinc is 11 mg for men and 8 mg for women. Zinc supplements are very inexpensive, starting at just over $5 for 120 30 mg tablets and around $10 for 5 ounces of lotion. Excessive amounts may cause flu-like symptoms, anemia, hallucinations and more, and it may raise cholesterol levels, so don’t overdo it with zinc. Foods containing zinc include:
• egg whites
• pumpkin seeds
• whole grains
This dual approach of taking these critical substances as supplements and of using them as external applications directly on our skin has a great chance of building the collagen we need to support our connective tissue in doing its job—connecting our loose skin back to its underlying muscle tissue.
This is just a sample. For the complete lists of superfoods, supplements and external treatments, read the Kindle version of Firm L o o s e Skin or order the paperback version from Amazon.com.
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