Banish those pesky beauty worries naturally with this expert advice from Dr Sarah Brewer
What causes it? Cellulite is linked with female hormones, genetics, a lack of exercise and a high carbohydrate intake.
Foods that can help: Follow a low-fat, wholefood diet that is as organic as possible (some agricultural chemicals have an oestrogen-like action that may contribute to cellulite formation, although this is controversial). Opt for a largely plant-based diet, as animal-based foods contain hormones that may affect cellulite development. Select wholegrain carbohydrate sources such as brown rice and pasta, wholemeal bread, pulses and beans. Eat oily fish regularly (preferably organic): omega 3 fish oils have a beneficial effect on the circulation and the suppleness of cell membranes. Use healthy oils (such as flaxseed, pumpkin, walnut, olive, avocado, rapeseed) for cooking and in salad dressings. Eat raw green vegetables – raw greens are packed with fibre, antioxidants and enzymes that are said to have a cleansing effect on the bowel and help to remove toxins (eating them raw preserves more nutrients). Drink water, herbal teas and fruit and vegetable juices (unsweetened and diluted) to aid the elimination of toxins.
Cut back on: Carbohydrates (especially sugars and refined flour) to follow a low-GI diet. This will reduce your secretion of insulin, which is the main fat-storing hormone in the body. A lower-carbohydrate diet is also associated with less fluid retention, as insulin affects the kidneys to reduce salt excretion. This means avoiding sugary foods and other refined carbohydrates (white flour products, cakes, biscuits, and so on). Reduce salt intake. Avoid saturated and trans fats (found in margarines, for example) and processed meats (such as sausages and burgers). Avoid artificial sweeteners – it has been claimed that consuming them is associated with cellulite; although there is no scientific evidence to support this, cutting them out will undoubtedly make your diet more healthy.
Try Dead Sea mineral salts (used by Cleopatra and the Queen of Sheba as a beauty treatment) – massage them into the skin when bathing to stimulate circulation and exfoliate. Lose excess weight gradually: steady weight loss through diet and exercise will reduce subcutaneous collections of fat (avoid crash diets). Exercise daily for at least 30 minutes. Cycling, step aerobics, light weights, walking and swimming are all excellent for toning up muscles and improving circulation.
Ginkgo biloba helps to open up circulation through small peripheral blood vessels and may improve blood flow in affected areas. Red vine leaf and pine bark extracts (pycnogenol) strengthen supporting tissues to help reduce the spongy, dimpled appearance of cellulite. Gotu kola (centella asiatica) is traditionally used to strengthen connective tissues; in trials, around 80 percent of those taking this medicinal herb for three months reported ‘satisfactory’ to ‘very good’ results. Lecithin has a beneficial effect on the structure of fats, lowering cholesterol in the blood, and may have a beneficial effect on cellulite. Chromium may improve blood glucose regulation and reduce the conversion of sugar to fat.
What causes them? Age spots are linked with sunbathing, sun beds, the menopause and ageing.
Foods that can help: Step up the selenium – the best food sources are Brazil nuts, fish, poultry, meats (especially game), wholegrains, mushrooms, onions, garlic, broccoli and cabbage, although the mineral content of all crops depends on the soils in which they are grown. Increase your intake of antioxidants by eating more fruit and veg – those found in pomegranates, papaya, berries, guava and watermelon are especially beneficial. Plump for plant oestrogens found in sweet potatoes, lentils, edamame beans and other soy products, to provide a useful oestrogen boost.
Foods to avoid: Steer clear of non-organic crops – crops grown using sulphur-based fertilisers may have low selenium levels, as the chemicals affect selenium uptake by plants.
Use sunscreen protection of at least SPF15 during both summer and winter months. Seek medical advice if an age spot or other skin lesion changes (for example if it starts to get bigger, turns darker, goes scaly, itches, weeps, crusts over or scabs without healing, develops a raised, rolled edge or ulcerates).
Top tip: Crushed guava leaves, papaya pulp, fresh strawberries, wheatgerm oil, pumpkin seed oil and rosehip oil can all be used topically to help fade age spots.
What causes them? Thread veins are linked with exposure to extremes of temperature, lack of vitamin C, possibly lack of vitamin K, and an inflammatory skin condition known as rosacea.
Foods that can help: Bring on the bilberries! Bilberries are used to strengthen blood vessels and improve circulation through tiny capillaries. Some people find it helpful to follow an alkaline diet that avoids acid-forming foods. This means eating more fruit and veg, and cutting back on some grains (barley, oats, quinoa, rice and wheat), dairy products (cheese, milk, ice cream and yoghurt), animal proteins (eggs, poultry, meats, seafood), beer and wine. However, these foods are important sources of protein, vitamins and minerals, so it is advisable to only follow a strict alkaline diet under the supervision of a medical nutritionist. Eat vitamin K-rich foods, such as green leafy vegetables, tomatoes, prunes, edamame beans, pumpkin seeds, wheatgerm oil and probiotic bacteria found in live yoghurt.
Foods to avoid: Spicy foods, coffee, tea, sodas, foods with preservatives, colourings, artificial sweeteners and other additives.
Use a broad-spectrum, high-protection sunscreen or sunblock that protects against both UVA and UVB light. Try a green-tinted sunscreen to reduce the appearance of redness. Avoid applying astringents, toners or products containing sodium lauryl sulphate, which can irritate the skin. Avoid temperature extremes. Try gently rubbing a wedge of tomato on dilated veins. Vitamin K is involved in blood clotting and may help to seal leaking capillaries in those who are deficient.
Vitamin K gel has been shown to improve the response to facial thread veins treated with a pulsed dye laser.
Bilberry extracts (often prescribed in parts of Europe) benefit circulation and help strengthen the walls of blood vessels, pine bark extracts (pycnogenol) strengthen fragile capillaries and reduce abnormal blood clotting – even in smokers while vitamin K2 (more active than vitamin K1) promotes a healthy cardiovascular system thanks to its ability to optimise calcium utilisation.
What causes it? Thinning hair is linked with age, menopause, post-pregnancy, physical or emotional trauma, lack of vitamin D, iron, zinc or other micronutrients and underactive thyroid gland. After the age of 25 the diameter of individual hairs naturally starts to decrease, and by the age of 40 most people have finer hair with less body. At the same time, more follicles stay in their resting phase, resulting in progressive thinning.
Foods that can help: Eat more plant oestrogens. Isoflavones are found in edamame beans and other soy products, sweet potato, lentils, nuts and seeds. Lignans have an additional beneficial action by inhibiting the enzyme 5-alpha reductase, which converts testosterone to the stronger dihydrotestosterone (DHT) in hair follicles. DHT increases male- and female-pattern hair loss. Researchers have found that high intakes of lignans (found in pumpkin seed oil, flaxseed oil and sweet potato) are associated with hair regeneration and a reduced rate of hair loss.
Grab some garlic – it increases blood flow to hair follicles. Increase intake of vitamin B12, which helps prevent loss of hair and is found in fish, eggs, chicken and milk. If you’re a vegetarian, you need to ensure a good intake of the amino acid lysine, vitamin B12, iron and zinc.
Foods to avoid: Cut the salt! Research shows that cutting salt intake can lessen hair loss by as much as 60 percent.
Avoid excess stress. Stimulate the circulation to your scalp with a daily massage – simply take handfuls of hair and gently move the scalp to and fro, and side to side, to loosen tension and promote blood flow. Use a shampoo containing green tea caffeine, which blocks DHT production and stimulates hair growth. Caffeine also reduces smooth muscle constriction around hair follicles to improve blood flow and nutrient delivery. Just two minutes’ contact with the scalp allows the caffeine to penetrate deeply, where it remains for up to 48 hours, even after hairwashing. Caffeine shampoos that also contain B vitamins can increase the cross-sectional area of scalp hair fibres by 10 percent, to produce noticeable thickening. Ask your doctor to assess your thyroid function, and to measure your serum ferritin levels to look for iron deficiency.
Soy or red clover isoflavones provide phytoestrogens (probiotics increase conversion of soy isoflavones to a stronger version called equol). Flaxseed oil is one of the richest dietary sources of lignans, which help with hair regeneration. Zinc helps to rebalance hair cycles; take within a multivitamin and mineral supplement to help to guard against deficiencies. L-lysine amino acid supplements are recommended by some nutritionists; l-lysine plays a part in the absorption of iron and zinc.
What causes them? Bags under the eyes are linked with age, heavy sleep, fluid retention, the wrong eye products. The delicate skin under the eyes is one of the first areas to lose its elasticity with age. As the density of collagen and elastin declines, there is an accompanying loss of moisture, suppleness and elasticity. Eating potassium-rich foods, and those that help reduce puffiness, can help.
Foods that can help: Increase your potassium intake by eating a wholefood diet with plenty of fresh fruit, vegetables, salads and wholegrains. Potassium helps to flush excess sodium through the kidneys; sodium pulls water with it, to reduce fluid retention. Foods especially rich in potassium include seafood, tomatoes, bananas, pomegranate, pink grapefruit, prunes, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, carrots (raw), dark green leafy vegetables, edamame beans, yogurt, fresh juices and coconut water. Drink acai juice – it’s traditionally used to reduce puffiness around the eyes (acai berry is commonly used in eye-skincare products, too). Enjoy bilberries – popular for promoting bright, healthy eyes and reducing puffiness. Drink plenty of water or herbal teas.
Foods to avoid: Cut back on carbohydrates and follow a low-GI diet to reduce fluid retention. Reduce salt intake, as salt encourages fluid retention. Don’t add salt during cooking or at the table – use herbs and black pepper for flavour instead – and avoid obviously salty foods. When salt is necessary, use potassium-enriched versions or sea salt sparingly.
Use an under-eye cream designed to hydrate and tone the area, and apply sparingly. Get plenty of sleep, and ensure fresh air circulates at night by opening a window slightly (fit security locks if necessary). Reduce puffiness by sitting back, with your eyes closed, and holding a chilled spoon, chilled tea bags or thin slices of cucumber, sweet potato or strawberry over the eye area. Use a small amount of macadamia nut oil as a make-up remover, to cleanse the skin and gently melt away even the most stubborn mascara. As an additional benefit, it acts like a serum to sink in and nourish delicate skin around the eyes. See your doctor to have your blood pressure and, if necessary, kidney function checked, if puffiness lasts throughout the day.
Extracted from Eat Well Look Great by Dr Sarah Brewer (Eddison Books).
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