It is so important to take care of your skin, it is your largest organ, after all. Winter time can be an especially trying time on your skin...the lower humidity and the colder temperatures can wreak havoc even on the healthiest of skin. When you add a chronic condition, like diabetes, into the mix, it is even more essential to baby your skin. Diabetic skin can be more prone to wounds and poor healing due to poorer circulation from elevated blood sugars. There can also be risk of infection of the skin for the same reason. Below, I have listed 10 tips, tricks and tools to help keep skin its healthiest this winter and all year through.
Importance of Nutrition and Skin Care
Keeping skin its healthiest begins from the inside---what you put into your body. Nutrition has a big effect on skin as it does on every other organ in the body.
Test blood sugar often and keep it within normal limits. Eating a diet with healthy carbohydrates, such as fruits, whole grains and low fat dairy can help maintain normal blood sugars which can help with better circulation and wound healing.
Maintain a healthy blood pressure. Having high blood pressure can be common in individuals with diabetes, and high blood pressure can also have a negative effect on skin. Eating a diet lower in sodium can help maintain healthy blood pressure levels. Try to steer clear of higher processed foods like canned soups and vegetables, frozen pre-packaged meals, bottled dressings. These can all be sources of sodium. A diet rich in fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables, healthy whole grains, low fat dairy, healthy fats and lean protein are better and less processed sources. If you need to purchase canned products like vegetables or beans, try rinsing them before using them in your recipes.
Drink plenty of water. Our bodies are made up of 70% water so it is really important to get plenty of this fluid daily to prevent getting dehydrated. In the winter when air is much drier, it is easier to get dehydrated. Drinking half of your body weight in water is recommended unless you have a medical condition where you shouldn't. For example, a 130# woman should drink about 64oz of water per day, or 8 cups. Make sure to check with your physician before increasing your water intake to make sure it is safe for you to do so. Drinking the recommended water daily also flushes out excess sugar and sodium, therefore, helping to maintain normal levels of each.
Eat a nutrient rich diet. A diet rich in a variety of nutrients (listed below) can provide healing properties, reduce inflammation, and help maintain lower blood sugar levels.
Vitamin A: Vitamin A is a fat soluble essential vitamin, meaning that our bodies cannot produce it and we need to get it from our diet. It also needs some fat to help with absorption. Vitamin A has important immune properties which is important to maintain skin as well as other organs. Some foods rich in Vitamin A include: kale, chard, spinach, sweet potatoes, carrots, squash, mangoes, egg yolks and milk.
Biotin: Biotin is an essential water soluble B vitamin that is also helps to support the health of skin and nails. Most Biotin is found attached to protein sources such as salmon, eggs, hamburger, tuna, cheddar cheese and milk. Some biotin rich plant protein sources include almonds and sunflower seeds. Sweet potatoes and broccoli are also good sources of Biotin.
Vitamin C: Vitamin C is an essential vitamin and aids in immunity and, therefore, helps with wound healing and skin integrity. Foods rich in Vitamin C: Kale, broccoli, cantaloupe, papaya, red, green or yellow peppers, strawberries and tomatoes.
Vitamin E: Vitamin E is also a fat soluble essential vitamin that has anti-inflammatory properties that can aid in existing skin issues and with immune enhancement. Vitamin E rich foods include but are not limited to: sunflower seeds, almonds, hazelnuts, peanut butter, dry roasted peanuts, walnuts, salmon, avocado and rainbow trout.
Healthy fats: Mono-unsaturated fats like avocado, peanuts, cashews, pistachios, olives, olive oil; poly-unsaturated fats such as salmon, olives, olive oil, flax seeds, eggs and omega-3 fatty acids like: sardines, salmon, canned light tuna, flax seeds all help to promote healing and ward off winter dryness.
Protein rich foods: Whether you enjoy a diet with meat, fish, poultry, vegetarian or vegan fare, protein is important for the integrity of your skin. It helps to build, maintain and repair our cells so we can heal wounds and protect our biggest organ. Some good choices of meat/poultry/fish recommended are: salmon, tuna, sardines, skinless chicken breasts or thighs, eggs, low fat dairy, and lean cuts of beef. Some plant based protein food recommendations include: nuts, seeds, tofu, non-dairy milks, nut butters, and beans.
Tips and Products For Healthy Winter Skin
Avoid very hot water. Not only is it drying to the skin, but those with diabetic neuropathy which causes numbness and tingling to the extremities can burn themselves and not even know it. Try bathing or showering in luke warm water instead.
Keep exposed areas of skin well moisturized(see moisturizer recommendations below), but keep the warm, dark, moist areas as dry as possible. If areas such as under the arms, between the toes, between the legs and under the breast area are moist, they can be more prone to yeast and fungal infections.
Moisturizers are important for exposed areas like the legs, arms, back and belly. A couple of brands I have tried or recommended to clients are Eucerin fragrance free creams or lotions as well as Aveeno fragrance free. CeraVe is another lotion I find does a good job. I tend to enjoy a fragrance in my lotions but find that they can be quite irritating from the perfumes, especially in the winter. If you find your skin becomes more irritated with perfumes in your lotion, I recommend trying a fragrance free version. There are also lotions and moisturizers out there branded specifically for diabetes but aren't really necessary unless recommended by your doctor.
I highly recommend using a humidifier in your home if you don't already have one for the winter months. If you are living in a dry, cold climate, skin can be effected by the dryness in your home from the heat. A room humidifier will work wonders on dry, itchy skin and possibly prevent scratching issues and wounds/infections.
Wear gloves, mittens and hat when outside in the cold. This will prevent skin from being exposed to cold temperatures and drying out further. If you have neuropathy and can't feel the cold it can also help prevent frostbite.
Use lip balm. Your lips can be vulnerable as well in the winter so it is important to protect them. Keeping a lip balm with some sun screen in it can prevent chapping, sun burn and possible infections.
I hope these tips help to give you some ideas on how to keep your skin its healthiest this season. Just a quick note: I am not being sponsored by any products mentioned in this post, all the opinions are my own. My research comes from resources listed below.
To Your Health,