Autophagy: What sugar does to your skin


When I was a little girl I suffered excruciating eczema that tortured my spirit as much as my body. I would have done anything to fix it so I wasn’t humiliated by how badly it made me feel (and look).

What I learned from that experience is that our looks matter. For one, how you look is indicative of what’s going on with your physical health deep below the surface of your skin. Additionally how we look as women especially takes its toll on how we see ourselves, which has an impact on our mental health and how our life unfolds. Our self-esteem, sense of place in the world, if we feel we are lovable and in many circumstances, the to which we feel worthy are all influenced by whether we like how our skin looks and feels. It’s astounding that something so simple can have such profound meaning. So yes, the story of your skin is not just skin-deep but rich with a magnificent story that reveals your life’s unique history.

Your childhood sets the tone for what eventually becomes your skin’s history. Things like your mothers pregnancy, your birth story (vaginal or C-section delivery) if you were formula or breastfed, the quality of your diet as a child, if you played outside, how sick you were and what types or frequencies of medications (especially antibiotics) you were given along with any stress in your childhood all play a role in the story of your adult skin. By the time you turn thirty-five, your skin’s aging process is compounded by outside forces like processed foods, poor quality sleep, technology overload, environmental pollutants, sun exposure, anxiety, and more. The constant destruction is what accelerates aging at both a cellular level and also at an observable one—most obviously, your skin.

Genetics Load The Gun. Lifestyle Pulls The Trigger.

If you weren’t a vaginal delivery, fed breast milk and raised on an organic biodynamic farm as a child please don’t fret! I know you’re thinking: “Am I destined for accelerated aging or will I always have troubled skin?” The answer simply is: no. While your history and genetics load the gun, your lifestyle pulls the trigger on how aged or radiant your skin appears. Encouraging research shows that about 70 percent of longevity is related to lifestyle. Therefore, how you age and how your skin looks is controllable. You can do something about it! That’s the same message I heard years ago when I took the right steps to heal my body from the inside, out. Doing so gave me the genuine pleasure of being comfortable in my own skin. The choices I make day in and day out as an adult are all intentional – they help me fight something called “skinflammation.”

“Skinflammation:” it’s a real thing.

As Dr. Trevor Cates, a leading expert in naturopathic medicine explains, “We all know when something is inflamed on the outside, but the problem really starts inside the body. Internal inflammation can happen for a host of reasons such as from poor dietary habits, environmental toxin exposures, immune system overactivity (allergies, autoimmune disease), digestive problems and even hormone imbalances.
A high level of inflammation within the body can cause many health problems including “skinflammation.”

The # 1 culprit afflicting your “skinflammation” is sugar. Again, something so simple that has a profound impact on so much. While sugar seems innocuous it is quite powerful. Not only does it affect your mood, energy, cognition, appetite, heart health and your waistline, but it could also quite possibly be the reason behind any of the skin issues you have ever had!

Your Skin On Sugar: Glycation

It’s hard to connect the sugar we eat with the wrinkles, rashes, and breakouts on our skin since we can’t see the fallout happen. The process occurring behind the scenes is called glycation. Glycation ages our skin and leads to other systemic issues in the body such as diabetes and heart disease.

When you eat a carbohydrate, any carbohydrate, your body breaks it down into smaller sugars such as glucose, galactose or fructose for fuel. When the body detects sugar in the blood it messages the pancreas to release the hormone insulin. Insulin has many functions and while it’s currently getting a bad rap in the nutrition and wellness arena, it’s actually not a “bad” hormone. What makes insulin frightening is when you over consume carbohydrates or have a hereditary predisposition towards inefficiently using insulin that it then becomes a threat to your health. Too much insulin in circulation causes a negative reaction with proteins, which produce AGEs (advanced glycation endproducts) through the glycation process. As the acronym infers, these AGEs age us. And, our skin tells that story.

AGEs particularly impact proteins like collagen (responsible for your skin’s firmness) and elastin (allows your skin to bounce back after being stretched). The more AGEs circulating, the less plump, buoyant and “youthful” your skin appears. Research shows that as we age, the amount of AGEs we have increases, giving way to the “sagging and bagging” we wish against as we blow out our birthday candles.

The process of glycation also provokes cortisol levels (stress hormones) and increases inflammation – both of which trigger their own respective hormonal pathways that get in the way of your glow.

The common denominator among glycation, cortisol, and inflammation though comes down to blood sugar. The higher your blood sugar, the more glycation, cortisol, and inflammation persist. If you want to improve and protect your skin, start with balancing your blood sugars.

Other Ways To Protect Skin Against Glycation

  • Practice smart exercise: too much cardio can actually increase the amount of AGEs in circulation. Focus on HIIT (high-intensity interval training) and resistance training. As we age we lose muscle mass. Lifting weights can help counter the increase in blood sugar (and glycation) that’s typical as we age and lose lean body.
  • Cut back on refined carbs: It’s not just sugar and traditional sweets that increase blood sugar levels but processed grains such as pasta, bread, white rice, crackers (even gluten-free) and starches such as white potatoes and chips.
  • Manage stress, anger, and sadness: All of these raise cortisol levels, provoke inflammation and increase glycation.
  • Increase polyphenol intake: Including EGCG from green tea, dark chocolate or even a little red wine all increase your antioxidant intake, protecting your cells from glycation. One of my favorite ways to sneak more polyphenols in my diet is to add herbs and spices to all of my meals.
  • Grill better: Grilling at high temperatures increases AGEs. Here is one of my favorite recipes that will get you grilling safely in no time!

In my new book, Glow15, available spring 2018, I explore the various ways you can maintain blood sugar levels, decrease your sugar cravings, prevent accelerated aging and increase your beauty from the inside, out. This book is a testament to my skin story and how I blossomed from broken to beautiful skin with just a few simple switches in my lifestyle.

If you are ready for a full body and mind transformation and you need inspiration and guidance how to get started, you’ll find so many fun ways you can refresh yourself in my fifteen-day program. It’s time for you to put yourself back on your to-do list and get that healthy glowing skin you want and deserve!

Learn more about autophagy and step-by-step guidelines in my book Glow15

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