“You’re giving me gray hair!” a cry that I’m sure I was not the only one who heard this from their mother when their difficult behavior caused her stress. True or not, it all sounded a little like a folk tale, until now. New studies from the laboratory of Dr. Robert Lefkowitz at Duke University show that chronically elevated levels of the stress hormone adrenaline damage the DNA in specific ways that could lead to a spectrum of conditions from gray hair to tumor formation.
The damage was shown to break down p53 protein, the protein that protects the genome against cancer by helping potential cancer cells either repair their cancerous nature, or self-destruct.
In this report in the August 21 issue of the journal Nature, they also showed more detail of the pathway by which adrenaline cause this damage. This included the role of a molecule called beta–arrestin-1 in the process of causing the damage.Two major conferences were held at the New York Academy of Science in the late 1960’s on the effects of psychological factors in causing cancer. An impression of this effect was present for a long time, and supported by numerous studies.
This recent paper by Lefkowitz brings a new level of proof and understanding to the relationship between chronic, excessive stress and the onset of gray hair and cancer. While other factors certainly contribute to onset of these conditions, we can now pinpoint one factor over which we may have some control.
Exercise, meditation, breathing exercises and other stress-management techniques may contribute to longer, healthier, and less gray lives.
While I generally deal with holistic dermatology, I have lots of experience with integrative medicine as it relates to the immune system. During cold and flu season, I tend to avoid flu vaccine. So, over many years of working long hours in my practice, I have perfected my method for cold and flu prevention and care.
The moment I become aware of a lowered resistence–a sneeze, a tired feeling, an ache in my head or neck–is the moment a cold or flu can be prevented with a regimen of natural remedies. If I wait a bit and don’t catch the symptoms until several hours or a day after that moment, I may not be able to prevent the illness, but I can lessen its severity and duration.
Steps to take at the pivotal moment:
stop whatever you’re doing. Take a nap if possible. If not, rest your eyes for a few minutes.
take a very hot bath, and when you emerge from the tub, bundle yourself up, climb into bed, and let the body “sweat out the cold.” (Be sure not to do this alone, as hot water can increase chance of fainting)
take healthy, regular doses of vitamins A, C, and E
take some echinacea or oregon graperoot
drink hot tea and keep the body full of fluids
Several hours of focused self-care at the right moment can prevent several days of illness, discomfort, and lost work–and it can keep you from spreading a cold or flu to loved ones.
In my holistic dermatology practice, I often help patients whose skin suffers in winter. It is possible to both help your skin and save money doing it. I emphasize this because it requires doing something very simple and at the same time very challenging: changing your habits.
Even more, it requires changing the beliefs behind those habits, so I will try to give some additional information beyond what was in my last blog, to help you make these changes.
If you have ever done dishes or wet work, with your hands in and out of water repeatedly for a while, you know how your skin becomes dry and chapped. This is because you are washing away the oils and the salts which hold water in our skin. In the winter when the air is dry (low humidity), bathing washes out the oils from the skin. The belief that we need a shower, especially a long, hot one, to be clean, to wake up, or to feel alive in the morning, needs a second look if your skin becomes dry and scaly in winter. A washcloth under the arm and in the folds does a very nice job between showers, and does not dry out parts of your skin which do not need washing.
The result is that you:
save hot water,
save on lotion
save oils in your skin,
save money on heat,
save fresh water,
Once you have the routine down, you will save time as well.Of course there will be times and situations where you need a shower or bath. Bathing less often, faster, and soaping less areas which do not need heavy cleansing, will keep the moisture in your skin and save you money as well. I repeat the essence of my last message because I have found,
in my 30 yeasr of practice, that people often have to hear it more than once in order to reduce their bathing. Did you?
I’ve discussed measures for preventing sun damage and skin cancer previously in my blog. As I’ve said, as a holistic dermatologist, I believe prevention really is the best medicine.
So now let’s discuss exactly what happens when sun hits the skin. Packets of light energy known as “photons” hit chemical structures in your cells and activate them so that they transform chemically, often causing them to combine with chemicals next to them.
This includes causing chemical changes in the cells’ DNA, which can eventually change cells into to skin cancer.
When you apply a sunscreen, the energy from the sun is absorbed by that sunscreen chemical, changed, and then released as a hopefully less harmful energy. Sometimes it comes out as a different wavelength of light.
If the effects of that energy can be safely spread around and absorbed by the skin chemicals, there is little harm done.
LINES OF DEFENSE
Now think of it like a football game. The football represents the packet of light energy from the sun. When the team hikes the ball, the opposing team attacks, the front line acts as a barrier, and the football is passed back and forth by the team in the rear to keep it from being attacked.
The more the team behind the line passes it back and forth, the less likely a player with it will be attacked. We have a number of antioxidants in our skin both naturally present and from our diets and what we apply. If they are sufficient, balanced, and work well together like good linebackers, none of the team members will be attacked.
Antioxidants will help protect us to a degree, and work together with other forms of protection including sunscreens. One such external anti-oxidant is resveratrol, made from grape seeds and other plants. It can be ingested or applied to the skin or both, and there is evidence that it reduces sunburn cells and other measurements of sun damage in both mice and men.
There is even a patent for the use of resveratrol as a sun protectant, although one could argue that such use is apparent rather than unapparent, as required for being patentable in the first place.
Other anti-oxidants include vitamin C, Lipoic acid, glutathione, other biovflavinoids, carotinoids, and selenium. It is worthwhile to include these in your diet.
To your health,
-Dr. Alan M. Dattner, MD
As always, the content of this blog is for information and education purposes only, and should not be used to diagnose or treat illness; please see your physician for care.
Having an acne outbreak? Bacne bugging you? As a holistic dermatologist, I always
advocate for the simplest, natural solutions to a skin problem.
While acne can have many causes, which should be addressed systematically, here is a great natural solution for relief of pimple pain, redness, and soreness:
Put some hot water in a bowl
Add enough salt so the water is about as salty as tears
Soak the pimple with a clean washcloth for about five minutes, refreshing the cloth with water every so often
Repeat two to three times per day
The hot water draws the acne to the surface, opens the pores, dries the skin out, and keeps the pimple free of possible infection. Remember not to prod or poke the pimple, as this can aggravate is and introduce germs. Also, make it a habit to take note of anything different you did preceding your outbreak; did you
alter your diet? the kind of soap you use? etc. As always, the natural approach is to examine the root cause of a disorder that arises.
What is Holistic Dermatology or Integrative Dermatology?
I have been incorporating principles of holistic practices into Dermatology for the past three decades.
INTEGRATIVE MEDICINE FOR THE SKIN
A variety of names have been given to this approach, including functional medicine, because it addresses the function of the underlying organs involved; complementary medicine, because it often includes methods which add to or compliment conventional medical techniques; alternative medicine, because it’s an alternative to some of the currently employed conventional techniques, and finally, integrative medicine, because when done well, it integrates the best aspects of conventional medicine with techniques which lie outside of those routinely practiced by MD physicians.
I have also called it Nutritional Dermatology, because much of my work involves dietary elimination, additions, and nutritional supplements. However it is called, I blend conventional and alternative techniques, I address other systems, besides the skin, and I evaluate the whole person.
As a board-certified dermatologist, I begin by seeking and making a conventional dermatologic and medical diagnosis. I then go on to find out, for the individual involved, what exactly was specific to their situation that caused them to develop the illness.
Most important in this quest is a carefully recalled story history from the patient about the events that preceded the onset of the illness. Knowing how hard this is to do on the spot, I recommend that anyone seeking good holistic care with me, or anyone else, should sit down with a calendar and try to identify when their problem began and what infections, exposures, stresses, new medications, vaccinations, or other foreign materials entering the body could have preceded the event in a matter of days, weeks, or months before the onset.
Parents frequently tell their children, “Chew your food! You don’t have teeth in your stomach!” In fact, we have lots of enzymes in the body that break food down like very tiny teeth. But enzymes can’t break down big particles of food.
One of the main underlying diseases in my holistic dermatology practice is allergy. Food allergy, in particular, is aggravated and sometimes caused by improper digestion. To keep digestion at its best, follow these top five tips that will help your complexion as well as your digestion:
When you eat, you are literally re-creating your body with each bite you consume, incorporating new molecules into your being. Eat your meals sitting at a dining table (not while reading, watching TV, or driving) Chew your food completely, enjoying each bite with each of your senses.
Boost your digestion by taking “bitters” before you eat, ginger tea, or enzymes after you eat.
Avoid liquids one half hour before and one hour after meals, sipping water sparingly if you’re thirsty. This is because liquids kill the “fire of digestion” in the stomach, diluting enzymes that break food into usable components.
Your mood matters almost as much as your food. Find a way to eat in a peaceful mood, avoiding eating when angry, sad, or fearful.
After a brief rest, take a walk after your meal. This helps the body keep the metabolism up.
We have an opportunity, to champion the health of the skin of the planet on which we live. The health of that layer affects all life on Earth, and subsequently the health of humans.
Many parallels can be drawn between the health of our environmental “skin” and the skin of the individual. By drawing on these parallels, we can make it easier to have a clear overview of environmental issues that affect the health of the human body and the skin in particular.
For example, we can look at how a “chemical burn” to the Ozone layer of the earth results in more danger of a sunburn to various layers of the skin. Exploring the causes of the “chemical burn” and the different ways to prevent it, educating ourselves and the public, and engaging everyone in finding a win-win solution to the problem makes this into an exciting game.
The goal is to improve health and well-being by improving conditions in the surface of the earth in which we live.
If you’re looking for a way to balance out some of the negative effects of environmental toxins, a good way is to start eating more vegetables in the broccoli family. This includes cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens, kale, arugula, and brussels sprouts among others.
Recent studies have demonstrated that broccoli’s chemical composition could help reduce the risk of cancer and, I believe, acne as well, because of the neutralizing effect these chemicals have on acne-triggering estrogen.
Broccoli is rich in vitamin C, carotenoids (vitamin A-like substances), fiber, calcium, and folate as well as phytochemicals that may have anti-cancer properties.
For example, broccoli contains several compounds called isothiocyanates, including sulforaphane and indole-3-carbinol (I3C), which are being explored for possible anti-cancer agents. Some studies have also suggested they
may alter body estrogen levels, which might affect breast cancer risk. Some studies have shown these substances may act as antioxidants and may boost the body’s detoxifying enzymes.
Another chemical in broccoli called indole-3-carbinol (I3C), seems to alter estrogen levels and may also raise levels of protective enzymes in the body. Lab studies have shown it may slow or stop the growth of breast, prostate, and other cancer cell lines.
Some early studies in animals have shown similar results. Small studies in humans have found it may prevent the development of precancerous growths in the cervix, as well as growths (papillomas) in the throat. While more, larger studies need to be done to confirm and expand our knowledge of the benefits, I recommend that people eat more broccoli and foods in the brassicaceae family for good health.