Archive for the ‘Skin and Hair’ Category

Case Study: Psoriasis

Wednesday, July 1st, 2009

This month’s case study is 40 year old Stephanie who came to the Clinic with Psoriasis


I had suddenly started developing red scaly patches over my elbows, trunk and scalp. It looked unsightly and I found it embarrassing wearing anything that exposed the affected areas. I went to my GP who diagnosed psoriasis. I actually thought it was eczema so was surprised when my GP said it was psoriasis, which I didn’t know much about. He explained that it was a non-contagious auto-immune condition, which meant my immune system was ‘attacking’ my skin cells causing the rate of cell renewal to speed up. So it manifests as a hard scaly condition where the cells are ‘stacked’ up on one another. He said it can sometimes even develop in the joints causing inflammation and pain. He prescribed me some topical creams and also an anti-inflammatory drug (called Methotrexate) to suppress my immune system and control the symptoms. I was someone who never took a painkiller for a headache, so this was quite a shock for me and I was not happy about using drugs as a treatment. However, I was desperate to get this under control so I took the prescribed course of treatment.

I spent time researching psoriasis on the internet and came across lots of useful information and I spoke to some of my colleagues at work. A friend had asked me whether I had looked into my diet because she herself had found it beneficial for her eczema. She had in fact been to see a nutritionist at a clinic in London which she recommended to me. I phoned the Dr Marilyn Glenville Clinic straight away and I chatted to a very helpful nutritionist who reassured me that psoriasis was a condition they had experience in treating. She transferred me to a receptionist who booked my first appointment. This was arranged for two weeks so I didn’t have long too wait. In the meantime I was asked to complete a detailed health questionnaire that would help the nutritionist assess me and put together a tailored diet and supplement programme. I also had to write a food diary, which really made me think about what I was eating. I thought my diet was OK on the whole, but was conscious I was drinking too much coffee and possibly not enough fresh fruit and vegetables.


The nutritionist recommended that I perform a mineral deficiency test (via a hair sample) before my first meeting. This would give her more information about my nutritional status as certain minerals, like zinc, play an important role in skin health and the immune system.


At my appointment the nutritionist really went into a lot of detail about what psoriasis was, how it starts and the treatments available. She explained that it is ‘multi factorial’ (which means there are several factors that influence the condition, including our immune system, food allergies/sensitivities and poor liver function). She went on to explain that ‘healthy’ skin cells take approximately 28 days to develop, but with psoriasis this process only takes 8 days – so the cells build up on top of one another creating a very hard, scaly effect. The reason that drugs like Methotrexate work is because it interferes with the growth of skin cells by altering the body’s use of folic acid, which is an essential vitamin for the development of our cells.  


The nutritional approach is to support the immune system and liver and calm inflammation in the body by modifying the diet and taking specific supplements. She did pick up on my diet containing a lot of caffeine and lacking fruit and vegetables. She explained how caffeine can interfere with the healthy function of the liver and increase the rate at which I excrete minerals out of my body in my urine. She recommended I eat more dark green vegetables which contain vitamins and minerals to support liver function and detoxification. She also recommended I eat a lot more fruit and vegetables that are red, orange and purple because these contain a compound called beta carotene, which is converted into Vitamin A (with sufficient zinc). Vitamin A is one of the nutrients that regulates and normalises skin cell turnover.  


The nutritionist also recommended that I get my Vitamin D levels measured because of the increasing amount of research linking low levels of Vitamin D and auto-immune disorders. She explained that there was a rising incidence of vitamin D deficiency, partly because of less sun exposure, but also because we are using skin products with SPF which naturally blocks our ability to process Vitamin D from sunlight.


The nutritionist went through my hair mineral analysis results which showed that I was low in zinc. She said this was not surprising as zinc is crucial for the normal functioning of the immune system and cell division. She recommended lots of zinc-rich foods I could incorporate into my diet and said that zinc is one of the minerals that can be excreted out of our body as a result of too much caffeine.


She put together a supplement programme I could take in conjunction with the Methotrexate, with the hope that after 3-6 months I would be on a reduced dose. She gave me a general multi vitamin and mineral together with high strength fish oil to calm the inflammation, an antioxidant containing Vitamin A, milk thistle for my liver and additional zinc. She recommended that I leave them out on the day of taking the Methotrexate.


At the next consultation, which was 6 weeks on, I brought back my completed diet diaries – which I must say had been very motivating and really helped me to keep on track. My skin was improving, which was such an incentive to continue – I still had the same patches on my body but the redness and hard scales had definitely reduced. I had stopped using the topical cream and had already cut my dose of Methotrexate, which was amazing.  


The results of my Vitamin D test were back and it showed I had incredibly low levels – almost off the bottom of the scale – so the nutritionist added an extra supplement. It was in liquid form, taken under the tongue every morning.


Another 6 weeks on and I barely recognised myself! The patches of psoriasis had almost disappeared – in fact it had gone altogether from my scalp. I had so much more confidence in my appearance and I no longer felt like I had to cover myself up. I also had more energy, which I had never really thought about as being a problem, but following this new improved way of eating made me realise that I hadn’t been functioning on all four cylinders for a long time.


I was really enjoying my new diet and not missing the coffee at all – although I was allowed 3 cups a week as a treat. I was actually craving broccoli if I went more than a day without it, which I never thought would be possible! Thank you to the nutritionist and all the team at The Dr Marilyn Glenville Clinic for helping me to get my health back without having to take drugs the rest of my life.


Marilyn’s Comment


This is such an inspiring case and another example of how powerful nutrition is. As we saw Stephanie was naturally very distressed suffering with psoriasis and, although she initially wanted to deal with the symptoms as quickly as possible, she knew the drugs would only be suppressing her condition and not dealing with the cause.   


Stephanie has been able to manage her skin condition through eating a better diet and taking supplements and the improvement was significant in a short space of time. Six months on and she still remains largely symptom free and when she does have a flare up she knows why. She has managed to come off the Methotrexate, but she did this with the guidance of her GP who was supportive and encouraging of her that she had managed to help herself naturally.


If you would like to find out more about our clinics and the tests mentioned, then please see the Resources Page.

Ask Marilyn – Star Question: I am concerned about the red spots that have been appearing all over my body. What are they and can I cure them?

Wednesday, July 1st, 2009

Q: I have re-subscribed to your magazine and have just received my copy, which I have found very, very interesting as usual. When I came to your Ask Marilyn section I thought that I’d contact you to see if you could answer this question, which has been concerning me for a while.

I am 63 and have been getting many, many moles appearing on my skin, but I am most concerned about the many red spots that are also appearing all over my body. Some are not very big, just like pin head size, and others are about a quarter of an inch wide; some are flat to the skin, but most are slightly raised and hard. All of them are bright red. I have been monitoring them and they do not go away. I am most conscious about the ones on my neck and chest, although I can disguise these a little with make up. Is there anything that I can do to get rid of them? My diet is very good and I always buy organic foods where possible and only use natural soaps and body lotions that do not contain any nasties, and I drink mainly green tea. 


Obviously the moles are an age related problem, but what are these hard red spots and can I cure them?



A: With any moles or unusual spots appearing on the skin it is always important to have them seen by your doctor who may refer you to a dermatologist for a check up.


It is likely, however, that the red spots are something called cherry angiomas, which are broken blood capillaries that are visible on the skin. They are more common as we get older because the skin isn’t as strong because it has lost collagen and the capillaries can become more fragile. These cherry angiomas can bleed if injured because the blood vessels are so close to the surface.


Medically there is no known cause for cherry angiomas and no real research into the problem because they are usually harmless. They can be treated by using Intense Pulsed Light or lasers. 


Nutritionally my approach would be to work on strengthening the capillaries and improving the manufacture of collagen. There’s a class of antioxidants (called flavonoids, of which more than 4,000 have been characterized) and two of them are especially important for you. These are the bioflavonoids and the proanthocyanidins.


The bioflavonoids are closely associated with vitamin C and are found in citrus fruits.  They are excellent at strengthening capillaries and also help to preserve collagen, which can so easily be damaged by free radicals. Proanthocyanidins are the flavonoids which give the deep colour to many berries such as blackberries, blueberries, raspberries etc.  They are excellent ‘free radical scavengers’ so, like bioflavonoids, they help to slow down the ageing process and also help to preserve the integrity of capillaries. They also strengthen the collagen matrix and stop the destruction of collagen, which is not only important for our skin but also for our bone health and the prevention of osteoporosis. 


So make sure you eat a good amount of fruits, especially berries, and take a supplement of vitamin C containing bioflavonoids (500mg twice a day). You can also get the proanthocyanidins as freeze dried berries in a concentrated form (see the Resources Page). But do make sure you see your doctor to get the all clear on both the moles and the cherry angiomas.

Feeding your face: How food can make you look younger or older

Friday, May 1st, 2009

What woman doesn’t want clearer, more youthful skin? Many of us spend more than we’d like on creams, toners, moisturisers and anti-wrinkle products, but the best kept beauty secret to make your skin look younger and smoother is hidden in your refrigerator or kitchen cupboard.


Looking younger and holding back wrinkles is simple if you make sure you eat the right nutrients required for your skin. As an added bonus nutrients that are nourishing to your skin are also nourishing for your body and mind – so you’ll not only look great, you’ll feel great too.


The following ‘look younger’ foods are not expensive and you can get them from all food stores.


Look younger foods:



These tasty, crispy nuts are a fine source of skin-saving essential fatty acids and the antioxidants selenium and vitamin E, and research has shown that all of these are essential for smooth, healthy and supple skin.

Before consuming almonds as a between meal snack, or sprinkled on cereal or yogurt, do check on the portion sizes. Almonds weigh in at 160 calories per one single ounce (i.e. a small handful), so you don’t need to eat large amounts every day to get the skin saving benefits. I also think they taste even better if you soak them in water for about 15 minutes or so before you eat them – you can absorb more nutrients when they have been soaked.



Mackerel is a great source of vitamin A, which is needed for cell regeneration, and it is an excellent source of omega 3 fatty acids as well. According to a study recently published in the Journal of Lipid Research, omega 3 fatty acids help prevent wrinkles, delay the ageing process of the sun, keep skin supple and prevent inflammation of the tissues, which damages skin cells. Despite all these benefits most of us don’t have enough oily fish, like mackerel, in our diet. Eat at least two 140 g portions of oily fish a week. If you are pregnant, trying to conceive or breastfeeding eat no more than two portions as oily fish can contain levels of pollutants that can collect in the body. If you can’t stomach fish then take the fish oil in capsule form (see Omega 3 on the Resources Page). If you are vegetarian then use 1000 mg of flax or linseed oil a day as this will give you similar omega 3 fatty acid benefits. I have included a lovely recipe for Mackerel Pate in this issue of Natural News (see page 46).


Citrus fruits

A good source of collagen – which is the substance that helps make your skin look young and smooth – citrus fruits can certainly help hold back the years. Try to eat one citrus fruit a day and don’t just stick with oranges and lemons, experiment with different varieties of citrus fruits. There are plenty of them: clementines, limes, grape fruits, mandarins, tangerines, kumquats and satsumas are all nutrient packed tasty alternatives.



Recent research showed that people who ate 55g of standard tomato puree a day for three months had 33 per cent more protection from sunburn (the equivalent of a very low factor sun cream) and much higher levels of procollagen, a molecule that gives the skin its structure and keeps it firm. For maximum anti-ageing benefits it seems that cooked tomatoes have more lycopene – another crucial component that protects the skin – than uncooked ones, so grill tomatoes for breakfast or supper, make some tomato soup for lunch and add extra tomato puree to pasta and pizzas.



A rich source of collagen-boosting vitamin C, blueberries also contain an antioxidant pigment (which gives them their purple colour) called anthrocyanin. Antioxidants can help fight the free radical damage (caused by smoking, pollution and sunlight) that can cause wrinkles. Try to eat at least 100g of blueberries a day, either on their own or blended into yogurts and smoothies or as toppings for cereal or dessert. If you can’t get fresh blueberries then frozen ones are fine and will still retain their antioxidant nutrients.


Wheat germ

Rich in zinc, vitamin E and selenium – three of the most powerful nutrients that can fight against ageing – wheat germ is an anti-ageing essential. Zinc, which is also found in wheat and whole grains, helps maintain the proper functioning of the oil-producing glands in the skin that can help to keep it looking young and supple. Vitamin E promotes skin healing, helping to protect cell membranes and guard against sun damage. And selenium is a powerful anti-ageing antioxidant. Try sprinkling wheat germ over cereals, salads, vegetables, soups and yogurts every day or add it to homemade cakes and breads.


Green tea

Researchers from the Medical College of Georgia in America have found that green tea contains compounds called polyphenols that can help eliminate the free radicals that speed up the ageing and wrinkling process. The polyphenol which is most active in green tea is called EGCG and it can help enhance skin regeneration and produce a younger looking, fresher complexion. For maximum benefits aim for one or two cups of green tea a day.



Containing a myriad of nutrients and vitamins, avocados help to moisturise, exfoliate and enrich the skin. They are particularly rich in the essential anti-ageing antioxidant vitamin E, which helps protect the skin from free radical damage. Vitamin E is also considered by professional beauty therapists to be an essential ingredient in treatments that help reduce the appearance of ageing.


Other skin savers include vitamin-A-rich sweet potatoes and circulation-boosting garlic but perhaps the best nutrient of them all – and one that is often forgotten – is water. Be sure to drink at least 6 to 8 glasses of water every day to flush out toxins and keep your skin looking healthy and fresh. Eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly is also essential, as is avoiding foods that can make your skin look dry, peeled and older. Here are the major culprits to avoid:


Look older foods:



Skin care experts agree that a diet high in sugar makes you age faster by a process called glycation. Glycation is the uncontrolled reaction of sugars with proteins, which happens when glucose and insulin levels are allowed to get out of control. It’s a bit like the browning effect on foods when you bake them. If glycation is allowed to happen, it will create a damaged, ‘encrusted’ structure in different parts of the body. This browning effect results in the formation of highly toxic chemicals called Advance Glycosylation End products (AGEs). These AGEs damage the protein in cells, preventing them from functioning normally. They also cause membranes and blood vessels to thicken and can harden arteries. Over time, blood vessels will lose their elasticity and skin can become wrinkled – all signs of ageing. Basically ageing is the accumulation of damaged cells, so the more we can do to lessen the damage to our cells, the slower the ageing process will be and the healthier we will become. 

To keep your sugar intake to a minimum cut down on sweets, cakes, biscuits, chocolate and sugar-coated cereals and snack bars. Start to read food labels – look for the figure corresponding to carbohydrates as that is where the sugar can be found. More than 15g of sugar per 100g is too high, 5g or less per 100g is low and anything in the middle is medium. You should also swap soft drinks, which are typically high in sugar, with fruit juices diluted with filtered water and spread your toast with peanut butter or jam made with pure fruit and no added sugar.


Processed meat

High in salt, processed and cured meats (such as sausages, burgers, packaged and sliced meat) can make your skin age fast. This is because the high salt content dehydrates cells, which reduces the skin’s elasticity and increases puffiness. It can also aggravate dry skin. Not to mention the fact that processed meats are very high in saturated fat, which can slow down skin cell regeneration and inhibit the delivery of oxygen to your cells, making your skin look dull and tired. Try to replace processed and cured meats with fresh fish, oily fish, legumes and soya.


White rice

A diet rich in foods high on the glycaemic index (GI) – such as white rice and refined breads – can cause high levels of insulin, which in turn can trigger an inflammatory response that can damage skin cells. Researchers believe that this process could well be a major cause of premature wrinkles. Aim to switch from high GI foods to lower GI alternatives, which don’t cause such wild blood sugar swings. For example, swap white bread for wholegrain bread, white rice for brown rice and eat more fresh fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds and avoid processed foods and crisps.


Pies and pastries

Baked foods (such as biscuits, cakes, pastries, pies and white bread) can be made from partially hydrogenated vegetable oils that are likely to contain trans fats. Study after study has shown that not only can trans fats increase the risk of heart attacks and cancer, they can also interfere with the body’s ability to build long chain fatty acids – the type known to help keep your skin looking smooth and supple. The best way to avoid trans fats is to avoid fast food, baked goods such as pies and pastries, and any foods with hydrogenated vegetable oil listed in the ingredients.



Along with smoking, one of the fastest ways to look older than your years and to experience premature wrinkling is to drink too much alcohol. Alcohol dehydrates the skin, which increases the risk of wrinkles and also limits the body’s ability to absorb skin-saving free-radical-fighting vitamins and minerals, in particular vitamin C. It also dilates blood vessels close to the skin causing broken and peeling skin. You don’t need to cut out alcohol altogether, but should not drink more than one unit a day and drink at least one glass of water for every unit of alcohol you consume. Try to have at least three alcohol-free days a week and opt for red wine rather than beer or white wine, as it is higher in age-fighting antioxidants.


Look on your plate:


There’s nothing wrong with spending money on anti-ageing or anti-wrinkle products, but hopefully the information above has shown you that the foundation of smooth, younger looking skin can be found not at your chemists but on your plate. Pile it high with healthy, fresh food rich in nutrients and low in additives, preservatives, salt and sugar – within a few weeks you’ll notice how much softer and smoother your skin looks, naturally.