One of the most frequent concerns women facing menopause have is about their skin. As skin ages, it doesn’t bounce back like it used to and depending on how saggy it is, it can have a real effect on your confidence.
I’ve spoken to women who want to lose weight but are afraid to because they don’t want their skin to sag more than it already is.
When you are young, you have plentiful amounts of collagen which keeps your skin firm – structure, elastin which maintains skin elasticity and glycosaminoglycans which helps to maintain moisture – well hydrated skin.
As you age, you produce less and less collagen over time resulting in thinner and more fragile skin. And along with less collagen, you also produce less elastin and glycosaminoglycan. As a result, your skin is thinner, drier and less elastic.
Additionally, your skin takes a lot of punishment; sun damage, harsh chemicals, cycling fat gain and loss, and cigarette smoke – even second-hand smoke all contribute to the loss of collagen.
Finally, sugar is known to significantly damage collagen and elastin through a process called glycation. Glycation is when a sugar molecule binds with a fat or protein molecule and alters it. Both elastin and collagen are proteins and when sugar binds with them they become stiff and malformed.
It is this process that causes diabetic to develop cataracts, Alzheimer’s, connective tissue damage, inflammation, vascular tightening and disease in the pancreas and liver.
The Role of Hormones And Sugar Regulation
Your endocrine system produces and regulates hormones, which are messengers that provide cells instructions and influences tissue growth, immune response, reproductive activities, metabolic functions, hunger and satiety, and stress responses. Several hormones have a direct impact on blood sugar regulation and when it comes to skin and hormones, the regulation of blood sugar has a significant impact on the health of your skin.
The two primary hormones associated with regulating blood sugar are insulin and glucagon. Insulin, a pancreatic hormone, is responsible for instructing cells to take in more glucose when blood sugar rises. When blood sugar drops too low, glucagon, associated with the liver, instructs liver cells to convert glycogen into glucose and release it into the bloodstream.
As you age and are no longer fertile, your body reduces the amount of estrogen and progesterone causing you to enter menopause. Both estrogen and progesterone have a role in maintaining blood sugar levels by influencing how cells react to insulin. As levels of these hormones drop, so too does your ability to reduce blood sugar.
Thyroid hormones which regulate your metabolism, also has a role. Thyroid hormones determine how fast or slow your metabolism runs which determines how quickly other glands, particularly the liver, respond to the rise and fall of blood glucose. Individuals with a slower metabolism tend to have respond slower to the signal to reduce blood sugar.
Additionally, stress hormones have a role in blood sugar levels. Epinephrine (adrenaline) and cortisol, both regulated by the adrenal glands, signal for the release of glucose into the bloodstream to provide immediate energy for responding to threats, stress.
One concern regarding blood sugar regulation is a condition known as insulin resistance. Insulin resistance occurs when over time cells have had too much glucose to absorb gradually become resistant to insulin and the signal to take in more. This can lead to weight gain, high blood pressure and increase triglyceride levels.
As your cells resist insulin’s signal to reduce blood sugar, in addition to having higher blood sugar available to affect skin skins through glycation, various skin conditions can also occur;
- acanthosis nigricans: dark, velvety patches often on the backs of the neck, groin, and armpits
- acrochordons or skin tags
- androgenetic alopecia or pattern hair loss
- hirsutism or excessive hair growth
What You Can Do
First, you want to address your diet. One factor for improving hormone balance and skin health is to manage blood sugar, and the best way to support your body’s natural ability to regulate hormones and blood sugar is through diet.
Not only do you want to cut back on the amount of added sugar in your diet, you want to cut back on processed foods. Most processed foods contain ingredients that break down quickly into glucose such as sugar, refined grains and corn byproducts. Their quick conversion to glucose can increase your energy, but only for a short while. The spike will lead to the release of insulin which will drop blood sugar quickly and in turn a cycle of combating signals of release glucose / absorb glucose.
This cycle can stress your endocrine system, the glands responsible for your hormones, and lead to hormone imbalance. And remember, if insulin is released too often, your cells could eventually decide to resist it’s call to absorb more.
By eating balanced meals of protein, fat and complex carbohydrates you support stable blood sugar levels. Complex carbohydrates are foods that contain fiber such as vegetables, peas, beans and whole grains.
Second, you want to move more. The more you use your muscles, the more your muscles require energy the more you lower blood sugar and call for release of glycogen. And the more often you use your muscles, the more efficient your body becomes in using glucose for energy instead of storing it.
Finally, you want to monitor and maintain hormone balance. Even a slight hormone imbalance can impact your body’s natural ability to regulate blood sugar, and you want to avoid excessive blood sugar to support healthy skin. Especially if you’re concerned with aging and sagging skin.
To do this, I recommend complete hormone checkup. You want a broad-spectrum hormone panel done, to include thyroid hormones, cortisol (at least 4 points), estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone—in both men and women—because all play significant roles in keeping insulin and glucose in check. Therefore, all have a role in maintaining healthy skin.
Once you have a complete profile and have compared it to the symptoms you are experiencing, you can develop a targeted plan of action for correcting any dysfunction. This may include adjusting your diet further, including a supplement protocol, and/or hormone therapy.
If you want support or advice on how to get a complete hormone check-up, you can contact my office. To contact me for a FREE Hormone Troubleshooting Session, click on the button below and fill out the health questionnaire. Once you click Submit, you can schedule an appointment that is convenient for you.
To support your skin so you can look younger, lose weight comfortably and just feel a lot steadier and more like yourself, you want to focus on providing your body with resources; nutrients and oxygen and space to heal. And to do this, you want to begin by focusing on hormones, nutrition, movement and reducing stressors; physical and emotional.
Your partner in health,
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