Get gorgeous skin all over
Unlock the secrets of beautiful skin with nutritionist Karen Fischer’s top 12 do-it-yourself dietary cures that target problem skin conditions.
1. Apple cider vinegar
This has an alkalising effect in the body. This may explain apple cider vinegar’s reputation for reducing pain and inflammatory conditions, such as arthritis and eczema. It’s also anti-fungal, anti-viral and antibacterial. It promotes healthy red blood cells and can help improve digestion if you have low stomach acid. Only use good quality apple cider vinegar that contains the ‘mother’, which is the dark cloudy substance that looks like strands linked together, settled at the bottom of the bottle (shake the bottle before use). The mother indicates that minimal processing has occurred and that valuable enzymes and minerals are present. You can eat the mother, as it’s the most nutritious part.
Prescription For adults with poor digestion: 2 teaspoons daily in a glass of water, in divided doses; take before meals to improve digestion. For a more pleasant-tasting drink, have apple cider vinegar in ½ cup of preservative-free apple juice and ½ cup water. Use apple cider vinegar in salad recipes.
Caution Although apple cider vinegar is alkalising once it’s digested, keep in mind that it’s an acid before digestion and that acids can aggravate ulcers and slowly strip enamel off teeth. (Other acids include orange juice, citrus fruits, vitamin C tablets and other types of vinegar.) If you have sensitive teeth, you can also rinse your mouth with a bit of bicarbonate of soda mixed with water or brush your teeth after having apple cider vinegar.
Avocado is a nutrient-dense fruit which is high in monounsaturated fatty acids (omega-9s and some omega-6s). Avocado can be used as a nutritious spread and it’s a healthy alternative to butter and margarine. It contains vitamins B6, B3 and C, beta-carotene, folic acid, copper, magnesium, iron, potassium, amino acids and antioxidants. Avocado improves digestive health, is moisturising for the skin, is gluten-free, has a low glycaemic index (GI) and is highly alkalising.
Prescription Use avocado as a nutritious spread instead of butter or margarine. Have ¼-½ avocado per day, twice a week.
Caution Avocado is very high in salicylates and amines, so avoid avocado temporarily if you have eczema.
Buckwheat contains the antioxidant quercetin, which has anti-inflammatory properties. It is high in vitamin B3, folic acid, calcium, magnesium, potassium, zinc and antioxidants. It is anti-inflammatory and has a low GI (the flour has a higher GI than the grains). Buckwheat isn’t technically a grain but it resembles grain and is a gluten-free alternative to wheat.
Prescription Incorporate buckwheat into your weekly diet to increase your intake of anti-inflammatory antioxidants. Buckwheat crepes make a great breakfast or dessert. Buckwheat grains cook like rice and can be served with curries, fish or meat.
Chlorophyll is the green pigment found in plants; the drink that is called chlorophyll is a combination of green plant pigment and spearmint oil (some brands also contain alfalfa extract). Chlorophyll supplies magnesium, which is needed for cardiovascular and respiratory health and it also contains potassium and iron. It prevents anaemia, is highly alkalising and is both blood purifying and blood thinning. Chlorophyll increases the oxygen-carrying capacity in the blood, meaning it can increase your energy and stamina. It promotes friendly bacteria in the bowel so it can reduce harmful bowel microbes. It promotes healthy digestion and prevents bad breath and body odour.
Prescription Adult dosage for normal/low strength liquid chlorophyll (see caution below): 1-2 teaspoons diluted in water once or twice a day, beginning on a low dosage. If you have hypoglycaemia or blood sugar level problems (e.g. energy crashes and/or irritability in between meals), mix 2 teaspoons of liquid chlorophyll in a 1.5 litre bottle of water and sip it throughout the day.
Caution Super-strength chlorophyll supplements are darkly pigmented (dark green/black) and may stain teeth if used in high doses. Use low dose chlorophyll, containing approximately 200mg of chlorophyll per 100ml.
Dandelion root (Taraxacum officinale) contains bitter compounds called inulin and taraxacin which rapidly improve digestion in people with poor bile secretion. Dandelion root tea also makes a great morning cuppa. It contains mineral salts and vitamins, activates phase II liver detoxification, prevents constipation and is good for liver and gallbladder health.
Prescription Enjoy a cup of dandelion tea up to three times a day before meals. However, be aware that too many cups can overstimulate digestion; if this occurs, reduce dosage and strength.
Caution Dandelion root can increase appetite and overstimulate digestion; do not use if you have ulcers, reflux or excess digestive acids in stomach.
6. Dark leafy greens
This group includes Chinese greens, kale, dandelion greens, silver beet, spinach, chicory, beet greens, mustard greens, rocket, watercress and baby spinach. Such vegetables are highly alkalising to the blood. they deliver more nutrients for fewer calories, plus the calcium in kale and watercress is easy for the body to absorb. They contain antioxidants, folic acid, magnesium, calcium, vitamins A and B vitamins, potassium, fibre and cancer-protective phytonutrients; they’re gluten free and have a low GI.
Prescription Adults: Have two handfuls of dark leafy greens every day. (That’s every single day of your life!) Children: Have one child-sized handful a day.
Caution These vegetables are high in salicylates; spinach is also high in amines and natural monosodium glutamate (MSG), so eat with caution if you have severe eczema. Parsley and iceberg lettuce are low in natural plant chemicals so they are the better green choices for eczema sufferers.
Oily or deep sea fish contains therapeutic amounts of the omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), making it a potent anti-inflammatory food. Studies have shown that two to three serves of oily fish a week are good for elevating mood and increasing health of the brain, skin and heart. Oily fish is a good source of protein, vitamin D and iodine. It is also metabolism-boosting, has a low GI and is gluten-free. Good sources of EPA and DHA include salmon, trout, mackerel, sardines, herring, eel and salmon and tuna oil supplements. Other minor sources of EPA and DHA include low-fat fish, such as carp, pike and haddock, and oysters, clams, scallops and squid. Salmon and trout are commonly farmed in Australia and it has been suggested that these fish contain less omega-3 and less of the vitamins A and C than fish caught fresh from the ocean — however, any amount of omega-3s is better than none.
Prescription Both adults and children should eat oily fish two to three times a week.
Flaxseeds are anti-inflammatory because they contain a whopping 50 per cent omega-3 essential fatty acids. They also contain omega-6s, phytochemicals, silica, mucilage, oleic acid, protein, vitamin E and fibre and are a potent bowel cleanser. Flaxseeds aid with weight loss and treat constipation. They may improve cardiovascular health and female reproductive health; they are liver-protective, help to stabilise blood sugar levels, are soothing to the digestive tract, alkalising and may inhibit tumour formation. Flaxseed oil and ground flaxseeds should be refrigerated at all times. (Note: Think of flaxseed oil as a healthy ingredient, not as a supplement. I don’t recommend buying flaxseed oil in capsule form as I don’t want you popping pills all day and it is more beneficial as a food, incorporated into salad dressings and smoothies to increase their nutritional value.)
Prescription Adults: Have 1-2 tablespoons of ground flaxseed or flaxseed oil per day (not necessary on the days you eat oily fish). Use flaxseed oil in homemade salad dressings, shakes and smoothies. Add whole flaxseeds to muesli or grind them in a coffee grinder for use on breakfast cereal or fruit salad.
Caution A bottle of flaxseed oil needs to be consumed within five weeks of opening to ensure freshness. Keep oil refrigerated and grind fresh flaxseeds monthly. Flaxseed oil can also be stored in the freezer to increase its shelf life. Drink plenty of water when having whole or ground flaxseeds, as the fibre absorbs a lot of water (about five times the seeds’ weight).
Lecithin is found naturally in soybeans, eggs, beef and liver. It can also be bought in the form of soy lecithin granules, which look rather like tiny yellow beads. Lecithin is a special type of lipid that helps to break down fats in the body in much the same way that detergent does when you are washing greasy dishes. It contains choline for healthy brain neurotransmitters and inositol for healthy cell membranes. Lecithin breaks up cholesterol, helps with weight loss and the removal of fats from the body and also aids the removal of chemicals and cholesterol from the body. It has a low GI, is known as ‘brain food’ and is gluten-free. In addition, it enhances phase II liver detoxification, improves digestion and - due to its inositol content – may also decrease the risk of eczema, hair loss, cellulite and eye problems.
Prescription Adults: 1 tablespoon of lecithin granules per day. Children aged one to six years: ½ teaspoon per day. Children over seven years: 1 teaspoon per day. Add lecithin to smoothies, drinks and muesli or cereals.
10. Lemons and limes
Lemons and limes contain vitamin C, folic acid, calcium and potassium. They enhance phase II liver detoxification and have a strong alkalising effect. The pectin from the citrus pulp (white part of the fruit) contains valuable flavonoids. Both these fruits aid in the removal of toxins from the bowel.
Prescription Adults: Have a squeeze of lemon and/or lime with drinks. Use all parts of the fruit, including the skin (as zest) and pulp. Use lemons and limes in salad dressings and squeeze the juice onto fish before serving.
Caution Lemons and limes are high in salicylates and amines so they may initially cause flare-ups in some individuals with eczema. Although alkalising once digested, they are acidic pre-digestion and may aggravate sensitive teeth; if this occurs, brush your teeth after contact.
Seaweed, such as kelp and kombu, contains a good dose of metabolism-boosting iodine and is a weight-loss aid. It is helpful in combating fatigue caused by slow thyroid activity and it helps prevent skin irritations. Seaweed is a good source of iodine, beta-carotene, B-group vitamins, vitamins A, D, E and K, folic acid, calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron, selenium and zinc. It is skin cleansing and is good for constipation and arthritis. Seaweed has anti-cancer properties, is anti-bacterial and anti-viral.
Prescription Add a sprinkle of dried, flaked kelp or a soaked strip of kombu to meals, such as soups and stir-fried vegetables. It adds a mild salty flavour. Add kombu seaweed when cooking beans or legumes to make them easier to digest (this helps prevent gas).
Caution Avoid seaweed if you have hyperthyroidism or a speedy metabolism, as it may accelerate your metabolism further.
Turmeric is a spice that contains curcumin, a flavonoid that has an anti-cancer effect and may also protect against Alzheimer’s disease. It contains calcium, magnesium, potassium and antioxidants, plus it is anti-inflammatory, has a low GI and is gluten-free. Turmeric promotes phase II liver detoxification, lowers blood sugar levels and helps prevent blood clotting. It is highly alkalising.
Prescription Adults: Have 2 teaspoons a day in a small amount of water or fresh vegetable juice. Turmeric is best used in meals such as curries or dahl. Add ground black pepper to enhance the absorption of curcumin.
Caution Turmeric is high in salicylates so it may initially aggravate eczema.