Last week I blogged about healthy party foods that you can find at almost every holiday gathering — hop over here if you want to be armed with a list of my top 5 party foods that I reach for before heading into your holiday parties and New Years Eve celebrations.
And just to be clear — chocolate is one of my go-to foods on that party list. And yes I know there is sugar in chocolate. If you want to read more about the astounding health benefits of chocolate, plus a review of a very interesting study that suggests eating chocolate in the morning offers even more benefit including boosted metabolism, hop over here to read further on that:
However, excess sugar and simple carbs are just not that great for you. In chocolate or in any other foods.
We all know (and you definitely know if you have followed my blog over the years!) that sugar and gluten are both very inflammatory — to the point where some research suggests that dementia may be correlated with carb consumption, as I blog about here:
So it’s fair to say not much surprises me when I read negative studies on the impact of simple carbs (like those found in sugar and white flour) as well as the negative health effects of artificial sweeteners… so substituting in artificial sweeteners in an effort to reduce sugar intake is not a good idea. (More on what is a good idea below!)
For example, I blogged 8 years ago on why drinking diet soda might actually shut down a part of your brain… read more on that here:
But today’s medical literature review on a surprising negative health effect of sugar really did surprise me.
Did you know consuming excess sugar can actually have a cosmetic effect that can be seen in your face?
Consuming sugar can actually make you look older — creating wrinkles, sallow skin, discoloration of the skin, and loss of firmness and elasticity. All known as “sugar sag.”
After going through the effort to sticking with natural and holistic beauty products, hydrating well, avoiding photoaging your face, taking high quality supplements, etc… you may be undoing a lot of what you do to maintain healthy skin just by eating sugar. YUCK.
Many studies confirm just how much eating sugar ages our skin. Studies like:
- The Damage Mechanism of Skin Glycation (Nutrients, 2022)
- AGEs In Skin (Methods, 2022)
- Carbohydrate Induced Skin Aging (Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity, 2020)
- An Anti-Wrinkle Diet (Skin Therapy Letters, 2020)
- AGEs, Diet and Health (Biomolecules, 2019)
- Glycation and Human Skin (Pathology Biology, 2010)
- Sugar and Aging Skin (Clinical Dermatology, 2010)
Basically, sugar create advanced glycation end products (AGEs) which accumulate in the body, including the skin, and are associated with many diseases of inflammation and aging, like diabetes, heart disease, cataracts and dementia.
In the skin, AGEs create an abnormal cross linking of collagen which makes it difficult to repair, leading to aging effects that accumulate over time… since this abnormally cross linked collagen isn’t capable of being renewed or repaired, it leads to a decrease in skin elasticity, wrinkles, and even the advanced accumulation of age spots and skin discoloration… all together, something you can notice in the skin as the dreaded “sugar sag”.
Gah, what to do about it?
Luckily there are lots of things you can do can dramatically boost your skin’s health!!! Here is a great overview of tips to help your skin remain firm and youthful, all rooted in medical research.
10 Ways To Protect Against Sugar Sag:
Recent studies have found a direct correlation between sleep and collagen integrity, suggesting that beauty sleep is real. In this one (published Jan 202o in Nature Cell Biology) researchers found that poor sleep actually caused a decrease in the structural integrity of collagen with an increase in collagen misalignment.
So over a lifetime, decreased sleep quality may literally be visible in your skin as your collagen becomes more misaligned, weaker, less elastic, and contributes to accelerated aging.
Conversely, improving sleep over a lifetime helps boost skin healing and even boosts anti-aging benefits by improving collagen integrity and skin repair while you sleep. This is directly the opposite of what sugar does to your collagen and so is a very important first step in decreasing “sugar sag.”
If you’d like to hear me talk more about why sleep actually does improve your skin’s appearance, and a bunch of things you can do to improve your sleep quality, you can hop over here to listen to my podcast on Beauty Sleep. I also have recently written a blog post for you on getting deeper, more restorative sleep that you can read right here:
There are literally head to toe benefits in every major organ system when you ground your body, and your skin is no exception. Grounding boosts skin health thanks to increased circulation bringing more nutrients and oxygen to your skin, improved removal of free radicals and other skin damaging toxic by products, improved healing of wounds in your skin (three times faster wound repair!) and even deepening your sleep which, as we discussed above, boosts collagen integrity too.
I recently published an article in Current Research In Alternative And Complementary Medicine here (just click this link o read the entire report) all about grounding’s skin boosting potential.
- The earth’s DC energy significantly accelerated wound closure
- The earth’s DC energy improved wound healing so much that it made normal skin heal three times faster
- The earth’s DC energy improved skin healing in diabetic skin so well that it healed at almost the same rate as totally healthy skin!
All together, grounding to the earth — a totally natural DC energy source — is a completely natural, exceptionally easy way to support skin health, helping to heal wounds and repair skin by boosting blood flow, improving oxygen and nutrients to the surface of the skin, even protecting the collagen of your skin by improving your sleep. All it takes is going outside to touch the earth directly, or applying the earth’s DC energy to the skin through a grounding cord or ground stake.
Whenever folks ask my about my own skin care tips (I am turning 50 in a few months and get asked this quite a lot!) my two favorite tips I share are grounding daily and using my favorite niacinamide lotion, which I give a link to in #5 below!
Ground daily, even in the winter. Make sure you have an indoor way to stay grounded this winter if the weather forces you to stay sheltered, so that you can apply this healing DC energy to your skin just like they did in the studies above.
3. Avoid self-tanner:
Here is something new I learned — self tanners actually create ACEs in the skin — that is how they turn skin brown and create the appearance of a tan.
Self tanners are a glycation product, it’s actually a sugar that binds to skin proteins in the stratum corneum (the top layer of our skin) and through glycation turns the skin brown. In fact, originally self tanners were created as a sugar substitute in the 1920s but were never used because they turned the mouth mucosa brown!
The good news is that this glycation reaction occurs on the dead top layer of the skin, so may affect skin elasticity and aging less than an internally consumed sugar might. However, the bad news is we don’t really know what cumulative effect self tanners have and it is likely to contribute, even if in small amounts, to “sugar sag” and other cosmetic signs of skin aging over time.
So save the self tanner for special events instead of routine use — that’s what I try to do — and if you do use it, be sure to apply self tanner in the morning so you can wash it off in the evening… don’t leave self tanner on your skin overnight.
4. Avoid Smoking and Vaping:
Both smoking and vaping create AGEs that accumulate in the body and promote aging. This is just one way that smoking increases the rates of lung disease, cardiovascular disease and cataracts.
In terms of skin, these AGEs might be one of the reasons that smoking is associated with a yellowing of the skin, as well as advanced wrinkling and decreased skin elasticity.
In fact, this study (published in Althlerosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology, 2022) found that vaping actually creates a higher concentration of glycation end products in the body than even smoking does.
5. Take B Vitamins + Put B3 Lotion On Your Face:
Clear evidence that a simple vitamin can be cancer preventive: Vitamin B3 dramatically reduces skin cancer rates. Presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) 2015 Annual Meeting in May 2014, Vitamin B3 has been shown to be a safe, effective way to reduce your risk of recurrent skin cancer.
Researchers looked at over 380 patients with a prior history of non-melanoma skin cancers, giving half nicotinamide supplements and half a placebo, and followed them for a year. They found the patients in the Vitamin B3 group had a quarter less skin cancers total (a 23% decrease) than control patients:
- Basal cell occurrence decreased by 20%
- Squamous Cell Carcinoma decreased by 30%
- Actinic Keratosis decreased by 13%
Niacinamide (Vit B3, also known as Nicotinamide) enhances DNA repair in skin cells damaged by UV light, as well as boosts the immune system and prevents the suppression of immunity by ultraviolet radiation. (Nicotinamide has other benefits as well, including preliminary studies showing a boost in cognition… helping to restore cognition in Alzheimers!)
So… if you have a history of serious sun exposure? Or a history of previous skin cancers? Or you just want less unsightly actinic keretosis popping up in the future?
Vitamin B 3 offers 100% all natural holistic chemo-prevention! Vitamin B is safe, inexpensive, proven. Find my favorite Vitamin B3 supplements and topical B3 lotion in my Skin Repair Protocol.
I have both topical (lotion) and capsule forms of Niacinamide lotion I mention in tip #2 above, waiting for you here… this lotion is the one I personally use on my face every single night and could not live without (Niafourmin):
6. Consume Flavonoids:
Plant flavonoids have powerful anti-inflammatory actions that partially help neutralize the effects of glycation end products.
Foods high in flavonoids to eat:
- oranges and
- dark leafy greens
are all high in anti-oxidants and should be part of your routine diet, especially if you are looking to protect your skin long term.
7. Stop Sugar Cravings:
Consuming less sugar is hard, especially if you are used to eating sugary foods, as sugar is highly addictive. It’s usually not as simple as just choosing other foods to eat, because those sugar cravings can be extremely powerful. Resisting baked goods and sugar snacks and drinks is easier when you address sugar cravings in the first place.
There is one key supplement that is a game changer in helping to reduce sugar cravings: L-glutamine.
Not only does l-glutamine help decrease sugar cravings, carb cravings, and even alcohol cravings, it also helps repair the gut lining too… win-win! If you are wanting to decrease your sugar consumption and switch from simple carbs like wheat and sugar over to more nutrient dense foods like healthy fats and proteins, taking an L-glutamine supplement can be a life saver.
I’ve included L-glutamine in my Blood Sugar Support Protocol — simply take it throughout the day for ongoing support to decrease sugar cravings, and for immediate support, open capsule and sprinkle L-glutamine directly under the tongue to decrease urgent cravings when they strike.
8. Take Berberine To Decrease Blood Sugar:
Obviously diet and exercise are important modifiers to keeping your blood glucose levels low, but did you know there are supplements you can take to decrease blood sugar levels, warding off metabolic disease, decreasing diabetes risk, and — for the purposes of this blog post today — even reducing the effects of sugar sag?
Keeping glucose levels low are one of the ways to prevent sugar from creating more AGEs in your skin, protecting it from abnormal collagen cross-linking and keeping your skin firmer and more elastic. This recent study (European Review for Medical and Pharmacological Sciences, 2023) found that simply by taking Berberine supplements twice a day, with no other changes to diet and exercise, had a statistically significant drop in fasting glucose levels (on average, a 12% decrease) as well as significantly lowered cholesterol, lower fasting insulin levels, decreased visceral adipose tissue (the stubborn fat that accumulates in the belly area) and lower fat mass over all.
What?!?! Just from adding one supplement to their daily routine, berberine.
This is why berberine supplements are the top component of my Blood Sugar Support protocol, along with the l-glutamine supplement we discussed above that help you crave sugar less in the first place. Less desire to eat sugary foods and lower blood sugar and insulin levels to the foods you do eat — that’s win win not just for your skin’s beauty but also for your overall health and longevity.
Find out more about my Blood Sugar Support Protocol here.
9. Eat Less Fast Food:
A study published by the National Center for Health Statistics, found that on any given day, over 1/3 of all adults in america aged 40 – 59 years old (37%) are consuming fast food. One out of three! That’s 85 million adults eating fast food on any given day.
And sadly, for younger Americans that number is even higher — almost half of Americans (45%) aged 20 – 45 years old are eating fast food on any given day. One out of every two of us, every single day.
This makes me feel sad for hard working Americans who are so beyond stressed that they have little choice but to drive through fast food between jobs in order to have something to eat.
This makes me feel angry at corporate America, who lures consumers in on taste and does not give a crap about their long term health, all so a few folks at the top can be so wealthy it’s almost unfathomable. Corporate America is tricking customers to trade in their health for convenience and taste. They know that close to half of our country is eating this “food” that has poor nutritional content and they are laughing all the way to the bank.
This makes me feel completely defeated as a health care provider, because I know that the only way this will change is for there to be a complete restructuring of government programs to provide actual nutritional support to its citizens. That will require legislative, structural & policy changes that prioritizes the health of it’s citizens (instead of health being a corporate venture) as well as dramatically raising wages so that everyone is able to have a decent quality of life… enough that it’s possible to slow down and prepare decent quality of food.
It also means that we need to figure out a way to make high quality food — like organic produce — much less expensive.
Damn. After reading that study, I sat down to make a list of foods that are so quick and easy to prepare that many don’t even require cooking and absolutely all of them provide more nutrition for your body than a fast food meal does.
Here is what I have come up with so far. I hope you will freely forward this to your friends, co-workers, and family, especially your grown children who are working so hard and need to have really easy options to can reach for — options that don’t take any more time to prepare than waiting in line at the drive up window.
Fast Food Alternatives:
- yogurt with fruit — anyone can layer some yogurt, berries and granola to make a parfait ready to eat within minutes
- nuts and nut butters — spread a dollop on veggies like carrot sticks & on fruits like apples for a protein and fiber rich snack or light meal
- veggies or crackers with hummus
- hard boiled egg — eat as is or slice and put on a piece of toast (this is my go-to dinner on long work days)
- avocado toast — as simple as toasting a piece of toast and mashing half an avocado on top (add a drizzle of lemon juice, salt and pepper if you like)
- smoothies — zero cooking, just have frozen fruits & veggies on hand and blend
- soup — find some one pot recipes you like, throw ingredients together over the weekend and you can eat this meal all week long
- pizza — keep ingredients on hand to make yourself in 2 minutes flat: pre-made cauliflower crusts, some pizza sauce or just a sliced tomato, a sprinkling of cheese and any other veggie toppings you like, then bake.
- tacos — if you keep a can of beans, some taco toppings like lettuce and shredded cheese, and possibly even some ground beef or ground turkey on hand you can make a taco dinner that combines healthy protein and fresh veggies for your family in the same 10 minutes you could be waiting in a drive through
- wraps — likewise, even without cooking or heating anything up, if you can keep some wraps, veggies, cheeses, and/or lunch meats that you like on hand, you are never more than 2 minutes away from a simple meal that is as easy as roll up and enjoy
- baked oatmeal — bake this once a week and grab a scoop for breakfast every morning, I like to mix apple sauce into mine to make it taste better
- grass fed burgers — it barely takes any more time to form a patty and cook it (or heat up a veggie alternative) than it does to wait in a drive through. Eat it with some cheese, or on a bun, or simply dip into a condiment of your choice
- veggie frittata — this is the most ambitious of the entire list and it still literally only requires whisking a few eggs, folding in some veggies and/or cheese, and cooking it. You can make a frittata either stovetop or baked and similar to the baked oatmeal — make it once and eat it all week
10. Join My Online Class For More Support:
If you want more support in making healthy food choices (like today’s blog post on decreasing sugar cravings) plus learn about 4 other things that are WAY more important than what you eat — things that can help accelerate getting you to a healthy weight even if you make no changes in your diet at all — then I highly suggest you join my upcoming Weight Release & Reset online class,.
“I just wanted to say how much I enjoyed the Weight Reset emails and videos! I looked forward to each and every day. Your class gave me so much hope!” – C.C.
“This was AWESOME!! I loved all the information — the medical studies to back it up and the daily reminders. Plus – I love that you can do this at your own pace. Thank you!” – C.W.
“I got a lot out of the class. I was surprised at how many different things can affect your weight and when you talked about them in the class… it was like a bell went off. I would definitely recommend the class to others.” – S.G.
“There was so much to take in each day! I looked forward to the emails and the videos so much. I would recommend this course even if someone didn’t want to lose weight but just heal.” – D.D.
I’ve based this entire course directly off of the medical literature and my 20+ years of experience helping to support patients to feel their best, holistically and with no stress!
Snag your spot here and let me support you:
Bonus Tip: Re-evaluate your boundaries:
Your skin is always speaking to you.
Skin can speak subtly through chronic messages that it whispers to you your entire life… or skin can scream loudly and angrily during acute transitions and times of crisis.
Because our skin replicates so quickly, it is a wonderful mirror for what is going on with the rest of our body and mind:
- If we are anemic, it shows us quickly.
- If we are dehydrated, it shows us quickly.
- If we are malnourished, our skin will lack that robust glow that healthy skin gives.
- If we have been neglecting our selves in other ways, our skin will reveal us.
- If we are unhappy, our skin literally sags.
- If we have lost connection with joy, our skin tells it.
- If we feel ugly, our skin mirrors that.
And because it covers our entire body, every thought we think and every word we say and every intention we ever have passes through our skin on its way to communicate with the outside world.
So it doesn’t just protect us from the world… quite the opposite is true too: it translates our inner being to the surface. It shows the world what is going on inside of us.
It is constantly in contact with and intimate with our inner workings. Because of this, skin reflects how we feel about ourselves. Skin forms our barrier, our identity. It forms what we perceive as *us* and delineates *us* from *the rest of the world*.
In short, skin represents our personal boundary.
And every winter… during the darkest, coldest months, we get an invitation to go inward re-evaluate our boundaries before we emerge this coming spring fresh and new.
Grab a journal or get into an open meditative mindframe and ask yourself:
- Are you grinning and bearing something that you’d secretly like to say a firm no to?
- Are you letting someone in your energy space that constantly irritates or drains you?
- Do you need to set some healthy boundaries at work?
- Do you need to set clearer boundaries around your time? We all have the same 24 hours in a day, but if you are doing activities you don’t feel aligned with or tending to emotional needs of others constantly, you will find much of that time will disappear and you won’t even know where it all went.
- Do you have a friendship that needs some boundaries clarified and strengthened?
- Do you have a family member that you need to create firmer boundaries and consequences of boundary violations with?
- Do you need more personal space when you are home? Do you have a place where it’s clear to everyone sharing your home that they are not to disturb you?
- Do you need to set boundaries in your sexual relationships?
Double-check that you say no when you need to and have clear boundaries that allow you to do what you truly want to do and enjoy that without guilt.
If you find your skin is stressed out, ask yourself what boundaries need to be strengthened in your life and meanwhile give your skin a little TLC with the other 10 steps listed above and watch the energy shift and your skin improve dramatically.
To your beautiful, radiant, ever repairing skin…
Laura Koniver MD