A recent research by a team of scientists from China Agricultural University, Beijing, and Guangxi Medical University, Nanning in China, and University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, and University of California, Irvine in USA, established a relation between the timings of eating and the health of your skin.
The team discovered that eating at abnormal times disrupts the genes that control the ageing of skin. “There is a concept known as time-restricted feeding (TRF), which affects a key DNA repair gene called XPA,” says Dr Saurabh Shah, dermatologist, Bhatia Hospital, Tardeo.
He adds, “The researchers have found that abnormal eating habits disrupt the epidermal barrier. This disruption leads to skin’s increased susceptibility to sun’s harmful UV radiation; thus making the skin sustain more sun induced damage during the day.”
Dr Rinky Kapoor, dermatologist and skin laser specialist, SL Raheja Fortis Associate Hospital, Mahim, further breaks it down. “Eating at abnormal times disrupts the biological clock of the skin, including the daytime potency of an enzyme that protects against the sun’s harmful ultraviolet radiation, thus, indicating that people who eat late at night may be more vulnerable to sunburn, skin ageing and skin cancer,” she says.
Although the research has, so far, been conducted on mice, experts opine that we can learn much about adding discipline to our food habits from this.
“Skin health not only depends on what we eat, but also on when we eat. By following our natural circadian rhythm and aligning our feeding time to that, we allow detoxification, healing and cell renewal, all of which are critical for the health of our skin. Around 80% of body energy is taken up by the digestive system, leaving only 20% for other organs and its processes. By allowing ourselves to enter a fasted state, we alter this 80-20 distribution directing the stomach to shut down and focus on detoxification. Skin is the largest detoxification organ and when it’s allowed to effectively get rid of toxins (along with kidney, liver and lungs), we improve the health of all organs and that naturally shows on the skin,” says Luke Coutinho, MD, alternative medicine and founder, Purenutrition.
Apart from eating at odd times, the food habits that adversely affect skin are:
Caffeine: Too much coffee can give rise to increase of stress hormones such as cortisol and that can lead to breakouts.
Dairy: Cheese, paneer, ice creams, sweets and chocolates can increase the androgen levels in one’s body, which can increase the sebum secretion and lead to acne.
Preserved foods: Can cause increase of insulin, which causes a lot of inflammation. They can also break down the collagen and elastin, which causes the skin to sag.
Salted food: Chips, pretzels, cheese, etc. can cause lot of water retention, and thus cause bloating and under eye puffiness.
Hydration: Some people “forget to drink water”. That poses serious risk to the skin and the body. Drinking enough water is necessary to flush out the bad toxins and give the skin a radiant look.
Alcohol: Heavy drinking causes dehydration, which can lead to dullness, wrinkles and dry skin. It can trigger or increase severity of skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis.
Smoking: Cessation of smoking will lessen the burden of oxidative damage to the body.
The right eat-sleep cycle
“Sound sleep for six to eight hours a day is enough for good health and a good skin. It gives the body and skin, time to repair and rejuvenate. A short nap for about half an hour in the middle of the day is also fantastic,” says Kapoor.
She further adds, “We feel hungry every three to five hours. So try to eat at the same time every day. Breakfast should be ideally eaten within one hour of waking up. Consider an earlier lunch and a smaller dinner. My personal opinion is that those who follow the traditional culture of eating the last meal of the day just before sunset are doing a great favour to their skin and body.”
Moreover, one should also be mindful to avoid emotional eating and eating after sunset in general. “Post sunset, not only raw food but any food which is difficult to digest should be avoided as these foods can accumulate in the digestive tract, which is inactive during the night and can disturb the sleep cycle as well. The food which is not digested will turn into fat and add on to one’s weight making one obese. One can also have heart burns and irritable bowel at night,” says Dr Soma Sarkar, dermatologist and medical director, Skin Inn, Bandra (W).
With inputs from Dr Pooja Thacker, nutritionist, Bhatia Hospital, Tardeo, and Karishma Chawla, nutritionist, Eat Rite 24×7