The desire to be beautiful is as old as civilization. Regardless of how much one must endure and how much money must be spent, people want to beautify them-selves. Medieval noblewomen swallowed arsenic and rubbed themselves with bat blood in order to improve their skin, and in the 17th century American women removed freckles with young boys’ urine. Beautifying treatments and the art of makeup has, for millennia, been becoming better and better at allowing defects to be hidden or removed and the value of appearance to be enhanced. It was Charles Darwin who noticed the presence of a “common liking for adornment” frequently combined with “sublimely great” suffering. At the beginning of the 21st century, 160 trillion dollars was spent worldwide on treatments and products sustaining or improving beauty.

vet.  doc. Jagoda Koniarek, MA Dominika Kuczyńska-Schulz

Being beautiful brings social advantages and increases the likelihood of passing on genes to offspring. Attractive people are perceived as more intelligent, better in bed, have better chances for entering into matrimony and having children, and also secure better paid positions. People with ‘ugly, sick skin’ or those who are obese frequently don’t receive promotions and have problems in their social lives. People are ready to spend a lot of money on sustaining and improving beauty. Unfortunately, creams, condi-tioners, balms, lotions and tonics can only delay slightly the aging process. Subsequent layers of make-up won’t disguise imperfections, and various corsets and push-ups are not able to remedy the shortcomings of one’s figure. Medical and aesthetic surgical treatments are capable of improving what has lost its brilliance or from the outset di-verged from perfection but won’t undo the permanent effects of a long-standing inade-quate lifestyle.

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Sustaining beauty

People have started to become aware of the fact that how they look and how quickly they age depends on their physical activity, diet, exposure to stress, and environmental conditions. A great opportunity has opened up for anti-aging medicine (preventive), whose task is to delay the effects of aging, prevent illnesses and ensure their early detection, reverse dysfunctions by replenishing deficiencies, and implement long-term changes and new pro-health lifestyle habits. An anti-aging medicine physician must possess not only pro-found medical knowledge but also knowledge of physical exercise physiology, dietetics, and cosmetology, or closely cooperate with specialists in these fields..

Why do we lose our looks?

The causes of unattractive appearance are diet habits, inadequate energy supply, bad proportions of macro elements (proteins, fats and carbohydrates) in a diet, or vitamin or micro element deficiencies. A paucity of zinc, selenium, and silicon cause hair weaken-ing and loss, while a lack of vitamin A brings about skin dryness and cracking. An ex-cess of simple carbohydrates and highly-refined products leads to being overweight or obese.

One may enumerate in such a way many illnesses and discomforts which are accompanied by skin changes for which nutritional errors are responsible – shadows under the eyes, cellulite, edema, or an excess of fat tissue. Food or contact allergies also have significant influence on appearance. Rash, urticaria, edema, and erythema created after contact with allergens have a distinctly negative impact on a patient’s comfort and quality of life, hampering social contacts and work satisfaction.

Skin – a covering for one’s entire life and a mirror of the organism

Although a human’s skin surface amounts to only 1.5-2 square meters, it is the body’s external shell and the highest aspect of attractiveness. It is a barrier protecting the organism against injury and the harmful effects of environmental factors and providing homeostasis (stable internal conditions). Multiple layers and the thickness of skin result in a virtually ideal, elastic and durable multifunctional organ. The skin reacts to symptoms not only when the activity of stressors directly affects it (pathogens, temperature, chemical substances, radiation, etc.), but also when under the influence of an increased concentration of inflammatory state mediators in the blood. Due to that, the action of a pro-inflammatory factor on even a distant organ and its ongoing inflammatory state (local or generalized) may trigger changes in skin condition and the occurrence of unaesthetic eruptions. What is happening to skin is a reflection of the condition of the whole organism. Therefore, one should not just cure symptoms but look more deeply for causes.

Acne – a nuisance not only to teenagers

Nutritional factors lie repeatedly at the source of skin problems. Acne – a nuisance to teenagers and quite a sizable group of adults – is the result of the activity of bacterial, hormonal, nutritional, and inflammatory factors (an exacerbation of a chronic inflammatory state). Products with a high glycemic index cause a significant increase in the concentration of insulin and insulin-like growth factor IGF1, which boost the activity of the sebaceous glands and their susceptibility to bacterial colonization. Hormonal imbalance, e.g. polycystic ovary syndrome in women, high testosterone levels in men taking anabolics and boosters, and an increased concentration in stress hormones also cause similar problems. Therefore, people with high levels of physical activity may have a hormonal imbalance and are predisposed to acne. Milk products are identified as pro-acne foods causing the growth of sex hormones. Acne treatment cannot be confined to ‘miraculous’, most often topical, anti-acne products, but it requires a thorough assessment of the patient (nutrition, physical activity, hormonal homeostasis, potential coexisting illnesses). Sometimes indispensable are probiotics therapy, curcumin, EPA, B12 vitamin supplements, and herbal therapy with berberine found in barberry, mahonia, and goldenseal. Similar practice must be assumed in the case of other discomforts and skin symptoms.

What does not kill us immediately, may kill us slowly

It may turn out that even in-depth diagnostics and individually customized therapy do not bring about results. Then one should seek other causes of the symptoms’ occurrence including factors increasing the chronic inflammatory state such as allergies and food hypersensitivities. Allergies might be diagnosed marking the level of antibodies in the IgE class against particular allergens or performing skin prick tests or skin patch tests. IgE independent food hypersensitivities are best diagnosed by the MRT test (Mediator Release Test). Hypersensitivity to a food is the immune system’s lack of tolerance and the inflammatory response to contact with its antigens. Symptoms are difficult to connect with a particular food because they do not occur immediately after consumption. They depend on the dose, they may occur due to the accumulation of activity of a few nutritional factors, and they may concern different organs and tissues and take a different form. The response of the immune system always starts with a phagocytosis reaction in cells (granulocytes, monocytes) whose task is an early elimination of ‘the alien’ and activation of the remaining defensive elements including inducement of an inflammatory state. It is only in the next phase that T lymphocytes join, and a final effect might be the creation of antibodies whose function relies on deactivation of the enemy and stifling the exacerbation of the inflammatory state. The MRT test examines the reaction of the entire white blood cell system, thanks to which it may catch an inflammatory reaction at the moment of its inducement, regardless of the kind of leukocytes engaged in it. The exacerbation of an inflammatory response is proportional to the change in cell volume, which is precisely measured by the use of an MRT III analyzer. The results of the test not only indicate harmful foods but also the safest foods for the examined patient. The MRT test also examines cytotoxic reaction, which is induced by chemical substances (food additives, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). The immunologist-developed nutrition program – LEAP (Lifestyle, Eating and Performance) – has the goal of the fastest reduction of the ongoing inflammatory state in an organism and nagging symptoms. Gastrointestinal ailments subside most quickly within 7-10 days, whereas in the case of skin problems improvement is achieved within 14-28 days in the LEAP Program diet. The nutrition plans generated based of MRT test results are individually customized by certified consultants, factoring in data from a thorough interview, nutrition recommendations adapted to coexisting illnesses, the preferences and nutritional capacities of the patient, as well as interactions between products. If the patient follows the recommendations in all stages of the LEAP program, the concentration of mediators and the exacerbation of inflammatory states are reduced to a significant extent, which has favorable effects on skin and its appearance.

Skin and physical activity

Following current trends, more and more people are increasing their physical activity and starting to run intensively or exercise at the gym. It is true that appropriate training helps shape the silhouette and improve fitness. During physical exercise the blood flow increases throughout the skin, thanks to which it is better oxidized and nourished, and products of metabolism including free radicals are more quickly eliminated. The beneficial impact of physical activity is undeniable although, like everything else, it has its dark side, with its adverse effects reflected in the skin. The exposure to mechanical damage, abrasion, scratches, and bedsores is increased, which significantly lowers attractiveness. Intensified sweating leads to irritation and dryness of skin, ‘fish scale’, exfoliation, redness, eczema, and exacerbation of acne outbreaks. Particularly vulnerable to such discomfort are people who do not shower immediately after training, leaving a layer of sweat underneath their clothes. On the other hand, frequent and thorough washing (with the use of soap or gel) deprives the skin of the lipid layer and changes the composition of the skin’s bacterial flora. The increased production of heat forces the acceleration of cooling through the widening of blood vessels in the skin. In the case of problems with the elasticity of vessels, it may lead to the occurrence of spider veins or vascular skin. This is only the tip of the iceberg of problems triggered by intense physical activity.

Not more but properly

The choice of the appropriate change in a patient’s physical activity – which is not always connected with its intensity or establishing a proper training plan – requires complex analysis of his condition, existing contraindications, knowledge of the physiological processes occurring during various exercises, and adjustment of the intensity and the duration of training to his capabilities and the level of fitness. In order to preserve or improve beauty, it is not enough to undergo a few treatments or use sophisticated, but incredibly expensive, cosmetics. One needs to thoroughly and purposely consider the comprehensive, long-term medical, cosmetological, and dietary actions as well as the individually customized training plan. There is no miracle pill; beauty needs to be earned by hard work.

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