Dr. Graf is a Board Certified, Clinical and Research Dermatologist and author of the best-seller Stop Aging, Start Living. She is widely respected for her expertise and objectivity.
In our second interview with Jeannette Graf, MD about the link between nutrition and skincare, Dr. Graf talks to us about diet, digestion, and stress – three lifestyle factors with a major impact on skin's natural condition – and simple steps that even the busiest among us can take to get naturally glowing skin.
In a nutshell:
• Taking steps to keep your digestive system moving will support healthy, radiant skin.
• Chronic stress affects your skin and can manifest itself in the form of itchy rashes, more severe acne, cold sores, dryness, dullness, and even frown lines.
• Counteracting stress by building joy into your life will go a long way towards keeping your skin looking and feeling healthy, fresh and youthful.
• Simple steps you can take every day for more radiant skin: mix up some green drinks, snack on fresh vegetables, and make sure your coffee – if you drink it – is fresh.
Ayla: In addition to pH, you also mention good digestion in your book as a key contributor to healthy skin.
DR. GRAF: Digestion is really where it all begins. There are several different areas of digestion – one of them is the set of organs of elimination. We have our GI tract, our colon, our kidneys, and our lungs. How we treat our digestion directly impacts our skin because our skin is another big organ of elimination. For instance, when we’re constipated, we don’t feel good, and that’s reflected in our skin. You need a GI tract that’s moving well, so it doesn’t put the pressure on your skin to eliminate all of the bad stuff.
Ayla: So, what are some simple things you can do to take the pressure off your skin?
• Deep breathing is a way of releasing carbon dioxide, which is acidic.
• Drinking lots of water is very important to flush out toxins.
• Following a high-fiber diet will keep your GI tract moving well.
• Eat a lot of plant-based foods and proteins: acids from vegetables are easier to get rid of than the ones from meat, which requires very good GI health.
• Probiotics (in yogurt or in supplements) detoxify whatever’s being taken into your body and help digestion quite a bit by boosting the beneficial bacteria in your gut.
Ayla: You also talk about the link between state of mind and skin condition in your book.
DR. GRAF: Yes: this connection first became clear to me in my private practice. I’d ask a lot of my patients who looked very sour – surly and unhappy – “What do you do for fun?” And they’d look at me like I had three heads. You know, life is very stressful. And we know that when you’re stressed and unhappy, it can compromise the immune system, it can cause heart problems, it can cause digestive problems – it can cause so many problems that are reflected in your skin.
Ayla: How, exactly, does it affect your skin?
DR. GRAF: Neuropeptides, chains of amino acids that originate in the brain and nervous system, link the brain’s health with the skin’s health. They’re responsible for our feelings, and they’re communicators – they circulate long distances through spinal fluid, blood, and other bodily fluids. They’re like teenage gossip spreaders with contagious messages. One neuropeptide can cause several different reactions throughout your body. This is what makes us blush when we’re embarrassed, sweat when we’re nervous, glow when we’re in love. When you’re under chronic stress, you can expect to see effects like itchy rashes, more severe acne, cold sores, dryness, dullness, even frown lines.
Ayla: What if you can’t entirely get rid of your stress?
DR. GRAF: One of the most effective ways I’ve seen to counteract the stress of daily life is to engage in something that gives you joy. You have to be very proactive about this – joy is a very proactive emotion.
Ayla: Do something that brings you joy. That sounds simple. Maybe not. Is it?
DR. GRAF: Well, it can take a couple of weeks to figure out what gives you joy, since a lot of people haven’t really felt it since they were nine.
For example, I love to dance. I like Pilates, but it doesn’t really bring me joy in my life, so I have to make time to dance. Some people need to paint. I have one patient – a very intense Talmudic scholar – who really didn’t know what I was talking about, exactly, when I said, “Find something that brings you joy.” Then he came in one day and exclaimed, “I got it! I love to sing!” So I said, “You have to find time to sing. You have to schedule it for yourself. If you wait until you have time, you’ll never do it.” When people schedule joy into their calendar, it changes who they are. They walk around smiling! That’s very alkalinizing.
Ayla: What else can we do from a state-of-mind perspective?
DR. GRAF: Be conscious about your environment when you’re eating. Have you ever had dinner with someone you’ve gotten into a heated discussion or argument with? You can feel that sourness in your stomach. Likewise, it’s not good to watch the news or a horror movie while you’re eating. If you’re going to eat in front of the TV, put on the comedy channel. When you’re eating healthy, living food, it’s really important not to have unpleasant conversations or anything that will cause stress, because that will affect your digestion.
Ayla: So, if you’re a typical busy person – you don’t have a lot of time to prepare perfectly balanced meals, you have unavoidable stress in your life, you can’t afford to spend that much time on fun hobbies that bring you joy – what small, simple steps can you start with?
DR. GRAF: You just described me! Well, here’s what I do:
• I go to the health food store and get a green drink – a powdered drink that has finely ground fruits and vegetables in it. One scoop in water will give you the phytonutrients of 7 servings of fruits and vegetables. Add Benefiber or another kind of soluble fiber. I call that an Alkalinizing Cocktail. Have a couple of those a day.
• I have one day a week where I prepare my food. I chop up peppers –I get red, yellow, and orange peppers and radishes, which are my favorite vegetables to chomp on throughout the day.
• Carry food around with you. If you chop up vegetables, stick them into a container or baggie and take them with you. Have as many as you want.
• I love my Vitamix. It’s a lifesaver. You throw whole vegetables in there and you have hot soup five minutes later! I also use it to make my own almond butter.
• I’m a coffee person. I like it, and coffee isn’t bad – it has antioxidant properties – but you need to have fresh coffee. If you have organic, freshly ground beans, that’s healthy. It’s an issue when you have coffee that’s been sitting around the diner all day – it’s oxidized. If you’re in a restaurant, and you don’t know how fresh the coffee is, have a cappuccino or espresso instead, because you know that’s just been freshly made.
Ayla suggestion: To jump-start your digestion and detoxify, we recommend The Organic Pharmacy’s amazing Detox supplement – the perfect place to start for any skin condition. For best results, take 3 capsules at night for 20 days (until you finish the bottle!). To learn more about Dr. Graf’s findings about pH, digestion, and joy – and how they affect our skin – check out her book, Stop Aging, Start Living.
About Dr. Graf: Jeannette Graf, MD is a Board Certified, Clinical and Research Dermatologist with a private practice in Great Neck, New York. While at the NIH, Dr. Graf was one of the first doctors to work with peptides, earning a NIH patent in 1987. She continues to research innovative technologies and has been published in several scientific journals. Widely respected for her expertise and objectivity, she is regularly called upon to forecast on dermatology and cosmetic trends, and she’s a frequent guest on TV programs like The Early Show on CBS. Dr. Graf is also the author of the best-seller Stop Aging, Start Living. Learn more about Dr. Graf’s impressive background here.
Any topic discussed in this article is not intended as medical advice. If you have a medical concern, please check with your doctor.