Beauty Is More than Skin Deep: Robin Fleck, M.D. Provides Her Tips on How to Eat Right to Look Younger

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Expert dermatologist and internist, Robin Fleck, M.D., shares her tips to improve appearance and stay younger looking longer.

Robin Fleck, M.D., founder and medical director of Southwest Skin & Cancer Institute, looks at the skin as one system of the entire body, and from this perspective, healthy skin is a reflection of the health of the entire person. People who continuously ingest artificial, non-nutritive, chemicals are not likely to have healthy skin or body for long.

The debate between whether to eat meat or a vegetarian diet has raged for the last six decades. Looking at human history however, allows one to recognize that meat has been the staple of the human diet for fifty million years. Since man was nomadic for most of this time, vegetables, fruits, and grains would not have been available most of the time. In addition, the human structure is composed primarily of bone and muscle, both protein-rich tissues that require adequate protein in the diet for proper function. For both of these reasons, it is clear that protein from meat sources is ideal for human nutrition.

Strict vegetarians, who attempt to “combine” foods that theoretically provide an adequate mix of amino acids are functioning in a state of negative nitrogen balance or protein deficiency. This is a result of anti-nutrients such as phytates and lectins that are present in vegetables and grains which bind amino acids in the intestines and prevent absorption. Therefore, insufficient building blocks for protein are available. In addition, much of the protein that is manufactured is used up as energy since their diets are also deficient in fat, which is a much more efficient fuel.

Over the last 50 years, it has become obvious that human metabolism is wrecked by the modern custom of eating a high-carbohydrate diet with grains, potatoes, beans and pasteurized dairy, since insulin levels are not maintained at steady levels, leading to the chronic diseases of diabetes, atherosclerosis, cancer and autoimmune conditions, including many skin disorders such as psoriasis, acne, and lupus.

The basis of human health requires a return to a diet of animal protein and fat (the closer to raw, the better), supplemented with only occasional fruit and vegetables, mimicking the diet of early humans. It goes without saying that all processed foods (grain, pasta, bread), dairy, sugar, salt, natural and artificial flavorings, sweeteners, preservatives, additives and pesticides all detract from health. At a minimum, all sweeteners, starches, and grains should be avoided to achieve better health.

Many people are concerned about the color, texture and plumpness of their skin. The dermis of the skin is primarily composed of collagen and elastin, the proteins that give the skin its substance and flexibility. There are also glycoproteins in the dermis which provide plumpness and hold moisture. The epidermis of the skin is predominantly protein and fat, so a diet poor in these macronutrients would be expected to result in dull, dry, wrinkled skin. Skin tone is affected by the condition of the blood vessels in the skin. If the blood vessels are robust, a healthy skin color results. Since blood vessel walls are mostly composed of protein and fats, these structures are also negatively impacted by poor diet.

Micronutrients in the diet also play important roles in the health of body and skin. For example, Vitamin C is very important for the cross-linking of collagen and Vitamin K2 is required for the proper placement of calcium in bones and teeth. However, a diet with adequate protein and fat from meat and fish sources supplies these micronutrients as long as the food is not overcooked.

Dr. Fleck recommends the following to her patients to keep the skin looking younger:
1.    Consume meat, fish, fowl or eggs at each meal to supply the body with adequate protein and fat.
2.    Increase your intake of natural fats such as unpasteurized butter, cream, whole millk. Do not cook with any vegetable oil including olive oil as this produces trans fats.
3.    Avoid all sweeteners, coffee, tea, cola, juices, alcohol, drinking only mineral water as needed.
4.    Limit your intake of fruit to one piece of fruit a couple times per week or less.
5.    For people concerned that this diet may increase your risk of cardiovascular disease, ask your doctor to check the triglyceride/HDL cholesterol ratio while you are on your current diet and again a month after consuming the protein/fat diet outlined here. A normal ratio is less than 2, so as long as your ratio is decreasing, your risk of heart disease will likewise decrease.
6.    Eat at least three meals a day including within 15 minutes of waking in the morning. Your brain has not had fuel during sleep and requires nourishment not only for thought and behavior but also for its automatic functions such as control of metabolism, heart, lung and other neurologic activities.
7.    For people who have already developed consequences from poor nutrition, the body can rejuvenate to a marked degree if it starts to receive proper nutrients. These changes may occur quickly but generally take months or years to restore proper function.

Robin Fleck, M.D., is a double board certified dermatologist and internist, recognized by the American Board of Dermatology and the American Board of Internal Medicine. She is founder and Medical Director of Southwest Skin and Cancer Institute and Body Oasis Laser Aesthetics Dr. Fleck is a fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology, American College of Physicians, American Society of Laser Medicine and Surgery, American Venous Forum and the American College of Phlebology. She is also the director of Vein Specialties in Prescott, Arizona, where she treats chronic venous insufficiency and varicose veins.

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