If you want to know what’s really going on in your body, take a good long look in the mirror… Your face reveals all sorts of secrets about your health according to the nutritionist and naturopath Zoe Palmer-Wright. ‘The good news is that once you start eating the right foods, you will look and feel much better,’ she told me.
This blog is adapted from a feature I wrote for Woman’s Own magazine.
Your expressive face is only partly to blame when deep furrows form between your eyebrows. ‘According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, they’re also a sign of liver congestion,’ says Zoe. ‘Take a look at your diet – too much alcohol and rich, fatty or spicy food can do this to your body and your brows! Cut right back on dairy, red meat, curries and booze – and bulk your meals out with foods your liver will love, such as cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, sprouts, cabbage and kale). These contain compounds called glucosinolates which boost the liver enzymes needed to neutralize and remove toxins. For really rapid results try a three to five day detox (replacing meals with fresh vegetable juices, such as spinach or kale with ginger, cucumber, and apple). I have seen furrows fade in a week when patients do this.’
Regular breakouts on your forehead are a sign of a problem in your small intestine, Zoe explains. ‘This is the part of your digestive system that does the majority of the work in breaking foods down. If there aren’t enough enzymes to do this job then food isn’t digested properly and this can result in vitamin and mineral deficiencies and overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine (also known as SIBO). To help clear your skin, and improve your digestive function, eat more enzyme rich foods such as fresh papaya, pineapple, figs, raw vegetables and sprouted seeds. You could also be lacking in the enzyme lactase needed to break down milk, so try cutting out milk for a few weeks too. If the spots return when you reintroduce it, you know you have a milk intolerance.’
Spotty chin, neck or jaw line
Spots here are a huge clue that you have a hormonal imbalance, says Zoe. ‘Cutting out sugar normally helps – and that means cutting back on carbs and processed foods as well as obvious culprits like cakes, sweets and biscuits. A diet high in sugar exacerbates issues like PMS and contributes to the development of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (which can also cause unwanted facial hair, weight gain and fertility problems). Eat more broccoli and asparagus (which are rich in chromium to help balance your blood sugar levels). And because stress is also a major cause of hormonal imbalances, include nuts and green veggies for magnesium to calm your nerves.’
Broken capilliaries on your nose are often a sign of high blood pressure, says Zoe. ‘Get yours checked by your GP, cut back on alcohol and table salt, and eat more fruit and vegetables.’
Purple eye bags
These can be a sign that your kidneys need a bit of help. ‘You may be working them too hard if you’re pumping your body with stimulants like sugary tea, alcohol, coffee and fizzy drinks,’ says Zoe. You should see the difference if you cut right back on these, drink more water and switch coffee and black tea for green tea. Eat alkaline foods such as fresh vegetables, lemon juice, miso soup and brown rice.’
Red puffy eyelids
Another sign of a sluggish liver, says Zoe. ‘Puffy eyelids respond well to salads packed with bitter leaves such as chicory, watercress, rocket and radicchio.’
Red broken capilliaries here are a red light to give up smoking. ‘They’re often a sign of lung problems,’ says Zoe. ‘If you’re not a smoker, they can be caused by a hidden allergy causing irritation in your lungs. Too many “heating” foods – spicy curries, alcohol, red meat and caffeine – can also be to blame. “Cooling” foods such as grapefruit, lettuce, water melon, strawberries, cucumber and seaweed (in sushi) can all help.’
Saggy, older skin
We’re all going to get it to an extent, and it’s caused by a lack of hyaluronic acid and collagen (which naturally decline with age), Zoe says. As we get older it’s harder to get sufficient amounts from food alone, but a good supplement like Solgar Collagen Hyaluronic Acid Complex (£33.86 for a month’s supply) can significantly reduce wrinkles and improve elasticity and moisture in the skin within three months.’
Know when to see your doctor
- Balding outer eyebrows – could mean you have an underactive thyroid gland.
- Fatty lumps on your eyelids – could be due to high cholesterol.
- Butterfly rash across your nose and cheeks – could be a sign of lupus, a rare auto immune condition that also causes fatigue and joint pain.
- Red bumps on your nose and ears – could be caused by sarcoidosis, which causes scarring of the organs of the body.
- Yellow skin and eyes – could be due to medication you’re taking, or a sign of liver damage.