What Is Inflammaging? All About the Connection Between Inflammation and Aging Skin, Including What You Can Do to Minimize It

Plus, find out why Omega-3s are your skin's best friend and the best foods to eat to get them.

When it comes to aging, the first things we think of are the outward signs that have been associated with getting older: wrinkles and dehydrated skin with less fullness and elasticity. The truth is that healthy skin is the mirror of a healthy body, and as our largest organ, our skin serves as the first barrier of defense against environmental toxins in the outside world. The health of our skin is based on multiple factors, some of which include both lifestyle choices (sun exposure, alcohol consumption, using products containing toxic chemicals) as well as what's happening on a cellular level.

Getting older is inevitable but aging gracefully is possible. The term "Inflammaging" is gaining attention in medical research and the worlds of health and wellness. A meld of the words "inflammation" and "aging," inflammaging is the concept that inflammation leads to quick aging of the skin. Keep in mind, inflammation naturally occurs in our body as part of our body's immune response. Our body is capable of launching an acute (short-term) inflammatory response, especially when fighting off viruses and bacteria. As we get older, pro-inflammatory factors begin to outweigh anti-inflammatory markers where chronic inflammation becomes the norm, taking a toll on our aging bodies.

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Omega-3s Are Key

While we can't stop the aging process, we can certainly minimize the inflammaging process by looking at our diet, starting with Omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s are an essential nutrient that our body cannot make, meaning it has to come from our diet. A substance that is only made in the ocean, Omega-3s, in particular DHA and EPA are key to maintaining healthy skin.

Fatty acids like Omega-3s are needed to maintain the integrity of the skin's natural protective barrier function against environmental factors to reduce water-loss through our skin. Shortages of these fatty acids compromise the skin barrier and lead to dry skin. Omega-3s help lock in skin moisture and help to make the skin feel smoother and softer by helping to keep it hydrated, essentially reducing the appearance of wrinkles. Omega-3s improve the fatty acid composition in your skin—in other words, your skin stays softer and less inflamed when these are a regular part of your diet! Keeping your fatty acid levels up also helps to minimize the effect of sun damage and improve sensitive skin conditions like eczema, psoriasis, and rosacea.

Fatty Fish for the Win

According to the American Heart Association, close to 70 percent of Americans are deficient in Omega-3 fatty acids. If you are not eating two servings of fatty fish a week, count yourself as part of that demographic. Our bodies are dependent on fatty fish from the ocean as the only source of DHA and EPA Omega-3s. Another tiny crustacean, krill, has gained attention as an even more superior omega 3. Krill oil also contains EPA and DHA, found in fish oil, with two additional nutrients; choline and a powerful antioxidant astaxanthin.

One of the key concerns when supplementing with Omega-3s is quality and sourcing of the fish. Many fish oil supplements contain high levels of mercury or other toxins. Others, like Kori Krill Oil ($19.97, amazon.com), are made from Antarctic krill that live in largely unpolluted waters and consume a diet rich in microalgae, a source of omega-3 fatty acids. What's more, research suggests that omega-3s from krill oil are superior to fish oil in raising Omega-3 levels in the body.

Omega-3s play a powerful role on more than just our skin and the outward signs of aging. They support our brain, eye, heart, joint, and immune health. They are an essential nutrient that I encourage all of my clients to meet the dietary recommendation of eating fatty fish two times a week. If there are any barriers to this, then supplementing is another option to nourish your body with essential fatty acids. There is nothing more powerful than a healthy diet to help ensure you are meeting your body's needs so that it can work quietly and efficiently behind the scenes to minimize inflammation and help to keep you living healthier, longer.

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