I have a client who is worried about a little excess skin that has resulted from weight loss. To my knowledge, this skin will shrink back to it's original size in time, as she has not lost that much fat. Is this correct? What are the basic properties of skin elasticity, and how best can we support this with diet and exercise?
The skin, otherwise know as the integumentary system, is the largest organ of the body with the responsibility of many important functions such as external protection from disease and injury, regulation of body fluids, absorption of light, gases, toxins and others and the synthesis of melanin, keratin and vitamin D. It is very important to understand that the skin (with the exception of a majority of the outer layer) is a living entity that is constantly dying off and being replaced. There are three basic layers to the skin.
- Epidermis - Composed of squamous epithelium cells of up to five layers. All of these layers of cells, except the deepest, are dead.
- Dermis- Deep to and thicker than the Epidermis, this layer is very alive and contains blood vessels as well as many nerves, glands and hair follicles. This layer contains many elastic/collagenous fibers to support and give tension to the skin.
- Hypodermis - Deep to the Dermis, this layer is composed primarily of loose fibrous connective tissue, adipose cells (fat) and blood vessels.
To directly address you question, the health/elasticity of these three layers will greatly depend on a number of factors such as age, health and overall vitality or lack thereof of your client in conjunction with the original size of your client and how quickly/slowly the weight was lost. Keep in mind that one's health on the inside will be directly reflected by the health shown on the outside. How can the body manufacture/regenerate high quality skin cells on a diet of coffee, McDonald's and pop tarts? The following specific factors need to be considered.
Nutritional status. Is your client:
- Eating high quality enzyme/vitamin/mineral/phytonutrient rich whole foods, preferably certified organic?
- Eating according to her metabolic type (Please see "Metabolic Typing" by Noah Hittner)?
- Consuming high quality fatty acids from essential/non-saturated sources (Omega 3s, DHA/EPA from fish oils) and saturated (organic/free range animal fats) sources for optimal cell membrane integrity as well as countless other benefits?
- Drinking half her bodyweight in ounces of clean chlorine/fluoride free water daily?
- Getting to bed by 10pm each night?
Exercise. Does your client:
- Perform the right type of strength exercise?
- Perform too much aerobic exercise (Please see "Cardio Training" by Paul Chek)?
The factors above will play a great role in determining your client's digestive health. A lifetime of stress (professional, personal, spiritual), dehydration (by way of coffee, soda, Gatorade, processed milk, etc.), malnourishment (processed non-organic foods), inadequate sleep (less than nine to 12 hours per night) and toxicity (pollution, conventionally farmed/raised foods, plastics, etc.) can result in what's known as leaky gut syndrome. This is where lining of the intestine becomes inflamed (due the stressors just mentioned), causing many digestive problems. Because we truly "are what we eat," this ultimately results in any number of health issues including weight gain, fat retention and, of course, unhealthy skin.
So, will your client's skin go completely back to normal? It is quite possible with time, though not a guarantee. Ultimately, it is up to her and how much of a priority she makes this endeavor. The holistic nutrition, exercise and lifestyle/stress reduction program(s) outlined in the book "How to Eat, Move & Be Healthy!" by Paul Chek could give your client an excellent chance of accomplishing her goal. (Click here to read Chapter 1.)
I hope this information leads you and your client in the right direction.
- Van De Graaf, K.M., Fox, S.I. (1995). Concepts of Human Anatomy & Physiology. Fourth Edition.