What’s the deal with Hyaluronic acid?
I’ve often heard Nikki talking about hyaluronic acid while hanging out at The Green Vanity boutique. It made me want to learn more about the connection between eating hyaluronic acid and the results to our skin health, or if that was even a real opportunity. Turns out that once again we point our gaze down to our gut.
Beautiful skin with hyaluronic acid
Back in medieval France, King Henry II’s wife, Princess Catherine, believed that if she ate chicken combs she would become beautiful. Even before that, in the 700s, One of the four beauties of ancient China named Yang Guifei, also ate chicken combs.
Chicken combs, as it turns out, contain a lot of a substance known as hyaluronic acid. Recent clinical studies show that ingesting hyaluronic acid actually can increase the moisture content of the skin. This shows up as more hydrated, and “beautiful” younger-looking skin.
Nowadays, hyaluronic acid is not just made from chicken combs, but also from microbial fermentation and is found in many skin supplements. Let’s dive into how this ancient beauty enhancer actually works.
Hyaluronic acid in the “matrix”
Before we dive into the skin, let’s talk a bit about the “matrix.” All tissues, including the skin, have what’s known as an “extracellular matrix” (ECM).
The proteins are fibrous and give the tissue both its structure and elasticity. This means they help to retain the shape of the tissue. The main proteins in the matrix are collagen and elastin.
Proteoglycans, on the other hand, are a gel-like substance made from carbohydrates. This substance fills in the spaces and keeps things moist and hydrated. One of the main proteoglycans is hyaluronic acid.
Collagen is a protein that helps to maintain structure. One of its main roles is to help the cells join together by forming a kind of a scaffold within the matrix. This allows tissues to maintain their shape and stiffness, while allowing flexibility. It helps reduce sagging.
Hyaluronic acid (a.k.a. hyaluronan, HA, or HLA) allows tissues to be squished without breaking and has a special ability to attract and hold onto water. Because of its special chemical structure, it can hold 1000x more water than its own solid volume.
This matrix is constantly being remodeled and rebalanced by the cells to ensure optimal structure, and its this matrix around skin cells that keeps skin healthy and beautiful. (In addition to our daily habits, our water consumption and our food choices, of course! As the remodeling demonstrates, the body is always working to heal the body no matter what we are doing.)
Hyaluronic acid and healthy skin
For skin health and a “youthful” appearance, the skin needs structural support, moisture, and good blood flow. Structure and moisture for the skin is made from not just the cells, but also from the important “matrix” that they secrete and surround themselves with. Blood supply is needed to bring nutrients and oxygen to the skin, while removing waste.
In the skin, the proteins (e.g. collagen) and the proteoglycans (e.g. hyaluronic acid) are secreted by cells called “fibroblasts.”
Hyaluronic acid helps to retain water to keep skin hydrated and plump, and what makes hyaluronic acid a great moisturizer for your skin.
Hyaluronic acid supplements for healthy skin
Hyaluronic acid supplements are available in many countries, including Canada and the United States. It’s very popular in Japan. Hyaluronic acid supplements are made from chicken combs, eggshell membrane, or by microbial fermentation of molasses or cheese whey. (Pro Insight: Vegans make sure to read labels before investing in any supplement!)
“HA is a safe dietary supplement that does not harm the body.” Kawada et al., 2014.
Can you ingest hyaluronic acid?
“HA dietary supplements are expected to be effective anti-aging supplements because an American ABC News program, which aired in November 2002, stated that the key to longevity in a specific Japanese village was their HA-rich diet.” “HA is safe as a daily ingestible food.” (Kawada, et al., 2014)
Although most of the research on skin benefits of hyaluronic acid was done using supplements, it is also found in food. Usually the amount in food is much smaller than that of supplements, so it’s hard to say if the same benefits will be seen.
It’s naturally found in leafy green vegetables, bone broths, fish intestines and livers. The fish options are considered delicious and nutritious food in China. HA is considered to be a skin health supplement because it increases the moisture content of the skin. According to research, it actually helps to moisturize the skin from the inside, using our own body’s wisdom. (Our gut!)
Several clinical studies have shown skin benefits of hyaluronic acid supplementation and skin moisturizing benefits have been seen with different sources of hyaluronic acid. Benefits were seen in people with dry skin taking hyaluronic acid supplements made from chicken combs, as well as those made from microbial fermentation.
Skin moisture goes beyond appearance of softer and smoother skin. When the skin has more moisture, it can help reduce wrinkles as well. Furthermore, since dry skin can cause itching, consuming hyaluronic acid to moisturize skin will reduce itching as well.
How ingested hyaluronic acid benefits the skin
Several studies have shown that ingesting hyaluronic acid can moisturize the skin. But how can swallowing it help your skin?
Ingested hyaluronic acid helps moisturize the skin in three ways:
- Hyaluronic acid is absorbed by the gut and gets to the skin
- Hyaluronic acid helps to increase the number of skin cells called fibroblasts
- Hyaluronic acid promotes increased production of hyaluronic acid from fibroblasts
So, it doesn’t just retain moisture, it also helps the skin make more cells and more hyaluronic acid as well.
“The amount of HA in the skin is one of the main factors that determines the skin moisture content. The metabolites of ingested HA moisturizes the skin.” Kawada et al., 2014.
Pro Insight: Your friendly gut microbes help your body digest and absorb hyaluronic acid from foods and supplements. (Get more probiotics in your gut with our Experience Kombucha available at The Green Vanity!)
All of our skin ages naturally over time but the age process can be worsened with exposure to ultraviolet radiation, smoking, air pollution, and certain medications. These factors cause skin to dry out and wrinkle because they lower the amount of collagen and hyaluronic acid in our skin. Collagen is critical for maintaining good structure and firmness, while the hyaluronic acid is critical for maintaining moisture and hydration.
Ingesting collagen and hyaluronic acid can actually counteract some of these effects. Several clinical studies show that they improve the skin’s moisture content, and even improve blood flow. Both of which help with the skin’s health and appearance.YES!
Because we know you love all things holistic, you’ll also need help adding leafy greens, root vegetables, bone broth and other incredibly healthy foods to your diet to help give you that glow – you know where to find us!
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