Beauty is more than skin deep, and nutrition’s role in aesthetics is more evident today than ever. As the worlds of skincare, anti-aging and aesthetic procedures merge with holistic living, optimal nutrition and healthy supplementation, modern-day anti-aging now includes personalized nutrition. Nutrition is integral in limiting inflammation, which affects skin quality, aging and procedural outcomes. Savvy patients are laser-focused on every element of internal health that translates externally, so it is no surprise the category’s relevance continues to grow and is expected to be a $20 billion industry by 2029.
What is Personalized Nutrition?
Personalized nutrition applies to the science of nutrigenomics, which considers a patient’s genetic, phenotypic, medical and nutritional status, and lifestyle choices to develop a holistic dietary and supplementation protocol. The antithesis of a one-size-fits-all approach, personalized nutrition first analyzes specific genes that cause some patients to respond differently to nutritional elements, consumed foods and supplements. These genetic variances interfere with the absorption or metabolization of vitamins and minerals, impacting weight, metabolism, inflammation, skin and hair health, and the rate of aging.
Brenden Cochran, NMD, an expert on regenerative injections and intravenous therapies, and founder of Interactive Health Clinics (Lynwood, Wash.), has been practicing personalized nutrition for several years. “The focus started with ill patients attempting to improve their health,” he said. “The treatment protocols would positively affect their mood, well-being and physical performance. Over the years, the findings have been applied to other areas of aging and allow doctors to improve the results of certain aesthetic procedures by optimizing nutrients where deficiencies exist.”
Medicine, nutrition and skin health are invariably related and should never exist separately. “Skin nutrigenomics science shows that personalized nutrition produces better results than a generalized approach,” explained Ahmed El-Sohemy, PhD, a professor and Canada Research Chair in Nutrigenomics at the University of Toronto (Toronto, Canada).
Nevertheless, various layers of health, genes and nutrition must be examined before correcting age- and skin-related changes. “It is important to focus on the body first and then the skin to understand how the Afbiochemistry of food impacts it. Fixing the skin is impossible when ignoring underlying conditions,” stated Francisco Llano, MD, a specialist in nutrition and anti-aging in Mexico City, Mexico.
Testing for genetic markers and risk factors is the best way to get a read on internal health. “Genomics and nutrigenetics examine a patient’s genetic make-up and genetic variants related to intolerances and predispositions,” Dr. Llano specified.
Supplements suffice for improvement in aesthetic outcomes, nutrition and overall health when a gene is lacking. “Most patients require targeted supplements that complement a smart diet,” said Jennifer Pearlman, MD, who runs a practice focused on women’s health and wellness in Toronto, Canada called PearlMD Rejuvenation.
Following testing, Mark Tager, MD, CEO of ChangeWell Inc. and the author of Feed Your Skin Right: Your Personalized Nutrition Plan for Radiant Beauty (San Diego, Calif.), noted that personalization begins with a complete medical history and lifestyle analysis, as well as a nutrition-related exam that assesses the skin, hair and nails. “We observe the tongue and mouth, where mineral deficiencies appear before a blood test.” Food sensitivities are also measured, which, Dr. Tager explained, manifest as irritations and atopic dermatitis. “IgE-mediated true food reactions bring an immediate onset, whereas IGG-mediated reactions are delayed and transpire hours or days later,” he expanded. “Finally, there are food intolerances to consider, which are discoverable through history and usually related to an enzyme.”
In personalized nutrition, “diet” consists of more than restricting caloric and fat intake. Most doctors encourage, at a minimum, the healthy basics. For example, Dr. Cochran recommends a ‘flexibility diet’ consisting of green, leafy vegetables, cruciferous vegetables, colorful fruits, bio-rich flavonoids, and healthy proteins and fats.
Physical activity also plays an insurmountable role in personalized nutrition. “Regular movement keeps the body active, so the muscles don’t atrophy,” Dr. Llano shared. “Today, the human body is forced to adapt to an almost 2000% increase in caloric intake, and it cannot adjust that fast. An increase in stored fat and a decrease in cardiovascular activity causes issues with sleep, obesity and even cancer.”
Putting Personalized Nutrition to Good Use
According to Dr. Pearlman, the skin-gut health paradigm unearths why there are several imbalances (hormonal and metabolic), nutritional deficiencies, and inflammation in the skin. “These discrepancies surface as redness, pigment, texture and sallow color. Likewise, patients observe changes in hair quality, quantity and shine. The nails can also become brittle and dull,” she stated.
Following a diagnosis, a bespoke plan comprised of vital skin nutrients is integral for patient success. Dr. Pearlman adds that a custom supplementation program in a multi-layered approach amplifies personalized aesthetics. “The idea is that the delivery of needle-based treatments, bio-stimulants, and energy-based devices complements this curated program for greater results.”
Dr. Cochran favors intramuscular (IM) nutrient shots or intravenous (IV) nutritional therapy to jumpstart a regimen. “Oral supplementation takes longer to produce results, causing some patients to believe they are unproductive. IV and IM therapy generate close to more than 100% of a cell compartment for faster changes,” he reported. The formula is individualized by adding acids based on deficiencies. “IV therapy also positively impacts the skin, and there is a profound effect in skin clarity, fewer blemishes, increased hydration, and more healthy oils secreted on the skin.” Most patients do well with IV treatments, but some temporarily experience sickness and skin blemishes due to introducing co-factors and nutrients that the body has not seen in months, if not years.
The skin-nutrition effect improves aesthetic treatments, procedures and surgical results. While nutrition, diet and supplements are hot topics of interest, the impact of a patient’s nutrition status on surgical results continues to gain evidence. Although optimal wound healing requires healthy levels of nutrients and vitamins, data suggests that integrating personalized nutrition influences patient recovery. Clinical studies also suggest the importance of nutrition for additional benefits in treatments like platelet-rich fibrin (RPF) facial regeneration. Most patients are responsive to these therapies when they are performed at least two weeks before a procedure.
Supplementing What’s Missing
A supplement routine is a staple in personalized nutrition to provide what the body lacks. To appropriately guide patients through various ingestible products, including liquids, powders, gummies and tablets, it is critical to consider their absorption and efficacy. “After an IV or IM treatment, liquids and powders are highest, followed by capsules and tablets. Avoid flavored gummies because, typically, their nutrients are low,” Dr. Cochran noted.
Dr. Cochran also advocates checking for supplements from companies with quality controls that test their supplements through a third party. “Personalized nutrition supplements should contain a Good Manufacturing Process (GMP) certification meaning that the product is free of contaminants, toxins and molds, and that the manufacturer complies with the claim,” he elaborated. Lastly, Dr. Cochran suggests that practitioners be cognizant of online distributors. “Some can be problematic, especially when used as a dispensary option for a medical practice since there can be issues like counterfeit and expired products, and supplement tampering.”
Breaking Down the Benefits of Personalized Nutrition
A customized health and wellness approach allows providers to drill down on what works best for patients rather than playing a guessing game. As Dr. Pearlman explained, a holistic approach addresses root causes and provides more robust and longer-lasting results. “Patient frustrations lie in why their doctor does not know the right solutions to help them navigate their health. The answer is not always in a bottle or an operating room, but rather in complex holistic plans personalized in delivery and dynamic in nature.”
The most significant aesthetic effects of personalized nutrition include the following:
- Improved gut health: There is a direct link between clear, healthy skin and a healthy gut. Dr. Llano says the gut is an often-forgotten organ and leaky gut syndrome is a major inflammatory issue. Feeding the gut probiotics equips it to handle skin imbalances and regulate the immune system to limit inflammation while managing microorganisms, which positively impact acne.
- Less bloating and improved weight: “Bloating is a common manifestation of a gut imbalance. Patients’ body shapes and issues like tone, texture, bloating and cellulite are all connected,” Dr. Pearlman asserted. Weight loss and maintenance can be managed with a personalized nutrition plan centered around metabolism issues.
- Improved skin microbiome: Skin inflammation transpires when the skin microbiome is compromised internally by diet and lifestyle choices, and externally from skincare products. Dr. El-Sohemy says genetics influence the microbiome, and personalized nutrition plans alter the microbiome to favor beneficial bacteria.
- Clearer skin: Inflammatory diets cause long-term internal inflammation, which weakens healthy collagen and elastin, and allows wrinkles to form. In addition, inflammatory diets instigate psoriasis, eczema, and dermatitis flare-ups. Patients suffering from dull skin and acne often benefit from a probiotic supplement, as well as fermented, plant-based and fiber-rich foods to detoxify the body naturally and build healthier gut microflora.
- Better, faster healing post-surgery: When health levels are low, post-surgical recovery can be taxing on the body. The body creates inflammation as part of the healing process, yet there is little control over how much it creates. “Inflammation is an extension of the diet,” Dr. Llano stated. “High levels of inflammation result in more scarring and fibrotic tissue that takes longer to recover.” Dr. El-Sohemy recommends a DNA-based nutrition plan to optimize patients’ nutrition status, improving healing and recovery. “Cells that grow and divide to repair the body after surgery need nutrients to reach their maximum potential.”
- Healthier hair and increased hair growth: A lack of essential vitamins, like vitamins A, E and B, and nutrients, including zinc and iron, affect the normal growth cycle, causing thinning of hair and hair loss. While vasodilators can help, Dr. Llano adds that hormone blockers and supplement treatments are also helpful. “Even growth factors provide good results by stimulating the follicle directly to keep it alive.”
A Practice Growth Opportunity
Personalized nutrition can thrive as a sector within aesthetic practices, and Dr. Tager sees this convergence for several reasons. “The goal is to help patients get healthy and look and feel good. It is an opportunity for the aesthetic professional to achieve better outcomes.”
Cash pay health care – like aesthetics and cosmetic surgery – is a consumer-driven business, and according to Dr. Tager, consumers interested in this type of personalized health and wellness want guidance, so they are more likely to see an aesthetic practitioner. That alone can serve as the impetus for integrating integrative aesthetics.
“Many reasons drive interest to integrative functional physicians, but many do not know much about the skin because it is not a large emphasis,” Dr. Tager observed. “So, opportunities exist to promote these services and carry nutraceuticals in the medical aesthetic practice. It is all about having intelligent discussions about skin health and beauty. You do not need to know about cardiovascular or brain health to know a moderate amount about nutrients and the personalized nutrition approach that is right for the skin.”
Still, doctors should have a passion for personalized nutrition and believe it is the right decision to bring into their practice.
“Regardless of expertise, many providers work with an integrated team that includes aesthetics and nutrition,” Dr. Pearlman indicated.
While some practices hire a nutritionist, a good referral network is mandatory if nutrition is outside of your practice offerings. “I always urge cross-referrals and encourage aesthetic practitioners to befriend an integrated functional practitioner or nutritionist,” Dr. Tager stated.
To make the integration process more palatable, Dr. Tager suggests training courses, and he will soon launch a course dedicated to implementing beauty-from-within into an aesthetic practice. Dr. Pearlman is also involved with a virtual academy implementation program.
On the Horizon
A crystal ball cannot predict how we will age, but specific tests and protocols clarify the path. Everything put into the body influences aging, resulting from metabolic reactions and responses. “Knowing what the body needs to function optimally allows us to live better,” Dr. Llano maintained. In the future, he believes there will likely be new and more accessible software advancements that analyze DNA, making it a more common practice.
“Aesthetic procedures are part of the equation in the quest to age gracefully head to toe and inside and out,” Dr. Tager emphasized. “We can’t discount the role that food and nutrition play in body and skin health, and what it can process or eschew impacts skin health more than most of us realize. No two people are exactly alike, and what works for one patient likely does not work for another, which is where the concept of personalization comes in.”
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