Q&A: Honey Good & Dr Stephen Bergquist - Healthy Aging Skin
Dr. Stephen Bergquist is an internal medicine physician who specializes in proper wound care. After completing his training in internal medicine and working as an emergency department physician, he shifted his focus — he has spent almost 15 years working with people whose wounds do not heal well, especially those with aging skin. Honey Good is a wife, mother, daughter, grandmother, girlfriend, entrepreneur, and gatherer of women of all ages and walks of life.
Honey Good: How does nutrition play a role in skincare? And what are some tips for healthy aging skin?
Dr. Bergquist: Collagen and elastin are the primary proteins in the skin. Collagen gives skin its strength; it attracts water and keeps skin plumped and full. For this reason, it is important to stay hydrated. Keeping your skin well hydrated prevents cracking. An intact skin barrier blocks microbes from entering. Dietary supplements, bone broth, and algae are excellent sources of collagen.
Besides collagen and water, other nutrients such as vitamins A, D, C, E, and zinc are essential to maintain healthy skin. Vitamin A, C, and E are antioxidants. Vitamin C aids in skin cell regeneration, wrinkle reduction, and collagen production. Vitamin D protects against skin damage from the sun by modulating the inflammatory response and promoting wound healing. Zinc boosts the immune response and is involved in protein formation.
Your diet can have an enormous impact on your overall health and the health of your skin. Consume healthy fats such as avocados and fish, eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, season with spices, and avoid excessive sugar.
Honey Good: Are there vitamins or nutrition options that help prevent bruising in older adults?
Dr. Bergquist: Bruising is common with age due to thinning skin and increasingly fragile capillaries (small blood vessels). A minor bump causes blood to leak from capillaries, sometimes even in the absence of injury or trauma—a condition known as senile purpura.
A diet rich in collagen, zinc, and vitamins A, C, and D can help maintain collagen and capillary wall strength. Consume citrus fruits, lean proteins, and pineapple. Foods like kale, spinach, and broccoli are high in vitamin K. Crab, pumpkin seeds, and legumes are great sources of zinc.
Honey Good: What is the best way to protect skin from the sun? What ingredients should we look for or avoid in sunscreen?
Dr. Bergquist: It is important to be choosy when selecting sunscreen. Sunscreens can be mineral-based or chemical-based. Chemical-based sunscreens absorb ultraviolet light, but many contain chemicals called endocrine disruptors. These chemicals may affect hormone levels, especially estrogen.
The safest option is to take a mineral-based sunscreen, such as a sunscreen made with zinc-oxide, and mix it with a little coconut oil. The sunscreen made with zinc oxide will protect your skin, and the coconut oil makes it easier to spread. Avoid sprays or aerosols, so you do not inhale the aerosolized particles.
Honey Good: Is zinc important in the diet and as an ingredient in sunscreen?
Dr. Bergquist: Zinc oxide is found in mineral-based sunscreens. It reflects ultraviolet radiation instead of absorbing it like chemical-based sunscreens. Thin, dry skin tends to be more porous and, therefore, more easily absorbs chemicals. Sunscreens made with zinc oxide are non-irritating, non-allergenic, and non-comedogenic.
Zinc deficiency is common as a result of chronic diseases and dietary choices. Zinc stimulates the immune system, is required for collagen synthesis, and acts as an antioxidant to protect healthy aging skin from chemicals.
To protect your skin and optimize wound healing, eat foods high in zinc, such as meat, seeds, shellfish, and legumes.
Honey Good: What are some common skin issues you see related to aging?
Dr. Bergquist: Collagen provides strength to the skin and blood vessels. Elastin gives skin the ability to recoil when stretched. As skin ages, it becomes thinner and loses both strength and elasticity, blood vessels supplying the skin also weaken. Loss of elastin leads to sagging and wrinkles. Lack of collagen increases the risk of skin damage and delays wound healing.
Decreased sweat production and vascular problems can lead to dryness and itching. On the other hand, excess moisture and pressure on the skin increase the risk of skin breakdown. Therefore, it is important to keep your skin at an ideal moisture level.
Many skin issues can be alleviated by choosing a healthy diet to nourish skin from the inside, avoiding excessive ultraviolet light exposure, and using Manuka honey to reduce the inflammation and irritation associated with dry skin or healing wounds.
Honey Good: Among the boomer population, what are the more prevalent types of wounds you see?
Dr. Bergquist: Ulcers are the most common type of chronic wound in the boomer population. Pressure ulcers can be avoided by strategic use of padding and avoiding prolonged pressure on the skin. Continuous pressure on a bony prominence restricts blood flow. The heel, foot, back of the leg, buttocks, and sacrum are high-risk areas for pressure ulcers. Check your skin frequently for signs of irritation.
Diabetic ulcers are common, especially on the legs and feet. Long-term diabetes can cause neuropathy or the inability to sense injury to the feet. Neuropathy and decreased blood flow are both factors in the formation of diabetic ulcers. Careful inspection of your feet and legs for skin wounds or breaks and scrupulous attention to blood sugar levels can help prevent diabetic ulcers.
Varicose veins and edema make it difficult for blood to flow into and out of the legs. Swollen tissues put pressure on the skin, increasing the risk of skin breakdown and secondary infections. Manuka honey provides a barrier between broken skin and dangerous microbes, allowing your skin to heal more quickly and with less discomfort.
Honey Good: How does aging skin influence wound healing?
Dr. Bergquist: The natural decrease in collagen and elastin associated with aging does impair the skin's ability to heal properly. A diet high in collagen and antioxidants can help. As skin becomes less elastic and more rigid and fat layers under the skin decrease, injury and damage to the skin are more common.
Many factors such as dry skin, swollen hands and feet, incontinence, pressure ulcers, infection, poor nutrition, chronic disease, and blood vessel disease become more common as people age, slowing the healing process. Healthy lifestyle habits can reduce your risk. Exercise as you are able, avoid toxins in your environment, manage your weight with a nutritious and low-fat diet, and choose natural, nontoxic products to protect and moisturize your skin.
Honey Good: What products or ingredients would you recommend for preventing scars after injury to aging skin?
Dr. Bergquist: If you have a break in the skin, silicone-based gels have been studied and show good results with scar reduction. Shea butter also offers superior scar reduction, is significantly cheaper, and outperforms vitamin E creams. Shea butter can be found in most drugstores.
Silicone-based gels and shea butter hold moisture in the skin. However, for proper wound care, your skin needs to be not too dry or too wet. Our practice is to apply Manuka honey to the wound and cover it with Vaseline gauze to hold the moisture in to help wounds heal faster, better, and with less scarring.
Medical grade Manuka honey applied daily gives you excellent wound coverage, optimal moisture levels, microbial control, and helps with healing.
Honey Good: What are the principles of proper wound care for aging skin?
Dr. Bergquist: To maximize your skin's ability to heal, eat healthily, stop smoking (if applicable), and moderate your alcohol intake to decrease your skin's exposure to toxins. Your overall health, genetic predisposition, and lifestyle choices can impact the healing process.
However, if you do have an injury, proper wound care entails removing the dead tissue, applying a moist wound dressing containing Manuka honey to aid healing and prevent infection, and changing the dressing regularly, sometimes as often as three times a day. Your doctor will remove any dead tissue and advise you on proper wound care.
Besides using Manuka honey, other strategies to decrease inflammation in damaged tissue include maximizing your nutritional status and learning relaxation techniques to help you manage stress and anxiety. Your mind has an enormous influence on the health of your body.
Honey Good: How common are skin infections, and how do you recommend treating them on aging skin?
Dr. Bergquist: Antibiotics wipe out microbes living in your gut and on your skin. Wiping out normal flora bacteria encourages the overgrowth of harmful bacteria and yeast. Yeast thrives in warm, moist environments like between the toes, the groin, skin folds, and under the arms. Your skin protects you from further damage.
Sometimes, your skin needs help. For example, dryness and cracking allow microbes to get deeper into the skin and impair the healing process. Medical grade Manuka honey can provide the moisture and barrier protection your skin needs to prevent infection.
Honey Good: What kinds of treatments do you recommend for aging skin? What helps aging skin heal faster?
Dr. Bergquist: Medical grade Manuka honey can provide the moisture and barrier protection your skin needs, but be a savvy consumer:
- Make sure the company is transparent about the potency and purity of its ingredients and its processing process.
- Look for FDA-licensed products, such as First Honey. This company produces the Manuka honey I use in my medical practice, and they produce the same product for over-the-counter use.
- Ingesting Manuka honey is also very beneficial for healthier skin. I add a scoop of
collagen and a tablespoon of Manuka honey to my coffee each morning.
A healthy diet, proper skin care, and protection from ultraviolet light and potentially harmful chemicals can all reduce the risk of skin damage and poor wound healing. When that isn't enough, products like medical-grade Manuka honey can act as a barrier between sensitive skin and a harsh environment.
About Honey Good:
Honey is the founder of HoneyGood.com, a website of wisdom for multigenerational women. She is a wife, mother, daughter, grandmother, girlfriend, entrepreneur, and gatherer of women of all ages and walks of life.
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