THE THYROID DETECTIVE SERIES - DRY SKIN Thyroid conditions come with multiple symptoms, which can vary from person to person.
If you have a thyroid condition, you may suffer from dry skin as a result.
This may seem like a fairly 'low grade' symptom, compared to many of the others that you are likely to experience as hypothyroidism continues, but the severity of dry skin can range from low to severe, causing those suffering with it to feel varying degrees of self-devaluation, emotional upset and levels of pain and discomfort that can be mildly irritating to extremely painful.
THE BODY ASPECT
This is a closer look at the biology: the purpose and function of the organ and the tissues involved.
This will provide the framework for understanding the 'mind' aspect later.
The Anatomy of the different layers of Skin
The skin is made up of two layers, which are made up of multiple different sets of cells: the dermis layer, and the epidermis (or corium). After this a third layer, which is not officially 'skin', but is closely connected to the skin: the hypodermis (or subcutaneous superficial fascia). This sits below the dermis layer. This is our fat deposits and sits above the next layer, which would be muscle.
The epidermis is the top layer of our body, it is the 'skin' that we see, touch and feel which is layered across our body. It is made up of cells called keratinocytes, which as they grow and mature migrate from the bottom layers of the epidermis to the top. As they do this they synthesise keratin, strengthen and thicken, providing ever more protection by the time they become the top layer of cells of the epidermis.
Keratin is a protein that has two main functions:
To adhere the epidermis cells together - creating stability in one of the largest 'organs' of the body
To create a protective layer on the external surface (top layer) of the skin - to protect the organism from the environment
Keratin is the main substance in the top layer of skin, and as its name suggests ('Kera' or 'keros' means "Horn"), this is the substance that 'cornifies' the epidermis (making it tougher) via the process of 'keratinisation'. This process happens in hair, nails, hooves, the scales and claws of reptiles and the feathers and beaks of birds.
The distinguishing feature of keratins is the presence of large amounts of the sulfur-containing amino acid cysteine, which is required for the disulfide bridges that confer additional strength and rigidity by permanent, thermally stable crosslinking[X]
The epidermis is very thin, although it's thickness varies at different areas of the body: from 0.05mm at the eyelid, to 1.5mm thick on the soles of the feet and the palms of the hands. This alteration of thickness is specifically to enable the different 'functions' of that part of the body. Clearly, if the epidermis were 1.5mm thick at the eyelids, our ability to open and close our eyelids would be affected. This is biologies perfection of form and function! Even though the types of cells used in the epidermis are the same, they adapt in a particular organ or environment to reflect the functional need of that organ!
The dermis sits just under the epidermis, and is the foundation upon which the epidermis sits. It is made up of connective tissue, a dense network of collagen and elastin fibers, and through it the blood vessels, glands, nerves and hairs of the skin pass. This section of the skin is much thicker than the epidermis, and is 0.3mm to 4.0mm thick at different areas of the body.
The hypodermis layer is made up of mainly fatty connective tissue, It will vary on thickness greatly, depending upon the individual.
Other Skin Changes in Hypothyroidism
There are many changes that may be experienced, some are individualised symptoms, whilst others are recognised as 'conditions' in their own right.
Recently, Hypothyroid mum posted on some of the conditions, which include:
Alopecia Vitiligo Lupus
All of these may be related to thyroid issues and share the commonality of being autoimmune - meaning that they are recognised as being affected by the immune systems 'self-attack'. Some people consider autoimmune issues as being an indicator that the body is 'broken' and doing something wrong. Indeed the symptoms are devastating, and the immune system is working contrary to its preferred trajectory. But in terms of the mind-body-emotion connection, we will always look at what the body is doing and try to understand 'why'. Very often, there is an intelligence in the body working contrary to its usual process, and we will look for the positive intention and meaning in the function to understand what needs to be addressed in each individual case according to the symptoms.
Individual Skin symptoms of hypothyroidism may include one or more of the following:
Dry Skin Hair loss thinning skin cold, clammy skin Change of colour Bruising easily slow wound healing Brittle nails Dry scalp (dandruff) Absence of sweating
Today, we are just focusing on 'Dry Skin'.
As in the practice and application of a mind-body-emotion approach, we will always take each individual symptom and address it specifically.
In this way we can tailor the area of study and uncover the mind-body link in a more detailed and specific way.
In Understanding the mind-body connection between our specific symptoms, we need to look at the specific 'function' of that organ, or part of the organ. Much like a detective we need to focus our attention on the small details in order to decipher the messages that the body is providing for our attention.
Skin serves many important functions:
(1) It is a barrier that stops harmful substances from entering the body & repairs itself fairly quickly if damaged
(2) It prevents desiccation, or 'drying out' of not only the skin, but more importantly of the whole living organism (think about when a worm dries in the sun! ew...)
(3) Regulation of body temperature;
(4) It is one of the main organs through which we receive sensory information from the external environment (touch, pressure, temperature, and pain)
(5) sweat glands excrete waste products;
(6) lacrimal glands produce an isotonic saline bathing solution for the eyes;
(7) sebaceous and ceruminous glands secrete sebum and cerumen ("wax"), respectively; and
(8) mammary glands secrete milk.
The exposed surface of skin is not smooth but creased by flexion folds around skeletal joints, and it is also pitted by openings of hair follicles and sweat gland ducts. In addition, a characteristic surface pattern exists on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet, which are often used legally for positive individual identification (e.g., fingerprints).
Why is the skin dry in hypothyroidism?
The Slowed metabolic functioning of the whole body will have an effect upon the regeneration of skin cells across the body, but it is typical in hypothyroidism to see skin thicken upon both the heels of the feet and the palms of the hands. So one fo the questions that we would ask as a mind-body detective, is "Why specifically that part of the body?"
Why does that specific area of the body get thicker, dryer skin?
Surely, if it were a simple matter of a slower metabolic process, wouldn't that affect all areas of skin growth?
Other symptoms that may affect the skin, and the healthy functioning of the healthy elasticated and supple skin include the reduced functioning of sweat glands and possibly even reduced hair growth.
Both of these are functions of the skin and its associated organs, but we won't be looked at here at the mind-body connections behind the sweat glands and hair growth, as they are individual 'symptoms' with their own unique mind-body connections. (Look out for further blogs on these in the future.)
However, we will see that the loss of these organs affect the healthy growth of the skin itself.
The stratum corneum, which is the top layer of the epidermis, restricts water movement both in and out of the skin, and therefore the whole organism. In normal humans, approximately 0.5 L of water vapor is expelled through the stratum corneum per day1 Even minor injuries to the corneal layer from tape stripping or applications of solvents will result in increased transepidermal water loss. Like humans, dogs with atopic skin disease have recently been shown to have an increased water loss through the corneal layer.
Much of the barrier function is attributed to the physical property of continuous desquamation, which allows for the expulsion of pathogens. Furthermore, the stratum corneum is able to absorb UV light to protect the underlying tissue from free radical oxidation. This layer also contains natural antimicrobial peptides such as defensins and cathelicidins such that abnormalities in the corneal layer may predispose the patient (human or animal) to bacterial and yeast infections.
Hair and nails on humans does naturally become dry and brittle, but in people with hypothyroid issues, the layer of 'keratinised' cells becomes thicker and deeper still. We see a general 'thickening' of the condition of the skin (due to the higher levels of keratin in the cells).
It is difficult to dissolve keratin because it contains cysteine disulfide, which means that it is able to form disulfide bridges. These bridges create a helix shape that is extremely strong, as sulfur atoms bond to each other, creating a fibrous matrix that is not readily soluble. Depending on how much cysteine disulfide keratin contains, the bond can be extremely strong to make hard cells like those found in hooves, or it can be softer to make flexible tissue like hair and skin. Because of the high levels of sulfur in this protein, it emits a distinct sulfurous odor when burned that some people find distasteful.
THE MIND ASPECT
This is a closer look at how the mind interprets an external event or situation and makes an assessment about it based on our individual thoughts, feelings and perceptions.
It is this set of personalised perceptions which is then interpreted via the organs and tissues of the body in order to find an 'intelligent' response to a perceived issue or problem.
When the problem is ongoing, extreme or the body is unable to achieve the solution it is intending, the biological program may become overt and extreme, and we may experience dis-ease and ill health.
Understanding and addressing the underlying thoughts, emotions and energetic, or unconscious patterns underpinning the symptoms or disease is a key to unlocking and changing these patterns, and releasing the body from the cycle of the disease/symptom.
Keys to improve your well-being & health
Eat foods like gelatin, agar agar and kelp can help to keep hair and nails moist, they can be grown out while still remaining healthy. In general, the thicker the layer of keratin, the healthier the hair or nail is, because the dead cells outside protect the living cells at the core.
Which emotional aspects resonate with you?
Do you recognise any of the 'KEYS' to your psychological or thinking behaviours?
How might your symptoms be supporting your body from this point of view?
1 Canine ichthyosis and related disorders of cornification in small animals: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3529142/
Thyroid Foundation of Canada
How does Skin regenerate? http://sciencing.com/skin-regenerate-4566222.html
Anatomy Atlases: http://www.anatomyatlases.org/MicroscopicAnatomy/Section07/Section07.shtml