Diamonds are said to be a woman’s best friends. But I doubt if there is any woman who would like to have them in exchange for stretch marks. These anti-beauty marks which may appear on the breasts, arms, abdomen, thighs and buttocks easily make women lose their sex appeal and self-esteem as they put off many men.In many parts of Nigeria, women employ different methods to fight abdominal stretch marks, especially immediately after child birth. In some places, mothers, friends or relations of these women heat their abdomens with hot towels or clothto improve circulation in this region, disband accumulation of fat and other unwanted dross which may cause undulations in the abdominal topography associated with sagged skin and the ugliness of stretch marks.In the eastern parts of Nigeria, new mothers are given special soups which perform the same functions. In addition, many women place hot water bottles on their abdomen. TODAY, however, the skyline of this health challenge would appear to have changed. A growing epidemic of stretch marks among women is evident, and it is not confined to women who have just stepped out of the labour room. It affects also, those women who have hung their boots due to menopause or aging and who perhaps, are no longer producing enough estrogen, the dominant female hormone, are becoming or have become obese. Young girls, too, are not left out of the net. And if men think stretch marks are none of their business, they make a mistake.So, what are stretch marks which no one appears to have immunity against.

Stretch marks

WHAT happens when we hold a leaf at both endsat both ends and pull it in opposite directions beyond its tensile strength? It tears.Of course! That’s what happens in stretch marks! The skin is overstretched beyond its capacity to withstand the stress, and it tears. But the part of the skin which tears is not only the visible, outermost layer called the epidermis.It involves, also, the middle of three layers which make up our skin. These three layers of the skin are:

   The epidermis (outermost layer)

   Dermis (middle layer)

   Hypodermis (innermost layer)

The dermis consists of dead cells that are consistently shed. The dermis houses nerve endings, sebaceous glands which oil the skin, sweat glands, connective tissue, and hair follicles. Beneath the dermis is the hypodermis, also called the subcutaneous or fat tissue. All these subsections of the skin perform different functions in skin life and health. To be healthy, and function properly they must be well fed and protected against the wear and tear of stress, free radical damage, infections, heavy metals and poor blood circulation, to mention some of the challenges the skin often faces, especially such a disturbances they may subject it to tearing or stretch marks.

We need Vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids (EFAs), collagen, elastin, to mention a few nutrients, to maintain this structure. But we hardly do.

According to HannanNichois in Medilexicon international limited: “The body goes through rapid growth cycles during puberty which can cause the development of stretch marks on boy’s shoulders and backs, and girls lips, thighs and breasts. Stretch marks can become apparent if weight is gained over a short period or if body builders and athletes increase muscle mass. Medical conditions such as Cushing’s syndrome can cause stretch marks by the over production of the hormone Cortisol,andMarfan Syndrome weakens the body’s tissue and elasticity due to a faulty gene. Ehlers – Danlos Syndrome (EDS) is a rare inherited condition that disrupts the integrity of structural proteins in the skin which can also cause stretch marks. Sometimes, prolonged or inappropriate use of cortisol steroid creams and lotions that are used to treat eczema can cause stretch marks by decreasing the amount of collagen in the skin. Shape faded stretch marks are a type of scar characterized by a loss of collagen, a type of protein fiber found throughout the body, producing strength and cushioning to many different areas, including the skin, and elastic fibers in the dermis.

“The dermis is the layer of sensitive connective tissue of the skin located below the epidermis, containing nerve endings, sweat and sebaceous glands and blood and lymph vessels. Stretch marks form in the dermis when the connective tissue is ‘stretch’ beyond the power of its elasticity due to rapid expansion or contraction of the skin from sudden growth or weight gain. Stretch marks are caused when the dermis is stretched so rapidly it tears. The abrupt stretching causes the dermis to tear which allows deeper skin layers to show through, forming the stretch marks. Usually, as the body grows, the strong connective fibers in the dermis slowly stretch. However, with rapid growth, the fibers overstretch and break. Stretch marks are red or purple initially due to blood vessels showing through the tears in the dermis. Stretch marks eventually fade to a silvery, white or glossy appearance due to the blood vessel contracting and the pale fat underneath the skin becoming visible instead.Stretch marks have a more extreme appearance with an increase in cortisone, produced by the adrenal glands. Cortisone weakens elastic fibers in the skin.

Solutions

In the search for solutions to stretch marks, almost no stone has been left unturned by researchers. Study after study have found natural recipes useful in some skin types and not so useful in others. In many cases, trying to find a cure can be a frustrating experience, but a jubilant discovery in others.

MNT News reports, for example, while cocoa butter, olive oil, Bitter Almond Oil may work for some and not for others, Tretinoin (Retinoic acid) “improved the clinical appearance of early stretch marks” In one study, it is reported to reduce stretch mark length by 14 percent and the width by eight percent. Another study reported a 20 percent decrease in stretch mark length. This product is contra-indicated for pregnant and nursing women. Tretinoin is said to help to rebuild collagen ‘which makes stretch marks look like normal skin.’

While checking a literature review of research of stretch mark management, I was interested in Silica. Traditionally, silica – containing herbs and supplements have been used to improve skin, nail and hair strength and health. Among these herbs are Stinging Nettle and Horsetail. As this column reported last Thursday, DIATOM has joined the league. Known more as Diatomaceous Health, the proprietary Diatom is between 92 and 96 percent Silica. It has been found to alkalize the blood, heal ulcers, cut high blood sugar and high blood cholesterol, improve digestion and calcium absorption, kill germs and remove heavy metals from the system apart from strengthening connective tissue which is at risk of breaking or tearing when the skin is over stretched beyond its tensile capacity. So, what does MNT News say about silica?

“A study of 20 volunteers who massaged Silicon and placebo gels into separate sites of the abdomen daily for six weeks showed that the application of Silicon gels increased collagen levels and reduced pigmentation compared with a placebo. This finding would provide preliminary evidence of the use of topical gels in the clinical Management of stretch marks”

To me from the foregoing, it seems to one that skins likely to suffer from stretch marks may be laden with weak collagen matrix and “vegetable” connective tissue. Otherwise, why do some women not have stretch marks and others do? My sister has four children and has no abdominal stretch marks. Proudly, she exhibits her abdomen to women of her age whose abdomen would sicken any man.

Diet, therefore, should be the first post of call for any woman who wishes to avert stretch marks or overcome them. The diet should provide nurture for not only collagen and connective tissue but also antioxidants and antimicrobials.For under the skin, especially the one which itches often, may be resident a large population of candida which ravages collagen and connective tissue, making the skin prone to stretch marks on little exertion. The liver should be treated along with the skin in the treatment of skin eruptions and other skin conditions.

he skin is the largest organ for the excretion of wastes, although the liver is the chief excretory organ. if the liver is weak or sick, the skin, like the kidneys, receives an extra workload. More toxins and heavy metals, germs and parasites, may also find their ways to the skin. Natural remedies should be deployed against them. This column often mentions Amazon skin AP for such conditions. There is also Help for skin Disorders from the stable of Bell life style. This help comes from the product Help for skin Disorders.The contents are extracts of Oregon grape root, Bitter sweet, Juniper Berries, Sarsaparilla and Neem.

As herbal remedies.com describes Bitter or sweet: Herbalist use… as a sedative, pain reliever and diuretic. The yellow berries are used for treating convulsive disorders and menstrual problems. This herb is also used to relieve asthma, chronic bronchitis, thematic conditions and gouts. Bitter sweet is used internally or externally for skin diseases such as eczema, itchiness ‘psonasis, and warts, and as a treatment for swellings. A decoction of the twigs as a wash lessens the severity of skin conditions. It also works well in treating hives, ring worm, and itchy, crusty eruptions on the scalp and face. Recent research has shown Bitter sweet contains, the anti-tumour agent, Beta-Solar marine, which may have some effect in treating cancer”.

‘According to Natural life Energy: Sarsaparilla detoxifies the body Herbalists have used Sarsaparilla’s anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant and toxin-binding properties to purify the blood and treat skin conditions. Sasaparilla is also nutritious and contain Vitamin A, B complex, C and D, and minerals iron, manganese, Sodium, Silicon, Sulfur, Copper, Zinc and Iodine. Sarsaparilla has been used in traditional medicine to treat skin conditions like psoriasis and leprosy, rhemathoid arthritis (RA) and joint pain, headaches, cold and sexual impotence. Scientific studies done in Sarsaparilla have isolated compounds responsible for its medicinal properties. Sarsaparilla binds with toxins and detoxifies the blood we learn from the baseline of Health Foundation in Jonbarron.org:

Oregon grape root is known among herbalist for its ability to stimulate liver function, improve the flow of bile and for blood cleansing, Oregon grape root uses have traditionally included treating liver congestions and infectious conditions of both the stomach and intestines. Another benefit of Oregon grape root is its functioning as an antimicrobial. For these reasons, you would find it in Jon Baron’s Liver flush tincture and blood support formulas. When used on the skin, Oregon grape has been found to combat certain skin irritations.

Studies have concluded that herbal remedies are often more effective on dermatological conditions than pharmaceutical, and the Oregon grape power to sleep fight psoriasis and atopic dermatitis would seem to support that claim.

“Jane Cronin speaks elaborately about Zinc in www.clinicians.com. Zinc found in the skin as antioxidant properties that provide UV protection. Due to its importance in the production of collagen, it is important for wound healing and makes it important for dry and allergic skin conditions. It is very beneficial in the treatment of aching. This is due to its role in the oil glands and also because of its anti-inflammatory actions in the skin. If you think of teenage boys, needing lots of Zinc for growth and sexual development, with aching, Zinc is perfect.

Many other authorities offer valuable suggestions about how to prevent or treat stretch marks. One of the suggestions is hydration, that is we should drink water, about five liters of it a day. The skin is ripped, causing stretch marks if it is dry and lacks elasticity.

Lack of collagen and elastin are linked to stretch marks. Both provide the skin with support structure. Cocoa butter and Vitamin E are suggested for overcoming these deficiencies. Some people add Collagen, elastin and Vitamin E to the Cocoa butter they use as massage cream.

Says Mark Raineri: “The keys in fading and preventing future stretch marks is consuming mega dosages of the right Vitamins and minerals (Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin E and Zinc), they are the important micronutrients which affects the skin directly. Vitamin A is very important for the growth of skin and maintaining healthy bones, nails and hair. It helps to repair injured skin and improve dry, scaly skin. It is absorbed through the skin and helps the skin remain soft and plump. When Vitamin A is topically applied, it stimulates the skin mitotically and metabolically, therefore maintaining the skin in a youthful condition. Experiments have shown that Vitamin A applied topically keeps the epidemics saturated with the vitamin. Vitamin A also stimulates the renewal process of the epidermal cells which causes thickening of the epidemics. At the same time, Collagen content in the skin was increased and improvement in skin elasticity could be observed (very important). One of the most important roles of Vitamin C is to help heal wounds and scar tissue. It is required for the synthesis of collagen, and acts as a cementing substance between skin cells. The most important role of collagen is to provide barrier for infections and diseases and to promote healing of wounds. Vitamin C loses its potency very quickly which can make it worthless unless used immediately. It also oxidizes very quickly when exposed to air and light.

“Another very important Vitamin when trying to prevent stretch marks, Vitamin E is needed for the maintenance of normal body metabolism and in the protection and healing of body tissue and skin. For skin care, Vitamin E is most beneficial as an antioxidant in preserving the health of skin tissues and membranes. There are two ways to take Vitamin E orally and topically, applying Vitamin E topically on the stretch marks or taking Vitamin E pills.

“Zinc, the most important quite possibly, the essential supplement to take in the prevention of stretch marks. The most important property of Zinc is the production of Collagen. Collagen holds the bodies skin tissues together.

“It is the most abundant structural protein and makes up 80 percent of all connective tissue. In fact 75 percent of the dermis consist of Collagen and it makes up 90 percent of its volume. When a person has enough Collagen.It is near impossible to get stretch marks, Collagen is not available in food, so it is very essential to supplement with Zinc.”

We cannot ignore other therapies such as the massage of stretch marks with a mixture of sugar and Olive oil. An antioxidant supplements I adds to skin formulas, following the example of Dr. Ray strand and Dr. Don Colbert, is Grape seed extract (GSE). It is more potent as an antioxidant than Vitamin C and Vitamin E, and it protect them against oxidation. It helps to clear skin blemishes such as dark spots on the skin and those white blotches of Vitiligo caused by free radical activity in the skin.