Our skin is our largest organ. Due to it’s need to regenerate itself, is one of our most metabolically demanding organs. It continually requires energy, nutrients, water and oxygen. Our skin also needs to have its elimination pathways clear of obstruction, so to be able to dispose of salts, toxins and other metabolic wastes. For these reasons, any deviation from a clear hydrated state must place a great strain upon the system as a whole. Within this context, skin disorders are likely to point to deeper causes and any suppressive treatment is likely to exacerbate the picture if not push it to a deeper level.
The skin is organised in three layers:
- epidermis – protects body from bacteria and germs
- the dermis – regulates temperature and supplies the epidermis with nutrient–
saturated blood. It holds most of the glands and nerve endings.
- hypodermis (subcutaneous tissue) – stores fat with this tissue acting as an insulator and conserving body heat. It also protects the organs in the body from injury by behaving as a shock absorber.
Each one subdivided into further layers. These layers, along with skin appendages have several functions:
- Immunity and Protection from mechanical and chemical damage, contain Langerhans cells which contribute to immunity.
- Sensation; contains a number of nerve endings that react to heat and cold, touch, pressure etc.
- Excretion does contain urea, however much less than that of urine.
- Temperature regulation; skin contains a blood supply far greater than its requirements which allows for precise control of energy loss by radiation, convection and conduction. Blood vessels are dilated or contricted to affect the necesary change.
- Control of evaporation: the skin provides a semi-impermeable barrier to help prevent fluid and nutrient loss, this is why severe burns can have devastating consequences.
- Stores lipids and also holds water
- Synthesis vitamin D, by the action of UV rays on certain parts of the skin
- Melanocytes play a protective role, absorbing UV rays, which cause pigmentation and preventing them from affecting other cells.
Any damage to these areas may affect the whole system – to the extent of being life threatening as in the case with severe burns.
Finally we have seen that the skin is a great excretory organ. It is also actively employed in regulating body temperature – homeostasis.
As practitioners we can employ techniques to stimulate the discharge of toxins by stimulating the skin to bring more blood into the area by means of skin brushing, massage or epsom salt baths.
To conclude, our skin provides us with the ideal interface between our internal and external environment. Its role in reflecting our health is often underestimated. we need to respect it, aid its functions and as practitioners value it as an invaluable aid in diagosing and treating our patients.