4. Functions Of The Skin
Because of the vital role played by the skin in the body economy, its tonus or health, should always be maintained at a high level. When we understand the many important functions performed by the various membranes of the total skin, we can appreciate the fact that the skin does serve as a mirror of the inner state of body health. Obviously, it is not our purpose to go into great detail in this regard, but we can examine some of the more important functions performed by the skin.
The skin is a complete factory of many diverse enterprises: manufacturing, distributing, storing, and reproducing a variety of materials. It has very efficient collection, storing and disposal facilities. One of its major functions is that of sensitivity.
4.1 As an Organ of Sensitivity
The human skin is the organ of feeling and touch. It is our chief contact with the world outside of the body. It is highly sensitive to heat, either external or internal. When the body gets overheated, usually from some unusual exertion or from fevers, the skin simply instigates an accelerated evaporation of water from all of its millions of pores, expanding them for this process. In this way excess heat is absorbed to power the transformation of the water to an escaping gas. The body is cooled by this process. When normalcy, or systemic comfort, is once again reached, the skin relaxes and the evaporative process resumes a more normal rate.
The skin is also sensitive to cold. We are enabled to survive extremes of external temperatures ranging from well below zero to as high as 200 degrees. When overly chilled, the body simply closes off the pores so that less water or none is evaporated, thus conserving body heat.
It is vitally important for the body’s internal temperature to be controlled within rather narrow limits so that all the infinite numbers of biochemical processes we call life in action can continue with maximum efficiency. It is known that even a deviation of a single degree of temperature from the norm can be evidence of an existing pathology, of abnormal conditions within the metabolic pathways and byways, especially if the deviation persists for a prolonged period.
We must remember that the skin is actually an expansion of the nervous system. It has the ability to transmit two kinds of sensory impulses, that of touch and that of temperature.
There are two distinct sensations of touch, these being distinguished as pressure and place sensations. The palm of the hand is said to have 40 or 50 such touch spots per square centimeter. All over the body there are small areas which respond to cold, others heat. When it is cold outside, the skin simply closes up, as it were, and folds us in just a little bit more to keep in our body heat. In hot weather, it opens up more. We know that the skin’s multitudinous nerve endings are so sensitive that the most minute sensations are duly recorded and appropriate messages transmitted to the nerve centers where they are interpreted and appropriate responses ordered, these then being carried out in due course by the cells of the skin. This almost instantaneous transmission of sensation and the orders for action in response thereto is the reason why it is actually unnecessary to take a cold shower following a warm to hot bath. When exposed to the colder air the pores will close automatically in response to even minute variations in the air temperature.
The elimination of a certain kind and amount of toxic wastes is one of the important nutritive functions of the skin. We are constantly surrounded by an invisible vapor consisting of toxic gases and water. We literally walk in an invisible cloud.
Hygienists recognize that the least amount of clothing to provide sufficient warmth and prevent chilling is the most Hygienically appropriate attire for the maintenance of a healthy skin and body. All clothing should be of porous weave to permit the escape of body discharges via the skin. Closely woven fibers can prevent free passage of body wastes which can then back up into the system or collect on the surface to cause skin irritations and inflammations. Even a Hygienically-correct diet will not be conducive to superior skin and body health when tight-fitting garments are constantly worn.
This fact was dramatically demonstrated in Lou’s case. Lou worked out-of-doors as a landscape consultant. He came to us with a severe skin problem. His back, underarms, and abdominal area were covered with, sores which oozed pus. Lou’s case history and diet profile revealed that, in general, he was in good health by present standards and that he ate a better than average diet avoiding junk foods, candy, and the like.
We observed, however, that at the consultation Lou was wearing a tightly-fitting T-shirt made of synthetic fibers, probably because he wished to display a rather well-developed upper torso. Upon questioning, we learned that Lou wore this type of garment to work just about every day. As our readers probably know the searing sun of our Arizona summers can be highly debilitating and, of course, Lou spent most of his daylight hours out-of-doors, both in winter and summer. His active life necessarily caused him to sweat profusely.
We advised Lou to discard his shirts made of all synthetic fibers in favor of shirts made of more porous weaves of cotton and to buy a size larger than he normally purchased. Inside of two weeks, Lou reported that his sores were already healing. A year later he called to tell us that he had had no recurrence of his problem!
Because our eyes can’t see this invisible poisonous cloud, most of us are totally unaware of the fact that every day our skin, as part of the body’s total nutritional process, pours off as much as two pints and even more of water and that this water contains many irritating contaminants in solution. Exposure of the body to moving currents of air encourages the cleansing effort as does providing passageways for exodus of gaseous wastes, as is done by porous weaves.
We should wear not only more appropriate clothing, but we should also wear less clothing. If we wish to maintain a well-nourished skin, we should also bathe frequently and change all undergarments at least once a day. Females should bathe the vaginal area following urination and males the penis. While orifices are self-cleaning within, their external surfaces are not.
Simply standing or sitting before an open window or in a passageway with free air passage without clothing for thirty minutes a day will help the eliminative process. If we obstruct the free flow of effete matter from the skin in any way, we cause the sewer lines of the body to become (logged with poisons backing up into the main channels.
To understand just how poisonous this discharged matter can be, all we have to do is to remind ourselves of what happens when the skin passageways are blocked. We have all read of heard of persons who have painted their bodies to produce a dramatic cosmetic effect. Death has often resulted within a matter of a few hours, death being directly attributed to a reverse flow of body poisons which were forced back because the way out was obstructed.
Clients must be made aware of the need for cleanliness and for keeping the pores open in order to maintain this important eliminating organ as a vital functioning unit. Intelligent choice of clothing and cleanliness is a part of proper skin maintenance.
4.3 The Skin and the Sun
Another important function of the skin is to harness the sun’s energy and to manufacture vitamin D. The skin, with its oils in the presence of sunshine, can synthesize this vitamin in several forms which can then be absorbed into the body where it can help to maintain calcium balance. In our view, the importance of the skin and its relation to the sun as a remedial agent in many abnormal conditions is too often completely overlooked. Elsewhere in this course you have learned much about the effect of the sun’s rays on the maintenance of health. For the skin to be maintained in good health also, it must likewise receive some exposure to the sun.
Physicians in ancient times used to maintain that sunshine was the best medicine in the world. We know that the sun’s rays have germicidal power and tend to keep the pathogenic bacteria which may reside on the surface of the skin within reasonable numbers. When the entire body is well nourished, the skin will reflect this health but it can suffer, of course, from too much sun exposure.
The skin has a natural barrier against overabsorption of the ultraviolet rays that produce tanning. Students of Life Science already know that this tanning process should proceed slowly. Ideally, of course, it should start in infancy and be continued throughout the entire life span. A deep brown skin is an indication of natural protection and probably a well-pigmented skin could be exposed for much longer periods than that of most people without resulting in undue discomfort or damage.
In our experience many individuals who thought they could not tan have been able to do so by setting up a planned program in which exposure time was gradually-increased. Consistent and correct exposure of the nude body to the sun’s rays is a vital part of the nutrition of the skin and without it no skin can be said to be fully healthy. To paraphrase a statement by Dr. Shelton, a pale thigh is certain proof of diminished health.
4.4 Other Functions
We have already mentioned, in passing, some of the other functions of the skin but let us briefly review. The membranes secrete certain fluids required for a variety of purposes. The skin is also an absorbing organ. It aids the lungs and stomach, for example, by taking up nourishment from without the body in the form of solids, liquids or gases, oxygen being the most important. Each cell must make its own energy so that its functions may proceed as required, so that it may carry on with the multitudinous numbers of chemical, physical and, perhaps, even electrical and other processes that are part of cellular metabolism.
We all have sick skin cells and we all also have healthy cells. If most of the cells in the skin are healthy, they will be able to maintain a working balance between their functioning duties and the elimination of their fair share of the metabolic wastes of the body.
However, the more diseased cells there are in the skin, the more disturbed body equilibrium becomes (known as dynamic equilibrium or homeostasis) and as a result, the integration of bodily function is reduced or even no longer possible in severe cases. The vigor of the important eliminating processes of the skin are always dependent upon the available energy supply. Cells enervated by toxic wastes become inefficient energy producers and thus become diseased.
Another function of the skin is protection. The skin can cope reasonably well with bruises, scratches, hard blows, and friction rubbing. When the latter, for example, becomes excessive or prolonged, the skin simply mobilizes its manufacturing facilities and produces a harder and thicker surface to act as a protective barrier, this being known to us as a callous.
A callous represents just one of the many defensive adaptive measures possible to the skin when it is confronted with danger. The human skin seems to come equipped with its own reparative supplies and with its own repairmen well-trained to cope with all common emergencies. It is fantastically self-healing.
When the skin is well-nourished and healthy, wounds seldom leave a noticeable scar. We personally had a marvelous example of the skin’s ability to heal itself a few years ago when Dr. Robert, then in his 78th year, fell and suffered a deep gash over and across his whole eyelid. It extended up and across the brow line. We applied no medication, simply washing it with distilled water to remove the dirt and blood and then applying a simple device to hold the parts together. In a few days the wound had healed and, today, there is no mark of any kind to show where the deep cut had been. Sometimes, and more often than not, the body, and especially the skin, can accomplish more when we leave it strictly alone to its own devices than when we fuss with it.
Another function of the skin is its flexibility. It can be moved in just about any direction we may choose. Whenever it is subjected to any undue pressure, it just bounces back and assumes a normal position once the pressure is removed. Perhaps the most remarkable talent of all is the skin’s ability to grow as we grow and, in later life, to shrink as we shrink!
- 1. Introduction
- 2. Natural Hygiene Represents Nutrition For The Whole Person
- 3. Structure Of The Skin
- 4. Functions Of The Skin
- 5. Some Common Diseases Of The Skin
- 6. The Hygienic Practitioner At Work
- 7. Questions & Answers
- Article #1: Skin Diseases By William Howard Hay, M.D.
- Article #2: Lupus By Louis Kuhne
- Article #3: The Skin By M. O. Garten, D.C.
- Article #4: The “Hurry-Up” Disease By Elizabeth D. McCarter, D.Sc.