How much money have you spent on skincare products over the years? If you are anything like me, it’s going to be a lot! I bet if you added it up, it would shock you.
The beauty industry is worth a lot of money, so it’s in its interest to sell you a product based on some kind of science telling you it will solve your skin problem. And yes, some products may help for a short time, others not at all, and some will make your skin worse!
But what if you could achieve beautiful, blemish free, glowing skin with none of that? Wouldn’t that save you so much time and money every month?
You see, we have it the wrong way round. Rather than deal with our skin problem from the outside, we need to go much deeper – into our gut, in fact!
By focusing on what’s going on inside our bodies and improving our gut health, we can naturally achieve healthy, glowing skin.
Whether you are battling acne, dry skin, dull skin, rosacea, eczema, or any other skin problem, creating a healthy diet plan can help.
Want to know more? Read on for some tips on what to eat to heal those skin problems and how to improve your skin from the inside out.
The science: What is skin?
Did you know that our skin is our body’s largest organ? We rarely think about it that way, but when we do, it changes how we look after it.
The skin is an active, living tissue that serves as a tough but flexible armour to keep harmful microbes, chemicals, and sun rays away from our more sensitive inner tissues. Our skin can also act as a mirror, reflecting what’s going on inside our bodies.
The science: Your gut
Our gut houses trillions of helpful and harmful bacteria. It has many functions, the primary one being to absorb the nutrients from our food so our body can function optimally. It also creates a barrier, keeping toxins and other harmful elements out.
The gut-skin relationship
We now know that by improving gut function and our health, we can improve our skin health, immune function, mood, and energy levels.
Because the skin and the gut both share several similarities, we know there is a gut-skin relationship. Both host individual microbiomes and play key roles as defenders against pathogens (viruses and harmful bacteria) invading from the outside environment. Many studies show that treating gut issues also treats skin issues.
There are trillions of bacteria living in the gut which can be broadly divided into two categories, the good bacteria such as probiotics, and the bad bacteria. We want more of the good bacteria as this will keep the bad stuff in check and stop it taking over and causing disease.
There needs to be a balance of bacteria in our gut for the proper digestion of foods and the synthesis of vitamins our body needs.
Skin conditions affected by the gut
Research on gut flora shows that an improper balance of bacteria can cause or worsen many skin conditions.
Some skin conditions specifically caused by poor gut health include:
- Facial redness
- Dry skin
These common conditions many individuals experience are typical symptoms of something else going on in the body.
Foods for gut and skin health
‘Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food’Hippocrates
There is so much we can do to heal ourselves and by eating for skin health, we can improve our health overall!
Here is a list of healing foods to help improve your gut and skin:
- Bone broth has so many benefits and contains collagen, making it great for healing the skin and gut.
- Fermented vegetables, such as sauerkraut and kimchi, are great ways to boost your microbiome with beneficial probiotics.
- Swedish bitters is a herbal tonic which is effective in healing chronic infections and balancing low stomach acid production.
- Fermented drinks like kefir are rich in the beneficial probiotic Lactobacillus.
- Taking the probiotic, acidophilus can improve your complexion.
- Coconut oil has natural antimicrobial benefits, and it can help heal the gut-skin axis. It’s also great used on the skin.
Foods rich in polyphenols
Polyphenols are natural compounds found in plant-based foods. They have many benefits including the fact that they make their way to the colon where they can be digested by gut bacteria and increase the quantity of good bacteria.
Polyphenols can be found in fruit and vegetables, aim to eat a variety of type and colour.
Good sources include: cocoa, grape skins, green tea, almonds, onions, blueberries and broccoli.
There is a continuing debate about grains and gut health, which I will save for another blog. Simply put, whole grains contain a ton of fiber and non-digestible carbohydrates, such as beta-glucan. The undigested carbs enter the large intestine where they can be broken down by the microbiota and promote the growth of beneficial bacteria.
There are three components which make up a grain, the bran, germ, and endosperm. However, refined grains have two components removed, which is why we want to be eating the whole grain – and choose organic if you can!
Examples of whole grains include: whole Wheat, oats, rye, barley, brown rice and quinoa.
Prebiotic foods are those which feed the healthy bacteria and promote the growth of beneficial microbes in the gut.
Many studies have reported that prebiotics can promote the growth of many healthy bacteria, including Bifidobacteria.
Foods that are high in prebiotics and support a healthy gut include: legumes, oats, bananas, berries, asparagus, dandelion greens, garlic, leeks and onions.
Water is crucial for gut health and healthy glowing skin. Try to drink 2 litres a day. if you find drinking water hard, try adding lemon, mint or fruit to make it taste better.
Want to boost the good bacteria in your gut? Eat more fermented foods! They are rich in lactobacilli and are becoming widely available in most health food shops and supermarkets.
Many studies have found that fermented foods enhanced the function and composition of the good bacteria and environment of our guts.
Common fermented foods include: plain, natural live yogurt, kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir, kombucha and tempeh.
Foods to limit
None of my blogs would be complete without a mention of what to avoid.
High-sugar and high-fat diets will have a negative impact on your gut health and allow an increase in growth of harmful bacteria.
And don’t think you can replace sugar with an artificial sweetener – studies show that they have the same effect.
Avoid refined-grain products such as wheat flour, white rice and enriched bread.
Other inflammatory foods that can have a negative effect on the gut environment include gluten, dairy, caffeine and alcohol. So cut down and limit your intake of all of these.
Foods are the best way of improving gut flora. However, now and then, we may need a little extra help, and it doesn’t hurt to add a supplement when trying to correct an imbalance.
Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts – the good kind – that will help your gut and digestion.
They are especially good when you need to improve your gut microbiota following antibiotic treatment, for example.
I hope you found this article useful. If you have questions or would like to improve your skin or gut health then please get in touch.