Your skin and your gut - there's a connection!
You are what you eat! If the nutrients your body needs are not in your diet and if your body can’t absorb them then it cannot function at its best. If you want better skin the place to start is the health and function of your digestive system. You need to eat well, absorb it effectively and efficiently eliminate waste.
Firstly, the nutrients your skin wants need to be in your diet. Antioxidants (think berries), vitamins (think citrus), healthy fats (nuts, olive oil, avocado) and minerals like zinc (pumpkin seeds, meat, lentils) are all skin foods. Processed foods high in sugar and trans-fats (think McDonalds, Tim Tams etc) provide no nutritional value and so do no your skin no favours. And the sugar and “bad” fats they contain can actively harm your skin by causing inflammation. Following a very restrictive diet or eating the same foods every day does not provide your body a well-rounded dose of all the nourishment it requires, so aim for a varied, nutrient-rich, plant-based diet.
Secondly, you need to be able to absorb the nutrients you consume. Your stomach acid needs to be at a certain pH to allow the breakdown of foods before they move to your small intestine for absorption. You can help stimulate your stomach acid production by eating slowly and mindfully. This tells your brain to tell your stomach to release the acid. Work on reducing your stress levels so your body is in a position where it is willing and able to absorb nutrients.
Foods such as pineapple and kiwifruit, apart from containing high amounts of vitamin c for your skin and fibre for your bowels, also have digestive enzymes that help break down food, so try having these after you eat and especially if you just ate meat.
Adding an oil such as olive or flaxseed to your salad will help your body to absorb the vitamins the salad contains. Also try adding nuts and seeds and avocado to your salad for the skin nourishing essential fatty acids they contain.
Have coffee or tea at least half an hour away from meals as caffeine and tannins in these drinks can block nutrient absorption, and don’t drink water or juices with meals as this dilutes stomach acid.
Thirdly, you need to consider how your body is removing waste. Your skin is one of your major organs of elimination, after your bowel and kidneys. Think of your kidneys and bowel as your waste disposal system; if they aren’t working properly then toxins will be eliminated via your skin and this can result in blockages, pimples, boils etc. You can support these organs, and your skin, by eating a diet rich in fibre and drinking plenty of water. You can monitor if you are eliminating effectively by checking if you have an easily passed, formed bowel movement every day and your urine is light in colour (the first wee of the day will be darker and that’s okay).
We’ve pretty much all had a stress pimple, right? Stress can have a big influence on your skin. If you are stressed or anxious your body is keeping you primed for fight or flight and so diverts blood flow away from your digestion, meaning nutrient absorption is compromised and your skin, and other organs, can be affected. Dealing effectively with stress will allow you to absorb what you need for beautiful skin. Over 90% of serotonin, a feel good hormone, is also made in the gut and so good gut health can also equal good mental health.
If you are intolerant or allergic to some foods, this can also affect your skin health. Dairy is a big one here – many acne and eczema sufferers do much better if they eliminate dairy from their diet. Dairy products can be an important source of many nutrients however, for example calcium, so make sure you are getting this in adequate amounts from other sources like nuts and seeds, green leafy vegetables, or tahini.
SKIN FOODS TO INCLUDE
Kiwifruit, strawberries, citrus fruits, capsicum, parsley, broccoli - Vitamin C
Pepitas, oats, oysters, pecans, meat, lentils - Zinc
Oily fish, chia seeds, linseeds - Omega 3’s
Wheatgerm, sunflower seeds, almonds, peaches - Vitamin E
Carrots, apricots, leafy greens, sweet potato - Vitamin A
Blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, any berries, beetroot - Antioxidants
Having clear, glowing skin can be as simple as providing your body with the nutrients it needs, in the right amounts, and promoting effective absorption and elimination. Is what’s on your plate plant-based and rainbow coloured? If not, what can you tweak to get it looking this way? Your skin, your gut, and maybe even your mental health, will thank you for it.