Understanding our skin
Our skin is the largest organ of our body (and one of the most versatile), made up of three layers and often referred to as the integumentary system.
Our skin works as the first line of defence, protecting us from absorbing every toxin, bacteria, virus, chemical, pollutant and more that we come into contact with. If we didn’t have this thick three-layer system wrapping us up, all these substances would go straight into our blood stream causing mass infection. Not only does the skin protect us from these harmful substances, but it works as a waterproof layer letting the rain simply slide of us instead of absorbing it like a sponge. The integumentary system also allows us to sweat when it’s hot (helping the body to cool down) and works closely with our nervous system telling us what feels good (like an arm tickle) and what feels painful (like a pinch).
Our skin keeps us wrapped up and held in place, if we didn’t have our skin, tripping over and scrapping our knee would be a lot messier - that’s for sure.
But one thing people don’t seem to know about our skin is that it often mirrors our health. The appearance of our skin is a great indicator of our current wellbeing, how efficiently or inefficiently our body is functioning and how hydrated or dehydrated we may be. Many people are still unaware of the role the guts microbiome plays in keeping our skin silky smooth, clean and vibrant. If our gut is not functioning so well, we can often see this mirrored through different skin disorders such as acne, psoriasis, eczema, rosacea, impetigo and more. For some people food intolerances may be noticeable through stomach upset, for others they may notice rashes that develop or reddening of the skin that does not seem to go down after their 6-step skin care routine.
We believe that taking small steps every day to better our gut health should be part of everyone’s skin care routine. No one bodily system is isolated from the other, they all work together to keep us working at optimal function. So, if one system is flagging behind it is highly likely that it is not alone. The gut-skin-axis enables the gut system to communicate with skin system, so if gut health is poor it is mirrored through the skin. The foods we eat have a direct effect on our hormones which then go on to influence our skin health. As an example, whey protein has been shown to increase insulin levels which can be a culprit for acne flare ups. The same goes for having a high intake of simple carbohydrates, which stimulates the over production of oil in the skin and more inflammatory responses. Having an imbalance in our guts friendly bacteria has also shown to make us more susceptible to developing skin disorders.
Helpful ideas to support healthy looking skin:
- Change bedsheets regularly – to remove any dirt, sweat and bacteria rubbing your face
- Shower daily to help remove dirt from skin
- Avoid eating foods which are high in refined sugars, simple carbohydrates and high in saturated and trans fats. All of these stimulate inflammatory responses within the body which lead to further disruption of gut health and hormone regulation. These foods also promote excess oil and skin cell production (causing acne) as well as stimulating excess production of testosterone which is linked to acne.
- Elimination of all potential trigger foods (dairy, wheat, soy, etc). Keeping a food diary whilst making notes of how your skin looks and feels, will help you to pin-point if any particular food group is causing your skin to break out. Elimination of food groups should be done under the supervision of a healthcare professional.
- Replace simple carbohydrates (White bread, white pasta, white rice) with whole ones (brown rice, rye bread, quinoa etc), this encourages slower digestion of foods and helps prevent a spike in blood sugar. Spikes in blood sugar cause increased levels of inflammation and further disruption to hormones and the gut microbiome.
- By supplementing with friendly bacteria, you are improving your overall gut health. As shown above, an imbalance in the guts friendly bacteria drastically effects our skins appearance. When your gut health is optimal, your immune responses become more regulated meaning there are a lot less unnecessary, inflammatory, reactions. The gut is then able to produce anti-inflammatory markers which help to return the body back to its regular function (also known as homeostasis). Certain strains of Lactobacillus encourage regulated function of the immune system and have encouraging anti-inflammatory effects. Bifidobacterium coagulans also has immune-regulatory properties that can affect skin health.
- Eat plenty of zinc rich foods (pumpkin seeds, cashew nuts, oysters). Zinc is essential to skin membrane health as well as the regulation of testosterone. The body doesn’t store zinc, so you need to make sure you are eating enough.
- Introduce more liver supporting foods to your daily diet (Asparagus, beetroot, lemon, walnuts, apples, berries, onions, garlic, coriander and coffee in moderate amounts). When toxins (like alcohol), heavy metals and hormones are struggling to be detoxified by the liver, the body can try to eliminate them through the skin system. This causes inflammation within the skin. By improving liver detoxification efficiency through diet, this can be prevented.
- Increase antioxidant rich foods. Antioxidants help manage levels of inflammation within the body. They also help to repair damaged skin cells and support liver detoxification. Antioxidants can be found in colourful, whole foods like berries, carrots, avocados, pomegranates, dark green leafy vegetables, pumpkins, tomatoes and more. An easy way of getting your antioxidant fix is to create a smoothie you enjoy drinking, and try new ingredients each time to make sure you are getting the benefit of multiple different vitamins.
- Make sure you are drinking plenty of water. Drinking water helps to reduce redness in the skin by hydrating the cells and decreasing levels of inflammation. By drinking plenty of water we are also helping to stimulate a bowel movement which can help expel any toxins and used hormones.
- Have plenty of gut friendly foods every day to help improve the balance of friendly bacteria. By doing so, the gut lining can remain strong enough to prevent unwanted molecules passing through, causing inflammation.
Probiotic foods like fermented foods (sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, tempeh and kombucha), yoghurts, soft cheeses. Our guts also love to feed on prebiotic foods like asparagus, garlic, berries, flax seeds, legumes and more.
- Take deep breaths. Controlling your breathing and becoming present in your body helps to decrease stress levels. When we are stressed, inflammation increases leading to the weakening of the gut lining among other things. Some people might find that simply reading a book, watching a movie, playing golf or doing some yin yoga helps all the same, do what feels best for you.
Overall, working alongside a trained professional to help find the root cause of your skin issues (i.e., hormone imbalance, food intolerances, dietary deficiencies, gut imbalance) will get you to your desired outcome of healthy-looking skin much quicker than trying quick fixes. Once a root cause has been established, you will be able to follow a more specific protocol to benefit your needs. Before making any drastic changes to your diet it should always be discussed with a healthcare professional to make sure its suited for you without causing any damaging effects.
If you would like to learn more about how your gut heath may be affecting your skin, understand which friendly bacteria supplement may benefit you best or would like to learn more about some of the dietary recommendations discussed above, get in touch with us for a free nutritional consultation.