We wash, exfoliate, tone and moisturize to make sure that our skin stays healthy and youthful. And we know that our largest organ, the skin, will absorb most of what we put on it. But with all this external focus, we sometimes forget that having a healthy digestive system and consuming the right kind of foods can have a profound effect on the health and look of our skin.
BY JENNI BOURQUE, RHN & MIRNA SHARAFEDDINE, RHN
Great Skin, Healthy Gut: What’s the Connection?
The human gut is host to over 40 trillion bacteria. The overall health of our immune and digestive systems often depends on the health of these living colonies. The trillions of bacteria have the ability to fight pathogens. They can be antibacterial and antimicrobial. They also help assimilate nutrients, detox your organs and absorb the nutrients that food provides.
The food we eat can have a positive or a negative impact on the health of that gut bacteria (our microbiome) and therefore on our digestion, our immune system and our natural ability to detoxify.
If these gut bugs are not being nourished properly, it can throw off all their functions. If our bodies aren’t working properly on the inside, the end result can often show up on our skin. And certain foods can affect the absorption of nutrients needed to keep our skin healthy while other foods can, more directly, contribute to skin inflammation.
The Worst Food Offenders
Certain foods can cause an inflammatory response in the body, mess with our hormones and result in systemic imbalances that may contribute to poor skin condition.
Sugar and Refined Carbs
These can contribute to increased insulin levels. When insulin increases, so do androgen hormones. This increases sebum (an oily secretion on our skin) and potentially triggers unwanted skin issues.
Dairy can also play a role in the health of our hormones and influence the glands that produce our skin’s oily secretions. This can be due to an abundance of hormones found in cow’s milk and how they interact within our bodies.
These can contain preservatives, and artificial flavours and colours that have been linked to disrupting our good gut bacteria. A diet high in processed foods often means a diet high in inflammatory compounds and low in skin-loving nutrients.
Alcohol can act as a diuretic and remove moisture from our skin. Excess alcohol can also affect liver detoxification, which is essential for removing the toxins that contribute to inflammation. No alcohol is probably best, but if you do drink, women should aim for no more than one drink per day and always avoid binge drinking.
The Best Food Choices
Just as some foods can contribute to unwanted skin conditions, there are foods that are incredibly good for our guts—and our skin too. From the glucosinolates found in cabbage to the prebiotic action of nuts and seeds, these skin-friendly foods can help you get your summer glow on.
Garlic, onion and cabbage contain glucosinolates, which once broken down, will help reduce inflammation by latching on to pathogens that inhibit our gut function and expel them from our bodies.
Kombucha, sauerkraut, kimchi, miso and kefir are chock-full of good probiotics that help maintain a healthy pH in the digestive tract and let our skin shine.
Berries, spinach and beets provide polyphenols that both nourish the gut and affect the removal of damaging free radicals throughout the body, including our skin.
Nuts and Seeds
Almonds and hemp seeds provide prebiotics that reach the intestines undigested to provide food for beneficial probiotics that improve our gut and skin health.
Making these small changes to our diet and lifestyle can have a significant impact on the health of our skin. Summer is a great time to focus on gut and skin health while fresh, seasonal and organic foods are in abundance.
Support your local farmers and consume as many whole foods as possible! Your gut and your skin will thank you.
3 Tips for a Healthy Gut and Radiant Skin
When we focus on a healthy gut by avoiding the worst food offenders and loading up on the best food choices, we create a habitat for healthy microorganisms to thrive and help our skin look radiant. These three tips will help keep your gut and your skin in great shape!
1. Drink Filtered Water with Lemon Throughout the Day
Water with fresh squeezed lemon is full of antioxidants to attack gut- and skin-damaging free radicals and to help stimulate our digestive systems and flush out toxins. Drink before you feel thirsty and you’ll be ahead of the hydration game. Everyone’s individual hydration needs vary, but women need roughly two litres of water a day and men need roughly three litres.
2. Eat Plenty of Whole, Fresh and Organic Fibre
Foods with fibre have important health benefits like feeding our gut microbes, eliminating excess cholesterol and sugar, and helping reduce inflammation so the nutrients reach our skin cells more easily. Increase your vegetable intake to increase your fibre. For an added boost, sprinkle chia or hemp seeds in a smoothie for a big fibre lift!
3. Ramp Up Your Omega-3 Fatty Acid Intake
Wild, sustainable fish oil contains beneficial omega-3 that will feed the gut, fight inflammation and improve our mood. Try our surprisingly easy Grilled to Perfection salmon recipe to enjoy the delicious gut and skin benefits of wild omega-3.
Jenni & Mirna, Registered Holistic Nutritionists and founders of Naughty Nutrition, give you access to the most accurate, up-to-date, science-based health solutions alongside delicious, simple and healthy food. You’ll get all of it without any of the BS attached. Find them online at: