An outward radiance and glow are a reflection of our inner health because our skin gives us clues about what’s going on inside our bodies. If you are looking to clear up your complexion or maintain your glow over the holiday season, then you will want to pay special attention to what you are eating and make sure you are mindful of the following areas that affect our skin.
Our diet can affect our skin health in a number of ways. For example, some of the causes include:
- Disturbed gut health and microbiome
- Blood sugar imbalance
- Nutrient deficiency
A healthy digestive system is at the core, quite literally, of our general health as well as specifically our skin. It is responsible for absorbing the nutrients our skin needs as well as excreting the toxins, excess hormones and by-products of digestion that we don’t need and that leave our skin dull. It is also home to a vast and delicate mix of microorganisms called the microbiome.
The microbiome is so big and so important to our health that it is considered by many to function like an organ. It is made up of friendly and less friendly bacteria that live together in a symbiotic relationship, meaning they keep each other in check. The friendly bacteria help crowd out less friendly bacteria, parasites, yeasts and fungus.
As we age, our lifestyle choices play a major role in how our microbiome evolves. Stress, some medications, infections, food poisoning, a poor diet made up of sugar, processed food, and alcohol negatively affect our microbiome. Whole food, plant-based diet that is rich in fiber, essential fats and incorporates fermented foods, contributes to the health of your microbiome.
A healthy microbiome will lead to a glowing skin because it affects inflammation, nutrient status and toxin levels that reach your skin.
Solutions to support the gut and microbiome – Chew your food well, avoid overeating when you are stressed, practice mindful eating, and consume a whole food, plant-rich diet. If you consume animal products, have organic, grass-fed or pastured animal products. Include fermented foods daily, avoid drinking ice cold water with a meal and choose instead room temperature water or consider having a small amount of herbal tea. Minimize sugar, alcohol, caffeine and processed foods.
Blood Sugar Imbalance
The body uses glucose as its primary source of fuel and transports it to where it is needed via the blood. We get this glucose from the carbohydrate foods we consume and sugar. If we consume a diet high refined sugar and sweet foods (cakes, cookies, candy, sweet bread, sweet drinks) and high in processed foods (white flour food, white bread, bagels, white pasta), the glucose from these foods is absorbed very quickly into our blood stream and our blood glucose (sugar) levels rise quickly. If the blood glucose isn’t used or metabolized properly, it can bind to the skin’s collagen and elastin which can damage our skin. The process is called glycation and can cause our skin to become rigid and therefore more prone to wrinkles and accelerated aging. Other effects of high blood glucose levels are increased inflammation and also a corresponding high blood insulin level. Insulin can lead to an increase in sebum production and cause acne breakouts.
Eat less sweet foods and create a savory based diet, swap refined white sugar for monk fruit or coconut sugar when you feel like something sweet, choose dark chocolate over candy, include some protein and healthy fat with each meal, replace refined white flour foods with whole grains, create a regular eating routine and avoid missing meals randomly.
Some of the first signs that we are deficient in certain nutrients appear on our skin. This includes both macronutrients (protein, carbohydrate and fat) as well as micronutrients (vitamins and minerals). We can become deficient in nutrients from not consuming enough via a poor diet, from consuming products that cause an increased excretion of nutrients (such as alcohol) or because our digestive system is not efficient in assimilating and absorbing the nutrients from our food.
Consume foods rich in the specific nutrients that our skin needs. Such as:
|Nutrient||Examples of sources of nutrients|
|Water||Filtered room temperature water. Consume regularly throughout the day and adjust according to your need. Heat, exercise, our health, medication, pregnancy etc can all affect how much water we need. Check your urine color by the end of the day and how often you urinate to gauge if you are drinking enough.|
|Protein||Plant – Fresh nuts and seeds, legumes and wholegrain. Animal – organic, pastured meats, fish, eggs, goat dairy if you tolerate. Consume some with each meal.|
|Essential Fats||Animal – wild Alaskan salmon, mackerel, sardines, other sustainably caught fish, eggs, grass-fed meat and dairy if tolerated. Plant – walnuts, linseeds, chia seeds Omega-3 fatty acid supplements|
|Antioxidant Vitamins A,C,E,||Vitamin C: Broccoli, spinach, peppers, squash, tomatoes, citrus fruit, berries. |
Vitamin A: Egg yolk, organic liver, dark leafy greens, dark orange vegetables.
Vitamin E: Olive oil, sunflower seeds, almonds, hazelnuts, dark leafy greens, avocado.
|B Vitamins||Nuts and seeds, legumes, dark leafy, avocado, liver, eggs, fish, meat, brown rice.|
|Vitamin D||The best source is from sunlight, however we must weigh the risks and benefits given the exposure to UV radiation is associated with skin cancer and skin aging. Speak to your doctor to determine your risk and the best course of action for you. Here is an article that further discusses sun exposure and vitamin D production. Consider 5-30 mins exposure of your arms and legs a day depending on your skin type. In the winter this is difficult so talk to your doctor about measuring your vitamin D levels and recommending vitamin D supplementation: You may also consider wild salmon, egg yolk and shiitake mushrooms also provide a source.|
|Probiotics||Fermented foods and drinks: Kefir (goat milk or water or coconut water), sauerkraut, kimchi, miso soup, live yoghurt, kombucha.|
|Bone Broth||Made from organic beef or chicken bones to provide a rich source of collagen, amino acids and minerals.|