Although the products we use and how we take care of our skin externally is incredibly important, a big area that I look at as a Holistic Nutritionist is the connection between our gut and our skin. Our gut is comprised of our stomach and the intestines. The state of our gut reflects the state of our digestion and liver. We all know there are specific nutrients and foods to eat for our skin to glow, yet what matters the most is how well your digestion and liver are working to truly absorb these nutrients and eliminate unwanted toxins. When your gut is in optimal health, this creates clearer, firmer, and a more radiant complexion.
A compromised digestion means a weakened state of absorbing nutrients and eliminating needed waste. Sorry to get personal ahead, but as a nutritionist I believe our digestion is incredibly important for me to discuss to help others glow and heal! For example, if you’re constipated, you’re not eliminating waste properly; and therefore, this can cause skin problems such as acne. When you’re constipated, your body is desperately trying to eliminate something and because the digestion is congested, your body tries to eliminate toxins through the skin. Constipation also compromises our liver, which is also connected to the health of our skin, and another reason acne or other skin problems can appear. On the other hand, if someone has frequent diarrhea, they are not absorbing adequate vitamins and minerals through their food properly, and therefore could also have skin problems such as acne, because our skin needs certain vitamins/minerals to look and feel its best. Therefore, optimizing our gut health is incredibly important if you also want to heal your skin from within. It’s important to recognize in our body that everything is connected.
To have a healthy, regular digestion we need to strengthen our gut and keep in mind several factors:
- Bacterial Balance: We want to have the right bacterial balance for optimal gut health. There are both good and bad bacteria and getting the proper dose of good bacteria helps weigh out the bad. You’ve probably heard of probiotics before, which are essentially good bacteria which help to re-populate the gut. The probiotic that is right for you may depend; however, my current favourite to recommend is a spore-based probiotic. You can also get probiotics from eating fermented foods such as yogurt, kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut, and kimchi. I do believe it is good to take breaks from probiotics as they are very powerful, and even small amounts of these foods in your diet can go a long way. If you recently went through antibiotic treatment, you could likely handle higher amounts, as antibiotics destroy good and bad bacteria in the gut.
- Fiber Support: Fiber is essentially the indigestible component found within carbohydrates that help to bulk up stool and eliminate the bowels. The right amount of fiber will help create digestive regularity. I recommend women aim for at least 25 grams of fiber per day and men at least 35 grams. You can find fiber in plant-based foods such as vegetables, fruit, legumes, grains, and seeds. There are fiber supplements you can take to help you reach that target if you have difficulty obtaining enough fiber through food. The right amount of fiber will help with a regular and healthy digestion. Just like anything though, more is not always better and excessive fiber intake can also be aggravating to digestion and reduce vitamin/mineral absorption, so it’s important to find the proper amount for your body.
- Hydration: Hydrating with water and minerals is essential for proper digestion and helps fiber work optimally. I have seen some individuals solve their gut/skin issues even from simply hydrating more! We need water and minerals to move our food through our digestive tract properly and hydrate our skin. I love to have fresh spring water and “eating” my water through consuming fresh fruit and vegetables. We want to get a balance of sodium, potassium, and magnesium for optimal hydration. These minerals can be found in a variety of foods; however, additional supplementation (especially with magnesium) and salting your food is often beneficial to get enough.
- Food Sensitivities & Gut Irritants: Food sensitivities can create a viscous circle. A compromised gut can lead to food sensitivities, and on the contrary, food sensitivities can lead to a compromised gut. These can be measured through a test or an elimination diet. Food sensitivities can create digestive distress which can also come out in the skin, such as acne or eczema. If food sensitivities are present, I do recommend eliminating these foods for a short period of time, then re-introducing them in a high quality form. The most common food sensitivities I see are from wheat, nuts, seeds, dairy, and eggs. For example, if someone has eliminated eggs, re-introduce organic free range eggs to see how you feel from the purest form of that food. Sometimes suspected food sensitivities can even be mistaken for simply not eating the highest quality food in that form, which is why eating foods organic and local to the best of your ability is best for our gut health. There are also foods that irritate the gut that should be limited such as vegetable/seed oils, white sugar, processed foods, food additives (e.g. gums, food coloring), artificial sweeteners, and fried foods.
- Strong Stomach Acid: Stomach acid strength is a great indicator of gut health. Hydrochloric acid is found inside the stomach and is needed for many digestive processes. Having poor stomach acid can create symptoms like heartburn, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, fullness even after eating a small portion, and poor nutrient absorption. We want our stomach acid to be strong to breakdown and metabolize nutrients from our food properly. Hydrochloric acid helps our stomach break down food, especially protein, and absorb nutrients. Culprits that can lead to low stomach acid are eating processed foods/a poor diet, chronic stress, antibiotics/medications, vegan/vegetarian diets, alcohol, extreme dieting, aging, and lack of exercise. Ways you can support stomach acid are prioritizing fresh whole foods and a balanced diet, eating adequate protein (our stomach stops producing HCl without the presence of protein), eating in a relaxed state, reducing stress, limiting alcohol, and exercising. Adding lemon to your water or apple cider vinegar can also help to produce HCl before a meal!
As you can see the gut is complex and there are many factors needed to have a strong, healthy functioning gut. Without optimal gut health, our skin will suffer, so if we want to have glowing and clear skin, it’s important to take care of what’s going on inside our bodies as well.
By: Corinne Jane, The Beauty Files.
Corinne is a Certified Nutritional Practitioner that offers online nutrition coaching, meal plans, and beauty/wellness tips to help others transform their health and glow. She is passionate with all things surrounding health and beauty and loves helping others heal through nutrition and lifestyle changes.