Functional Nutrition Basics Part 4 - Skin Health
When you see someone with glowing skin, it stands out but not all of us are blessed with radiant, flawless skin. There are millions of products available we can slather, scrub and rub into our skin on the outside but that isn't the whole story, what is happening on the inside of our body is usually a good indicator of how the skin looks. The skin is the largest organ in the body and makes up 10% of body weight and acts as a barrier to toxins from the outside world and it also has a permeable layer to get rid of unwanted attackers, for example when we have a fever the body sweats out the flu or virus. When the body is under stress, inflamed, or having trouble getting rid of toxins, one of the signposts will be skin health. This can come from lifestyle, environmental or dietary stress and these can play out in the form of skin rashes, eczema, rosacea, or psoriasis. Environmental stressors These are chemicals found in cigarettes, exhaust fumes, skin products, work environments, washing powders, and household products high in chemicals. These can all cause an excessive burden on our liver which has to clean everything out and if it isn’t working efficiently we may see it in our skin. Dietary stressors These can be from high sugar diets, processed foods, alcohol, low in nutrients the liver requires to work efficiently at moving chemicals and excess hormones out of the body. All of this dietary stress can contribute to food intolerances, gluten and dairy being the main ones, others being eggs and soya these reactions to foods can consequently contribute to more inflammation. Immune, diet & skin Connection The liver detoxification ability is only one side of this though. Between 60-80% of our immune system is found in the gut, the microflora is fed by fibre to enable it to thrive with beneficial bacteria so it crowds out the harmful microbes. When our digestion is not working well, our diet is low in nutrients and fibre, along with high stress in our lives, the immune system may then be under par and start overreacting, causing inflammation in the skin(and other areas). Many people who have skin problems may also have digestive or stomach problems too. What to Do to help skin health: There are many things we can do in our lifestyle and particularly our diet that can greatly help not just our skin but our overall health. Once the diet is cleaned up there is usually a big improvement.
- Cut Back on Sugar, fizzy drinks even the 'diet/zero sugar' ones. Sugar and artificial sweeteners play havoc in our gut, and gut dysfunction can sometimes be the main problem with the skin.
- Find out your food intolerances, temporary removal of dairy and gluten while cleaning up the diet and gut function gives your body a digestive rest.
- Introduce fermented foods including kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir, these probiotic foods help innoculate the gut with good bacteria along with lots of B vitamins that are important for many things including energy, mood, and skin health.
- Eat lots of vegetables, nuts, and seeds, fibre feeds the microbiome. Feed the good bacteria to crowd out the bad.
- Zinc - found in fish, shellfish, nuts, seeds, red meat, chickpeas, avocado, lentils.
- Vitamin C - kale, spinach, peppers, citrus, kiwi (be mindful if you have allergies, as kiwi is also high in histamine).
- Vitamin A - orange foods, carrots, sweet potato, squash, also kale, spinach, eggs, apricots, and liver.
- Bone Broth - yes you may think this is a fad food but our great grandmothers were making stock every week from leftover meat bones, bone broth is stock with just an addition of a cup of cider vinegar to draw out the collagen. This is great for anti-aging, plumping our skin and keeping it smooth as well as helping our gut feel good and our joints happier. It can be bought in packs now if you can’t make it.
- Water - this helps hydrate the skin and the body, drink more!
- Omega 3 Fats - oily fish, nuts, seeds, and avocados have fatty acids that help anti-aging and help calm inflammation in the skin.
- Vitamin D - very important for our immune system reaction, get outside in the summer months for a limited period - 15mins without sunblock then use sunscreen. Supplement in the winter with Vitamin D3 and added K2 to aid absorption for the bones.
- Ghee or clarified butter is most popular in Indian cuisine - this has all of the fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E & K!) all-important for immune and skin health. It also has a thing called Butyrate which is a short-chain fatty acid, this helps our immune system function better way down in the gut, studies have shown this helps strengthen the gut lining. Use it in cooking, spices or herbs can be added. See the recipe below.