Lets dive into something everyone wants - healthy-looking, hydrated, youthful and glowing skin. While I do think there can be genetic correlations to certain things, I believe the manifestation of disease processes is so much more predicated on lifestyle factors. This is good news because there are things we can modify to allow for the best possible outcomes when it comes to health, and in the case of this article healthy skin.
I have heard it said that the skin is a window into the gut. The state of the gut is reflected elsewhere in the body not only with complexion and skin issues, but also with issues such as: migraines/headaches, thyroid issues, chronic fatigue, insomnia, fibromyalgia, hormonal imbalances - not to mention gut issues themselves.
There are many issues that can arise in the intestinal environment and therefore promote inflammation in the body. Common gastrointestinal conditions include: small intestine bacterial overgrowth, inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome, gas and bloating, candidiasis, diverticulitis and leaky gut syndrome. All of these issues can lead to gastrointestinal compromise due to permeability issues in the gut. Certain antigens and toxins can then enter systemic circulation and wreak havoc elsewhere in the body. Many times these inflammatory mediators target the skin. Common skin issues that result from gastrointestinal compromise include: acne, boils, eczema, psoriasis, dermatitis herpetiformis, vitiligo, milia, rosacea, etc.
The gut-skin axis can be influenced by many things. Some of these things include: Our thoughts and stress levels, environmental toxins, cleaning products, poor air quality, unforgiveness and bitterness being harbored, lack of social contacts, negativity, contaminated drinking water, genetically modified foods, non-organic foods, conventional dairy, gluten, many processed and packaged foods, foods with preservatives, refined sugar, many cosmetics, etc.
I'd like to offer a few dietary principles to promote skin health. First off, the triggers listed above would be ideally eliminated from the diet. Additionally, adequate hydration is imperative for skin health. This leads to the skin being properly moisturized and retaining proper elasticity. Vitamins A, C and the B vitamins are crucial for maintaining healthy skin. For instance, beta carotene, a precursor to Vitamin A, enhances proper epithelial cell health and growth. I like sweet potatoes and carrots for great Vitamin A sources. Vitamin C is a precursor to collagen formation and aids its synthesis to prevent sagging and loose skin. Citrus foods are good here as well as peppers to mention a couple sources of Vitamin C. On the note of collagen, it is a tremendous food/supplement to include for garnering the best-looking skin possible. Collagen can be found in bone broth where it's coupled with proline, glycine and glutamine for optimizing the immune system and contributing to gut wall integrity. Supplementally, hydrolyzed collagen is broken down into smaller protein fragments which will allow for better absorption. A glutamine supplement alone can be beneficial as it helps to prevent intestinal permeability. Other foods that are beneficial as well include: coconut oil, chia and flax seeds, avocados, walnuts and salmon. Depending on the state of the gut microbiome, certain probiotic foods can be beneficial as well to crowd out the bad bacteria and synthesize vitamins and enzymes necessary for peak gut health.
Peppers are loaded with Vitamin C, a collagen precursor, which supports skin health.
These are just a few examples of food options. Honestly most fruits and vegetables will be beneficial to enhance skin quality. Instead of a lot of carbs, I'd opt for quinoa (seed) and wild rice (grass.) The premise is to focus on fresh produce, healthy fats, organic chicken, wild-caught salmon and grass-fed beef while eliminating the processed and packaged foods.
When it comes to skin health, the gut is the first place I consider with patients. I think there can be certain cosmetic enhancements with topicals - Manuka honey, coconut oil, tea tree oil, etc. This can be a good approach to lessen symptoms. However, to address the root cause of skin issues, it's oftentimes a deeper issue in the body. Limiting inflammatory foods and bolstering gut health with a proper dietary and supplemental approach is my top tip for maximizing skin health.
Dr. Seamus Allen
CFMP, DACBN, DC