by Dr. Will Cole
When your complexion is less than stellar, you can only do so much to hide it. Acne has been a struggle for me since my teenage years causing me a lot of insecurity. I thought that I would grow out of it but even after college I was still faced with reoccurring blemishes. I figured I would just have to deal with having acne for my entire life.
But in reality, our skin health reflects what is going on with our health beneath the surface. Acne, psoriasis, rosacea, and other skin problems are signals that something is off in our body since our skin is our largest organ after all.
Once I started studying functional medicine I was able to understand how my skin connected to my overall health and I was able to implement the latest medical research to finally clear my skin naturally.
1. I healed my microbiome.
Your microbiome refers to the collection of bacteria and yeast in your gut. Research shows that the health of your gut impacts almost every area of your health – skin included. In fact, studies looking at the gut-brain-skin axis shows us just how much our gut influences our skin.
I started off by running diagnostic labs including a comprehensive stool test which looked for any bacterial imbalances and yeast overgrowths. It also looks at a few other conditions that can play a role in poor complexion.
- Small Instestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO) occurs when bacteria grows outside of your colon into your small intestines where it shouldn’t be.
- Dysbiosis is when there is an imbalance of good and bad bacteria in your microbiome and has been linked to skin problems.
- Hypochlorhydria is when there is a decrease in stomach acid. This condition is often found in people with acne.
- Candida overgrowth can wreck your gut and perpetuate inflammatory skin issues.
- Chronic infections such as parasitic infections continue to fuel inflammation.
In my particular case, I had candida overgrowth as well as bacterial imbalances.
2. I addressed my leaky gut syndrome.
It’s also essential to look at the health of your intestinal lining, as well as what is in your gut, since it is the defense system of your gut. Leaky gut syndrome happens when your gut lining is compromised allowing undigested food particles and bacterial endotoxins to enter your blood stream where they don’t belong. This fuels inflammatory health problems including skin issues. I ran a blood test to see if this was a problem for me and sure enough, it was, so I started healing my gut with natural functional medicine tools.
3. I assessed my hormones.
When miscommunication happens between your brain and endocrine system it can lead to hormone imbalances and contribute to skin problems. High testosterone, also known as androgen dominance, has been shown to cause skin problems. I learned I had adrenal fatigue which hindered my body’s ability to handle stress and contributed to my poor skin health. With a few lifestyle and dietary changes, I was able to rehab my adrenal fatigue.
4. I supported my genetic weaknesses.
Methylation is your biochemical superhighway that ensures your gut, brain, and skin are in optimal health. Certain genetic methylation impairments such as the MTHFR gene mutation can inhibit this extremely important process. I found out I had this specific gene mutation which made it difficult for my body to convert the B vitamin folic acid into activated methyl-folate which is needed to fuel methylation pathways. This was one of the biggest contributors to my skin problems. But once I was aware of this genetic weakness I was able to support this with targeting supplementation and superfoods rich in B vitamins.
5. I uncovered my food intolerances.
Food can either fuel radiant skin or breakouts but what foods do what are different for each person. I used an elimination diet, which I talk more about in detail in my mindbodygreen course, to discover my personal food intolerances. Sugar and dairy are no-go’s for me.
6. I stayed away from inflammatory foods.
Anything that damages your gut can also damage your skin. Sugar and gluten are the top offenders but everyone has different tolerances to other foods.
7. I ate more egg yolks.
Egg yolks from pasture-raised, organic eggs are loaded with vitamins A, D, E, and B as well as choline, iron, calcium, potassium, and phosphorus which are all essential for clear skin and healthy hormones. Certain people with inflammatory health problems can’t tolerate the albumin protein in egg whites but don’t have issues with the yolk.
8. I used more coconut oil.
Healthy fats are essential to rebalancing hormones and healing the gut-skin axis. It also has natural antimicrobial capabilities so it makes a great moisturizer as well as cooking oil!
9. I ate more avocados.
Avocados are abundant in healthy fats and vitamins such as A, D, E, and K2 as well as magnesium and B vitamins – all of which are necessary for healthy methylation, hormones, and skin.
10. I drank bone broth.
Bone broth is rich in collagen which is necessary to repair and restore our own collagen production to increase skin elasticity and reduce the appearance of wrinkles. It is also an awesome gut-healing superfood.
11. I took Swedish bitters.
This herbal tonic works to build up low stomach acid production and helps heal infections.
12. I spent more time outdoors.
Vitamin D is often referred to as the sunshine vitamin as our bodies convert sunlight into usable vitamin D which is needed for healthy hormones and skin.
13. I included more greens in my diet.
Green vegetables such as celery, spinach, and Swiss chard are filled with nutrients that nourish your methylation pathways and the gut-skin axis. I upped my intake of green juices and smoothies to pack in more of these superfoods.
14. I ate loads of fermented vegetables.
Fermented vegetables like kimchi and sauerkraut are filled with probiotics to help restore your microbiome with good bacteria.
15. I drank coconut kefir.
16. I ate more fruits and vegetables.
Low-fructose berries like blueberries are rich in antioxidants that help to fight free-radical damage that contributes to signs of aging.
17. I turned to turmeric.
This spice works to calm inflammation in the body. I used it to season my favorite meals and included it in my favorite golden milk recipe – coconut milk, black pepper, turmeric, and a dash of raw honey.
18. I drank green tea.
You can almost always find me with a cup of tea in my hand. The catechins found in green tea help rejuvenate skin cells so I made sure not to miss my daily cup, or three!
19. I supplemented with fermented cod liver oil.
This oil is a great source of omega fats and contains vitamins A, D, and K2 to help heal your skin.
20. I ate grass-fed, organic liver.
Liver is one of the most nutrient-dense foods for skin health as it contains zinc, vitamin A, and vitamin B.
21. I supplemented with vitamin A.
True vitamin A, known as retinol, is only found in animal products like grass-fed liver and wild-caught fish. Carrots and sweet potatoes contain plant carotenes which are a precursor to vitamin A but the rate that it converts to usable retinol is weak.
22. I ate wild-caught fish.
To get in more omega fats, I ate more wild-caught fish that are low in toxins like Alaskan salmon, pole-caught albacore tuna, Arctic char, and rainbow trout.
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