by Dr. Will Cole
When someone has radiant, glowing skin, people notice. It’s that wow-factor we all desire, but for many of us, it’s difficult to achieve. Those of us who have suffered from complexion problems know how much this can diminish confidence because you can’t hide your face from the world. Of course, the beauty industry has responded to this natural desire with an endless barrage of expensive creams, elixirs, ointments, and makeup marketed to zap away or cover up blemishes, minimize the signs of aging, and brighten dull skin. However, what you put on top of your skin may not be the answer (or the entire answer). It’s easy to forget that outer appearance is a reflection of inner health, and this is no more apparent than on our skin.
The skin is the largest organ and makes up 10 percent total body weight. It is also an active organ with the very important job of detoxification. Your skin is not only a barrier which keeps toxins out, but a permeable barrier that releases toxins through, for example, sweating. When you have a high toxin load, inflammation, or problems detoxing properly, this can show up on the surface of your skin as acne, psoriasis, rashes, eczema, or rosacea. You could also consider the skin an early warning signaler, as all these skin issues are symptoms of something going on beneath the surface.
As a functional medicine practitioner, I see many patients who struggle with skin problems, and surprisingly, the one thing almost all of them have in common is gut dysfunction. Your gut and your skin are inextricably linked through the gut-skin axis. Research has shown that underlying gut dysfunctions such as leaky gut syndrome, yeast overgrowth, SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth) and microbiome imbalance (dysbiosis) all contribute to poor skin health. When your skin breaks out, this is your body’s way of calling out to you for help. It’s a red flag from your insides to your outsides.
Thankfully, there are many lifestyle changes you can easily incorporate into your daily life to help heal your gut and achieve vibrant skin – no pricey beauty creams required because you will be tackling the source of the problem, which comes from the inside. Here’s where to start:
1. Quit the skin-damaging foods.
Sugar, including too many natural sweeteners like coconut sugar and honey, can contribute significantly to a poor complexion by feeding the bad bacteria in your gut. Grains also contain amylose sugars and similar proteins to gluten that can continue to perpetuate gut dysfunction and increase gut permeability.
2. Discover your food intolerances.
Each individual’s biochemistry is unique, and so are each person’s particular food intolerances and sensitivities. Learning which foods trigger an inflammatory response in you can help you to structure a dietary plan that optimizes your health and minimizes internal dysfunction. Once you know what to avoid, replace those personal inflamers with the superfoods that make your skin glow. An elimination diet is the gold standard for finding out which foods work for you.
3. Soothe, repair, and prevent skin damage with coconut oil.
Why spend hundreds of dollars on fancy skin creams when coconut oil does it all? Not only is this oil a great choice for cooking due to the fact that it doesn’t oxidize at high temps and become inflammatory, but it is also antimicrobial, making it a great choice for a makeup remover or moisturizer, slaying bacteria in the process.
4. Use probiotics to help heal your microbiome.
Fermented foods contain the beneficial bacteria that helps tip your microbiome and gut health in the right direction. Foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, and kefir can provide a daily dose of gut-boosting good guys to shore up your health from the inside out.
5. Support your skin with collagen.
Collagen is a type of protein comprised of three amino acids – glycine, proline, and hydroxyproline – and it is the primary building block in connective tissue, which includes cartilage, bones, blood vessels, tendons, and skin. Supplemental collagen helps to regulate the body’s natural collagen production while also promoting skin elasticity to keep you looking more youthful. Since most people only get about 3 grams of dietary glycine (we need about 15 grams per day through diet), adding a collagen supplement to your wellness routine can be a real boost to skin and all connective tissue health and strength. You can add collagen powder to your morning tea or smoothie.
6. Tap into the power of adaptogens.
The plant and herb medicines known today as adaptogens are some of my favorite tools to help bring balance to every system in the body, skin included. Pearl powder in particular is packed with amino acids that help nourish skin. Holy basil is another one of my favorites because of it’s anti-inflammatory power and the way it promotes a more youthful appearance. With adaptogens increasing in popularity among celebrities and the wellness world as a whole, it is easier than ever before to find these magic powders. You can experiment with adding them to elixirs, smoothies, or organic coffee. Or, just sprinkle them over your favorite dishes to add skin-boosting magic to your meals.
7. Sip on bone broth.
Dense with nutrients like skin-enhancing minerals and skin-strengthening collagen, bone broth soothes a damaged and inflamed gut and restores dull skin by encouraging elasticity. Bone broth is easy to make and there are a ton of fun, creative bone broth recipes available online. You can also buy quality versions in your favorite health food store, so go ahead and incorporate this superfood medicine into your daily routine.
8. Add a boost of biotin.
Biotin is a B-vitamin that helps your body synthesize fatty acids that work to (among many other things) protect skin from harsh environmental elements like sun and wind. Because your skin cells rely on fat for protection, biotin is essential for resilient skin. You can take biotin supplements, but you can also get biotin through whole food sources such as avocados, wild-caught fish, grass-fed beef liver, and eggs.
9. Give EGCG a try.
Epigallocatechin gallate is a type of antioxidant polyphenol that fights cell-damaging free radicals that lead to signs of aging. Found in abundance in green tea, especially matcha, EGCG has been shown to rejuvenate skin cells that are dying. Power in a teacup!
10. Tone up and firm up with apple cider vinegar.
For an after-cleansing toner, you can’t beat good old apple cider vinegar. This kitchen staple can help clear up blemishes by balancing your skin’s pH level, but that’s not all. One study showed that apple cider vinegar reduced the appearance of eczema in just three weeks.
If you want to learn more about your own health case please check out our free health evaluation. We offer in person as well as phone and webcam consultations for people across the country and around the world.
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