By Dr. Anna Gold
In my new Skin Series blog posts, I go deep into internal factors that contribute to the health of skin, including the role of the microbiome, a Chinese medicine perspective, and diet and lifestyle habits that help its complexion.
For Healthy Skin, Take Care of Your Gut Microbiome
There has been numerous research demonstrating the connection between a person’s gut microbiome and the health of their skin. The microbiome refers to the diversity of microorganisms, including bacteria, fungi and viruses, living within a particular area in a person’s body.
The most well known type of microbiome is located in the intestines, called the gut microbiome. Lack of biodiversity in the gut microbiome has been linked to diseases such as celiac, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), diabetes, obesity, psoriatic arthritis and eczema.
Recent studies have established a specific relationship between skin and digestion, which science refers to as the “skin-gut axis.” Although the research is in its early stages, it is believed that the skin and the gut, both being organs that communicate with the nervous system, immune system, and endocrine system, are extensively codependent. There is also evidence that the microbes contained in the digestive system contribute to the development of common skin conditions such as eczema, acne, psoriasis and rosacea.
So how do you ensure a diverse microbial community in your gut?
- Eat vegetables and fruit in variable colors. This is a simple rule that can help supply a variety of nutrients and fibers that are appealing to good bacteria.
- Reduce sugars including processed carbohydrates and alcohol.
- Include fermented foods in your meals
- Take a probiotic supplement
How to Eat a Healthy Skin Diet
Once a healthy gut is established, eat a diet that will continue feed your skin from the inside out.
Include the following foods to promote radiant, healthy skin:
1. Good Fats - Essential fatty acids (omega-3 and omega-6s) contribute to healthy cell membranes which are barriers to harmful environmental onslaughts. They also provide passageways for nutrients and waste products to cross in and out of the cells. Stronger cell membranes can also hold more water, which means more moisture in your skin. Good fats include extra virgin olive oil, avocado, fatty fishes, flax seeds, and walnuts.
2. Antioxidant rich fruits - fruits that are high in antioxidants content include pomegranates, blackberries, blueberries, strawberries and plums. Antioxidants protect the cells from free radicals which contribute to premature aging.
3. Green tea - Another super high antioxidant food is green tea. Green tea helps to fight free radicals which are unstable molecules that form in response to stressors from the environment such as UV light or smoke. Antioxidants in green tea can stabilize free radicals essentially halting damage to skin cells.
4. Bone broth - Before western nutrition tapped into the benefits of drinking bone broth, it was a staple recommendation in TCM. Bone broth contains collagen, glucosamine and chondroitin, building blocks for repairing joints and connective tissue. Being rich in collagen, bone broth can increase the elasticity of skin, thereby reducing the appearance of wrinkles.
Collagen can also increase skin cell turnover which is akin to younger looking skin. It's also anti-inflammatory which not only decreases pain throughout the body but also helps quell inflammatory skin diseases.
One last benefit I want to mention about bone broth (and there are so many!) is that it improves the integrity of the gut mucosal barrier. Bone broth contains glutamine, an amino acid that improves intestinal function by increasing the number of villi ( the absorptive structures that line the intestine) which secretes digestive enzymes.
5. Drink ample water. Make sure you drink half your weight in ounces every day. For most people that’s 6 to 8 cups of water a day. Water keeps your body and skin hydrated which helps cells move nutrients in and toxins out.
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