It doesn’t sound very glamorous, but beautiful, glowing skin and good health do begin in your gut. So before you think about buying the latest miracle cream or speed dialing your facialist, why not invest your time and money into improving your digestive health?
Looking after your gut will allow you to simplify your skincare routine, help you achieve a smooth, balanced and glowing complexion – and make you feel better too.
The gut health connection.
Let’s create an analogy so this is all a little easier to digest (pardon the pun). If you think about a garden, our gut is like the soil. The soil needs the right nutrient levels and bacterial balance to support the plants and for them to be strong, their leaves robust and their flowers to blossom. For our skin to be strong, lustrous and radiant, we also need the right bacterial and nutrient balance in our gut.
The gut is where 70% of your immune system lies, where we metabolise hormones, where we make nutrients and neurotransmitters, create detoxifying enzymes and neutralise pathogens. All of these processes can profoundly affect us if not in balance or working properly.
Think of how hormones when out of balance can wreak havoc on your complexion and overall health and wellbeing. If we’re not getting enough nutrients or digesting our food properly due to poor gut health, our skin won't receive the nutrition it needs to support it. This affects skin elasticity and collagen production and will manifest in dull, lacklustre skin with poor tone. Similarly, if we are not detoxifying properly, the skin – as the body’s largest elimination organ – will suffer.
To achieve a healthy gut, we need to support good bacteria in our digestive system. Bacteria pretty much run the show! The gut is home to trillions of microbes that outnumber the body’s cells by 10 to 1.
We co-exist with about 500–1000 different species of bacteria. Not so glamorous, I know, but just think of those good bacteria as your skin and body’s very best helpers. More and more studies are showing how the nature of that bacteria can affect our health, our skin, and the way we feel. To look and feel our best, we aim for a predominance of good bacteria over the bad bacteria, including pathogens, (such as candida). An abundance of bad bacteria can contribute significantly to skin problems, from acne, rosacea, premature ageing of the skin, lacklustre skin and poor energy levels amongst other health and beauty issues. Studies show that where there is gut inflammation, there will be skin inflammation. Studies also show that people who have a healthier gut microbiota may have a healthier fatty acid profile in their skin, meaning their skin is more moisturised, hydrated and protected.
Studies show that our gut bacteria can also influence our mood, weight, blood sugar levels and our body's ability to fight infections.
So how do we ensure that the good bacteria is winning the tug of war?
Unfortunately, beneficial gut bacteria is not a big fan of many of the lifestyle factors that are synonymous with modern living. Stress, processed food, antibiotics, alcohol, cigarettes, sugar and pollution can all compromise good bacteria and feed the pathogenic bacteria.
Guess what? We all have our own unique bacterial gut print! So where does our bacterial pattern originate? Our bacterial pattern is mostly established in the first three weeks of life, but the good news is that if it didn’t go so well and the beneficial bacteria lost out, we can help alter this pattern with changes to lifestyle and diet.
- Eat wholefoods: Eating well encourages the growth of good bacteria. Try to go the low HI approach – opt for low human intervention foods. That means eating plenty of whole foods that are provided by nature, not foods that are tainted by human hands or processed in a lab.
- De-stress: Yoga, meditation, walking, loving and being kind to yourself all help encourage beneficial flora. They are not big fans of stress.
- Probiotics: The proven strains of good bacteria include Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium species. You can find them in yoghurts and probiotic drinks but be careful that those products are not also full of gut-depleting sugar. Probiotic supplements can be helpful but I am also a big fan of consuming lacto-fermented foods (as found in The Beauty Chef range) to get natural viable bacteria into the belly.
- Lacto-fermented foods: Have you ever wondered why women from Eastern Europe and Asia have radiant skin? The answer may lie in sauerkraut, kefir, kimchi and miso. These are lacto-fermented foods. The lacto-fermentation process (different to other fermentation processes such as alcohol fermentation) creates a broad range of beneficial bacteria. The proliferation of lactobacilli in lacto-fermented vegetables, such as sauerkraut for example, predigests the cabbage making digestion easier and nutrients more available for the body to utilise. The process also creates good bacteria that helps to re-colonise the gut. Studies show that consuming lacto-fermented foods can influence both mood and acne by reducing systemic inflammation, and probiotics can help eliminate disease-promoting pathogenic bacteria in the gut.
- The Beauty Chef GLOW Inner Beauty Powder contains 24 lacto-fermented superfoods and prebiotics and probiotics ensuring your skin is getting good bacteria and nutrients to keep your skin’s ecosystem strong, healthy and glowing. Growing medical and scientific research correlate gut health with skin health. For example, studies show that a lack of hydrochloric acid in the gut can contribute to acne and rosacea.
Guess what increases levels of this acid? Lactic acid bacteria found in lacto-fermented foods!
Feeling a bit down about your skin? The gut is where we make neurotransmitters so the health of our gut can affect the way we feel too! This is why doctors refer to it as our second brain. So balancing our gut will help give us vitality and positivity to help us feel better about our skin and health without any special treatments.
Tips to improve gut health
- Eat low HI – low human intervention foods.
- Eat foods rich in prebiotics. Prebiotics help boost the growth of friendly bacteria. These include non-digestible food substances found in asparagus, bananas, endive, chicory, garlic, globe and jerusalem artichokes, kefir, leeks, onions as well as foods rich in soluble fibre.
- Eat probiotic-rich, lacto-fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kefir and yoghurt.
- The combination of prebiotics and probiotics helps promote a healthy gut more than either consumed alone.
- Favour Certified Organic foods – they’re far richer in nutrients and free of nasty chemicals that compromise gut health.
- If your gut is in bad repair, it may take a while for it to heal and get your own digestive enzymes working efficiently. Digestive enzymes may be helpful for a period of time.
- Eat smaller meals and chew food slowly so it liquefies before you swallow. Saliva contains digestive enzymes that help break down foods.
- Avoid drinking with your meal as it dilutes digestive enzymes.
- Too much acidity in the body encourages unfriendly bacteria. Reduce acidity in the body by eating more alkalising foods including your green leafy veggies and reduce your intake of acid forming foods.
- Try not to eat when you are angry or stressed as your body’s fight or flight response predominates at those times, meaning digestion is not a priority and is slowed.
- Grains provide a great source of fibre to aid detoxification but can be hard for some people to digest and contain anti-nutrients. If you consume grains, either soak them or ferment them to make them easier to digest. Doing this helps to neutralise anti-nutrients too. It may be worth avoiding them for a while in the initial stages of healing gut health.
- Lemon juice helps stimulate digestion. A shot of lemon juice before all meals can be a good aid to digestion.
- Gluten and dairy sensitivities are quite common, so these kinds of foods are probably best avoided as they contain proteins that are hard to digest. Fermented dairy such as yoghurt is ok.
- Animal proteins can be hard to digest so are best cooked slowly in soups and stews. Spices such as garlic, ginger, cumin, cayenne and black pepper can be added to animal proteins to aid digestion.
- Vegetables are best steamed or sautéed as an excess of raw vegetables can weaken digestion.
- Meat bone broths are high in minerals and other essential nutrients and are excellent for healing the lining of the gut.
- Other beneficial gut foods include chlorophyll-rich greens such as celery, alfalfa and sea vegetables as well as fibre-rich foods and green tea.
- Stop bad bacteria in their tracks; avoid refined foods and sugar.
- Coconut oil is helpful for gut health as it contains lauric acid, which is antibacterial and antifungal.
- Herbs that may aid digestive health include: fennel, chamomile, slippery elm, ginger, peppermint, lemon verbena, lemon balm, dandelion root, yellow dock, gentian root, slippery elm, licorice root, meadowsweet, oregano, garlic, pau d’arco, ginseng.
NOTE: PLEASE CHECK WITH YOUR HEALTHCARE PRACTITIONER BEFORE MAKING ANY CHANGES TO YOUR DIET OR TAKING SUPPLEMENTS OR HERBS, ESPECIALLY IF YOU ARE PREGNANT OR HAVE A HEALTH CONDITION. DIETARY SUPPLEMENTS AND HERBS MAY HAVE CONTRAINDICATIONS
For more inner beauty recipes, click here.