SKINCARE 101: Foods To Fuel Your Glow
Common Skin Issues and What They're Trying To Tell You About Your Health
Learn to decipher your body's hidden messages so you can glow from the inside out
It's true what they say: beauty comes from within and when it comes to your skin, nothing can be closer to the truth. Your skin is the ultimate reflection of what is going on underneath the surface and if you listen carefully, you can decipher the messages it is trying to send you. If you struggle with common skin irritations and disorders, then keep reading to learn the hidden languages of the body along with how to alter your diet accordingly.
Before you can learn to nourish your skin, you must first understand the underlying imbalances that are causing it to cry out for help in the first place. Below we've outlined a few of the most common skin irritations, the body systems that are connected to them and specific foods that support them.
ECZEMA / PSORIASIS
Let's distinguish the difference between the two. Eczema is a reaction to external toxins due to hypersensitivity of the immune system and psoriasis is an over reaction of the immune system caused by internal upset classifying it as an auto-immune disorder. Now your first thought may be to address the immune system directly but this is in fact not the case. In order to balance your immune system, you must first address your gut health. The intestinal tract, also known as your 'gut', controls 80% of your immune system and is directly linked to all autoimmune diseases. While the exact trigger for eczema and psoriasis may vary, both can be linked back to the digestive system specifically the health of your intestinal wall. The term 'Leaky Gut' refers to the inflammation of the intestinal wall that allows for the passing through of toxins and undigested food particles from the intestinal tract into the blood stream. These foreign invaders then travel through the body causing the immune system to over compensate and attack, not just the bad but also the good cells, resulting in an autoimmune reaction. Alternatively, for eczema, the chemical toxins present in common irritants such as smoke, pollution, household cleaners, fragrances, etc create an allergic inflammatory reaction on surface tissues due to hypersensitivity and a weakened immune system. Regardless of which one you're dealing with, it's time to show your gut some love!
recommended foods for a healthy gut
- BONE BROTH
Made by simmering bones for 24+ hours, bone broth contains incredibly high amounts of collagen. Known for it's ability to reverse the signs of aging, it's also the most recommended nutrient for tightening cellular gap junctions in the intestinal wall.
- FERMENTED FOODS
Consuming fermented foods such as kimchi, kefir, and kombucha will boost your daily intake of highly absorbable probiotics. These are the good bacterias that support your gut and, among many other things, help to reduce inflammation.
- HEALTHY FATS
Foods high in essential fatty acids will help reduce inflammation as well as reduce overall dryness and irritation. Sources of healthy fats include oily fish, avocados, non-hydrogenated oils, nuts, and seeds.
- DECIPHER YOUR TRIGGER FOODS
It goes without saying that foods that cause any sort of reaction should be avoided. If you're struggling to understand the cause of your flare ups, try following an elimination protocol. For more info on how to start, read more about it here.
During our teenage years we grow accustomed to the occasional pimple here and there. Some battle with it more than others but at some point the war with our skin should begin to waver and with adulthood should come a clearer complexion. Unfortunately, for many, this is not the case. The reason for this is not as easily pin-pointed but with some trial and error the source of your troubles should begin to become somewhat apparent. There are always exceptions to the rules however and if your issues persist we suggest speaking with your MD or ND regarding proper treatment. With that said, most adult acne can be attributed to one of three sources: a food sensitivity (digestive system), detoxification issues (digestive system), or a hormonal imbalance (endocrine system).
Acne resulting from a food sensitivity is relatively common and fairly easy to rectify. If you know deep down that you don't feel so great when you eat a specific food but you continue to eat it anyway, then try going three weeks without eating it and see what happens. If you're unsure about what foods are causing you upset then follow an elimination protocol and implement the same recommendations made above to improve your gut health. You should begin to notice some changes after those three weeks are up.
Detoxification issues go a little bit deeper and stem from an imbalanced liver. The causes of this are linked to an increased consumption of toxic foods, external toxins, improper digestion, caffeine and alcohol consumption, and dehydration. Our skin is actually the body's largest organ of elimination and it's ability to detoxify is only surpassed by the liver. Your liver is responsible for removing excess cholesterol, hormones, fats, caffeine, alcohol, and other toxic bi-products of the body and is still expected to perform a laundry list of other vital roles required to maintain good health. When the load becomes too much to bear, the skin becomes the dumping ground for these toxins resulting in - you guessed it - acne! To improve liver function and support proper detoxification, we suggest the including the following foods as much as possible!
recommended foods for liver detoxification
- LEAFY GREEN VEGETABLES
Spinach, swiss chard, kale, and arugula. As one of the most nutrient-dense foods, this group of vegetables contains high amounts of chlorophyll which helps to soak up environmental toxins, neutralize heavy metals, chemicals, and pesticides, and boost overall liver function.
This mighty cleanser helps activate liver enzymes and assists in detoxification. High in allicin and selenium, garlic provides a hefty antioxidant kick to any meal.
BRIGHTLY COLOURED FRUITS & VEGETABLES
Beets, carrots, and citrus are all sources of flavonoids and beta-carotene which help to stimulate the liver and reduce oxidative stress caused by external toxins.
Aside from being an anti-inflammatory, turmeric helps boost liver detoxification by assisting enzymes that actively flush out dietary toxins.
Flush out excess toxins with some good ol' fashioned H2O. By staying hydrated you support detoxification and proper elimination.
If you've followed all the above recommendations and are still struggling with acne then odds are you are dealing with a hormonal imbalance. The endocrine system is one of the most complex yet fragile body systems and is responsible for balancing and regulating hormone production. There are many external factors that impact hormone regulation and they range from what make-up you wear to the climate you live in. If you're interested in understanding your specific hormonal needs we suggest speaking with a naturopathic doctor so you can receive personalized hormone testing. Generally speaking though, there are foods you can add to your diet that support the endocrine system and will help lessen the severity of your symptoms.
recommended foods for hormone balancing
- GO ORGANIC
Especially when it comes to your meat, dairy and poultry. Hormones are added to meats and poultry to stimulate growth and/or fattiness and are also used heavily in the dairy industry to increase milk production. Since hormone regulation is so sensitive, any additional source can cause an imbalance. See our blog post about why going organic matters to learn more about this topic.
- INCREASE FIBRE
Include fibrous grains and vegetables such as broccoli, dark leafy greens, sweet potato, quinoa, and brown rice. Fibrous foods help regulate blood sugar levels which can wreak havoc on your hormones. Fibre also helps bind toxins and excess hormones and eliminates them from your body.
- ESSENTIAL FATTY ACIDS
Aside from their anti-inflammatory properties, the omega's are also the ultimate fuel for your hypothalamus - one of the main conductors of the endocrine system. Foods high in omega 3 and omega 6 include hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, grass-fed beef, salmon, and eggs.
- B VITAMINS
This group of vitamins serve many purposes but for the endocrine system, help to regulate cortisol levels and support the adrenals. This translates into better sleep, improved digestion, blood sugar balancing, and reduced inflammation. Foods that contain B vitamins include oatmeal, brown rice, nuts and seeds, fatty fish, beans, and most fruits and vegetables.
DRY & DULL SKIN
Much like acne, dry and dull skin can be attributed to many different body systems. The first line of defence against scaly skin, however, is quite simple: stay hydrated and get your daily recommended dose of essential vitamins and minerals. There are many deficiencies that link back to dry skin, most of which are easily prevented or rectified by simply incorporating more whole foods and avoiding those that are highly processed and refined like wheat and rice. Unfortunately, the vitamins and minerals essential for the maintenance of good skin health are very sensitive to light, heat, and chemicals typically used in the refining process. For this reason, foods that were once full of skin supporting nutrients usually become harmful and inflammatory after processing. Common deficiencies typically associated with lack lustre skin include vitamin A, zinc, B vitamins, vitamin C, and essential fatty acids.
recommended foods for dry & dull skin
- VITAMIN A
This vitamin is responsible for the formation and maintenance of mucous membranes and soft tissues. It's also integral to good skin health and a lack of this vitamin will result in severely dry skin and rashes. Sources of vitamin A include eggs, grass-fed beef, liver, cod, and halibut. Your body can also convert carotenoids into vitamin A in the body. Carotenoids are highly pigmented antioxidants found in brightly coloured fruits and vegetables such as kale, apricots, carrots, sweet potato, and squashes.
Zinc works to improve vitamin A utilization, assists in the proper structure of proteins (think: collagen), and also protects against UV radiation. The commonly prescribed birth control pill depletes the body of zinc which is why deficiencies are fairly common. Include more meat based sources of zinc such as grass-fed beef, organ meats, and seafood to improve absorbability.
- B VITAMINS
Among their many responsibilities, B vitamins are key players in the break down of macronutrients. They help to complete the digestion of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates so they can be distributed and utilized throughout the body. A deficiency of B vitamins can have cascading effects throughout many body systems which will result in dull, dry skin. To boost your intake eat more oatmeal, brown rice, fruits and vegetables (especially dark leafy greens), and egg yolks.
- VITAMIN C
Increased vitamin C intake has been shown to reduce UV damage, improve collagen levels, and reduce dry skin. It's not wonder citrus is the fruit of the summer! Chug back some freshly squeezed orange juice, use fresh lemon juice and olive oil as your salad dressing, and indulge in some fresh berries.
- ESSENTIAL FATTY ACIDS
Noticing a commonality here? EFA's = SKIN'S BFF! You know the drill by now: oily fish, avocados, nuts and seeds, grass-fed beef, coconut oil. Get those good fats flowing!
The take away from all of this is that as much as we all may want to believe that a cream, ointment, mask, or oil will solve all of our skin issues, the REAL healing doesn't happen until we address the underlying issue.
For more help on how to achieve beautiful skin, speak to your naturopathic doctor or holistic nutritionist for a personalized look at your body systems and hormone levels. What works for one may not work for the other and when it comes to your body, nobody understands you better than YOU so listen to the cues your body gives you to find what works best.
Now that you are a skin expert, hit up your local farmers market and get shopping for the foods that will nourish your skin and give you the glow you've been searching for!