While you might be able to fake glowing skin with your favorite highlighter – to get skin that truly glows you might need to heal your gut microbiome first.
You’ve likely heard that your ‘gut’ holds the secret to your long-term health and wellbeing. A healthy microbiome is essential for good health. It's your first line of defense against the outside world (think immune system).
It turns out a healthy gut might also be the key to healthy, glowing, radiant skin.
Nutrition expert Kimberly Banting (KB) of Flourish Nutrition explains how your gut microbiome impacts your health – and your skin. And, why you’ll want to fix it ASAP.
A Q&A with Kimberly Banting, Flourish Nutrition
What exactly is a microbiome and why is it so important?
KB: Your microbiome consists of bacteria, yeasts, funghi and other microorganisms that live in and on your body. Normal gut flora contains both “good” and “bad” bacteria that live harmoniously when our gut is healthy.
Think of your body the same way you would any ecosystem. When everything is in balance, the system flourishes, like a fresh spring.
A healthy or balanced microbiome helps us digest food and turns that food into usable nutrients. It helps strengthen our immune system - and we eliminate waste efficiently. We have all the nutrients we need for a healthy body, clear mind and radiant skin.
But, if there is an imbalance, there is decay and a build-up of sludge, like a stagnant pond.
The good guys get wiped out and the bad bacteria grow in number. This creates an unhealthy microbiome or dysbiosis. Our body can't absorb nutrients effectively. Toxins and bad bacteria can travel from your gut to other areas of your body and can cause skin issues like acne, eczema and rosacea.
Dysbiosis can also lead to low energy, weight gain and a weakened immune system.
What are the symptoms of dysbiosis or an unhealthy gut?
KB: Your body is home to about 40 trillion microbes – different species of bacteria – most of which live in your intestines. When our microbiome is out of balance, we have an inadequate supply of ‘good bacteria’.
Some of the most common signs of an unhealthy gut include:
- Constipation or loose bowel movements
- Mucous or undigested food in your stools
- Abdominal pain
- Acne, rosacea, eczema or other skin issues
How can you improve your gut health naturally?
KB: The key to healthy glowing skin is improving your gut health. This means eating healthy foods that support your gut and your microbiome.
What we choose to eat can either help or hinder our microbiome. Whenever I am addressing skin issues such as acne, rosacea, eczema and so on, I focus on restoring gut health and the digestive system first.
One of the most important changes you can make is to ditch processed foods and junk food.
Processed foods and junk foods contain additives and preservatives that feed the bad bacteria. Friendly bacteria are crowded out by junk loving pathogenic microbes. These ‘bad bacteria’ can cause constipation, diarrhea, gas, bloating and inflammation. Inflammation is the root cause of many skin issues and the waste products from bad bacteria are very inflammatory and connected to numerous chronic health conditions.
If you can cut out refined sugar and white carbs, you will be most of the way there! This alone, will reduce the amount of bad carbs you eat and start to feed the good microbes instead of the bad guys. This often helps reduce the appearance of acne and redness.
What to cut ASAP:
- Hydrogenated oils and fried foods
- Processed carbs like white bread, pastries, cakes and cookies
- Additives and preservatives; anything you can’t pronounce (or don’t know what it is) in the ingredient list
- Added flavors
- Artificial sweeteners
Try and also eliminate Plastic – BPA and other gut disrupting chemicals.
Antibiotics – while sometimes necessary, overuse or improper use can disrupt your microbiome. If you must take antibiotics, add a high-quality probiotic supplement and fermented foods like yogurt, kimchi and sauerkraut to your diet to help restore good bacteria.
What are the best foods to eat for a healthy gut?
KB: To nourish your skin from the inside-out, it is essential to eat a whole foods diet. Eating a variety of healthy foods will help replenish your gut bacteria.
Read on for 9 tips on eating your way to glowing skin.
Be sure to include each type of food. These foods are rich in the nutrients that will help restore healthy gut flora and give you gorgeous, glowing skin!
1. Add Omega 3’s to your diet.
Omega 3 fatty acids are essential for everything from acne to wrinkles. Omega 3’s help lower inflammation, speed wound healing, balance your hormones, and improve your microbiome.
Good sources of Omega 3's: Cold water fatty fish like salmon, herring, sardines and mackerel, fish oil, ground flax seeds, ground chia seeds and walnuts.
2. Eat foods rich in zinc
Zinc is an essential trace element needed for healthy skin. It reduces acne and is vital in new cell production. There is a strong relationship between zinc deficiency and immune problems, which creates inflammation.
Good sources of zinc: Oysters, red meat, poultry, pumpkin seeds, baked beans, chickpeas, lentils, cashews, almonds and whole grains.
3. Eat fermented foods on a regular basis
Fermented foods, like yogurt and kimchi, are rich in probiotics or good bacteria. Eating a variety of fermented foods daily helps improve your digestion and support a healthy and diverse microbiome. This is key in preventing reducing gas, bloating and increasing the absorption of nutrients.
Fermented food sources: Sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, yogurt, kombucha, pickles, tempeh, miso, apple cider vinegar, sourdough bread.
4. Eat more fiber
You already know that fiber improves your bowel movements. But, did you know anything that isn’t eliminated through your bowels will come out through your skin. It can appear as acne, rosacea, eczema, rashes, psoriasis and other skin problems. When you start to eat more fiber, detoxification goes through the bowel as it should.
There are 2 types of fiber your body needs: insoluble and soluble.
Soluble Fiber: binds to toxins and ensures they are removed through the bowel.
- Draws water into the colon
- Regulates the absorption of carbohydrates into the blood stream
- Regulates blood sugar levels
- Regulates cholesterol and fats into the blood and body
- Along with good bacteria, regulates vitamins and minerals
High soluble fiber foods: Fruits and fruit skins, nuts, seeds, legumes, rice bran, oat bran, whole psyllium
Insoluble Fiber: is scratchy and broom-like in function. It speeds up our digestion helping ensure waste and toxins don’t linger and wreak havoc on our skin and immune system.
- Balances intestinal pH, making it more hospitable to good bacteria and less to pathogenic bacteria
- Helps in the removal of toxic waste
Insoluble fiber foods: wheat bran, vegetables, psyllium seeds, nuts, seeds and legumes
5. Eat Prebiotic foods daily
Prebiotics are a special kind of fiber that feed your good bacteria. They are sometimes called resistant starches and fibers. Prebiotics are not digestible but serve as food for friendly bacteria in your gut. This helps your own friendly bacteria to grow and crowd out any bad bacteria.
Prebiotic food sources: Jerusalem artichokes, chicory, garlic, onions, dandelion greens, asparagus, bananas, blueberries, almonds, cruciferous vegetables, chia, flax, tomatoes, apples, pears, citrus fruits and kiwi, dairy products and legumes, whole grains, cooked and cooled white rice or potato, sourdough, sweet potatoes
6. Eat more greens
The Earth’s most healing foods are vegetables; especially green veggies! Green vegetables are loaded with healthful nutrients like beta carotene, flavonoids, B-vitamins, vitamin C and polyphenols. These nutrients are crucial for lowering inflammation, healing damage to the cells and supporting immune function. You can’t eat too many! Try adding a green smoothie or green juice to your breakfast.
7. Support your liver
Your liver plays an important role in helping to filter toxins out of your body. It needs specific nutrients to do this important job. If those nutrients aren’t present at the right time, your liver can’t filter out toxins efficiently. Again, when toxins can’t get out of the body through the digestive tract, they come out through the skin.
Food sources: Beets and beet greens, onions, garlic, celery, apples, lemons, berries, leafy greens, cruciferous veggies, yellow and orange vegetables.
8. Eat more garlic
Garlic is a powerful anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial food. It is best eaten raw, but you can buy capsules that won’t give you the garlic breath problem!
9. Go easy with dairy
If you have skin issues, limit your dairy. While dairy products can be part of a healthy diet, some people do have trouble digesting it. This can cause acne and other skin issues like eczema. If you choose to eat dairy products, I recommend choosing organic or grass-fed products. Choose yogurt, kefir and aged cheeses instead of cow’s milk and soft cheese.
Whatever approach you take — eliminating sugars, adding prebiotic foods, eating fermented foods, taking probiotics or sporebiotics, or all of the above — I encourage you to begin optimizing your gut.
A healthy gut will boost your immunity, help your body resist disease and positively affect your health and well-being.
Kim Banting is a Holistic Nutritionist from Ontario, Canada. She is the owner Flourish Nutrition and specializes in women’s health issues, particularly hormone balance and gut health.
This article is for informational purposes only. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice. If you are under the care of another healthcare provider, it is important that you contact your other healthcare providers and alert them to your use of nutritional supplements. Holistic nutritional consulting may be a beneficial adjunct to more traditional care, and it may also alter your need for medication, so it is important you always keep your physician informed of changes in your nutritional program.