The first step to healthy, radiant skin is balancing digestive health. If you think about a garden, the soil is like our gut. It 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 and lustrous and radiant, we also need the right bacterial and nutrient balance in our gut.
Our gut is home to a large portion of our immune system. It’s where we make nutrients (that make collagen), antioxidants (that protect our skin), metabolize hormones, neutralize pathogens, and make neurotransmitters and detoxifying enzymes, so it’s little wonder that the state of the gut has a profound effect on our skin.
The cell danger response (CDR) is the evolutionarily conserved metabolic response that protects cells and hosts from harm. The skin, hair, and nails are the last places to get nutrients that go to more important organs first. If we’re not getting enough nutrients or digesting our food properly due to poor gut health, our skin will start to starve. This affects skin elasticity and collagen production and will manifest in dull, lackluster skin with poor tone. Studies show that those with good digestion have a healthier fatty-acids profile in their skin, making their skin plumper, more hydrated, and more moisturized.
Here are a few ways you can go about achieving a healthy gut and a radiant, glowing complexion.
1. Consume high levels of antioxidants.
A diet rich in antioxidants is nature’s internal skin care regime, helping to fight rogue free radicals and repair cell damage. Antioxidants are abundant in vibrantly colored vegetables; fish; mushrooms; legumes; seeds; leeks, onions, and garlic; green tea; and black tea. My new book is filled with gut-loving recipes that are nutritious, delicious, packed with antioxidants, and will feed your cells and your gut microbes.
2. Stay hydrated.
Drink 2 liters of clean, filtered water daily. It goes without saying that drinking lots of clean water is key to keeping the skin hydrated and cleansed. Studies tell us that the skin contains approximately 30 percent water, which contributes to plumpness, elasticity, and resiliency. Water intake not only improves skin hydration but can also improve skin thickness and density.
3. Eat fermented foods.
Fermented foods improve digestion and the absorption of minerals and nutrients. Fermented foods are rich in bioavailable nutrients to feed the skin from within (fermentation predigests the food, so the nutrients are more available for the skin and body to use) and are great for improving digestion as they contain both prebiotics and probiotics.
4. Chew, chew, chew.
The more you chew, the more saliva you mix with your foods, which is a good thing because saliva contains digestive enzymes that lubricate the food and break down fats, all of which is beneficial to your digestive system.
5. Consider enzymes.
Good health is not only about what you eat but what you digest, and enzymes in food help our body digest beauty nutrients. The enzymes themselves, such as proteolytic enzymes found in papaya, are also anti-inflammatory, immune-boosting, detoxifying, and healing in the body. All raw foods contain enzymes, but certain foods like lacto-fermented foods, sprouted seeds, figs, mango, pineapple, avocados, and bananas are extra powerful.