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Skin Health & the Gut – My S.H.E talk

Recently, I did a talk with the Skin Health Emporium at their mindfulness beauty event. It was a wonderful evening and I loved connecting with so many of you! I spoke on the importance of good gut health when we talk about beauty from within. This is because skin, being the only organ we can touch and see daily, is often a good reflection of what is going on internally. This is especially so for gut health. I thought I would share with you some of the key talking points we touched on in the event, so you too can benefit! We also spoke about ageing at the event, but I think I will save that for a future blog post as there is so much to cover! Read on to understand your gut better, and learn how you can optimise it to see results in your skin (and of course, digestive symptoms too!).

It is not simply “you are what you eat”, rather “you are what you absorb”. The primary role of the gut is to utilise the nutrients from your food that your body needs. When the body doesn’t receive enough nutrients, it sends the few it can use to vital organs – heart, brain, liver – & our skin, hair & nails get pushed aside. We want food to be absorbed as quickly as possible to ensure that it doesn’t sit in the gut & ferment, which can then cause unpleasant gas, bloating & microflora imbalance.

Phases of Digestion:

  • Food preparation: sight/smell – The moment you see or smell your food our bodies stimulate the release of digestive enzymes, stomach acid & bile to help break down food.
  • Weak enzymes, acid & bile place a greater burden on our organs to assimilate larger chunks of food, & may contribute to bloating, bacterial overgrowth, parasites & leaky gut syndrome.
  • Amidst stress, real or perceived, adrenaline is produced. The presence of adrenalin diverts the blood away from digestion & concentrates it to the arms & legs → ‘fight or flight’.
  • Chewing: should be done 12-20 times per mouthful! Arousing the sense of taste can also encourage stronger digestive “juices”. This specifically activates amylase, a digestive enzyme specific to carbohydrates present in the mouth, helps digest approx 50% of the carbs in the meal.
  • This is your only chance at “mechanically” breaking down your food. There are no little teeth down the walls of our digestive tract.
  • Swallow → stomach: physical distention activates receptors to initiate stomach acid. We want this to be very acidic! Stomach breaks the food down into a substance called “chyme”.
  • Reflux, is mostly due to stomach acid not being acidic enough. Your stomach brings your food up because it is having difficulty breaking it down.
  • Liver – bile helps digest fats & some vitamins. The nutrients get distributed into the bloodstream.
  • A lack of digestive enzymes can reduce the amount of fat & protein that you absorb, & leave your skin feeling dry & dull – which can be the cause behind many skin conditions including eczema & psoriasis.
  • Colon – 3–4kg of bacteria living here! The goal is to have more good than bad bacteria. Beneficial bacteria breakdown fibre & synthesise certain vitamins, amino acids & release short-chain fatty acids.
  • Water from food is absorbed here, to help with easy bowel formation. Constipation can place an extra toxin load on your body due to toxin reabsorption. Reabsorbed substances may be excreted through the skin.

 

What You Can Do Right Now!

  • Eat a high-fibre, colourful plant-based diet centred on vegetables, fruits & legumes. Include small regular servings of wholefood fats such as nuts & avocado with each meal. Choose lower glycemic load foods. Favourite skin foods incl: Acai, pineapple, cabbage, sweet potato, seaweed, almonds, brazil nuts, ground flaxseeds, chia seeds, avocado, lemon.
  • Limit refined sugars, artificial sweeteners, dairy, processed foods, alcohol & caffeine.
  • Address food allergies & intolerances.
  • If consuming animal-based products, including fish, eggs & dairy, these are to be a “side dish” to the plant-based main & never charred/smoked. Really try for at least 2 vegan days/week or even 1 meal a day!
  • Take time to see, smell & prepare your food. If buying food, really take it all in before scoffing it down.
  • Eat in a calm environment, away from stressors & distractions. Chew each mouthful 12-20 times. Place knife & fork down between bites. Set a 20 min alarm for eating!
  • Drink 1-2 tsp apple cider vinegar in water 10-20 mins prior to main meals (or just one main).
  • Consume bitter foods (think rocket, endive, radicchio, watercress, dandelion, kale).
  • Drink warm lemon water first thing in the morning.
  • Do not drink water with your meals, drink at least 30 mins before or after.
  • Sip ginger tea and/or dandelion tea throughout the day.
  • Eat fermented foods that naturally contain probiotics e.g. kim-chi or take a quality strand-specific supplement with meals.
  • Adequate hydration. Try a pinch of mineral-rich sea salt in your water bottle for better cellular uptake.
  • Supplementation that might help depending on your condition (always only as prescribed specifically for you under a qualified health practitioner): probiotics, vitamins C & E, Algae oil (omega 3), zinc, COQ10, Selenium.

A good e.g. diet to get you started for radiant skin:

Upon waking: Hot water with lemon + a pinch of cayenne pepper

Breakfast: Good morning Green Smoothie (using 1/3 papaya instead of banana if possible) + ginger tea

Snack: Chia seed pudding (2-3 tbsp dry chia soaked in nut milk) with a handful of blackberries, tbsp goji berries, 2-3 tbsp coconut kefir, 4 crushed Brazil nuts + cinnamon;

Lunch: Mixed dark leafy green salad with 1/2 cup kidney beans, 1/4 avocado, colourful raw salad veg (think carrot, beetroot, capsicum, tomato, cucumber, fennel, red onion etc), fresh herbs, seaweed flakes + a lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, miso dressing (can add a splash extra virgin olive oil or maple syrup if desired). Optional 1/3-1/2 cup sweet potato. 

Snack (optional): all green veg juice (w ginger, lemon and optional pineapple) OR Sliced carrot and capsicum with baba ganoush OR sliced papaya sprinkled with pepitas (or chia pudding if you didn’t have it earlier). 

Dinner: Apple cider vinegar in water then… 100-150g Tempeh “steak” (baked or pan-fried) with abundant steamed/sautéed greens (particularly cruciferous vegetables), mushrooms and coriander. Topped with 1 tbsp ground flaxseeds, 1 tsp black sesame seeds + lemon zest. On a bed of 1/3 cup turmeric + black pepper spiced quinoa. 

 

DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A CLEANSE & A DETOX

A cleanse and a detox are often used interchangeably, however, in my opinion, there are some key differences. A lot of people and brands, may not stop to think about what they are actually talking about on a physiological level when they embark on or put together some kind of “fast” or “overhaul” health program. Of course, this highlights a huge oversight, and indicates a lack of knowledge or understanding in the industry and the greater public. I’m not here to point fingers, I just want to educate each of you so that you can make informed decisions, and get to know your bodies a little better.

Before we dive in, I want to address some of the negativity toward these types of protocols. One of the reasons cleanses and detoxes get given a bad rap is because the concept of them is a bit ironic when the body naturally does them itself, every second of every day. At the cellular level, many quick fixes, cleanses, baths, enema’s and topical applications do little to detox the body, especially in isolation. It really comes down to nutrition, from food or supplements, and consistency. A lot of health practitioners take issue then, with a program that claims to do it for you. However, I disagree with this because just because the body is supposed to do something, doesn’t mean it is doing it at full capacity. Digestive dysfunction and liver impairment are not uncommon, and therefore, a well-constructed protocol can be of benefit. At its core, it is about supporting the body, providing it with the perfect conditions and tools to do what it is always meant to do… Keep you alive and healthy.

In a nutshell, a cleanse is about the removal of unwanted build-up in your gastrointestinal tract (GIT) to promote healing. During a cleanse, what you are consuming is easier-to-breakdown and likely, smaller quantities than usual. This offers the body a well-deserved break from digestion. This is important, as it takes around 10-30% of our energy (depending on what we eat) to metabolise food. This mightn’t seem like a lot but when you consider that on average, 60% of our energy goes toward simply staying alive (basal metabolic rate = breathing, blood circulation, organ function), it leaves little energy for other things like physical activity, or functions the body does not prioritise like skin repair and hair integrity. 

Whilst cleanses emphasise the digestive system, a detox focuses on the liver…

Detoxification mainly centres around carrying toxins out of the body – everything from heavy metals and pollution to pesticides and excess or old hormones. Essentially, it is about cleaning up the blood. A detox is also aimed at restoring the body’s natural healing processes. It focuses on providing your body with the nutrients it needs to support its inbuilt filtration system – the liver. We can, and should, therefore eat an abundance of plant foods brimming with nutrients to supply the body with the vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, amino acids and enzymes our cells need to function optimally.

As with all good things that last, this is never about a quick fix. Real health shifts take time. Rather, it is about restoring the body’s natural healing capabilities and then incorporating this into life-long, maintainable healthy habits . Phase 3 of my protocol is a “forever” phase, meaning it teaches you how to eat in a way that supports these critical bodily functions, whilst being flexible, sustainable and enjoyable -> critical to compliance and quality of life! Phases 1 and 2, essentially cleanse and detox support phases respectively, can always be revisited from time-to-time when needed e.g. seasonally or annually. Ultimately, the choices you make for your health should support ongoing cleansing and detoxification. Take care when altering your diet and lifestyle, always tune-in to how you feel and be responsible for your own wellness.

My soon-to-be-released eBook, Rebalance, will delve into all of this and much, much more. It explains various critical bodily functions, principles for wholefood eating and guides you through an enjoyable and effective 3-step protocol to support your bodies natural healing mechanisms in order to get the most out of your food and eat your way to optimal and abundant health! 

Why you may be getting bloated after a healthy, “clean” meal….

I’m still bloated, and I have cut out dairy, gluten, wheat and refined sugar… now what?” Words I hear often. There are so many things at play when it comes to our complicated but wonderful digestive system. I recommend keeping a symptoms diary for at least two weeks if bloating is a serious concern, noting what you eat and when you become bloated (take strict note of the time between food consumption and onset of symptoms). This is important to not only identify what triggers you, but which part of the gastrointestinal tract (GIT) requires attention. You will likely need to provide this information to a qualified nutritionist or naturopath to really understand your digestive issues. However, first, take the below points into consideration and give a few of the tips a go! You might surprise yourself with how easy it is to fix up those bloating woes with just a few simple tweaks 🙂

  1. You might be eating too fast and not be chewing enough – there are no more teeth past the mouth! We must chew, chew, chew to not only break down our food so it can fit through our GIT, but also to wake up those ever important digestive enzymes that actually begin digestion. Without these in full swing, bloating is guaranteed. It goes without saying (but I’ll say it anyway ;)) that this also causes over-eating, another common contributing factor to bloating, discussed below. Tips: Always sit down for your meal/snack and set a timer on your phone for 20 minutes, this is how long you should be eating for! Aim to chew each mouthful 10-20 times. Place knife and fork down between bites. Try to drink water away from meals not with meals, again, so as not to dilute those critical digestive enzymes.

  1. You might be stressed or distracted – when we are distracted or emotionally strained, the digestive system is not at full capacity. This is because it is busy doing other things that seem more pressing at the time. This is also a scenario where you are likely to over-eat and under-chew. Use the tips from above to really slow down and focus on the delicious, abundant, nutritious plate in front of you, and put away your phone! If stress is an issue, take several deep belly breaths before commencing your meal, and channel your energy into honing in on the senses – the sight, smell and taste of your food!

  1. Your stomach acid might be low – whilst we wont our bodies (blood) to be nice and alkaline, our stomach requires a different pH that is actually acidic. Contrary to popular belief, indigestion is usually the result of inadequate stomach acid (hydrochloric acid – HCI), not high! The reason you may experience a burning sensation is because the stomach is sending the food back up as it cannot digest it, bringing with it some of that HCI which whilst not acidic enough, is still acidic when compared to other areas of the body. Interestingly, low stomach acid might not only cause bloating, but also, more acidic blood (not a good thing!). Tips: To increase HCI consume things like lemon water first thing in the morning, and incorporate fermented foods such as saurkraut/kimchi, kefir, unpasturised miso etc. A shot of apple cider vinegar or mixing it in water 15 mins prior to meals should also do the trick!

  1. You have difficulty digesting fats – fats can take a long time to digest. Couple that, with a “sluggish” liver, which is crucial in processing fatty foods (bile production), and you have a recipe for tummy trouble. If your stools are particularly “greasy”, this be indicated. Tips: Try nurturing your liver through consuming things like bitter greens (dandelion leaves, rocket, endive, radicchio) apple cider vinegar and cooked cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, brussels sprouts). You could drink some liver-loving teas like dandelion root/leaves, milk thistle or nettle, and drink warm lemon water each morning. Avoid excessive alcohol and caffeine, deep-fried food, processed food, artificial sweeteners/flavours and unnecessary medication/supplements.

  1. Portion distortion – perhaps your simply eating too much. Excess food consumption can definitely lead to discomfort, especially if you are eating a variety of foods which require different digestive enzymes to break down (this is a theory, but there is some evidence to suggest this can cause a “traffic jam” in the GIT. Look into “Food Combining” if interested). Tips: You could follow some food combining rules here. One I like to follow is consuming fruit mostly alone, or at least first thing in the morning. Alternatively, smaller meals, more frequently, could help some people really sensitive to larger portions. Eating slowly so you register when you are indeed full is a simple but effective tip. Again, consuming liquids away from meals, particularly large ones, is helpful.

  1. You might have an intolerance to something else, or aren’t reading labels correctly and are accidentally consuming some of the usual culprits – consider allergy/intolerance testing, consulting with a healthcare practitioner.

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