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.