It comes as no surprise that your diet is one of the most important factors to influence how healthy and vital you feel. We all know that the foods we choose to fuel our bodies with can have a major impact on our general health. What is sometimes forgotten is that loosening up on dietary standards can have significant effects on appearance and skin health in particular. How your diet affects you, inside and out, all begins with digestive health.
Our bodies really are amazing, aren’t they? They can be perfect systems working in harmony when all of the components are in place. The more we learn, the more we are discovering that so much of that harmony all depends on the digestive system. Your digestive system contains literally trillions of live bacteria and other organisms. While this may sound a little scary, digestive bacteria is a good thing. These bacteria and organisms work to keep your digestive system healthy by aiding in digestion, building an internal ecosystem and keeping it all in balance. When there is an imbalance in the gut flora,you start to run into problems with your health, and one of the first places it is going to show is your skin.
In order to be radiant, your skin needs a bounty of nutrients such as vitamin A, vitamin E, vitamin D, the B vitamin family and trace minerals, among others. Your skin being able to access and utilize these nutrients all starts with good digestive health. Your digestive system is responsible for breaking down the foods that you eat and the supplements that you take. It is within the digestive system that nutrients are absorbed into the body. Your digestive system also has the important function of filtering and eliminating toxins from your system. When you are not properly absorbing nutrients, or getting rid of toxic build up, the result is going to be havoc for your skin. There is such a strong connection between digestive health and skin health that researchers have been looking at the relationship between the two since the 1930’s. During that time some of what we have discovered include:
- Unbalanced bacterial growth in the small intestine is more common in people with rosacea.
- Almost one quarter of people with Irritable Bowel Disease have some type of skin manifestation.
- Approximately one quarter of people with Celiac Disease have a certain type of dermatitis.
- Leaky Gut disease is associated with inflammatory skin conditions.
- Digestive stress and inflammation can impair the structural integrity of the skin.
- People with poor digestion are more likely to suffer from chronic acne.
- Poor gut flora results in skin that looks dull and lifeless.
As you can see, the connection between digestive health and beautiful, healthy skin is a strong one. The undergrowth or overgrowth of important digestive bacteria can quickly cause issues with practically every part of your body. Your skin, being your largest organ, is of course going to be one of the most affected. With this in mind, we need to look at ways to improve digestive health. The approach to a healthy gut has two equally important parts; adding in healthy gut bacteria and eliminating foods that damage the delicate digestive ecosystem.
Step One: The Probiotics
A probiotic is simply a substance that influences the growth of beneficial intestinal microorganisms. Nutritionally poor diets and antibiotic use are among the top culprits for destroying healthy gut bacteria. You can begin restoring your digestive health by making sure that you take in plenty of probiotics that will give you a solid digestive foundation.
One way to get your probiotics is through supplementation. A good probiotic supplement will include valuable information on the label including:
- The type of microorganisms the supplement contains. The most common strains are L. acidophilus, B. longum and B. bifidum.
- The number of live organisms per dose. Expect this number to be in the millions or billions depending upon how the dosage is broken up.
- The dosage and delivery system. Probiotic supplements come in pill, capsule, powder and liquid form. Depending upon the delivery system and the type of microorganism, the directions for usage will be different. Some probiotic supplements are taken in one or two doses during the day, while others can require up to four doses. Make sure that the supplement you choose clearly states how to ingest it and the number of doses required for maximum effectiveness.
- Expiration date. Just like other medications and supplements, after a certain point supplemental probiotics will lose their effectiveness. The live microorganisms naturally begin to die off. Additionally, some probiotics require refrigeration, so take note of any special storage instructions.
- Choose a reliable brand. There are many brands of probiotic supplements available today, and it can be overwhelming trying to choose the right one. There are little to no regulations regarding most dietary supplements, and therefore you need to use your own common sense and intuition when picking one out. Stick with a brand you recognize, one that has come personally recommended to you or that has a wide range of positive reviews. Your doctor is an excellent source for a recommendation. A reputable brand will also be more likely to include all of the above information on their label.
Aside from supplemental form, you can get healthy doses of probiotics from many of the foods that you eat. Incorporating gut-friendly foods into your diet on a daily basis will help to keep your digestive ecosystem strong and healthy. Many foods that contain probiotics can be found in any grocery store. In fact, you many have some of them in your kitchen right now. Here is a list of seven of the healthiest probiotic containing foods.
- This is the number one most consumed probiotic food in America. Yogurt is made by fermenting milk with healthy bacteria known as bifidobacteria lactic acid bacteria. When you eat yogurt, you introduce this friendly bacteria into your gut flora where it helps to maintain balance and a healthy digestive process. Just remember that most flavored yogurts are heavy handed when it comes to sugar, which is detrimental to healthy gut flora. Stick with plain yogurt and add your own fruit or honey for a bit of sweetness.
- This is a thick, yogurt like drink that is made from adding kefir grains to milk and letting it ferment. The same rule about added sugar applies to kefir. Take a look at the label and make sure that you are choosing the healthiest product possible.
- That delectable sausage topping packs plenty of probiotic punch. Sauerkraut is shredded cabbage that has been fermented using lactic acid bacteria.
- Kimchi: This typically spicy Korean side dish is usually made from fermented cabbage or other vegetables. A serving of Kimchi will introduce Lactobacillus kimchi into your digestive ecosystem.
- Kombucha: This is a fermented, effervescent tea drink. This drink can be flavored with, or added to a little bit of fruit juice to take away some of the naturally sour taste.
- Pickles: Who doesn’t love a good pickle? We know that our guts sure do. Pickles that have been fermented in salty water contain a good amount of probiotics. Not all pickles are created equal however. Shelf stable pickles and those that have been pickled in vinegar do not contain the same probiotic power.
- Miso: This is a Japanese seasoning made from fermented soybeans, which sometimes contains additives such as fermented rye, barley or rice. Miso is most commonly available as a paste that can be added to water to make a miso broth.
Step Two: Eliminate the Bad Stuff
Now that you know all of the easy and delicious ways to introduce healthy bacteria into your digestive system, it is equally important to know which foods you should eliminate to protect your digestive health. Here are some of the fiercest enemies of digestive flora:
- Sugar, including high fructose corn syrup and artificial sweeteners negatively impacts the population of digestive bacteria and changes how your body is able to digest and metabolize the foods you eat. Sugar is difficult to avoid. The recommended daily sugar intake is right around thirty grams or less. Many “healthy” foods such as sweetened yogurt or granola bars can knock out half of that amount in a single serving. Take note of how much sugar you are consuming and avoid obvious culprits like sweetened sodas and processed sweet treats.
- Refined grains. There has been a lot of controversy regarding whether or not grains that include gluten are detrimental to your health. Some people can tolerate them, while others simply can’t because of allergies or sensitivities. Regardless of how well you think you tolerate refined grains, gluten is a pro-inflammatory agent, which can degrade the lining of your gut and destroy healthy digestive bacteria.
- Polyunsaturated fats: Found in cooking oils such as corn oil, soybean oil and canola oil, polyunsaturated fat breaks down in a way that promotes inflammation, which destroys gut bacteria and can promote inflammatory conditions such as arthritis and even cancer.
- Processed Foods: Every grocery store has shelves that are lined with processed foods. Chances are that you have some of them lining the shelf of your pantry as well. Processed foods make our lives easier, and if we are being honest, they often taste good too. This convenience and taste comes with a cost. Processed foods have been show to destroy, basically devastate, a healthy digestive flora community. Put down the processed foods and choose natural, whole foods whenever possible.
In a nutshell, if you want to look and feel your best, you need to start by taking care of your foundation, which is a healthy digestive system. The best way to do that is by introducing more gut-friendly bacteria into your body while eliminating the things that will try to destroy your important bacteria community. If you have been frustrated, feeling like you have tried everything to help your skin look it’s best, but you still are not satisfied, try rebuilding your digestive health and see the beautiful results for yourself.
You have likely heard the saying “you are what you eat”. Not only is it true, but in this case it shows on your skin. If you choose a diet that lacks life and is overly processed and fatty, you will see the effects of dull skin that is prone to acne and other inflammatory conditions. However, if you choose to protect your gut health, by treating it properly, not only will you feel better but you will also carry a clear skinned, radiant glow with you. By taking control of your digestive health, not only will you feel more energetic and youthful, but your skin will reflect how you are feeling by looking radiant and gorgeous for years to come.