Our skin is a direct image of how healthy we are inside, and when we learn to use this amazing sign given to us by nature, we can achieve healthy skin and a healthy gut simultaneously. Every single thing we eat has to be digested, but there’s more to it than most of us realize. In fact, it’s not as simple as just “filling up the tank” and moving on with the day. The human body has to break down whatever we put into it to extract nutrients from that food. If it can not do this for whatever reason, that food goes undigested and ends up releasing toxins into the bloodstream as a byproduct of poor digestion.
Of course, there is no one reason for this all too common problem. Food allergies or intolerances, hormonal imbalances caused by life changes and a poor diet, an autoimmune disease, low levels of good gut bacteria since birth (often showing up as colic in the baby), previous use of antibiotics and birth control, exposure to heavy metals and mercury (which fuel bad bacteria), certain medical conditions, and poor absorption of nutrients are just some of the main reasons that most people suffer from this issue. And sadly, no matter what the reason, the body displays this through a variety of signs: weakness, fatigue, digestive problems and perhaps most telling: the skin.
Getting to the Root of the Cause of Acne: Gut Health
Though the above causes can lead to poor gut health which causes unhealthy skin, acne (the worst manifestation of skin problems) is a sign of imbalanced good gut bacteria that can build from the above issues but is usually fostered most through the diet where it causes the problem to become out of control. A diet high in sugar and grains, conventional animal products, and processed foods all disrupt hormones and spike insulin levels which fuel candida overgrowth, IBS, and an array of other digestive problems that only fuel acne as a result of poor gut health. Though these can not be fixed with food completely, diet is a large part of the problem and the solution.
It’s important to note that one way of eating will not be a cure and solution for everyone, but we can all bet on and feel safe with is that real foods are always best — no matter what. The body can break down real foods and extract greater nutrients from those foods than processed foods no matter how “natural” they may be or how many enriched vitamins they claim to have. It also damages the lining of the gut when we eat these fake foods, and therefore, decreases our good bacteria without any other changes we make in our diets.
So if you’re suffering skin issues such as acne, know that you can quickly heal your skin as you help it release stored toxins and as you begin to regulate your digestion. When digestion is regulated, those toxins will not find their way out of your skin but will instead be eliminated as the human body prefers to do. And this can all take place within just a week if you stick to a clean diet.
That being said, here are some foods to focus on to get your skin back on track and your body on the right path to eating better for a healthy gut and skin the rest of your life.
1. Eat Orange-Colored Vegetables
Pumpkin, squash, sweet potato, carrots and orange bell peppers are rich in the antioxidant beta-carotene (which converts to vitamin A). This bright colored pigment that makes vegetables glow in color improves the immune system, most of which is located in the digestive tract. Beta-carotene also enhances the pigmentation of the skin and helps fight breakouts by reducing inflammation which acne is one form of. Enjoy one of these foods daily; sweet potatoes and cooked squash are excellent with meals when roasted or baked and canned pumpkin goes break in smoothies, oatmeal or even blended soups.
2. Focus on Spinach and Other Leafy Greens at Every Meal
Spinach is high in B vitamins which improve skin health and it’s high in vitamin E which acts as an antioxidant reducing inflammation and free radicals. Spinach is also very high in protein which restores collagen in the skin and helps improve your natural glow as well as reduce fine lines and breakouts. Lastly, it’s a great source of iron which can improve blood flow to the skin and restore the metabolism; just be sure to enjoy a little lemon with your spinach if you can since vitamin C helps with the absorption of non-heme iron found in all plant-based sources. Other great leafy greens to add to your diet include chard, kale, arugula, romaine, parsley, and cilantro.
3. Eat Fermented Foods Each Day
Fermented foods can include sauerkraut, kimchi, yogurt, kefir, real pickles (not those on the shelf at the store), apple cider vinegar, and kombucha. These are full of good probiotic cultures and will increase the good gut bacteria to fight off the bad bacteria that leads to poor digestion and acne. You can choose dairy-free kefir and yogurt made from coconut and coconut water, and when you purchase sauerkraut and kimchi, always buy those in the cold section in the produce department to ensure the cultures are live and not heavily processed like those on the shelves.
4. Stop Eating Fried and Processed Foods
Junk foods, fast food and anything fried or processed slows down the elimination process in the body because it bogs down the liver and leads to the death of good bacteria. They also feed bad bacteria and generally make you feel pretty terrible as a result. This is because your body becomes exhausted trying to break them down which it can’t efficiently do. And all those toxins end up with nowhere to go, therefore your skin being your largest organ is the one that gets left with the burden of releasing them. This comes out in the form of acne and yet so many people never make this connection. Don’t be one of them, take care of your body and your face by eating real foods.
5. Increase Your Water Intake
It’s also a good idea to increase your water intake, not just with how many glasses you drink (work your way up to at least six a day) but also with how many water-rich foods and beverages you drink. Water cleanses the body and improves the speed of digestion, so try to include more water-rich drinks like herbal tea, healthy smoothies you make at home, or chilled green tea as a nice refreshment during the day.
6. Eat Sources of Vitamin C
Vitamin C helps reduce inflammation and improves the look of the skin, so eating vitamin C rich foods is a great way to improve your skin health. Luckily, most all produce is a decent sources of vitamin C, but some foods have a leg up on the others. Choose: lemons, limes, carrots, tomatoes, bell peppers, spinach, romaine, kale, parsley, dandelion greens, Swiss chard, arugula, zucchini, and apples. Oranges, melons and even bananas are also great options. If you’re sensitive to citrus, look for other sources since it can actually cause acne in those sensitive to it, so be mindful of this when selecting your produce. If you enjoy using superfoods, goji and camu are also great sources too.
7. Don’t Leave Out Healthy Fats
Healthy fats can help with skin healing, which is important when you have acne. These fats help reduce inflammation and with skin repair that is necessary with scarring from acne and even mild discoloration. You also don’t need a lot of fat to see results with this; choose just 1-2 tablespoon per meal and increase that amount if you see fit. The best skin-friendly choices include: olives, raw almonds, raw cashews, raw pumpkin seeds, raw Brazil nuts, raw walnuts, raw pecans, raw cacao, and avocados. These are especially anti-inflammatory and contain omega-3s, amino acids, B vitamins, and certain minerals like selenium and iron that boost skin health further. Coconut and coconut oil are also usually great for skin health since they act as an anti-fungal in the body, and olive oil is a timeless popular anti-inflammatory aid you can use as well.
Remembering the Big Picture
Focus on foods you can (and should) add, not foods you can’t eat. Remember that your skin is your friend in helping you take care of your body from the inside out. Use this to your advantage and eat your way to great skin in no time. It also wouldn’t hurt to take a probiotic if you do have severe acne to give your gut a boost and improve your gut health as you make positive changes to your diet. Fill your plate with antioxidants and your skin will thank you tremendously!
Lead image source: Ultimate Vegan Stuffed Mushrooms