I’ve become a big believer in nurturing not only the outer skin, but also what lies beneath – our organs and intestines. What’s happening in our outer skin (the skin that we can see), is often a reflection of the health of our insides; our organs are hugely hard-working and important in their own right.
Skincare is important, of course, but eating a range of good-quality, skin-friendly foods – seasonal and organically produced where possible – will provide the best foundation. This will ensure your skin has a healthy glow.
Below are some tips on to improve your overall nutrition in your efforts in nurturing your body.
I’m not an expert!
I’m not an expert on the subject and I’m not a doctor, though I’ve worked with a nutritionist on some of the finer details. A lot of what I say in this site is based on common sense and on information I’ve gathered from simply taking an interest in food and what the nutrients can do for the skin.
Step 1: Improve Your Digestion
Good skin isn’t possible without a well running digestive system. I know from personal experience that if my digestion is ‘off’, it shows in my skin, which looks really dry and is prone to breakouts. It’s increasingly apparent that skin disorders are connected to problems in the gut.
The root cause of many issues, if you ask a naturopathic doctor, is an overgrowth of candida (a naturally occurring fungus that’s present in the intestinal tract). Left unchecked, it is thought that candida can break through the wall of the intestine and get into the bloodstream, releasing toxins that eventually erupt in the skin. The reason we get this overgrowth is down to a number of possible factors, including diet, excessive alcohol consumption, overuse of antibiotics, oral contraceptives and the usual suspect – stress!
Above all, candida overgrowth leads to poor digestion, which means you can’t absorb the nutrients in the food that you’re eating, plus host of other symptoms (see below). If you think you might be affected, it’s best to get checked by a naturopath.
Prebiotics and Probiotics:
There are ways to naturally claim back control of your gut health, including cutting out the dietary offenders such as refined sugar or alcohol. Making sure you eat plenty of fibrous plant-based foods, to help keep things moving through the intestinal tract, is vital too.
When the fibre is non-digestible -as in the case of bananas, for instance, or Jerusalem artichokes – it’s known as a ‘prebiotic’, which feeds the good bacteria you already have.
Probiotics like ‘live’ yoghurt, kefir, or fermented foods such as sauerkraut, miso or tempeh, will help increase the healthy flora in the gut. You can take probiotics in capsule or liquid form, too. Just avoid ‘probiotic’ drinks that are full of sugar. A roughage-rich diet will help your gut to function at its best, making it better able to absorb all those skin-breathing nutrients to help restore a healthy glow.
Checklist for signs that you might be suffering from Candidiasis:
- Digestive problems: bloating, constipation or diarrhoea
- Weight gain
- Skin issues like eczema, psoriasis or a rash
- Strong sugar cravings
Even if you’re careful about what you eat, it’s easy to get indigestion from time to time. No need to pop a pill, though – just try one of these natural remedies:
- Chew a handful of aniseeds, cardamom pods or fennel seeds.
- Infuse a few sprigs of fresh peppermint in a cup of water for a few minutes.
- Add a few slices of fresh root ginger to a mug and pour over some hot water to help relieve a stomach ache.
Step 2: Help Your Liver With Detoxification
A healthy fully functioning liver is crucial to the body’s detoxification process. When the liver is overworked and less able to eliminate toxic waste products, it often shows up in the skin in the form of breakouts and rashes. Our sluggish livers are a product of a modern lifestyle – overburdened by exposure to toxins in the form of alcohol, fatty foods and too much sugar, which need to be constantly filtered out of the system to keep us healthy.
Signs that your liver may not be working at its best:
🌱 Itchy and/or blotchy skin
🌱 Acne or rosacea
🌱 Regular acid reflux (heartburn)
🌱 Difficulty losing weight
Luckily, there are various ways you can support your liver so it can keep your system clean and your skin super healthy:
🌱 Eat lots of veggies.
🌱 Start each day with a glass of hot water with a dash of lemon juice.
🌱 Add garlic and tumeric to your meals.
🌱 Choose foods that help the liver function better, such as onions, broccoli, kale, brussels sprouts, cabbage and cauliflower.
🌱 Take a break from alcohol and coffee.
🌱 Opt for dandelion tea or milk thistle tablets / tea.
🌱 Use a tongue scraper in the morning to remove any toxins that have built up overnight (especially after a big night out!).
Step 3: Eat The Rainbow
I love eating a plateful of different- coloured foods, knowing that it’s not just a feast for the eyes but it’s doing me so much good at the same time. Eating fresh fruit and vegetables in an array of different colours ensures you are getting the full spectrum of nutrients the body needs to function well. This is all down to particular plant compounds or phytochemicals with amazing nutritional benefits both for the body and the skin.
For example, red fruits and vegetables – such as red peppers, watermelon, tomatoes and certain berries – contain lycopene, a nutrient that helps protect against the damage caused by UV light, and its ageing effects on the skin as well as reducing inflammation and stimulating cell renewal.
Orange fruits and vegetables – like carrots, mango and melon – contain the pigment beta-carotene, which the body converts to vitamin A, an incredible resource for the health of both the skin an the eyes.
We are forever being told to eat our greens – from kale and spinach to avocados and green beans. And that’s absolutely right because they too are a rich source of antioxidant plant compounds – a powerhouse of bio-available beauty helpers.
At the indigo end of the rainbow there are all the purple-hued fruit and vegetables – beetroot, aubergines, cherries, blueberries and black grapes – full of flavonoids that promote heart health and help combat the effects of photoaging.
Step 4: Quit Sugar
You may have heard of the disruptive effect refined sugar has on our bodies, causing our energy levels to shoot up and down like a yo-yo and leaving us like junkies looking for the next fix when our blood sugar drops.
Did you know that sugar is a real no-no for the skin?
If you consume too much sugar, it damages the collagen and elastin in your skin, making it look dull and more prone to wrinkles. The body stops producing collagen from about the age of 25, after which it will naturally begin to break down over time. Eating too much sugar just accelerates the process.
Natural sweeteners can help if you’re trying to wean yourself off refined sugar – sugar alternatives like honey and dates not only taste incredible but help in the quest for beautiful skin.
Step 5: Add Healthy Oils and Fats
Rich in essential fatty acids, good oils are another matter entirely. Bear in mind that not all oils and fats are created equal – it is important to avoid overly processed varieties like canola oil or spreads made with hydrogenated oils, and be mindful of how heat can change the structure of an oil or fat too.
I use either raw coconut oil or ghee, both of which don’t change their structure at a high heat and both have anti-inflammatory properties. Olive oil and butter are good for use at moderate temperatures, but won’t remain stable at a high heat. I love to use flaxseed, macadamia, walnut and extra-virgin olive oil for pouring over dishes such as salads or soups.
Step 6: Tune into the Seasons
We’re lucky to have access to pretty much any food we want at any time of the year. Food can be imported from anywhere in the world but I do believe that food produced closer to home and in season is better for you. The chances are that the food has been artificially kept ‘alive’ in some faculty, possibly with the aid of chemicals or freezing. This affects not just the flavour, but also the nutrients, with a knock-on effect on the health of your skin.
I now try to follow the principles of Ayurveda, by eating according to the seasons as much as possible, and by tapping into what’s growing where I’m living. I love how food changes with the seasons – different fruit and vegetables growing according wo when it’s hot or cold – and how your body is attuned to wanting those things at the same time. Listen to mother nature!
Step 7: Avoid Stress
As we age, our ability to recover from the effects of the stress hormone cortisol decreases, and the hormone lingers for longer periods in the body.
Stress is toxic for the immune system and has na ageing effect, damaging the skin’s collagen and natural moisture levels. When stressed, your body also produces adrenaline. Too much adrenaline decreases blood flow and diverts nutrients and oxygen away from the skin, which allows toxins to build up, leading to problems such as breakouts and cellulite.
Step 8: Try Mindful Eating
Eating as mindfully as we do on retreat or in a mindfulness course is not realistic for many of us, especially with families, jobs, and the myriad distractions around us. So have some self-compassion, and consider formal mindful eating on retreat and special occasions, as well as informal mindful eating in your daily life. Eating should be a pleasure and not something done absentmindedly. Try to be present when you’re eating and enjoy the food in front of you. Take your time.
Step 9: Keep Moving
Exercise can do so much more than just keeping you fit. Getting the blood moving through the body is hugely important for restoring a healthy glow or flush of colour to the skin. Your body is designed to be constantly on the move, so allowing it to do so helps the blood to circulate, improves oxygenation and speeds the delivery of nutrients to where they’re needed.
Exercise also works to aid the detoxification and lymphatic drainage, which in turn creates a vibrant look of health. And there’s nothing like sweating it out if you’ve got a hangover. You will get rid of toxins much more speedily if your body’ moving.
When it comes to choosing the types of exercise, do what works for you. Yoga is good for stretching tight muscles and for squeezing out the toxins and any pent-up emotion. Sweating for 15-20 minutes a day is a good start. Mix it up because it should always be fun. People tend to forget that dancing is also a form of exercise.
Try to approach it so that it is achievable on a weekly basis. Periods of intense exercise can be more harmful and put your body at risk of injury. You’re not an athlete, so be realistic – just remember: slowly slowly catchy monkey.
Step 10: Try Intermittent Fasting
Fasting has been used by different cultures for centuries – for cultural and religious reasons, but for the purpose of healing the body and skin, too. Though it’s counterintuitive (we have been trained to believe we need three square meals a day to be healthy) fasting an have many positive outcomes for the body.
In fact, all of us will have involuntarily fasted at some point, for example, falling ill with a stomach bug forces us to stop eating (and sometimes even drinking), while our body goes into repair mode; and we naturally ‘fast’ through the night, ‘breaking’ it in the morning.
Intermittent fasting has a similar effect, allowing the body to redirect its energy from digesting food into repair and detoxification, with the liver and kidneys benefiting especially from the break. Other bodily processes speed up during fasting, making it helpful for addressing problems with the skin, including contact dermatitis, hives, eczema and acne.
The 5:2 diet – consisting of two ‘fasting’ days a week (eating no more than 500 calories a day, which is akin to fasting) and five ‘normal’ days – is wonderfully straightforward in its approach and surprisingly easy to follow once you’ve got the hang of it. Intermittent fasting is a simple tool we can use whenever we need to ‘reboot’ our system, with quite dramatic results all round.
If you switch something on and leave it running without a break, it will soon show signs of wear and tear. Giving your body a break from digestion for a day (even just one day a month) will have a positive impact.
Step 11: Reduce Your Alcohol
Alcohol is not great for your complexion. It has a high sugar content, which is bas news. I think it makes the face look swollen (in fact, it has that effect on the whole body).
When I have been overindulging and then stop, my face looks skinnier and gets it’s structure back. And it’ not just me. Make-up can do a decent camouflage job, but it’s better to keep drinking un check.
Don’t get me wrong: it’s a pleasure to have a glass at the end of the day. Just don’t overdo it – your skin will thank you for it!
A Final Thought – My Journey
I have struggled with my weight since the age of 16. By the age of 19 I remember feeling gross and sad after getting on the scale and seeing 80 Kgs. I was unhealthy, I hated working out and didn’t know what else to do. I tried every diet out there but nothing worked. I was up and down. I felt happy one minute and sad the next. My yo yo dieting continued into my late 20’s and I became obsessed with food-skipping meals, binge eating when I was alone, just overall unhealthy. It wasn’t until my 30‘s that I started to have a healthier relationship with food and exercise. It took time and lots of patience but it has been worth it! I encourage you to stay on this healthy journey and continue nurturing your body.
Thank you guys so much for reading!
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With that said, I will see you all in the next one.