Real talk - While we're firm believers that pure, botanical ingredients can treat any skin problem, the truth is that if we aren't feeding our bodies clean food to go along with them, a clear complexion will still be miles away. There is a proven connection between our digestive health and the health of our skin, and that's a topic that our guest blogger, Dr. Robynne Chutkan knows a lot about. She's the health-spirational author of Gutbliss, The Microbiome Solution, and The Bloat Cure, and the creator of the digestive wellness brand Gutbliss. She's also the founder of The Digestive Center for Women, an integrative gastroenterology practice that incorporates nutritional optimization, biofeedback, and stress reduction as part of the therapeutic approach to digestive disorders. Read on, beauty lovers, and behold some serious skin saving secrets.
Beauty & The Gut
By: Robynne Chutkan, MD, FASGE
When it comes to your appearance, your digestive tract might play an even bigger role than your genes. Your intestines are like the soil, and your hair and skin are like the plants that grow in that soil. If the soil isn’t healthy, the plants won’t bloom properly. Patients who have inflamed intestines frequently have red, irritated, inflamed skin too, and studies have found that more than half of all acne sufferers have alterations and imbalances in gut flora. Societies that eat a more indigenous diet with little or no processed foods have very few digestive problems and virtually no acne or other skin problems. Rosacea - one of the commonest skin problems I see in my gastroenterology practice - has also been linked to inflammation and bacterial imbalance in the gut.
I think of the skin as the outer layer of the intestines, and inflammatory foods often leave their mark there, whether in the form of dark under eye circles, blemishes, rashes, a puffy, swollen appearance or more persistent skin conditions like acne, rosacea, or eczema. Likewise, I consider the intestines to be the innermost layer of your skin, since much of what you put on your skin gets absorbed into the digestive tract. Chemicals like sodium lauryl sulfate are common ingredients in cleansing products because they create a thick lather, but they’re also easily absorbed through the skin, irritating it and stripping away essential oils and moisture. Harsh chemicals like these can also make your skin more permeable to penetration by surface bacteria, viruses, and other chemicals that then gain access to your intestines and lead to inflammation and bloating.
So how do we make our insides healthy to achieve a glowing outside?
First, make sure you’re getting sufficient nutrients. Eat food that comes from the ground: foods like fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and seeds. Eat a rainbow of deeply pigmented foods. The different colors indicate the presence of different nutrients, and you need to eat a wide variety to make sure you’re getting as many as possible. Green fruit like avocados and grapes provides nourishing B-complex vitamins, while oranges are rich in vitamin C, which helps reduce free-radical damage caused by sun exposure. Use my list of SAD GAS culprits (soy, artificial sweeteners, dairy, gluten, alcohol, and sugar) as your guide to avoiding foods that cause inflammation and GI distress.
Second, live in a way that promotes a balanced microbiome - what I call the Live Dirty, Eat Clean Lifestyle. The microbiome refers to the trillions of bacteria that live in and on your body. Bacterial imbalance, known as dysbiosis (an overgrowth of pathogenic bacteria and a decrease in beneficial species and overall bacterial diversity), can have profound effects on your appearance and is associated with acne, eczema, rosacea, skin rashes, hair loss, a red, scaly appearance of the scalp, and more. Focus on eating a diet high in leafy greens, indigestible plant fibers, and an array of vibrantly colored fruits and vegetables to fight against dysbiosis. In addition, avoid medications that disrupt the microbiome, including antibiotics, birth control pills, hormone replacement therapy, acid blocking drugs, and steroids. And don’t forget to live dirty! Avoid antibacterial products, as they wash away essential skin bacteria; use natural personal care and household products free of harmful chemicals; and expose yourself to the natural environment (think dirt and the outside air!) as much as possible. This lifestyle will encourage exposure to a diverse array of beneficial microbes that are essential, not only for gut and overall health, but also for a glowing outer beauty, achieved only by nourishing the body from the inside out.