Our skin is one of the first things to stand out to people. Since we see our skin every day, it’s hard to remember that it's actually the largest organ of our body. It covers a surface area of more than 21 square feet and makes up close to 10 percent of our body weight. And because our skin is an organ, it is deeply impacted by our health and what we put into our body. In order to keep the skin healthy and even reverse certain skin problems, we need to start in the gut.
The microbiome — AKA the collection of bacteria and yeast living in your gut — is the location where many skin conditions originate and is the other end of what is known as the gut-skin axis. There has been quite a bit of research that looks at this connection to discover how much the gut influences the skin’s health and appearance.
While there are many different kinds of gut issues that could contribute to skin problems, I recommend working with a functional medicine practitioner to get to the root of the problem. You can also consider eating more of the many gut-healing superfoods that can easily be added to your diet to radiate glowing skin from the inside out. Here are five of the best.
1. Fermented Foods
Probiotic-rich fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, and kefir provide your microbiome with beneficial bacteria that it could be lacking. Lactobacillus acidophilus has been shown in studies to improve complexion after three months of consistent use and can be found abundantly in these sources. The Coconut Cult is a great brand of coconut yogurt that comes in three delicious flavors and is loaded with 25 billion active probiotics per serving.
This B-vitamin is necessary to fight the effects of aging by helping in fatty acid synthesis. Your skin cells need fat as protection from harsh environmental factors, like the wind and sun. In fact, biotin is actually said to have the nickname “vitamin H” — which was derived from the German word Haut meaning "skin" — for the powerful role it plays in skin health.
Since your body cannot synthesize biotin, it has to be gained through intestinal bacteria and diet. Most biotin conversion happens in the gut, so many people with microbiome dysfunctions can have difficulty maintaining an adequate amount of biotin even though there are many foods that contain this nutrient. Focusing on other gut-healing superfoods to aid absorption and increasing high biotin foods into your diet can help you reap its benefits. Some of the highest sources include grass-fed beef liver, eggs, wild-caught salmon, and avocados.
3. Bone Broth
Bone broth is made up of three amino acids: glycine, hyroxyproline, and proline, which all work together to form collagen. This is what makes up our connective tissue and is needed for maintaining skin elasticity to keep it looking firm, youthful, and wrinkle-free. It also helps to heal the mucosal lining of the gut, which can aid absorption of other key nutrients for skin health (such as biotin).
Bonafide Provisions is my go-to bone broth, since it is made with bones and water and slow-simmered for 24 hours the way bone broth should be. Many other “bone” broths on the market use meat in addition to bones, but the bones are the key ingredient to getting the benefits, as they are rich in amino acids and collagen. Bonafide Provisions also doesn’t use any added ingredients which can further perpetuate inflammation and gut problems, especially in highly sensitive individuals. In addition, each small batch of organic bone broth is frozen in order to maintain the quality of the ingredients, unlike many other shelf-stable varieties.
These plant and herbal medicines are generally safe for everyone and work to rebalance different areas of the body — your gut and skin included. Each of these can be found in powdered form and easily added into your favorite tea, smoothies, or even sprinkled on top your meals. Some of my favorites include:
Pearl: Yes, pearls like the ones on your grandmother’s necklace are the same pearls that have been ground up into powdered form and used for hundreds of years across the globe as a beauty ritual. Since it is loaded with amino acids, pearl helps to nourish the skin and encourage a healthy glow. Products like Agent Nateur’s Oceanic Adaptogen Holi (Youth) is formulated with pearl as well as marine collagen, spirulina, and holy basil designed to reduce inflammation and promote anti-aging.
Turkey tail: This mushroom works to combat small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) and candida yeast overgrowth to rebalance the microbiome. You can find options like Brain Forza Organic Turkey Tail Mushroom capsules ($21.24, Amazon) or look into blends of other beneficial mushroom powders.
Licorice root: This adaptogen has next-level anti-inflammatory capabilities to soothe a leaky gut. There are a ton of affordable options online ($7.85, Amazon) or you can check for the supplements your local natural grocery stores.
5. Green Tea
Green tea is filled with antioxidant polyphenols called Epigallocatechin gallate, or more commonly referred to as EGCG. This compound works to fight cell-damaging free radicals that contribute to aging. In fact, one study showed that EGCG was able to actually revive dying skin cells. Matcha tea, like Jade Leaf Matcha Green Tea Powder ($9.45, Amazon) has some of the highest levels of EGCG of all.
This article was written by William Cole, DC, Functional Medicine Practitioner.
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