Everyone wants great skin; some people have it naturally, and others have to work really hard to maintain a clear complexion. While topical remedies or a “detox diet” might bring you temporary relief, chances are the issues will resurface—often at the worst time. Skin problems are usually linked to four primary areas—digestive dysfunction, hormonal imbalances, nutrient deficiencies or toxicity. I will tell you a little about each and then give you some tips.
The link between the digestive system (the gut) and the skin has become well-known. Antibiotics are often used to treat skin problems—and may clear up your skin even if you take them for another ailment. This is because the antibiotics kill the bacteria that live in your digestive system. The problem is that the antibiotics are killing both “good” and “bad” bacteria. The bad bacteria tend to be a major component of many skin issues and until you naturally balance them them through food and lifestyle choices, it will be difficult to maintain a clear complexion.
Males and females all have the same hormones, just in different ratios. Small changes in hormone levels can cause major changes in how you look and feel. The link between hormones and skin problems is most commonly seen in adolescents going through puberty, supplementation with anabolic steroids, hormone replacement therapy in females and thyroid supplements. The hormonal system (endocrine system) is quite complex and when thrown out of balance from poor food choices, stress, toxicity and supplementation, skin problems can arise.
Your body requires numerous nutrients (vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, amino acids) to function properly. When you are deficient in a particular nutrient, problems will occur and many times these present as skin issues. Nutrient deficiencies can arise from a broken digestive system and nutrient deficiencies can lead to an imbalanced hormonal system—you see how this is all related. The body is a system of systems.
We are exposed to toxins all day long—breathing air while walking to work, drinking a cup of coffee, taking a shower, using body lotion. Oh, and “bad” bacteria I mentioned earlier, they produce toxins as well. Fortunately, our body has a number of natural mechanisms for getting rid of these toxins (the liver, kidneys, bowel, lungs, skin). Unfortunately, you often get a double whammy—a clogged up liver (for instance) and a body overburdened by toxins. This often leads to toxins in the body that often escape via the skin. Just to bring this full circle, organs like the liver require certain nutrients to function properly so a nutrient deficiency brought about by poor digestion can lead to a poorly functioning liver which will lead to a toxic backup and hormonal imbalances.
So how do you counteract these four issues? Here are 11 THINGS YOU CAN DO to keep your complexion clear. (Please note, some people can see results by doing a few things on this list, others will need to do all of them).
Avoid any food that causes digestive discomfort, headaches, low energy and/or joint pain. You most likely have a sensitivity to these foods and they are setting off a chain of events that will lead to skin problems (common culprits: gluten, dairy, soy, corn, beans, excess fiber, too much raw food, fermented foods, food stabilizers like carageenan and guar gum).
Avoid high fiber foods and stop taking fiber supplements. They can cause digestive inflammation and can feed those bad bacteria I mentioned earlier. Eating two raw carrots a day (between meals) gives you all the fiber you need and carrots can help mop up any residual toxins in your digestive system (this is very powerful and carrots alone might help).
Avoid PUFA’s (polyunsaturated fatty acids). These fats acts as prooxidants (the opposite of antioxidants) and can stress various systems in your body (vegetable oil, canola oil, sunflower seed oil, safflower seed oil, any other “seed” oils). The only oils you should be consuming are olive oil and coconut oil.
Dairy/Sugar: Providing you don’t have an issue with dairy, consume organic milk regularly (raw if legal in your state) along with pulp-free orange juice. For those of you trying to starve Candida (a common fungal infection linked to skin issues), it generally doesn’t work and the skin problems are probably not a “die-off” reaction. I have seen milk and added sugar (from fruit juice) clear my clients’ complexion overnight. Milk and orange juice both contain valuable skin and health boosting nutrients.
Consider a low-starch diet (not low carbohydrate). The two main carbohydrate sources are Starch and Sugar. Starches can be quite difficult to digest—consider replacing your starches with fruit and fruit juice.
Thyroid/Estrogen/Hormones: Ensure adequate thyroid function. The thyroid is called the master gland for a reason and plays a major role in skin health and metabolic function. Balance your hormones, particularly estrogen. Excess estrogen is a very common problem, from the use of birth control to the estrogen-boosting chemicals in our environment (i.e. plastic). Raw carrots combined with an overall nutrient-dense diet can help balance your hormones.
Don’t let you blood sugar drop. When you skip meals and get that shaky feeling you are creating a stress response in the body. Stress alone can cause skin issues but this gets compounded by the fact that your body looks internally for fuel and starts breaking down your own tissues to use as energy. This process can cause the release of added toxins in the body (think about the skin issues that arose during your cleanse). It can also “slow” your metabolism and cause hormonal imbalances.
Work hard, rest harder. Take one day a week to restore your body (and mind). Infrared Saunas, epsom salt baths, a massage or a walk in the park can all do wonders. You may also want to consider a colon cleanse or coffee enema.
Reduce your toxic load. Eat organic food, use non-toxic personal hygiene products, stop taking most supplements (they are usually synthetic) and avoid toxic people and relationships. Consume foods that will support your liver: beets, artichoke, dandelion, bone broth, high quality protein and chicken liver.
Correct any nutrient deficiencies by eating nutrient-dense foods. Most people have nutrient deficiencies, but especially those on restrictive (dogmatic) diets. Nutrient deficiencies will impair your detoxification and hormonal system. Common deficiencies related to skin health include A, E, K2, B-Vitamins, Calcium, Magnesium, Glycine and Protein.
Manage Stress/Get Sleep. You have that important event coming up and you get a blemish. The body-mind connection cannot be denied. Stress is not going to go away, so manage the stress you can control, eat nutrient-dense food and incorporate stress management activities regularly—these will help your body adapt to stress more efficiently. Lastly, your body repairs itself while you sleep, so get as much as you can. This is more powerful than nutrition and exercise, in my opinion.
*This article originally appeared in HARPERSBAZAAR