Your skin is your largest organ. It is also one of your main modes of detoxification along with the liver, kidneys and lymphatic system. Is it any wonder that we are always struggling for clear, healthy skin? Many suffer with acne, eczema, psoriasis and rosacea. Many more are looking for ageless, glowing skin. The skin care industry is huge, trying to sell you products that work from the outside in. While some of these products can help, most are full of ingredients you shouldn’t put on your skin. Skin health comes from the inside out. To address this, there are a number of things to think about.
First, what are you putting in to your body? Many of you have already done the food intolerance test, which will tell you what foods your body inherently cannot digest. These foods become toxins in your body and after going through the liver these toxins can come out in the skin. If you haven’t done it, I suggest it. But what if you have already done the test and your skin still hasn’t cleared up? Then I suggest keeping a food journal for 7-10 days. A pain, yes. Eye-opening, yes. By doing this you identify the foods that you eat daily or multiple times a day. Maybe you eat too much soy, or wheat, or cucumber. It’s possible that these foods may need to be removed from your diet for a while so that you can stop reacting to them. For this reason, rotating the foods in your diet is important.
If you’ve done that then ask if you are digesting your food? You don’t need to have gas and bloating to not be digesting properly. Your skin could be the only symptom. Lack of stomach acid comes from food intolerances, stress and adrenal fatigue, the flu or food poisoning, age, infection and genetics. Teenagers are under so much stress today that they are starting to have problems with their digestion and this makes their skin so much worse. If you want to figure out whether or not you fall into this category, try the baking soda challenge, posted below.
Skin depends on your family history and your life experiences. If you were extremely active as a child then your body relied on that for elastin and collagen production (both are needed for healthy skin). If you stopped being active as an adult, then that production slowed, aging your skin. If you are under huge amounts of stress your cortisol levels rise and as that happens, your elastin and collagen levels lower. Do you eat a lot of sugar? Sugar produces more AGES, foreign products that the body attacks like an infection. Where did you grow up? Urban or rural, both have the good and the bad. Were you exposed to large amounts of pesticide on a farm, did you live in an old house, were you exposed to dirt to help build your microbiome? Did you have any allergies growing up (or now) or did your parents and grandparents? Were you born vaginally or by c-section? A vaginal birth sets up your microbiome for proper absorption and a c-section does not. Do you drink water to hydrate your skin and flush out your toxins? What is your current air quality at home and work? Do you like your job? What was your mother and grandmothers skin like? How did they take care of it? How have you taken care of yours? Have you taken any medication to help it? All of these things increase your toxin load. Where can your toxins come out? That’s right, your skin.
Many of the above contribute to leaky gut, or intestinal permeability. If your intestines have little holes in them then they are letting the wrong things out. If this happens, more toxins leak out into the skin. You also need a strong gut lining to help you make cortisol. If you don’t make the cortisol that you need, you go into adrenal stress and decrease the production of collagen. It’s a cycle. Things like bone broth, collagen and glutamine can help heal this, but consult your health care provider for types and dosages.
There are many foods you can consume to support your skin. These include:
Greens: The food that gives you the biggest bang for your buck! They are affordable and a nutritional powerhouse. They have antioxidant and cancer fighting compounds. Antioxidants fight free radicals, and free radicals damage your skin. Greens are full of B vitamins (folate being one), vitamin E, iron, calcium, magnesium and potassium. They can act as antihistamines and antimicrobials in your body. There are so many different types: kale, lettuce, spinach, broccoli, Brussel sprouts (try them roasted), cabbage, swiss chard, nettles, turnip and mustard greens and many more. I add a handful of spinach or kale to almost every smoothie I make. My kids typically eat their salad for breakfast (that’s a naturopathic kid for you!).
Foods high in healthy fats: walnuts (put them in a smoothie), avocado (if you don’t like them, try a chocolate avocado pudding or putting ¼ in your smoothie, flax seed and oil, chia seeds, coconut and coconut oil, eggs, other nuts and seeds, olive oil
Foods that support the liver: beets (roasted are delicious), garlic, ginger, fermented foods (kimchi, pickles, sauerkraut, miso, kefir)
Foods that support digestion: apple cider vinegar (in salad dressing/marinade or on its own), artichokes (on pizza, in salad, in a rice bowl), olives (black preferred, get the “real” ones not the stuffed ones), lemon juice (in hot water, salad dressing, soda water), cultured coconut kefir
Spices to increase circulation and decrease inflammation: turmeric, garlic, ginger, cardamom (my favorite to put into a smoothie), cinnamon, thyme, cloves, fennel (also a veggie that is delicious roasted), curry, oregano, ginger (fresh and powdered)
It is possible that you many need some supplements to replete any deficiencies that you have. If you don’t like greens you could add in a greens powder. If you don’t eat fish, then an omega 3 fatty acid liquid might be right. Some leaky guts need supplements to help repair them. Once healed, you should be able to maintain your healthy skin with food and lifestyle.
That’s all great, but what should I put on my skin? Two answers. Everyone is different, there is no “best” routine. Also, as little as possible. Check the ingredients in your products, they shouldn’t include any of the products you find at this link (https://www.ewg.org/consumer-guides#.WzqyFadKjIU). If you are suffering breakouts, try a skin detox. Don’t put ANYTHING on your skin for 3-12 days. Wash it with water only. It could be your products that are affecting your skin. It’s important to keep in mind that skin healing takes time, this will not happen overnight. If you are still looking for more suggestions or DIY options, check out the book Skin Cleanse, by Adina Grigore. There are lots of natural options, try out Forest Child Beauty on the Bedford Highway. They have consults, workshops and drop in hours. https://forestchild.ca
Baking soda challenge
Carry out the following steps to determine your stomach’s acidity:
- Perform this test first thing in the morning on an empty stomach (before eating or drinking)
- Dissolve ¼ teaspoon of baking soda into an 6 oz glass of cold water
- Drink the solution and start timing
- Record the time until you first burp up gas
- Perform this test for 4 consecutive days (or longer if your results are ambiguous) at the same time each day to give a better estimation of your stomach’s acidity
Day Time Until First Burp
< 2 min: indicates normal acidity
2-5 min: low-normal acidity
> 5 min: possible hypochlorhydria (low stomach acidity)