Problem skin conditions or prematurely ageing skin could impact on your self-esteem. However, opting for prescribed medications or chemical topical treatments often proves to be more of a short-term fix rather than a long-term solution. Food scientist and nutritional therapist Susie Debice suggests that nourishing the skin from within, by following a four-step nutrition plan, could help you achieve the longer lasting results you were hoping for.
Common skin complaints vary from occasional dry or oily skin to the more impactful eczema, dermatitis, acne and psoriasis. Although each of these skin conditions are very different in their symptoms and contributory factors, they may all be supported by four key common nutritional strategies which offer underlying support for skin function and skin cell renewal.
Step 1 Ditch the junk
Before we highlight our savvy skin nutrition tips, let’s first look at a few diet and lifestyle factors that could be contributing to your troublesome skin flare-ups. It’s the typical culprits that tend to have an acidic effect on body cells and tissues which you need to look out for. You guessed it! Cutting back on coffee, alcohol, sugar, refined carbs and processed foods may all have a positive impact on your skin tone. And if you’ve been burning the candle at both ends then getting some early nights and focusing on daily hydration with 2-3 litres of water a day, could mean you are more likely to kiss goodbye to dark circles or puffiness under the eyes and say hello to naturally glowing skin!
Step 2 Gut health
It’s not unusual for skin issues to reflect a level of intestinal imbalance. This is why some skin conditions tend to respond well to diets that eliminate trigger foods for common food allergies or intolerance such as dairy, gluten, wheat, soya and even tomatoes or strawberries. These intestinal immune reactions to foods may involve a level of inflammation which damages the delicate intestinal lining resulting in a condition called leaky gut which has been associated with acne rosacea and even eczema.
The intestine wall houses approximately 70% of the body’s immune cells and is influenced and nurtured by the diverse gut microbiome which plays an important role in normal gut function and bowel regularity. Reducing stress, keeping hydrated and eating plenty of soluble fibre from soft fruits (prunes, pears, plums, apples), vegetables and wholegrains such as quinoa, oats and pulses, all helps to support gut function and balance the gut microbiome. Adding in extra digestive support with a good quality microbiome supplement is also a good idea to help better manage skin flare-ups.
Step 3 Fat balance
We’re used to hearing about the role of saturated fats and how they contribute to heart disease, weight management and obesity but the types of fats in your diet could also influence inflammatory skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis and acne. Saturated fats are easily converted by the body into inflammatory hormones called prostaglandins and leukotrienes which could escalate skin flare-ups. Time to cut back on red meat, dairy products (cheese, butter, cream, ice-cream and yoghurt) which all contain saturated fat. But remember, it’s important that you don’t go fat-free!
There’s a group of essential omega fatty acids that are important for skin health and recovery. These omegas 3s are found in walnuts, chia seeds, oily fish and flax oil which the body can convert into anti-inflammatory prostaglandins so these are helpful for nourishing the skin from within. Swap olive oil for flax oil in salad dressings, replace red meat with a portion of salmon or trout and add a big spoonful of chia seeds to breakfast cereal and snack on walnuts instead of biscuits for a healthy daily serving of omega 3s.
Step 4 Nutrient focus
The surface of the epidermis has a tough, protective layer of dead cells, which are continually worn away and replaced by new cells, which in turn are produced in the lower part of the epidermis. This skin renewal process is supported by nutrients such as iodine, zinc, vitamin A and vitamins B2, B3 and biotin.
Some skin conditions are influenced by an underlying hormonal (often testosterone) imbalance, such as acne or pimples that appear during puberty, or just before your monthly period, or skin blemishes that occur during the menopause. The mineral zinc is important for the maintenance of normal testosterone levels, so this mineral is important for hormone-related skin issues. Foods rich in zinc include pumpkin seeds, fish and meat.
The main culprit for skin damage is cellular oxidative stress which tends to be generated by exposure to free radicals. Vitamin C helps to neutralise free radicals and protect cells from the harmful effects of oxidative stress. Foods that are high in vitamin C include purple and red berries, kiwi fruit, goji berries, citrus fruits, parsley and green leafy vegetables so finding ways to include these in your daily diet is very important for skin support. If you like to start your day with a morning smoothie then you could consider adding a teaspoon of either acai, rosehips, or baobab powder which are also all good sources of vitamin C. Stress often depletes vitamin C levels so it’s often advisable to think about topping up your diet with liposomal Altrient C as part of your daily skin ritual.