I was lucky enough to have never battled with any skin issues until my mid-thirties. Then all of a sudden my back started breaking out into inflammatory acne as a result of an undiagnosed food allergy (to garlic). Unfortunately, it took a long time for me to figure this out and resulted in months of frustration and a pretty significant dip in my self-esteem.
At first, I wanted to believe that my backne could be resolved topically, and so I tried my fair share of dermatologist recommended creams and treatments to no avail. Eventually I started doing my own research and learned that the best way to get glowing, flawless skin is to take care of it from inside out.
Since then, I have seen numerous clients in my practice with acne, psoriasis, rosacea or dry flakey skin, who have needlessly tried all sorts of topical lotions, antibiotics and even steroid creams either to receive no relief or to have their skin condition reappear after the treatment was stopped.
I eventually learned that 99% of the time, treating your skin topically (unless you have contact dermatitis) will not magically heal your skin issues. You need to address your skin issues from the inside out – beginning with your diet and possibly adding in some supplements and making some lifestyle changes. For the sake of brevity, in this blog post, I’m only going to focus on the top foods and supplements for your skin and we’ll cover lifestyle changes in a future post.
The single most important dietary change you can make is to stop consuming foods that are detrimental to your skin. In my experience, the biggest skin offender I see, particularly among women, is sugar. Sugar can age you much faster than your years by damaging collagen and elastin. It can also lead to hormonal imbalances which are frequently behind skin issues.
The other dietary factor to consider is hidden food intolerances, which can cause skin breakouts, hives, eczema, acne and psoriasis. Two of the most common food intolerances that I see in my practice related to skin issues are gluten and dairy. I frequently see clients cut gluten and dairy out of their diets only to have their skin completely clear up in a matter of weeks.
Often food intolerances can present with other symptoms that we tend to ignore or label as ‘normal’, like bloating, stomach cramps, constipation, diarrhea, migraines, sinus problems, joint pain, dark under-eye circles and other chronic conditions. If you suffer from any of these conditions in addition to having skin problems, and have not been able to identify a root cause, you might want to consider a possible food intolerance.
Another important factor behind great skin health is to ensure that your digestion is working well and that you have a healthy microbiome (both on your skin and in your gut). For example, hypochlorhydria (low stomach acid), small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) and leaky gut (aka intestinal hyper-permeability) have all been linked to skin problems. If you suspect that poor digestion might be behind your skin problem, then I suggest that you review the 4 R’s of gut health.
The final step is to make sure to include foods that are high in the nutrients that are vital for healthy, vibrant and youthful looking skin, such as vitamins A, C and E, zinc, antioxidants, omega 3 fatty acids, and fibre. Here are my top picks for foods that are packed with nutrients that support skin health. Now, go on and eat your way to great looking, glowing skin!
Avocados are nutritional powerhouses and possibly my favourite therapeutic food on the planet when it comes to great skin. They are packed with antioxidants, which help to protect against free radicals, preventing against fine lines and wrinkles. They also contain vitamin C which is needed to create elastin and collagen and vitamin E, a fat soluble vitamin that prevents premature aging to our skin. Finally, the contain monounsaturated fats which help maintain your skin’s hydration, keeping it youthful looking. I particularly love that avocado can serve dual purpose and be used as wonderfully nourishing facial mask by mixing it with some raw cacao powder and raw honey.
Wild salmon is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which is a secret ingredient to beautiful skin! Omega 3’s are vital for keeping our cell membranes fluid, which allow for the flow of nutrients into the cell and toxins out of the cell. This membrane is also responsible to the cell’s ability to hold water, and as we all know, well-hydrated skin looks healthier and more youthful. Finally omega 3’s are great at fighting inflammation in the body, which, if left unchecked, can lead to skin reactions, acne, eczema, and redness. Interestingly, omega 3’s can also reduce inflammation caused by sun exposure and can provide sunburn relief.
Organic Berries are a fantastic source of antioxidants, which protect against free radicals and prevent wrinkles, fine lines and early aging signs from appearing. Berries also help to control the oil levels in the skin, making it less likely to accumulate sebum, which can contribute to acne and skin irritations. Berries are also high in fibre which assists in removing toxins and unwanted waste, making your skin vibrant and healthy. Lastly they contain anthocyanin, which is a deep pigment colour that protects the skin from free radical damage and ellagic acid, which protects the skin from sun damage and stops the breakdown of elastin and collagen.
Probiotics play a huge role in skin health as they aid in the reconstruction of the dermatitis layer of the skin, which is important in helping your skin heal from scarring, burns, stretch marks, and acne. In fact, probiotics have been proven to reduce the likelihood of developing eczema or psoriasis and other skin disorders. By supplementing with probiotics, you are also feeding the good bacteria in your gut, which help to eliminate toxins and fight free radicals that can cause skin damage and early aging. Top sources of probiotic-rich foods include fermented foods like sauerkraut, miso, kimchi, tempeh or kefir. You can also supplement with a high-quality probiotic supplement.
Our bodies are composed of nearly seventy percent water, and it is critical to healthy looking skin. Water helps to detoxify our bodies naturally by removing toxins that accumulate in the body. If the toxins and waste remain in the body (which can present as constipation) it can also result in dull, lifeless skin. When we are dehydrated our blood thickens and pulls water from the blood causing our skin to look dry and our eyes to look dark and sunken. Over time, dehydration can lead to wrinkles, fine lines and dull, dry looking skin, making us appear older looking than we are.
Although these are my top recommendations for great skin health, please remember that skin issues can have many different origins, including vitamin deficiencies, hormonal issues, food intolerances, stress, excessive alcohol consumption, imbalanced blood sugar levels, smoking, and poor digestive health, among others.
Remember, your skin issues are the symptoms, which are your body’s way of getting your attention and communicating that something is amiss. The root of the problem usually starts much further upstream and you may need to dig a bit deeper and work with a nutritionist or a naturopath to figure out what your personal root cause could be.