As a beauty editor, I’ve jumped on many skincare trends. Some have been more helpful than others, I’ll admit. But over the years, I’ve learned a few surprising skincare secrets and adopted some strange habits in the name of improving my skin health. Steaming my face with an herbal laxative? Tried it. Sticky DIY face masks? Don’t remind me. And while I’m a sucker for a well-crafted skincare routine, some of the biggest changes in my skin didn’t come from my favorite products. They came from focusing on the link between my gut health and skin.
Gut health seems like an obscure and unsexy topic. (It doesn’t take long to veer into a discussion of bowel movements and bloating.) So I didn’t recognize the strong connection between gut health and skin for years. But after being on an antibiotic following a medical procedure, I had to seriously address my gut health. And lo and behold, I saw an incredible difference in my skin.
In hindsight, it makes sense that gut health and skin are so linked. “All disease starts in the gut,” as they say. Now more than ever, I’m a proponent of taking a holistic approach to every area of my health. While I still love my hoard of skincare products, I’m just as attentive to what I’m putting in my body as what I’m slathering on my skin.
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But fixing your gut health can seem like such a tedious undertaking. Do you have to give up all the foods you love? Do you have to take shots of apple cider vinegar? Will you have to invest in an entire shelf of supplements, vitamins, and probiotics? And honestly, what even is the gut microbiome? Addressing your gut health is personal, so the answer is different for everybody. But one thing is true: it doesn’t have to be complicated.
To address this intimidating topic, and pursue even glowier, healthier skin, I spoke to Edie Horstman, a double-certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach, Nutrition Consultant, and our resident wellness expert at Camille Styles. The founder of the nutrition coaching business, Wellness with Edie, she specializes in women’s health, including fertility, hormone balance, and postpartum wellness. And she was generous enough to drop some gems about gut health and skin.
“A compromised gut leads to everything from dull skin to acne,” says Edie. But it’s easier than you think to get on the right track with both your gut health and skin.
Read on to unlock the secrets to glowy skin from within.
Does gut health affect skin?
“Gut health affects everything, including your skin,” says Edie. “Conditions like rosacea, eczema, and acne have been linked to inflammation in the gut, caused by food allergies, poor diet, and lack of good gut bacteria. Research has shown that when gut health (digestive balance) is off, it shows—visibly—on your skin.”
What are the signs of an unhealthy gut?
Certain skin conditions and symptoms might be clues that your gut-skin axis is off. Below are signs to look for that could point to imbalances in your gut-skin connection.
Acne: “Certain foods can promote inflammation throughout the body, thus triggering acne outbreaks,” says Edie. She points to a new study that found a link between acne and the consumption of the following:
- High-fat foods (including conventional dairy and meat)
- Processed sugar
- Sugary beverages
Moisture Levels: Hydration is key! “Drinking filtered water is one of the healthiest habits you can establish for your skin (and your entire body). When you drink water throughout the day, you are providing your inner organs and skin with moisture that has been lost through sweat and other natural processes.”
Wrinkles: “When you eat healthy fats for clear skin, you can also reduce premature signs of wrinkles. Healthy fats are critical for keeping skin hydrated and plump,” says Edie.
“By consuming these oily foods on a regular basis, along with high-quality proteins, you can help your skin’s collagen production. And by increasing collagen production, your skin will be smoother and more supple. In turn, helping to prevent premature wrinkles and skin sagging.”
Healthy fats can be found in:
- Olive oil
Heart-healthy diets include ingredients like:
- Fatty fish
- Antioxidant-rich berries
- Leafy greens
- Healthy fats
Tips for Improving Gut Health
Start with incorporating gut-healthy foods into your diet. “Eat plenty of healthy fats, collagen-rich foods, vitamin C-rich produce, and fiber.” Edie recommends:
- A minimum of 25 grams of fiber per day. It serves as a prebiotic for your gut’s beneficial bacteria. Probiotics are just as important.
- Healthy fats: Focus on almonds (great source of vitamin E, which helps repair skin tissue, retain moisture, and more), walnuts (help strengthen skin cell membranes and protect against sun damage), avocado (omega-3 fatty acids help fight inflammation), and extra-virgin olive oil (rich in vitamins A and E, which help protect against UV radiation and improve skin tone).
- Vitamin C: Bell peppers, citrus, strawberries, papaya, and pomegranate seeds all have anti-aging and anti-inflammatory compounds.
- Collagen-rich foods, like grass-fed bone broth, do wonders for the gut. Bone broth is FULL of valuable amino acids, collagen, gelatin, and trace minerals that your body craves. These are all fantastic for healing the gut.
- Proper hydration is obviously important, too!
Edie also points to foods that could be sabotaging your gut and your overall health. “Minimize sugar and high-glycemic foods. These increase insulin levels, sending excess sugar into your cells. This can lead to inflammation and skin woes. Also, excess sugar that can’t be broken down and absorbed by the body will be left to sit in the bowels, where it ferments—causing digestive issues.”
What lifestyle changes can improve gut health?
“We want to limit as many chemicals and toxins as possible as these impact gut health, in turn impacting skin health. Stress absolutely impacts skin health, too,” says Edie. Yet another reason to reduce anxiety and try to stress less!
“Other lifestyle things that contribute to poor gut health: sedentary lifestyle, not getting enough sleep, using antibiotics frequently, and too much alcohol.”
How do probiotics affect the skin? What about prebiotics?
Prebiotics and probiotics work together to encourage the growth of beneficial bacteria that can improve digestion, in turn supporting skin health.
“We can get prebiotics through diet,” says Edie. But a probiotic supplement might be effective in addressing gut health and skin. “Either take a probiotic supplement first thing in the morning (before breakfast) or before sleep. It’s most effective taken on an empty stomach.”
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