If you’ve had the experience of simply not feeling comfortable in your own skin, you share this physical, mental and emotional struggle with countless women. Perhaps this stress has led you to work with multiple skin specialists or healthcare providers in an attempt to manage symptoms, constantly looking for an answer. You are definitely not alone.
Check out some of these startling statistics on skin conditions from the American Academy of Dermatology to get a broader perspective on how widespread skin problems have become:
- Acne is the most common skin condition and affects upwards of 50 million adults every year. The annual costs associated with treating it exceed $1.2 billion!
- Acne now is experienced by 15% of adult women, and 85% of people between the ages of 12 and 24.
- Psoriasis impacts 7.5 million people each year and about 30% of these people also suffer from joint inflammation and arthritis (psoriatic arthritis).
- In 2013, the total cost of treatment for psoriasis was around $63.2 billion.
- Rosacea affects 16 million Americans, especially women during menopause.
- More than 10% of the US population (31.6 million people) has some sort of eczema, and it is more common in women than men.
Wow, that information is a lot to take in, and really demonstrates that skin conditions have truly become an epidemic. The silver lining is that we do have the power to heal, and it comes from the body’s innate inner wisdom. Healthy skin is an inside job. And we have just the information and tools you need to get to work!
Healing from the Inside Out
Let’s take a magnifying glass to the skin, first looking at the many roles it plays, considering how skin health truly begins within and then understanding ways to heal from the inside out.
Your Skin’s Many Roles
Did you know the skin is actually the largest organ in the human body? It is the body’s natural barrier between you and the outside world, and just might be the world’s best multi-tasker. It holds immense responsibilities such as preventing passage of unwanted bacteria and viruses, maintaining a healthy fluid balance, helping to regulate body temperature, sensing pain and pressure, acting as the first line of defense against chemical substances and toxins and so much more.
And these are only its physical responsibilities, not to mention the integral psychological role that skin plays. Skin is kind of like your fingerprint on the world: it indicates and displays your inner health and naturally has a profound impact on how you feel about yourself and how others view you.
How Does My Skin Reflect My “Within”?
The million-dollar question is: why and how is healthy skin is an inside job?
In reality, skin conditions like acne, eczema, rosacea, and psoriasis (among others) need to be considered as any other health condition: they reflect some sort of internal imbalance and signal that the body is in need of repair. By “repair,” I’m referring to the body’s innate healing wisdom that is deeply rooted in diet and lifestyle, along with closely examining environmental factors such as toxins. While we can’t control everything, a lot of the factors that directly link to skin health are absolutely under your control, which is incredibly empowering!
Here are the top seven ways you can transform your skin from the inside (you just might be surprised at how simple this really is!):
1. Say Goodbye to Refined Sugars and Highly Processed Foods
Sugar and processed foods (especially refined/processed grains) are rampant in the Standard American Diet. Aside from being a main contributor to many chronic diseases due to its hormonal and metabolic impact, too much sugar in the body actually sticks to amino acids that make up collagen and elastin, which leads to the over-production of Advanced Glycation End-products or “AGEs.” Just as the name suggests, this essentially means that excess sugar directly ages your skin prematurely.
Again, sticking with simple foods from nature will automatically and beautifully avoid the problem of having to read long ingredient lists and wonder if they are healthy or not. Typically, if a packaged food product has over six ingredients and many are unrecognizable or you can’t pronounce them, you can be pretty sure that it’s better left on the shelf.
2. Focus on Specific Nutrients for Skin Health
A skin-supportive diet is first and foremost for healthy skin from within. Along with eliminating or reducing refined sugars and grains from the diet, anti-inflammatory, whole foods that are rich in nutrients that specifically support skin health is key. The front-runners include vitamins A, C, D, E, K2 and minerals zinc, selenium and sulfur.
Here are wonderful foods rich in each:
- Vitamin A: Organ meats like liver and kidney, pastured butter and cream, egg yolks and cod liver oil. Remember that vitamin A is fat-soluble, so you need to consume it with fat for optimal absorption.
- Vitamin C: Citrus, leafy greens, broccoli, parsley, guava, strawberries and bell peppers.
- Vitamin D: Sunlight is best, along with liver, pastured dairy, and eggs.
- Vitamin E: sunflower seeds, almonds, chard, spinach, wheat germ oil, cabbage, tomatoes, asparagus, olive oil, and avocado.
- Vitamin K2: Fermented foods like raw sauerkraut and natto, along with full-fat pastured dairy like butter and cream, egg yolks and liver.
- Zinc: Oysters and other shellfish, liver, roast beef, lamb and pumpkin seeds.
- Selenium: Organ meats, fish (especially sardines and salmon), pastured meats like beef, turkey and lamb and Brazil nuts.
- Sulfur: Grass-fed, pastured meats like beef and chicken, eggs, garlic, onions, Brussels sprouts, asparagus and kale.
3. Uncover Food Sensitivities
Without a doubt, food allergies or sensitivities can both trigger or worsen skin conditions. For example, studies conclusively link dairy to acne and others show a strong connection between autoimmune conditions, allergies, psoriasis and other diseases with gluten intolerance.
Common food irritants/allergens include (but aren’t limited to):
- Dairy: Milk, cream, butter, yogurt, cheese
- Gluten: Wheat, rye, barley, and non-gluten free oats. For some, corn will also be a trigger.
- Sugar and processed/refined foods: All refined sugar and many processed/packaged foods are highly inflammatory, especially those that contain cane sugar and high fructose corn syrup, among other sweeteners, flavoring agents and artificial ingredients.
- Soy: Tofu, soy sauce, soy milk, miso, edamame, tempeh.
- Peanuts: Peanuts, peanut oil, peanut butter.
Now, this isn’t to say that all of these foods are inherently “bad,” but simply are frequent triggers of skin issues, so worth taking a close look at and considering an elimination diet or food allergy testing with a local practitioner. We do not believe in a diet of deprivation so if you aren’t allergic or sensitive to these foods, you can keep them in rotation – just be mindful about how they make you feel and of course, don’t eat too much of any one food. Even broccoli in extremes can be a bad thing!
4. Look at the Gut
Gut health is probably the number one priority when it comes to healthy, smooth and glowing skin. Diet is also quite important, but if your body can’t break down and absorb the healthy food you’re taking in, it sadly won’t do you much good. The state of your digestion and overall gut health truly dictates the overall health of the body. Enhancing and optimizing digestive function is a huge piece of the healthy skin puzzle.
A couple of simple steps to begin include eating fermented foods every day, taking a high quality probiotic and considering a bitters tincture and/or two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar in 1/2 cup of warm water before meals.
5. Get Your Omega 3s
Especially if you have itchy, dry, scaly or even flaky skin, this could mean you need to up your intake of omega 3 fatty acids. Wonderful sources include wild-caught, fatty fish like salmon and also supplementing with a high-quality fish oil.
6. Limit External Triggers (AKA Toxins)
While certain environmental toxins are unfortunately unavoidable, others we can pretty easily eliminate. These would include swapping many personal hygiene products, makeup, detergents, house cleaners, soaps and hair care for more simple, natural and non-toxic versions that support your skin and health. Check out the Environmental Working Group for the behind the scenes scoop on your favorite products. You can learn if the ingredients warrant you tossing or maintaining them.
7. Manage Stress
Definitely easier said than done sometimes, but chronic, high levels of stress can undermine even the healthiest of diets and lifestyles. Studies show a solid connection between emotional stressors and certain skin conditions, like psoriasis.
Begin by working on mindset along with meditative movement techniques, both incredibly effective at providing a deeper sense of calm, peace and acceptance:
- Massage and self-massage
- Epsom salt baths
- Meditation and deep breathing
- Tai Chi
If these seven steps to healing your skin from within seem a little overwhelming, please take a deep breath and know it’s perfectly fine to go one step at a time. Decide on one or two of the above that you’d like to tackle first, and commit to making a few small but important changes in your day-to-day life. It’s not just your skin that will benefit, but also your entire physical, emotional, mental and even spiritual being.
As a recap, let’s look at the seven key steps you can start today to heal your skin from the inside out.
7 Steps to Begin Healing Your Skin Today
- Eliminate refined sugars and processed foods
- Incorporate key nutrients for skin health such as vitamins A, D, E, K2, and C along with minerals zinc, selenium and sulfur.
- Confirm if you have a food allergy or sensitivity: common food irritants include gluten, dairy, refined sugar, soy, peanuts, alcohol, and caffeine.
- Focus on gut health: Get plenty of probiotics and prebiotics via whole foods and supplements. You might also try two tablespoons of raw apple cider vinegar in 1/2 cup of warm water before meals, and a digestive enzyme if need be.
- Be sure to get plenty of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids with wild-caught, fatty fish like salmon and a high-quality fish oil.
- Limit external toxins that are rampant in commercial hygiene products, makeup, and commercial skincare products. Choose only the purest, simplest and least complicated formulas you can find. Estrogens, binders, fillers, perfumes and other toxic ingredients commonly found in skincare products can destroy your internal and external balance.
- Focus on stress management, particularly using techniques that speak to you like meditative movement therapies (yoga, tai chi or Qigong), meditation and/or deep breathing.
By implementing some or all of these strategies, you can begin your path to radiant, youthful and healthy skin that reflects a healthy, whole person. Just like your skincare products, your path to healthy skin doesn’t need to be complicated. Life is complicated enough, so keep your skincare simple!