I’ve become a big believer in nurturing not only the outer skin, but also what lies beneath – our organs and intestines. What’s happening in our outer skin (the skin that we can see), is often a reflection of the health of our insides; our organs are hugely hard-working and important in their own right.
Skincare is important, of course, but eating a range of good-quality, skin-friendly foods – seasonal and organically produced where possible – will provide the best foundation. This will ensure your skin has a healthy glow.
I’m not an expert!
I’m not an expert on the subject and I’m not a doctor, though I’ve worked with a nutritionist on some of the finer details. A lot of what I say in this site is based on common sense and on information I’ve gathered from simply taking an interest in food and what the nutrients can do for the skin.
Good skin isn’t possible without a well running digestive system. I know from personal experience that if my digestion is ‘off’, it shows in my skin, which looks really dry and is prone to breakouts. It’s increasingly apparent that skin disorders are connected to problems in the gut.
The root cause of many issues, if you ask a naturopathic doctor, is an overgroof candida (a naturally occurring fungus that’s present in the intestinal tract). Left unchecked, it is thought that candida can break through the wall of the intestine and get into the bloodstream, releasing toxins that eventually erupt in the skin. The reason we get this overgrowth is down to a number of possible factors, including diet, excessive alcohol consumption, overuse of antibiotics, oral contraceptives and the usual suspect – stress!
Above all, candida overgrowth leads to poor digestion, which means you can’t absorb the nutrients in the food that you’re eating, plus host of other symptoms (see below). If you think you might be affected, it’s best to get checked by a naturopath.
Checklist for signs that you might be suffering from Candidiasis:
🌱 Digestive problems: bloating, constipation or diarrhoea
🌱 Weight gain
🌱 Skin issues like eczema, psoriasis or a rash
🌱 Strong sugar cravings
Prebiotics and Probiotics
There are ways to naturally claim back control of your gut health, including cutting out the dietary offenders such as refined sugar or alcohol. Making sure you eat plenty of fibrous plant-based foods, to help keep things moving through the intestinal tract, is vital too.
When the fibre is non-digestible -as in the case of bananas, for instance, or Jerusalem artichokes – it’s known as a ‘prebiotic’, which feeds the good bacteria you already have.
Probiotics like ‘live’ yoghurt, kefir, or fermented foods such as sauerkraut, miso or tempeh, will help increase the healthy flora in the gut. You can take probiotics in capsule or liquid form, too. Just avoid ‘probiotic’ drinks that are full of sugar. A roughage-rich diet will help your gut to function at its best, making it better able to absorb all those skin-breathing nutrients to help restore a healthy glow.
Even if you’re careful about what you eat, it’s easy to get indigestion from time to time. No need to pop a pill, though – just try one of these natural remedies:
🌱 Chew a handful of aniseeds, cardamom pods or fennel seeds.
🌱 Infuse a few sprigs of fresh peppermint in a cup of water for a few minutes.
🌱 Add a few slices of fresh root ginger to a mug and pour over some hot water to help relieve a stomach ache.
A healthy fully functioning liver is crucial to the body’s detoxification process. When the liver is overworked and less able to eliminate toxic waste products, it often shows up in the skin in the form of breakouts and rashes. Our sluggish livers are a product of a modern lifestyle – overburdened by exposure to toxins in the form of alcohol, fatty foods and too much sugar, which need to be constantly filtered out of the system to keep us healthy.
Signs that your liver may not be working at its best:
🌱 Itchy and/or blotchy skin
🌱 Acne or rosacea
🌱 Regular acid reflux (heartburn)
🌱 Difficulty losing weight
Luckily, there are various ways you can support your liver so it can keep your system clean and your skin super healthy:
🌱 Eat lots of veggies.
🌱 Start each day with a glass of hot water with a dash of lemon juice.
🌱 Add garlic and tumeric to your meals.
🌱 Choose foods that help the liver function better, such as onions, broccoli, kale, brussels sprouts, cabbage and cauliflower.
🌱 Take a break from alcohol and coffee.
🌱 Opt for dandelion tea or milk thistle tablets / tea.
🌱 Use a tongue scraper in the morning to remove any toxins that have built up overnight (especially after a big night out!).
Eat the Rainbow
I love eating a plateful of different- coloured foods, knowing that it’s not just a feast for the eyes but it’s doing me so much good at the same time. Eating fresh fruit and vegetables in an array of different colours ensures you are getting the full spectrum of nutrients the body needs to function well. This is all down to particular plant compounds or phytochemicals with amazing nutritional benefits both for the body and the skin.
For example, red fruits and vegetables – such as red peppers, watermelon, tomatoes and certain berries – contain lycopene, a nutrient that helps protect against the damage caused by UV light, and its ageing effects on the skin as well as reducing inflammation and stimulating cell renewal.
Orange fruits and vegetables – like carrots, mango and melon – contain the pigment beta-carotene, which the body converts to vitamin A, an incredible resource for the health of both the skin an the eyes.
We are forever being told to eat our greens – from kale and spinach to avocados and green beans. And that’s absolutely right because they too are a rich source of antioxidant plant compounds – a powerhouse of bio-available beauty helpers.
At the indigo end of the rainbow there are all the purple-hued fruit and vegetables – beetroot, aubergines, cherries, blueberries and black grapes – full of flavonoids that promote heart health and help combat the effects of photoaging.
You may have heard of the disruptive effect refined sugar has on our bodies, causing our energy levels to shoot up and down like a yo-yo and leaving us like junkies looking for the next fix when our blood sugar drops.
Did you know that sugar is a real no-no for the skin?
If you consume too much sugar, it damages the collagen and elastin in your skin, making it look dull and more prone to wrinkles. The body stops producing collagen from about the age of 25, after which it will naturally begin to break down over time. Eating too much sugar just accelerates the process.
Natural sweeteners can help if you’re trying to wean yourself off refined sugar – sugar alternatives like honey and dates not only taste incredible but help in the quest for beautiful skin.
Healthy Oils and Fats
Rich in essential fatty acids, good oils are another matter entirely. Bear in mind that not all oils and fats are created equal – it is important to avoid overly processed varieties like canola oil or spreads made with hydrogenated oils, and be mindful of how heat can change the structure of an oil or fat too.
I use either raw coconut oil or ghee, both of which don’t change their structure at a high heat and both have anti-inflammatory properties. Olive oil and butter are good for use at moderate temperatures, but won’t remain stable at a high heat. I love to use flaxseed, macadamia, walnut and extra-virgin olive oil for pouring over dishes such as salads or soups.
Tuning into the Seasons
We’re lucky to have access to pretty much any food we want at any time of the year. Food can be imported from anywhere in the world but I do believe that food produced closer to home and in season is better for you. The chances are that the food has been artificially kept ‘alive’ in some faculty, possibly with the aid of chemicals or freezing. This affects not just the flavour, but also the nutrients, with a knock-on effect on the health of your skin.
I now try to follow the principles of Ayurveda, by eating according to the seasons as much as possible, and by tapping into what’s growing where I’m living. I love how food changes with the seasons – different fruit and vegetables growing according wo when it’s hot or cold – and how your body is attuned to wanting those things at the same time. Listen to mother nature!
As we age, our ability to recover from the effects of the stress hormone cortisol decreases, and the hormone lingers for longer periods in the body. Stress is toxic for the immune system and has na ageing effect, damaging the skin’s collagen and natural moisture levels. When stressed, your body also produces adrenaline. Too much adrenaline decreases blood flow and diverts nutrients and oxygen away from the skin, which allows toxins to build up, leading to problems such as breakouts and cellulite.
We often forget this simple act, but increasing oxygen helps is to think more clearly. Focussing on the ‘in’ and ‘out’ breath will focus thoughts and calm the mind. Make sure to breath in from the bottom of your stomach before letting your breath out again.
Sleep It Off:
Aim for 8 hours’ sleep a night. I get impatient if I don’t have enough sleep, especially after a long flight when I’m trying to readjust to a mew time zone. Try to go to bed at the same time every night to train your body to wind down on cue. Our body is thrown into chaos by disrupted sleep patterns. Lack of sleep takes its toll on the skin, too, as this is when the body has time to regroup and heal itself.
Meditating before I go to sleep is really helpful and visualisation can be a powerful tool, too. Close your eyes and choose a place – a holiday location or hideaway – or a soothing colour. Having a calming image that you can conjure up during stressful times will help train your mind to deflect anxiety.
Quiet The Mind:
Download a mindfulness app to train your mind to be better able to cope with stress and ‘silence the chatter’ of ongoing anxiety.
Do A Tech Detox:
Being constantly ‘on’ and available impacts upon your ability to relax. Making a conscious decision to switch off gives your brain a break from information-processing.
Run A Bath:
It’s pretty hard to hold on to stress in a bath. I add a few drops of lavender essential oil to boost relaxation and add to the calming atmosphere. Focus on the good is my mantra.
Work It Out:
Getting the blood pumping with a high-intensity short workout will help get the body back into clear-headed order, thanks to the oxygenation and the rush of endorphins. It’s hard to think about anything when you are working out.
Listen To Music:
Music is a mood changer. Play something that you love – it can really bring you up. To re energise, put on a track that gets you dancing. And to be peaceful, play something beautiful. Whatever floats your boat.
Do things that give pleasure or bring peace – cooking, gardening or curling up with a book. See friends and have a laugh whenever you can. Life is short, so have fun!
Eating as mindfully as we do on retreat or in a mindfulness course is not realistic for many of us, especially with families, jobs, and the myriad distractions around us. So have some self-compassion, and consider formal mindful eating on retreat and special occasions, as well as informal mindful eating in your daily life. Eating should be a pleasure and not something done absentmindedly. Try to be present when you’re eating and enjoy the food in front of you. Take your time.
Tips for Mindful Eating
Sit down at a table:
If this seems like a ridiculously simple suggestion that shouldn’t even have to be mentioned, think about the number of times when you eat on the go — walking around the kitchen or while you’re on your way to work. Make it a rule to only put food in your mouth if you’re sitting down, and you’ll be able to focus on what you’re eating a whole lot more.
Be conscious of your body:
Don’t allow yourself to be all scrunched up – your food can’t move through your body easily otherwise.
Don’t get distracted by your phone:
You should be enjoying the moment. According to research, which was published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, technology at the table caused people to feel more distracted and less socially engaged, leading to a drop in enjoyment equivalent to half a point on a seven-point scale.
Be conscious of the act of eating.:
Chew each morsel 40 times before swallowing. This is said to stimulate your digestive enzymes which help to break down your food.
Limit your portion size:
The size should be no more than you can imagine holding in your two hands cupped together. Also eat with a smaller fork or spoon ro avoid eating too quickly.
Eating slower allows you to pay attention to when you’re full. It takes at least 15 minutes of eating for the signal torerach your brain that you are full.
When you eat something that makes you feel bloated, take motes and avoid it in future.
Notice caffeine and sugar:
Notice when eating a food or drink containing caffeine or sugar makes you feel anxious or hyper. What lifts you up will bring you down again with a bump. Try cutting out food in question to keep on an even keel.
Sticky mouth or headaches:
Notice when your mouth is sticky or you have a headache. You’re probably dehydrated and ned water first and foremost.