Healthy Guts Healthy Skin 10 Factors That Influence Skin: 5. Elimination
I find it fascinating that for hundreds of years (if not more) Chinese Medicine has drawn a direct link between the skin and the intestines. At first glance, these organ systems don’t seem particularly related; one being predominantly internal and the other defining the outermost border of our physical bodies. As time goes by and our understanding of the human body continues to unfold, research has been accumulating to observe that yes, our skin is connected to our intestinal health and taking care of our guts is important step for healthy, happy skin.
If our guts become inflamed and irritated, they won’t be able to absorb repairative nutrients or water properly. Chronic inflammation can also cause the intestines to become permeable or “leaky”, allowing inappropriate molecules to pass into the bloodstream triggering systemic inflammation.
This inflammation can affect the skin in the form of psoriasis, eczema, hives, rosacea, acne or any number of inflammatory conditions. There is also the gut-brain-skin connection whereby stress can inflame the guts, which can inflame the skin, which can lead to even more stress.
We are at an exciting forefront in learning exactly how the delicate garden of gut and skin bacteria (or “flora”) work but we already can see that the microbiota in the gut influences fatty acids for example, among many other substances that maintain healthy skin.
Let's look at a few ways you can optimize your intestinal health...
Feed Your Flora
The healthy bacteria in your intestines perform so many important functions it is important to feed them the foods they need to survive. Prebiotics are the indigestible fibrous foods that make their way through the stomach and small intestine to be fermented and used by the bacteria in the colon. Examples of prebiotic foods include:
Replace Your Flora
It’s a good idea to keep your healthy gut flora topped up by consuming new healthy microbes. This is particularly important of course, after doing any course of antibiotics but you can also kill off good bacteria and create dysbiosis through your diet. Too much sugar, alcohol, modern dairy and gluten can overfeed the wrong bacteria. The easiest way to replace helpful bacteria is to take a high quality, multi-strain probiotic. For a longer-term, maintenance type approach, making fermented foods a regular part of your diet is ideal. Foods like: kombucha, kimchi, homemade coconut yogurt (recipe here) and sauerkraut. Tip: if you are not keen on sauerkraut but like pickles, a company called Farmhouse Culture makes and amazing dill pickle kraut!
Drink Enough Water
You want to consume enough fresh water to keep the bowels moving and emptying in a timely manner. How much is enough? A good sign that you are hydrated is to make sure that your urine runs clear throughout the day. Consuming at least 2 Liters of water daily is appropriate for most people but I wrote a whole blog on how much water to drink that you can read here.
Fiber is Your Friend
Dietary fiber gives your stool the bulk that it needs to pass easily and avoid constipation. It can also help firm up your stools if they are too loose. A high fiber diet will also help slow the absorption of sugar (always a good thing for skin) and help you to feel satisfied after your eat. Eating tons of veggies is good practice for almost everyone. Cooked will be easier for the digestive system to assimilate that raw but most healthy people can handle some raw as well.
Being sedentary will slow down your digestive tract as well. Don’t forget to periodically get up and move if you work at a desk. I don’t think I need to rehash the benefits of exercise but I will say that picking physical activities you actually enjoy will be easier to make a regular part of your life. Dance, hike, archery tag, tai chi; there is something for everyone so just keep moving!
Chronic stress easily leads to chronic inflammation and the guts are particularly susceptible. Just as there are a multitude of causes for stress, there are many different tools to help manage it. Therapy, hypnotherapy, guided meditation, socializing more, changing or downsizing your schedule - the right tools will match one’s own unique nature and circumstances. As a practitioner of Chinese Medicine, one of my favourite methods for addressing stress from a mind-body connection is of course, acupuncture. I work with stress, skin, and the gut all the time as they are all inextricably linked.
If you would like to learn more about how Chinese Medicine might support your skin or gut health, you can always book a free 15 minute phone consult with me. You can reach Acubalance Wellness Centre at: 604.678.8600