Who doesn’t want plump, smooth, healthy, & glowing skin? You want it, I want it. Everybody wants it.
But how do we get this healthy glowing skin? Do we take care of it superficially at the skin level itself or is it a manifestation of the body’s overall health and imbalances in the gut? So many questions when it comes to skin care.
Like many of us, I have also been through very similar sounding skin issues only to realize that the beauty (or the lack of it) is truly deep within.
Understanding the health of your skin is very easy as it is the surface of our bodies. You do not need any fancy equipment to tell you about your skin and its health. Our skin gives all the indications about our health’s status all the time. When we have clear, glowing skin, it is an indication that our health is going in the right direction and we are making good lifestyle choices. 80-90% of our skin’s health comes from within.
On the other hand, when you have skin issues such as eczema, acne, psoriasis, hives, vitiligo, rosacea, or dry and scaly skin, it means something is out of balance and you need to restore that balance to regain your health and glow.
Our skin is the first line of defense for our immune system and acts as a barrier to it. The minute you see common skin problems, it indicates that the skin’s system of detoxification isn’t working and there is a problem with the gut-skin connection.
In addition to all the other things, what we apply on our skin makes a huge world of difference. Research shows that our skin is home to billions of organisms. It is a living ecosystem. There’s an entire microscopic world living as part of our skin microbiome. It is made up of various bacteria, fungi and viruses that play a role in maintaining a healthy skin barrier. By applying or not applying ‘beauty enhancers’ that may comprise of artificial chemicals, these living ecosystems not only get disrupted but can at times cause an imbalance in their functioning. This imbalance may either be temporary or long lasting and leads to all the common skin problems that occur.
The reason behind some common skin problems that you or your loved ones could be facing are inflammation, blood sugar imbalances, hormonal health, microbiome imbalances & nutritional deficiencies. They can keep the skin from turning over like it should, causing clogging and a wide variety of skin issues like dry, itchy skin, acne, psoriasis, eczema and hives. These symptoms are an indication that the body is trying to release toxins through the skin.
Your skin needs to protect you from the outside from what’s coming in. But it also needs to be able to excrete what needs to get out. How do we get glowing skin and address the above mentioned issues. Let’s understand some of these by sharing my own personal experiences.
First & foremost, we can start with our digestion.
Digestion is essential for the breakdown and absorption of nutrients that you get from the food you eat. You can eat the best healthy foods in the world, but if your body is not breaking it down properly and it is not being absorbed into your system due to lack of rest and repair, your digestion will surely be off. Your body will not receive the nourishment it needs. This is the root cause of skin problems we face.
I had eczema all my life and I would use a butter knife to scratch my irritated and flared skin. I was told by every dermatologist that I had to live with it as it was ‘genetic’. The conventional and easiest approach to dermatology issues is to cover it up by putting a ‘band- aid’ on the symptoms and to suppress them. This ‘band-aid’ is usually the application of a steroid cream on the affected area, or an oral antibiotic which destroys not only the harmful bacteria but also kills beneficial bacteria in your gut. This affects your skin as it is strongly connected with your gut health. Many of us keep going back to our dermatologist with the same flare up like I did.
Research shows that the good bacteria in your digestive system are vital not only for digestion and overall body functioning, but also for a clear skin. I too was given steroid creams and I will say yes, they did help when I had a flare-up but that was short-lived. I would use steroid creams regularly without understanding and addressing the root cause of skin problems.
Over time and through a better understanding of my root causes, which were more dietary and stress-related, I worked on myself from the inside-out and I saw a huge change. Here are some protocols I followed for a better, clear skin.
I first started by eliminating inflammatory foods like processed foods, gluten, dairy and refined sugar. This was huge for me as these foods have always been a part of my diet. I also added supplements like milk thistle to help my liver detox better. In brief, milk thistle helps the liver to slow down the rate at which toxins can be absorbed into the liver and protects the kidneys against oxidative stress.
I started to work on my stress levels. I took to counseling (this was also big for me), regular meditation practice, walks, and asked my family and friends for help as and when I needed. I took very small consistent baby steps on my journey to a healthy glowing skin. I did have my ups and downs, but steadily continued towards this continuous healing journey which helped me tremendously. And today, I can proudly say I don’t have eczema and also don’t have any marks left on my skin. Is it a one off sheer luck? Like myself, there have been many who have also undertaken this path and each one of them have come out better and stronger.
What happens when our microbiome gets weak?
Our bodies have more microorganisms than cells. The collective community of microorganisms or bacteria that live in our gut are referred to as Microbiome. There are both symbiotic (good) as well as pathogenic (harmful) microbes that constitute the microbiome in our gut. The microbiome along with our intelligent gut lining, helps provide a physical barrier to invasive microbes. More importantly, they play a role in the digestive process which allows the nutrients to be easily assimilated. They also clean up debris and protect against the disease causing bacteria, regulate our immunity, metabolism and synthesis of vitamins & minerals. They also play a role in inflammation to conditions like IBD & colitis too.
When our microbiome gets weak, we have hyper-permeability of the digestive tract lining also called ‘a leaky gut’. This is when our gut lining gets permeable, whereas by design it is to be an impenetrable fort. Due to this, foreign particles such as unprocessed food start to leak into the bloodstream. Assuming the foreign particles to be ‘invaders’, our body starts to create an immune response. This causes internal inflammation and in turn, skin inflammation. Likewise, other toxic elements in the blood start to enter the gut because of the permeability, thereby creating irritants in the gut. This affects the gut health and the skin overall.
Why is the process of detoxification important?
We have different detox organs in our body like the skin, colon, kidney & liver. It’s through these organs your body eliminates waste. If these organs are not functioning optimally, we can have a toxic build which can then show up on your skin. That is why body detoxification is important for achieving a clear & glowing skin.
As an example, let us look at constipation which is a big concern for many. If our channel of elimination is not functioning optimally how will toxins leave the body? So what happens when waste is left to putrefy in you? It gets reabsorbed and that can then cause a whole host of issues and immediately show up on our gut health & skin. And since the colon is not at its optimum function the body tries to remove toxins through other organ systems like our skin.
This was another issue I faced all my life and was again told it was ‘genetic’ and that I had to live with it by taking laxatives, which I did regularly and quite honestly was frustrated doing it day in and day out. While I was taking baby steps in my healing journey for a clear skin, I discovered that this was another roadblock for me. However, I did not let that deter me, and like with eczema, I figured out why I was constipated and started to work on it too.
I understood that I had an autoimmune thyroid condition called Hashimotos, and that I had vitamin & mineral deficiencies. To my surprise, I was low on magnesium and vitamin D and immediately got working to get the levels restored by using the help of safe supplements. I also increased my fiber intake, and Voila!!!! My constipation, which was labeled as a genetic issue, was gone for good, just like that. Since working on my gut health & skin, I have now come to an understanding that I must include fiber-rich foods like leafy greens, fruits, and vegetables in my diet every day.
In conclusion, always look for the root cause of skin problems and do not look at it merely as an exterior skin issue itself. The issue will definitely reside deep within and it is interconnected with one or multiple organs or body parts, definitely starting with the gut.
As there is a connection between the gut health & skin, there can be several issues affecting your skin health. Some of them include compromised health of your gut, hormonal issues, overuse of antibiotics & steroids or using toxic products on your skin. These are some questions you must ask yourself, because our skin is always giving us these signals. Do pay attention to these signs and messages and more importantly try and go further to find and address the root cause(s). With a clear understanding of the real issues, you can support your body in eliminating not only these underlying issues inside but also at the skin level. So yes, a clean, healthy and glowing skin is very much a possibility.
Author: Simran Gosain, Allied Functional Medicine Practitioner