I have to confess: I am somewhat of a skin freak. Some women love emphasizing their eyes or their lips or whatever else, but I've always been a skin girl. Get me a good moisturizer and some blush and I'm a happy camper ;)
That also means that if my skin feels and looks healthy and smooth, I feel confident, and if it doesn't, well, you know how it goes: I spend too much time in front of the magnifying mirror picking at my face while telling myself to stop and then beating myself up the next morning when I see the battlefield that is now my face. Ugghhh... why is that so tempting?!
(not what I looked like the next morning ;)-->)
Luckily, I've been able to solve these issues for the most part and in today's post, I am going to start dissecting the issue of beautiful, glowing skin, how it is connected to your hormones and your greater health and what you can do NATURALLY! to finally get to the root-cause of what's causing your skin problems and how to heal them.
Skin is an issue that I've discussed with SO many women over the years; first as a lifecoach and now even more with women seeking help for hormonal balance. I know how hard this is emotionally for many of you and I also know that there is so much that can be done (that doesn't include applying overpriced, toxic skincare creams that do more harm than good in the long term!).
To me, glowing skin is not only beautiful, but it is also a symbol of health and vitality (or perhaps that is why it's beautiful in the first place?!).
Let me start by saying that skin is likely a bit more complex than you've been told (aka. there is no magic cream... sorry ladies!).
You see: While it's important what you put ON your skin, the issue of healthy, vibrant, glowing skin really goes a little bit deeper than that.
The state of your skin can be an indicator for a variety of underlying issues such as allergic reactions, an inflammatory response or gut issues as well as things like thyroid disorders and PCOS, which are hormonal imbalances.
It's all connected (because it's all one and the same body... duh!), which means that all of the things that negatively impact your skin can (and likely are) also negatively impacting your hormones, your mood, and your fertility.
That's why I think talking about the health of your skin is so important (yes, it goes deeper than just vanity;)).
Healing your skin means healing your whole body. And it doesn't matter if you are suffering from acne, super dry skin, dull skin, eczema, psoriasis or rosacea... to name a few.
Think about it like this:
Your skin wants to be radiant and healthy and when it's not, it's telling you that something is going on that needs a lil' lovin'. Your skin is alive and therefore it needs to be fed in a way that nourishes it from the inside out. If you ingest, breathe in or apply a bunch of toxins and other garbage that clogs your system and causes inflammation and hormonal irregularities, your skin will show it!
In an effort to not shortcut you on such an important issue -because your skin profile is really a window into your hormonal state and yes, your fertility as well as postpartum recovery!- I am going to dedicate THREE posts to discussing the health of your skin.
Here is what I am going to cover in the next 3 posts:
a. [today's post below] How to decrease inflammation (think: your gut must be strong and healthy)
b. How to keep your hormones balanced (think: keep testosterone in check, detoxify estrogen properly, and increase progesterone)
c. How to keep your skincare and make-up routine natural and toxic free (think: minimize unnecessary toxins and help your body literally glow from the inside out + I'll be sharing my personal skincare routine and favorite make-up lines)
How to decrease inflammation to get glowing skin
Inflammation is caused by a variety of things that jeopardize the health and strength of your gut, such as environmental toxins (including from food, water and air) as well as from things you ingest that you are sensitive to.
Your gut also becomes weaker if you've been on antibiotics, the birth control pill, or have taken a lot of NSAIDS over the years, because all of these destroy the healthy bacteria in your gut, making more room for the harmful bacteria. Stress is another one of your gut's enemies (are you surprised? Probably not;)).
What's the connection between your gut and inflammation?
Your gut serves as a major protective barrier between the outside world and the inside of your body. It holds approximately 60 to 70 percent of your immune system. Imagine that!
If your gut is healthy, it does an amazing job at absorbing the right nutrients so that you can get energy from your food and absorb everything you need.
However, if your gut is weakened from chronic over-exposure to certain foods and medications and/or if the good bacteria are crowded out by the harmful ones, it means that the tight junctions between your gut cells aren't working as they should and are letting through protein particles and bacteria that really should never be inside of your body in the first place. (1)
As a result, your body -because it loves you so much- summons an army of little fighters called antibodies who are supposed to take care of these foreign invaders. Hello inflammation.
Many people who develop something called leaky gut, or leaky gut syndrome (LGS) (more on that another time), experience this reaction over and over until it becomes chronic and inflammation becomes just something they live with.
Acne and other skin irritations like eczema, psoriasis and rosacea are an indicator for such an inflammatory response.
(Plus, in the image to the right you can see what other areas of your body are affects by LGS. Nuts, right?)
How can you start to heal your gut, stop inflammation, get glowing skin and take care of your health from the inside out?
1. The first thing you need to do is identify what triggers you. The best way to do this is by doing an elimination diet for 2 weeks and then reintroducing one allergen (common allergens include gluten, soy, corn, sugar, peanuts, dairy) at a time to see what you react to. If this interests you, stay tuned for my upcoming detoxifying fall cleanse -> it's gentle and food-based and will teach you a whole lot about your body and how to heal it! For personal support you can also send me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org).
2. Boost your gut by repopulating it with healthy bacteria. I recommend taking a good quality probiotic like this one from Metagenics Ultra Flora Plus DF 15 Billion Organisms as well as eating a variety of fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchee, or coconut kefir.
3. Stay away from sugar (including all white carbs and alcohol) because sugar feeds candida (think: bad bacteria). I know, this one sucks. I love me my chocolate, too, but I have also found that reducing how much sugar you consume is hard for about 3 days and then you will start to crave it less. I know you can do this, too!
4. Keep stress at a healthy level aka. keep up your positivity. What's important here is to not freak out if there is a full calendar coming up. Instead ask yourself which things you can cancel or postpone and how you can carve out more time for yourself.
If you really honored your well-being and happiness above everything, which obligations and which people would you say no to?
In addition, train your mind to have positive thoughts by observing the beauty around you. Lead from a place of gratitude. Thoughts and beliefs can be just as toxic and damaging -& certain as stressful!- as a busy calendar and a mean boss.
5. Heal your intestinal lining. The following nutrients are great starting points:
- Zinc: Food sources are your best bet here – shellfish, red meat such as beef/lamb, oysters, pumpkin and sesame seeds are great options.
- Omega-3/ Fish Oil: 1000-3000mg/ day if you take a supplement. I like Nordic Naturals ProOmega. Food sources include wild caught salmon and yolks of eggs from free-range hens. Consuming enough Omega-3s is important in order to improve circulation, optimizing blood pressure, and healing scar tissue (-> super important if you are dealing with acne or other active skin inflammations!)
Another reason why Omega-3 is so important in the whole inflammation talk is because it balances Omega-6. Omega-6 is very common in our western diet and when not balanced by Omega-3 becomes highly inflammatory. Omega-6 does even more damage when it is heated/ cooked with. That means, stay away from Omega-6 rich oils like canola, corn, cottonseed, peanut, safflower, soybean, sunflower and vegetable oil (these are also often GMO) and increase your intake of Omega-3. (2)
- Turmeric: You can use this spice in your cooking or you can make a daily tonic (mix turmeric and lemon juice into my water) to accompany your meal. Turmeric absorbs best if you consume it alongside a healthy fat and black pepper. I also love adding turmeric to my morning eggs or into any stew, meat, or rice dish. Just watch out because turmeric will stain your clothes. (1)
- Collagen: It has so many amazing effects on the body. It is rich in amino acids that we often lack in our modern diet (we often don’t eat bones, skin and tendons of our animal meat which are actually rich in amino acids that are great for our gut health). Gelatin, for example, enhanced gastric acid secretion and restores a healthy mucosal lining in the stomach. Great Lakes Gelatin, Collagen Hydrolysate is great in soups and smoothies because it dissolves in cold liquids and doesn’t alter the taste. Do your palate a favor though and don't drink it in plain water -> not so yummy ;)
- Amp up your antioxidants: antioxidants are important to fight free radicals. Free radicals are mischievous little guys who are attacking healthy tissue and are causing inflammation and disease in your body. Yikes. Consuming plenty of antioxidants will help your body fight off free radicals, slow aging, support proper detoxification and reduce your risk for cancer. Good food sources for antioxidants include gojiberries, beetroot, blueberries, artichoke, pecans, kidney beans, cranberries, blackberries, and cilantro. (4)
*Note: there are a lot more approaches you can take to healing your gut and thus, reducing inflammation, but these are a good starting point. In my next two posts I will talk more about healing your hormones and reducing toxic exposure in your skincare and make-up, which are both topics that go hand in hand with reducing inflammation as well.
Alright, let's sum things up:
Reducing inflammation is the first step to keep your skin glowing, your hormones healthy, your mood strong, your fertility alive, and your energy levels high. It is often the very first thing I talk about with my health coaching clients, women trying to conceive as well as postpartum women.
When your body isn't fighting inflammation, imagine what else it can focus its energy on!
In the comments below, I'd love to hear from you: Is your skin something you think about or struggle with? What have you tried to heal and improve your skin? What are you main rake-aways from this post?
(1) Aviva Romm, M.D., www.avivaromm.com
(2) The Better Baby Book by Lana Asprey, M.D. and Dave Asprey. Wiley; 1 edition