Nutrition for Skin Health
Is there a connection between beautiful skin and what you eat?
A lot of people struggle with skin conditions and/or just simply want to improve the health of their skin. Who doesn't want their skin to glow? The skin is the largest organ of the body and is vital to detoxification. What many people don't realize is that skin vitality, glow and general health starts from the inside, and has much to do with what we put in our mouths. For starters, drinking plenty of clean water is important.
Many skin products are full of chemicals and other toxins that do little for our skin, yet are absorbed into the bloodstream and eventually dealt with by the liver and other detoxifying processes of the body. This unnecessarily taxes our bodies with substances it does not recognize and is yet another thing that is being linked to many health conditions.
Many conventional medical professionals discount the connection between nutrition and skin health. The same goes for disease prevention. Because of this many people are taking charge of their own health as intuitively we know better. That being said, some doctors are starting to see the power of a root cause strategy in treating/preventing disease. This is the Functional Medicine approach. One of the most effective ways to treat skin conditions and improve the look and feel of one's skin is through eating certain vitamins, minerals, and other compounds found in food.
The list includes:
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Probiotics and Gut Health
Vitamin A: The most vitamin A-rich foods are liver and cod liver oil. Other sources include cream and butter from pastured cows and egg yolks from pastured chickens. Too much Vitamin A can be detrimental, so choosing a fermented cold liver oil is an excellent choice if you plan on supplementing as it provides a balance of Vitamin A and D which work together very efficiently. It also can be effective in helping with acne issues.
Zinc: Zinc is involved in so many critical body processes it isn't even funny. Zinc is best absorbed from animal sources where it is not bound to phytates as in plant sources. Again, organ meats like kidney and liver are excellent sources, but also red meat such as beef and lamb, and seafood including oysters, scallops, and other shellfish. Some common plant sources are pumpkin seeds and other nuts but again are bound to phytates which makes them less bio-available. These should be properly soaked to help with this issue. People with serious acne typically have lower levels of zinc than the healthy control group in studies.
Vitamin C: No brainer here and not just for skin health. Eat bell peppers, guava, dark leafy greens, broccoli, brussel sprouts, kiwi, citrus fruits, and strawberries. Red bell peppers and kiwi have more Vitamin C then an orange believe it or not. There are even herbs that contain high levels such as cilantro, chives, thyme, basil, and parsley. Try to get as many colors as you can which goes for any vitamin source. Each color of food has different phytonutrients and compounds that benefit the body uniquely.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids: One of the best things about consuming Omega-3's is that this type of fat is being shown to be anti-inflammatory. Everyday science is linking inflammation to literally all modern disease. It's crucial to eat an anti-inflammatory diet for optimal health (a blog post for another day) and getting your omega-3's is a big part of that equation. Coldwater fatty fish such as sardines, wild-caught salmon, and mackerel are great sources. Fermented cod-liver oil is another excellent source as discussed above. Omega 3's are great for skin and a whole lot more.
Biotin: Biotin is a water-soluble vitamin that helps regulate fatty acid metabolism. This is vital as proper fat production is essential for the skin to thrive. Getting enough biotin helps with dry skin and dermatitis issues, as well as other more stubborn conditions. Eat egg yolks, liver, swiss chard, romaine lettuce, almonds, and walnuts.
Sulfur: If you want to have fewer wrinkles you need to optimize your collagen synthesis. Collagen plays a big role in keeping skin firm and younger looking (not to mention our joints and hair) and sulfur is necessary for this process. You also need sulfur to produce enough glutathione which is one of the most important antioxidants. Again, look for egg yolks, meat, poultry, and fish. Another excellent option is bone broth due to its high collagen content and mix of vital minerals. Some good plant options are garlic, onions, brussels sprouts, asparagus, kale, broccoli, and anything from the cruciferous family of vegetables. Lastly, fermented foods can be fantastic sources of sulfur.
Silica: If you are lacking this important trace mineral you could experience reduced skin elasticity and your cuts, bumps and bruises may heal slower. Like sulfur, silica plays a role in collagen production. Eat leeks, green beans, garbanzo beans, strawberries, cucumber, mango, celery, asparagus, and rhubarb. You can also get silica through trace mineral supplement drops and even some bottled waters like the Fiji brand. The purer the source the more silica your drink may contain, especially if in an area where volcanic rock is present.
Niacin: Also called B3. A deficiency is rare unless you have a disease that inhibits niacin absorption such as celiac, IBS, or Crohn's. Other inflammatory gut conditions may also contribute. Real food choices include meat, poultry, red fish like wild-caught salmon, and seeds. Other foods that offer niacin are milk, green leafy veggies, coffee, and tea.
Vitamin K2: One of my favorites that is rarely heard of in the mainstream. K2 has been shown to help deposit calcium in appropriate locations like our bones and teeth instead of where it doesn't belong. Science is even linking K2 to help protect from heart disease, promote better brain function, and since it directs calcium the way it does it is excellent for bone health. K2 helps prevent calcification of our skin which results in skin that can spring back...as it were...assisting to smooth out wrinkles and other lines. It is also a great source of healthy fat which is better fuel for our brains than glucose.
Consume grass-fed butter, egg yolks (seeing a theme here? Eggs are amazing!) liver, natto, and fermented foods like sauerkraut. Commercial dairy products are not good sources of K2 because these animals are fed grains rather than grasses. It is the grass that is the magic here. If it isn't grass-fed the benefits of eating it drop significantly, not to mention all the other issues with conventional foods (GMO's, steroids, grains, corn, pesticides, etc.)
Pre & Probiotics: Most people by now know that pre and probiotics are super healthy for the gut and help feed/maintain the "good bugs" we need for optimal health. Studies are showing they can be very beneficial for our skin as well. Sauerkraut, kimchi, yogurt, and kefir are all great sources. I also like to drink water kefir. Supplementation is another route to getting your probiotics, but real food will always be better just like with anything else. It always comes back to JERF, Just Eat Real Food when in doubt. You literally cannot go wrong doing that. If you do choose to supplement be careful if you have SIBO, as some probiotic strains can exacerbate this condition.
Topical products can be fantastic for skin health as well. The first link below will send you to Alitura Naturals. I have actually spoken with the owner, Andy Hnilo, (pictured below) several times. In fact, I was one of his very first customers and continue to use his products to this day! He is one of the nicest, humblest guys you will ever meet and the customer service is top-notch.
Click here for healthy, non-toxic, science-based products/resources for healthy skin
The next link takes you to a Bulletproof product, many of which I highly recommend because they work, and the ingredients are science-driven and completely toxin-free. Pictured below is a grass-fed collagen protein powder of the finest grade available and is fantastic for the skin (remember the importance of collagen discussed earlier?). It also promotes bone, joint, and connective tissue health, and helps to reduce the effects of aging.
A nutrient-dense, real food way of eating is very important if you want firmer, healthier skin with less wrinkles, not to mention avoiding actual skin conditions/diseases of all types. This kind of diet will of course benefit you in countless other ways, but getting enough of the nutrients discussed above will guarantee you're doing your part and your skin will love you for it!
In conclusion, be careful of what you put on your skin as much of it is being linked to things you probably wouldn't believe. Remember, everything you apply to your skin goes into your bloodstream and circulates throughout your entire body until eventually, your detoxification processes (hopefully) eliminate it. Many people have compromised detoxification systems. This is bad news when it comes to toxins from any source including lotions, shampoos, perfumes, lipsticks, etc.
To learn more about me and what I do, please visit the links below to visit my website and Instagram Bio.
Bart Thurman, FDN-P, INHC, AFDNP
Functional Health Coaching
Cafe of Life Chiropractic
1325 Dry Creek Drive #307
Longmont, CO 80503