Nutrition for Skin–What’s Going on Inside?

Over the years I’ve had my fair share of bad skin…oily, dry, bouts of acne albeit not as severe as I might have felt it was at the time and even today I’d still be prone to the occasional outburst. Poor nutrition coupled with the usual hormone imbalances, inconsistent skin care and too much pinching and prodding made the situation way worse then it needed to be.

Around April of last year (2012) I started to get large scaly patches of skin…first on my knuckles, a tiny spot on my cheek, then my knees and elbow. I went to the doctor already pretty having self diagnosed psoriasis only to have it confirmed. The treatment? Steroidal creams…no alternative, no other suggestions in relation to my diet, just live with it… It’s appearance was put down to stress which I definitely think had a big role to play but what I was and wasn’t putting in to my body was having a greater impact then I was lead to believe was possible.

In the past I abused food, eating too much of it, wasting it, purging it, not eating enough or any of it at times. My relationship with food was about control and to the forefront of my mind were calories and weight. The power of the food you choose to eat can have such an impact on your health, mind and of course skin, something which I totally underestimated until I experienced the benefits.

What I now know is that whatever surfaces on the skin is quite clearly caused by something going on internally which for the vast majority can be rebalanced.

Although psoriasis doesn’t traditionally nor conventionally respond to nutritional intervention, I believe the emergence of my psoriasis was down to my digestive problems which were inherently overcome by altering my diet and my food patterns. Toxins were being released from my body which at this present moment in time have 100% disappeared. Not on scaly patch in site! No special creams or medications aside from a little extra moisturisation (this all natural MooGoo is amazing stuff!)

There are so many  external “skin enemies” the least we can do is give it the best chance to look bright and beautiful by eating the right foods Smile  There are specific common food triggers associated with certain skin conditions, eczema for example is quite commonly linked to wheat and dairy intolerances. The below suggestions are broader in nature. I’d suggest seeing a nutritional therapist to review your own diet individually if you are struggling to get a condition under control.

Top Nutrition Tips for Healthy Skin

  1. Eat foods rich in antioxidants – a bright colourful array of fresh untreated (preferably organic) fruit and vegetables are key to healthy skin now and in the long term. They reduce the speed at which the skin degenerates and effectively ages. My top non produce sources include cinnamon, raw cacao (and cacao nibs),red kidney beans and pecans! Antioxidants will also help reduce inflammation which can be a huge contributory factor to many skin conditions; acne, psoriasis…
  2. Essential fats are essential for beautiful skin – each skin cell is composed of essential fats. With an abundance of Omega 6 in the vast majority of people’s diets it’s our Omega 3 intake we need to be more conscious of. For soft supple skin be sure to get your daily intake. I personally choose chia seeds, ground flax, flax oil and pumpkin seeds as my top plant sources. Of course eating organic fresh (not farmed) fish 2-3 times a week would also be a fantastic way to up your intake. When I don’t get my fill of Omega 3 I almost immediately notice my skin becoming dry and looking a little lack lustre!
  3. Load up on Zinc – zinc is vital for the generation of new skin cells. When you’re lacking it in your diet your likely to experience poor healing and be more prone to stretch marks! Insufficient intake is also widely associated with a variety of skin disorders from acne to eczema. My top food source of choice is pumpkin seeds but for someone suffering from the likes of acnes I’d suggest a supplement. I personally take 20mcg of chelated zinc daily (chelated form being the closest to that found naturally in food ensuring its more readily absorbed by the body). Watermelon seeds are also a super source.
  4. Hydrate – never underestimate the value of water. When your skins dehydrated the cells will loose their plumpness and structure. Making sure your drink plenty of water (the amount necessary depends on the individual and how much exercise resulting in water loss your involved in) will also help clear you body of the toxins both produced internally and created during food metabolism.
  5. Digestion; beyond what you choose to eat – poor digestion and absorption can also have quite the impact on the health of your skin. You might be eating all the right foods yet for one reason or another your not getting the nutrients you need. Insufficient “good gut bacteria” and Candida yeast overgrowth can also contribute to skin problems. Imbalances in the digestive tract, one too many toxins getting through effectively gate crashing and the bodies ability to detoxify itself will start to weaken…poor skin health is just one of the many consequences. Check out this post for simple tips to improve your digestion.
  6. Limit the toxins you have control over – oxidants causing oxidative damage such as pollution, cigarette smoke, fried and burnt foods, processed cooking oils…alcohol and sugar…should all be reduced and avoided. Our skin cells and the DNA within them is particularly sensitive to oxidative damage and the more exposure they get the more likely it’s ability to generate new skin cells will be hindered.

My skin greatly improved in terms of my acne breakouts when I eliminated dairy and wheat from my diet. Aside from the food I eat I’ve found Apple Cider Vinegar to not only have improved my digestion but also and possibly consequently my skin. It’s definitely clearer and more radiant since I started drinking it twice daily (quite religiously!)  I’ve also recently started using it (1 part water to 1 part vinegar) directly on my skin as a toner which is working a treat!

Do you feel nutrition has a role to play in skin health? I’d love to hear your success stories!

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  1. I’ve been lucky in that I’ve never had problems with my skin, water definitely is a big one to flush out the toxins through the kidneys rather than skin, omega oils are also fabulous for anyone with any inflammatory skin condition!

  2. What fab advice- thanks.
    I have very sensitive skin and it can get really dry in winter- due to the heating and cold air outside. I agree that drinking lots of water helps, as does eating those essential fats.

  3. Great post Michelle!
    Over the past year, I really struggled with terrible hormonal acne, all along my jaw line and chin. It was itchy, painful, not to mention red, angry and gross looking! At the time, I had been consuming a lot of tofu, tempeh and soy milk. My mom suggested that I try cutting out soy for a while due to the estrogens in soy and the hormonal nature of my acne. As much as it pains me to say (I LOVE my soy products!), it worked! My acne cleared up almost entirely! It really is quite amazing how food can have such an impact, and it’s obviously different for everyone. While I will still continue to have tofu and tempeh every once in a while, I know drink almond milk instead of soy, and I certainly won’t ever be eating as much of those products as I did before!

  4. LOVE this! I’ve been having some seriously weird skin issues lately and have been trying everything to get it under control. Honestly, hormone balance and water are the two main things that I can try to get under control to hopefully help. Thanks for posting! xx

    1. Yep when I cut out dairy and wheat which can be the too major skin culprits my skin improved dramatically! I’d definitely test it out. Go both for 2 weeks, then introduce one of them at a time for a week or two to see if it has any detrimental impact.

  5. Great post! Fortunately, my skin was pretty clear before adopting a healthier lifestyle. Now, I’m grateful that I don’t need to worry about skin flair ups – lots of water and fresh fruit and veggies do wonders 🙂

  6. I loved this post, Shell. I don’t think people realize how important it is to take care of our skin. I have eczema and incredibly sensitive skin. I was born with and I’ve had good times and bad times with it, the worst being during my GCSEs and then when I had an allergic reaction to some washing powder when I was 18-19. I had to change all my beauty products and make-up because I developed allergies, now I use mineral make-up and other natural cosmetics. Our skin absorbs what we put on to it, so if we put chemicals on to it, then it will absorb them into our bodies.

    I noticed a change in my skin when I started cleaning up my diet and introducing more healthy fats and foods rich in omega3, which is why I eat flaxseed and chia seeds regularly. I already knew that zinc is good for skin, so try make sure I get a good amount from my diet. I have taken zinc supplements in the past. The healthier I eat, the better my skin is and the more happy I am.

      1. In moderation. I find if I eat too much cheese I break out but the odd bit of milk in my tea and coffee I seem fine with. I have a bowl of wholemeal pasta and bread every now and again. But I find both bread and pasta bloat me (the wholemeal/grain versions less), so I don’t eat tonnes of them.

  7. great post!! I was just talking about this yesterday as I for the first time am really having trouble with my skin and know it’s all related to my gut! That’s not something I would have ever considered in the past