Let me start by stating that although I am no doctor, no skin specialist, just another clear skin seeker, I know what it’s like to have bad skin. If you let it, it has the potential to knock your self confidence and even prevent you from socialising because of it, and that’s not fair. To start off, ‘bad skin’ is completely subjective, what is bad to you might be perfection to someone else and vice versa. You should be strutting your gorgeous stuff no matter what your skin looks like, but if you really want to give your skin a chance to clear up, there are ways to do so.
Good skin starts with what you put into your body in the first place. Think about it for a second, the skin on your face has pores, and spots come through those pores from the side that you can’t see (from inside), right? There are also multiple external factors that contribute to spotty skin such as environmental health, bacteria passovers, makeup and now, mask wearing. There’s even a term for it: mascne, or maskne.
Keeping all these factors in mind, you’ll want to focus on what you can choose for yourself, regardless of other external factors. Here are a few suggestions on how to clear your skin from the inside, because if you’re not eating right, your skin will be the first to show it.
More and more research is examining the link between what we eat and how it manifests itself in our appearance, the same way in which our diet affects our mood and brain. It is all interlinked, and it’s quite fascinating when you start finding correlations yourself. Did you treat yourself with a greasy late night snack yesterday? Your body is on your side, it wants to digest the food for you, but sometimes it needs some help—chances are, your skin is about to bite back at you for that snack.
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Our bodies are always digesting, and the bacteria in our gut is helping it do just that, so it’s safe to say that we need those in order to stay healthy. Excess anything has to travel somewhere from our gut, and sometimes it travels out all the way outwards to our skin. A study’s findings from a July 2020 experiment suggests that a western diet, for example, which is rich in animal products and fatty and sugary foods is associated with the presence of acne in adults. Processed foods are also known to cause inflammation in the gut, and therefore our skin too.
These products are famously difficult for our bodies to digest, so if you insist on not removing something you enjoy from your diet, try adding something in, such as good bacteria to help with the digestion process. Probiotic bacteria from fermented foods is a good place to start, like sauerkraut, kefir, miso or kombucha.
I know, I know, it’s obvious. But you would be surprised how many people out there will complain about their skin and not add this one change to their daily routine. There is a reason why every beauty guru will have water on the top of their prescriptive list.
Selenium is an essential mineral, meaning it must be obtained through your diet. It is also needed in small amounts, and it acts as a powerful antioxidant. ‘Antioxidant’ can sometimes be used as a buzzword by big food corporations that market highly processed foods as ‘healthy’. When it comes to antioxidant in real food however, it is in fact a compound that prevents cell damage caused by free radicals (which are molecules or atoms without pairs that scavenge the body to seek out other electrons so they can become a pair, which in turn causes damage to cells, proteins and DNA).
Often, these free radicals get pretty bad rap, understandably from what you read above, however they are also essential for performing important functions including protecting your body from diseases. That being said, the problems come with an excess of these free radicals, leading to oxidative stress where healthy cells are damaged. Antioxidants like selenium help to soothe and reduce this stress by keeping free radical numbers in check.
This will result in your skin remaining firm and protected. Selenium stops free radical damage before premature wrinkles have a chance to form. It also helps to protect cell membranes against UV damage and inflammation. Think of it like a soother and a cooler from the inside—internal aloe vera, right?
Vitamins of all kinds, but especially C and A, help your skin tremendously. Think C for citrus fruits, which are packed with vitamin C. This supports collagen in your skin, which acts a little like an elastic band, you want it to spring tight back into place. Vitamin C rich foods also tend to contain a lot of water, like strawberries, oranges, grapefruit, tomatoes or peppers to name a few.
Vitamin A happens to be a form of the main active ingredient of the topical form of vitamin A, Retin-A, hence the name. This vitamin has been found to decrease and prevent inflammatory acne lesions by decreasing inflammation. Vitamin A encourages the growth of new skin cells while breaking down dead skin cells, but it also regulates the amount of keratin (which is the main protein in your skin) being produced. When there is too much keratin, dead cells can stick together and form acne-causing blockages.
Zinc is a mineral that fights off harmful cells, viruses and bacteria. It is extremely anti-inflammatory, in other words it’s another soother, which can help relieve some of the redness and irritation associated with acne. Pumpkin seeds are a good source of zinc.
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Those who have troublesome skin can sometimes fear hydrating their skin, which effectively leads to excessive sebum production and spots. Keeping your skin hydrated is so important when it comes to not only keeping spots away, but also for long term skin health. What you eat directly correlates to this purpose too. Fatty acids, like omega-3s and omega-6s—when consumed, will retain your skin’s natural oil barrier and therefore combat dryness and uneven complexions.
The goal here is to source what you can from what you eat, rather than from supplements. There are many, many other options to add to this list when it comes to helping clear your skin, but diet is a good place to start. A good thing to remember is that what helps to combat problem skin, will also help to heal it. So if you’re struggling with scars, the same suggestions apply.
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Chances are you’ve used a home remedy at some point, even the questionable ones like a ketchup hair mask to combat chlorine tinted hair (also known as green), or the less whacky, lavender essential oil dropped on a pillow for sleep and ginger honey tea for your throat itch. As more of us start leaning towards a ‘cleaner’ way of living, one without the pills and syrups filled with ingredients we can’t pronounce, we also look for home remedies to replace the former.
Whatever your ailment, there is an alternative remedy that has been traditionally used for generations. Plants had life figured out before we tried to after all, but most importantly to mention, just because they’re plants doesn’t mean they’re any less powerful—be aware of allergies, and run your experiments past your GP first.
When our bodies or minds are in pain, it’s usually down to inflammation. Like anything, if you stub your toe, it will become inflamed. The same thing happens on the inside of your body, if you eat something you shouldn’t have, your bowels will become inflamed too. Inflammations can result in common issues like acid reflux, gas or cramps to name a few. Of course, all of us react differently to everything, no body is exactly the same. There is also a lot of nonsense out there, so we will outline only the tried and tested home remedies, and what we use ourselves, which may or may not work for you.
No supplements are listed, just real, whole food.
Turmeric is a rhizome, a member of the ginger family. This golden nib of glory has been used for over 4000 years and is known for its bright orange colour and for containing the bioactive compounds curcuminoids.
Curcumin is one of these curcuminoid compounds, which is what you’re trying to get out of turmeric. While turmeric contains only 2 to 9 per cent curcuminoids, 75 per cent of these active curcuminoids are curcumin, which is why curcumin is the ‘star’ of turmeric. Turmeric is an antioxidant powerhouse and a key player when it comes to lessening existing inflammation and dampening future inflammatory pathways.
However, the spice has low bioavailability, meaning that it isn’t easily absorbed or processed by our bodies. Plants work together though, and studies show that black pepper increases the bioavailability of both turmeric and curcumin due to its active compound piperine. So if you’re cooking it or adding it to your carrot soup, don’t forget the pepper. An extra note, turmeric stains, so don’t forget the apron either.
These come from Omega 3s. These three are eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). Our bodies can’t manufacture these fatty acids, so it’s important to get them from your diet. We primarily get these fatty acids through eating fatty fish like salmon or anchovies. If you don’t eat fish, you can still get your ALA from plants, like nuts or flaxseeds. Think of it like oil for your car, to keep the engine running smoothly you’ll have to grease it up. Our bodies are the same.
We all poop. Sometimes, we have off days, and that’s normal. But regular bowel movements are the goal here. First, try to eat more fibre, drink more water. What enters your body must exit, so what you put in drastically affects what comes out. Move, go for that walk, make sure you’re moving your body on the inside too. If this doesn’t work:
This delicious fruit contains an incredible amount of health benefits but more specific to constipation, it contains an enzyme called papain that aids digestion. Enzymes break down food. In other words, it’ll soften your problem. In fact, it is often used as a meat tenderiser. If you can’t find the fresh fruit, find the seeds. Just one or two seeds should do the trick. A word of warning, the seeds aren’t as tasty as the fruit. You can also use the papaya skin for sunburn, just plop it on there and let it work its magic.
These are for emergencies only. Psyllium is a form of fiber made from the husks of the Plantago ovata plant’s seeds. It works as a laxative by increasing the bulk of your stools, which encourages your bowels to move them through your digestive system and this in turn relieves constipation. It also soaks up water, so it can help with diarrhea too. Because of the way it soaks up liquid it can be used as an egg replacement in baking or to thicken up soups. However, this is not an everyday form of fibre, so don’t treat it as such.
Anxiety is something many of us are struggling with at the moment, understandably. Sleep is one of if not the most important pillar of our health and wellbeing. The two are a tough pair. Our guts are frequently being called our second brains by doctors and researchers alike, and we aren’t ignoring it.
Kimchi, sauerkraut, kombucha, kefir, miso, yogurts and tempeh, just to name a few, have been around for thousands of years and there is no doubt about why. We have bacteria all the way through our digestive tracts, and on our bodies.
Fermented foods are rich in probiotic bacteria and by consuming them you are adding beneficial bacteria and enzymes to your overall intestinal flora, which increases the health of your gut microbiome and digestive system as well as enhances your immune system. Prebiotics are what feeds the probiotics, such as cruciferous vegetables like cabbage or broccoli. Like pepper and curcumin, they go hand in hand. These beneficial gut microbes dominate and suppress the growth of harmful microbes, the ones that contribute to ill health, including neuropsychiatric disorders like anxiety.
Valerian root is a flowering plant native to Europe and parts of Asia. Valerian is commonly used as a sleep aid for insomnia, which can often be caused by anxiety. This is a powerful herb, and should not be used in conjunction with antidepressants or if you are pregnant or nursing. The Valerenic acid increases levels of GABA, which is a neurotransmitter that reduces brain cell activity, and therefore aids in sleep.
What we eat affects our daily life, how we function, think and feel. Medicine of course has helped humankind in such amazing ways it’s difficult to fathom but simply igniting an interest towards what we put into our bodies will help us too.