Your Guide To Treating Your Skin Via Your Gut

The beauty supplement game is booming at the moment and food book releases are all about superfoods and eating clean. The correlation between our skin health and condition, and what we put into our gut, is an interesting one; especially given the ever-growing topical skincare industry. I sat down with some experts to look at how much we can actually do for our skin via what we eat.

Alexa Mullane is Managing Director of health & wellness brand Potion London. Their beauty supplements are sold in Harvey Nichols and on the Potion London website. Alana and Lisa Macfarlane aka The Mac Twins run YouTube channel The Gut Stuff, where they help with gut research at King’s College London and make weekly informative videos with various health and nutrition experts.

What is more effective, treating your skin ailments/anti-ageing prevention topically or via the food and supplements you consume?

A: While treating your skin topically will no-doubt have an instant effect on your skin, usually it is only a temporary fix. Creams with ingredients like collagen, hyaluronic acid and vitamin C will have an effect on the upper layers of the skin but at this point the damage is usually already done and it will only be a ‘sticking plaster’ effect – improving the texture and appearance of the skin temporarily.

Skin health begins on the inside. To really improve the skin, we need to go back to basics and build supple, healthy, smooth skin from within. Some improvements can be made by eating certain foods but often, to make a noticeable difference, we need a higher level of nutrients than we can get from food alone. Many companies are now waking up to this fact and are producing beauty supplements or ‘nutricosmetics’ which provide anti-ageing benefits by delivering potent levels of nutrients which are absorbed into the body and contribute to building healthy new skin from the inside.

Wrinkles appear when we lose skin elasticity, which is mainly caused by a lack of collagen in the skin. When we are young our bodies produce huge amounts of collagen but production vastly declines after the age of 30, which is when wrinkles appear and skin starts to sag. It is impossible to replace collagen inside the skin by using a topical treatment; it needs to be present when the skin cells are renewed and the only way to do this is to ingest the collagen. It is possible to get collagen from the food we eat but it would take buckets of bone broth every day to get the required amount to make a difference. Therefore, the best way to get enough collagen to make a noticeable difference is to take a food supplement such as the Potion London Collagen Boost.

TMT: We should probably preface this with a wee digestible bit of science. Over the past 5 years, scientists have been discovering that microbes outnumber our human cells by nearly 10 to 1 and we now have the ability to sequence our gut microbiota, exactly as we do with our DNA. We are realising these guys affect everything from our mental health, weight, even Parkinson’s Disease and yes, you’ve guessed it, our complexions.

Research into the gut’s effect on skin is trailing somewhat behind other scientific studies, but recent links are being made which clearly show a definitive and very tangible connection. One of which being that good bacteria strengthens the lining of the gut, and bad bacteria can increase gut permeability allowing toxins to trot in and out of your system. Adversely, this causes the immune system to set the alarm bells ringing. Certain toxins cause panic and inflammation specific to inflammatory disease, a common associated cause of acne and other skin related outbreaks – it’s all connected!

So basically, we need to keep our ‘good guys’ happy, fed and growing. Processed, high sugar, complex carb diets do nothing to feed our good bacteria and to add insult to injury, modern antibiotics prescribed to all of us are basically a nuclear bomb to our gut health and wipe out ALL bacteria, good AND bad! We’re up against it, but there are ways to fight back and keep a happy little gut garden harvested in there.

How does what we eat and drink affect our skin?

A: Our skin is made up of cells which are renewed every two or three weeks. The old saying “you are what you eat” really is true because the nutrients we eat directly contribute to the health of our cells and therefore the appearance of our skin.

Processed foods which contain high levels of fat, salt and sugar lead to inflammation in the body which causes skin conditions such as spots, acne, rosacea, wrinkles and sagging skin. Other lifestyle factors that affect skin health include too much sun exposure and smoking which can lead to premature skin ageing due to the free radicals in the body attacking the cells, leading to damage.

Eating foods rich in antioxidants (e.g. vitamins A C & E) help to protect the body from the damaging effects of free radicals, helping to prevent disease, cancer and premature ageing. Foods rich in these nutrients include citrus fruits, green leafy vegetables, avocados, eggs and almonds. Vitamin C also contributes to collagen production within the body.

Other nutrients which improve the skin include healthy fats or omega-3s which can help to feed and hydrate the skin from the inside and keep it looking young and supple. This can be found in seeds and oily fish. Zinc is an important trace mineral which helps to repair damaged tissue and heal wounds, and can be found in foods such as oysters, pumpkin seeds and whole grains.

What foods and supplements can you recommend for those concerned with skin ageing? Is it ever too late to start improving it via your gut?

A: It is never too late to improve your skin. Because skin cells renew every few weeks, anyone can see a difference in their skin if they start to look after it from the inside-out.

Vitamin C is essential for collagen production in the body so if you don’t get a good boost of vitamin C every day, chances are that your body isn’t producing as much collagen as it could be, and your skin won’t be looking its best. Vegetables like kale and red peppers provide a healthy dose of vitamin C without the extra sugar that orange juice and fruit contains.

The best way to eat for skin health is to avoid processed foods and ‘eat a rainbow’. By eating a colourful range of vegetables, berries, healthy fats and fibre, it ensures that we get a variety of essential nutrients which not only boost our general health but also improve our skin.

It is possible to get most of the nutrients from food that are required for skin health, but in reality it is very difficult to get the optimum amount of nutrients every single day from our food alone. So to see noticeable results, it’s advisable to take a food supplement in addition to a healthy diet. The top three supplements that I would recommend for those concerned with skin ageing are:

The Potion Collagen Boost – for a potent dose of collagen for noticeable results; reduced wrinkles, supple and glowing skin.

The Potion London Hyaluronic Complex – Hyaluronic Acid hydrates, moisturises and plumps skin from within. This supplement also contains ingredients to boost collagen production within the skin for an extra anti-ageing boost.

The Potion London Beauty Boost - a targeted supplement delivering powerful antioxidants and nutrients for healthy skin, hair and nails.

TMT: It’s NEVER too late, we took part in a study where had our guts mapped and were able to change our gut microbiota in just a few weeks. Even the smallest of changes in your diet can make a massive difference. The key things to remember are:

VARIETY - get as much colourful vegetables in your diet as possible (experts suggest around 30 different kinds per week, so GET CREATIVE).

FIBRE - Studies show the US and us Brits only eat on average, half, of the recommended intake of fibre. With regard to gut health, this is so important!! Fibre is the key.

PROCESSED FOODS - Nothing good comes out of eating these for our tum tums. If you can’t read the names of the things on the labels, best to avoid, go fresh, and homemade!

FERMENTED FOODS - Kimchi, Kombucha and Sauerkraut are the queens of fermentation, get shoveling them in.

PROBIOTICS - You can buy these as supplements, but we’re such foodies we like to get them in in our diet. Things like Kefir are very readily available in supermarkets now, alongside yoghurt, the fermented family above, miso soup, sourdough bread and tempeh (like a probiotic sister to Tofu) will all have your bacteria sending you thank you cards.

What other skin ailments can be improved with supplements and by consuming particular foods?

A: It’s not just the obvious beauty supplements that can improve our skin. We will be hearing a lot more about probiotics in 2017 as more and more research is undertaken into the importance of gut health. Probiotics have been found to improve skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis, as well as general skin health. A healthy, happy gut flora means improved absorption of nutrients from our food and therefore improved skin health. Probiotics can be found in natural yogurts and fermented foods such as kimchi or miso but if you don’t eat these types of foods regularly, it is advised to take a food supplement such as Potion London’s The Probiotic which has six strains of friendly bacteria for maximum probiotic effectiveness, and delivers 5 billion probiotic bacteria alongside a prebiotic base.

It is important to also eat foods high in fibre (such as wholegrain rice, beans, nuts, vegetables with the skins on). Indigestible fibre is a prebiotic and the perfect food for friendly bacteria to eat and help them to thrive and do their work within the gut.

For ailments such as thinning hair and brittle nails, a targeted nutritional supplement such as Potion London’s Beauty Formula can be beneficial as they contain powerful doses of nutrients such as biotin and pantothenic acid which improve specific problems that can be hard to treat with foods alone.

Do you have some recommendations for supplement products/food/drinks for improving skin hydration?

A: Hyaluronic Acid holds 1,000 times its own weight in water inside skin cells. A Hyaluronic Acid supplement is a good idea for people with dry skin complaints as it hydrates skin from the inside-out. The Potion London Hyaluronic Complex contains Hyaluronic Acid, Vitamin C and MSM which all work together to not only hydrate skin, but also to increase collagen production in the skin. Hyaluronic Acid also has the benefit of improving all areas of the body that hold fluid and require hydration to work properly; relieving dry eye problems and stiff/painful joints.

It sounds simple but it is very important to drink plenty of water every day for skin hydration. Water not only hydrates the body, but it is necessary for brain function and flushes out toxins within the body which also contributes to skin health. Two litres of water is a good amount to drink daily, in addition to eating lots of vegetables and salads which have high levels of water.

Come over to Twitter and talk to us @fashionfixdaily. We’d love to hear about your experiences in dealing with skin complaints via your diet, or whether there are any anti-ageing beauty supplements you rely on.