Can you eat your way to better skin?

Microbiome is the big buzzword in health right now – and its impact can even extend to your skin

Lifestyle changes and the ageing process can alter the needs of our skin over time, but before investing in another expensive face cream or serum, consider that the answer to clearer, smoother skin may lie within.

Microbiome’ is the big buzzword in health right now. This refers to the ecosystem of trillions of microorganisms that exist inside (and outside) the body. The balance of good and bad gut bugs plays an important role in our overall health, and unhappy skin can be an external sign of a digestive system in crisis.

So, can we really eat our way to better skin? ‘Yes,’ asserts nutritionist Gabriela Peacock. ‘What we eat and drink has a significant impact on our skin. There is increasing evidence supporting the health benefits of a healthy gut microbiome. By improving the gut microbiota, you are less likely to suffer from food sensitivities which can present in the skin.’

‘Unhappy skin can be an external sign of a digestive system in crisis’

Eve Kalinik’s clients often arrive with skin complaints. The nutritionist and author of Be Good To Your Gut: The Ultimate Guide to Gut Health says, ‘The most common are acne, eczema and psoriasis, and premature ageing can be a concern too.’ She outlines the key nutrients needed for good skin: ‘zinc is an essential mineral for skin health helping to regulate sebum production. Vitamin A is another important nutrient that encourages healthy cell production. Omega 3 fatty acids are key for the lipid membrane in each and every cell, and vitamin C is necessary for collagen production to keep the skin youthful. Selenium is a trace mineral and vital antioxidant nutrient that reduces free radical damage at a cellular level and the effects of ageing on the appearance of the skin.’

It’s unlikely that we can all achieve the perfect balanced diet every day of the week, so supplements can help during times of stress or routine disruption (like frequent travel, for example). Kalinik recommends Symprove, a pro-biotic to boost gut bacteria (it’s beneficial to restore the good bacteria after a course of antibiotics or gastro illness) and Vitamin D for eczema prone skin.

However, the most serious skin offenders are what you might expect. Alcohol, caffeine and refined sugar are the skin’s nemesis as they cause inflammation in the body. Eliminating them might feel too restrictive, so cut back if you’re overindulging and aim for moderation.

The Nutritionists’ Hit List

High in Zinc: High quality, organic, grass-fed meat, fish, shellfish and oysters, pumpkin seeds, oats and organic eggs

High in Vitamin A: Chicken liver, organic eggs, organic full fat dairy and butter, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, green brassicas, e.g. leafy veg

High in Omega 3: Aim for one portion of oily fish per week; wild salmon, mackerel, sardines, organic grass-fed meat, organic eggs, flaxseed and chia seeds

High in Vitamin C: Broccoli, kale, peppers (all types), citrus fruit and berries

High in Selenium: Include a couple of Brazil nuts per day (selenium is also essential for healthy sperm)

And the Ditch List

What to avoid: Caffeine, alcohol, processed food, refined sugar and oils