How Gut Health Affects Your Skin, According to a Doctor
It’s safe to say we love beauty more than most but let’s face it— the market can be overwhelming. We’re guilty of stashing online carts filled with everything from essences to eye cream but realize the importance of taking a step back. Naturopathic doctor Dr. Nigma Talib agrees and encourages her clients to think beyond their vanities to maintain healthy skin. Dr. Talib instead likes to focus on gut health but identifying what goes on inside the body to understand what happens on the surface. Ahead, she shares her tips for achieving your best glow without touching your medicine cabinet.
As a holistic skincare expert, what should we be eating for our best skin?
Food is your daily medicine. Every fruit, vegetable, vitamin, mineral, and macronutrient—like protein, carbohydrates, or fat—has a role to play in the health of the body and the aging ability of the skin. By choosing foods with the most potent anti-aging effects, you can help to ensure that practically every mouthful you eat is turning back time on your body clock.
What are your favorite gut-friendly foods?
Antioxidants are essential to a healthy gut. An unhealthy gut messes up elimination, creates toxin build-up, and inhibits the absorption of nutrients. So eat as much of the fruit and vegetable rainbow as you can at every meal. Gut-friendly grains are also important, and complex carbohydrates like millet, buckwheat, Amaranth, and gluten-free oats are an incredible source of fiber vitamins that fight inflammatory aging. I love Beauty and the Broth to heal the gut and vegetable soup with cabbage rich in glutamine.
Additionally, beauty oils like avocado and olives and super seeds like chia and flax provide hydration to help plump fine lines.
Do you think caffeine plays a role in the quality of skin?
Caffeine affects everyone differently, so you need to be in tune with your body. I recommend drinking two to three glasses of water per cup to rehydrate. You should also note that caffeine can raise cortisol levels, which can cause premature aging.
What foods are skin-wreckers?
Gluten, dairy, sugar, and alcohol increase the rate you age because they all cause inflammation. They can cause issues in the gut, which in turn affects your skin. I also encourage people to avoid medicine when possible—especially regularly taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. If you’re taking medications like aspirin and ibuprofen for headaches or back pain, it would be better to try to find the root cause of that pain and tackle that rather than simply masking the symptoms.
What supplements are important for great skin?
Probiotics help restore levels of good bacteria to the system, but different strains improve health in different ways. To improve general digestive health, I recommend a probiotic that contains the DDS-1 strain. These have suitable proof of quality, stability, and clinical relevance.
I’ve also created a probiotic called Healthy Flora that has this strain mixed with grapeseed extract—a combination that gives the skin and gut a glow from the inside out. I also love a stabilized oral form of Vitamin C, which is the most critical antioxidant to reversing aging. Vitamin C encourages skin collagen production, increased microcirculation, and optimal immune function.
I created a vitamin C cocktail infused with zinc, super berry antioxidants, and choline, a skin superhero that helps collagen synthesis and inflammation. If lines, wrinkles, and thinning skin are your primary concern, it should be part of your routine.
What are your thoughts on supplements that claim to be “internal retinol” or fade discoloration from the inside out?
Never take more than what is recommended of vitamin A supplements because they can be toxic in high doses. It’s also important not to supplement with or consume excessive amounts of vitamin A if you are, or could be, pregnant. However, vitamin A is significantly undervalued and is amazing for healing the skin and helping the skin avoid acne breakouts and skin rashes.
What are some unexpected reasons that your skin might be freaking out?
The sides of the chin, along the jawline, are associated with the reproductive organs and hormonal changes. It’s the most common place for women to get blemishes before their menstrual cycle. However, the middle of the chin reflects bowel health—specifically how well you are eliminating toxins. Congestion here could indicate chronic constipation or incomplete evacuation creating chaos in the gut.
How does exercise help your skin?
It would be best if you sweat at least three times a week in a sauna, steam room, or by exercise. The skin is the body’s largest organ of elimination, and it’s believed that regular sweating helps detoxify the body of many toxins. It also helps by opening and unclogging the pores and raising circulation. Heat is also calming to the body, making a regular sweat session a great stress fighter.
Can the sun help your skin at all, or does it just damage it?
Low levels of vitamin D have been linked to various inflammatory conditions. While we mostly get vitamin D from sunlight, I highly recommend taking it in capsule form. What ages us is exposure to external factors, such as sunlight, pollution, poor diet, and inadequate hydration. This is called extrinsic aging, and it’s the main reason most of us age.
How does sleep play a role in skin health?
Sleeping well helps control insulin levels. Even one night of poor sleep can lead to poor glucose control and higher insulin levels the next day. Lack of sleep affects almost everyone at some point, but the less you sleep, the faster you age. Learning how to sleep well will reverse signs of sleep deprivation quickly, immediately making you look refreshed and well-rested.