If you believe the dermatology, plastic surgery and cosmetic industries, you should slather on numerous products to get great skin and make you look better. Of course, these industries have a wide range of these products to sell you!
I take a different approach. What if I told you the secret to healthy skin is not about what you put on your body, but what you put in your body?
The dirty secret these industries don’t want you to know is that beauty really does come from within. You can heal many skin issues by balancing your hormones, changing your diet, optimizing your nutrient status and healing your gut.
Functional Medicine Approach to Skin
The science behind creating great skin involves cultivating your soil to reset your system. Functional Medicine, which focuses on the underlying causes of disease, is the medicine of WHY, not WHAT.
Functional Medicine doctors are like soil farmers. We create a healthy soil, so pests can’t come and weeds can’t flourish. A healthy soil means disease can’t come. That becomes an inside-out rather than outside-in approach.
I handle skin issues like acne and psoriasis the same way I deal with other issues. I define the imbalance, address the causes first (usually diet and lifestyle) and then help the body repair and regain balance. The body’s natural intelligence takes care of the rest.
When you use this method, your skin clears up, you look and feel better and other issues begin to heal on their own.
Better skin starts not with expensive cleansers and other beauty products, but from within. For overall skin health, I find these nine strategies can help tremendously:
- Dump sugar and processed foods. Among its many other problems, excess sugar sticks to amino acids present in collagen and elastin, producing Advanced Glycation End products or “AGEs.” Like the acronym suggests, sugar literally ages your skin and other organs.
- Eliminate food sensitivities. Food sensitivities can trigger or exacerbate bad skin conditions. Studies show dairy contributes to acne. Other studies link autoimmune diseases, allergic diseases, psoriasis and miscellaneous diseases with gluten intolerance.
- Fix gut imbalances. Your gut influences healthy skin far more than you might realize. Researchers find probiotics impact gut microbiota and influence various conditions including inflammation, oxidative stress, glycemic control and skin conditions like acne. If you suspect leaky gut or other gut imbalances, I recommend working with a Functional Medicine practitioner to pinpoint and eliminate these problems.
- Eat an omega 3-rich diet. Dry, itchy, scaling, or flaking skin could signify a fatty acids deficiency. Eat omega-3 rich foods like wild-caught fish and flaxseed regularly.
- Optimize nutrient status. A variety of nutrients play a role in healthy skin. Zinc deficiencies can contribute to eczema, acne and other skin rashes. Studies also find vitamin D can help treat skin problems like psoriasis and acne. At the very least, I recommend a high-potency multivitamin/mineral that provides efficacious amounts of these and other nutrients.
- Exercise and sweat regularly. When body temperature rises, like when you exercise, blood flow transfers heat from the core of the body to the skin. Sweating helps move and excrete toxins from your body. Saunas or steam baths are another smart option that help release the toxins through your skin as you sweat. One study found a protective effect of regular sauna on skin physiology. Get the toxins off your skin after the sauna or steam. Use a hot shower with soap and even a skin brush.
- Get great sleep. One study found chronic poor sleep quality increases signs of aging, diminishes skin barrier function and lowers satisfaction with appearance. Another found that lack of sleep, as well as other types of stress, could impair skin integrity. Those are among the reasons getting eight hours of solid sleep every night becomes so crucial.
- Curb stress levels. Studies show emotional stress can affect, reveal or even exacerbate a number of skin disorders including psoriasis. Find something that helps you to de-stress and do it regularly. MyUltraCalm CD provides a great, simple way to melt stress and anxiety.
- Be careful with skin products. Stop using creams, sun block and cosmetics that contain paraben, petrochemicals, lead or other toxins. Drugs and chemicals are easily absorbed through your skin. If you wouldn’t eat it, don’t put it on your skin. Please visit the Environmental Working Group’s pageabout skin products to learn more.