Many skin conditions including breakouts, eczema, rosacea and rashes can be exacerbated when our digestive system is not in top form, but most commonly skin simply looks dull and sallow. The digestive tract is where nutrients are absorbed and toxins are eliminated, so it makes sense that it affects our skin. In short, when your insides are out of kilter, the results can literally show up on your face.
Our digestive system is loaded with trillions of bacteria and other organisms that have evolved alongside us for millennia. This ecosystem of bacteria helps digest food and plays an important role in our overall health and well-being. Every person’s mix of bacteria is unique, and scientists are just beginning to draw connections between gut flora and many disease processes. In the not too distant future, doctors may even be able to treat some diseases by altering the balance of a patient’s bacteria.
Keeping the “good bacteria” in your digestive tract healthy is a smart idea not just for your skin’s appearance but for your overall health as well. The types of foods you consume can play a major role in this. The highly processed and refined foods that are prevalent in our modern diet can disrupt the balance of bacteria in our gut and result in poor digestive health.
Eating whole foods, such as fiber-rich grains, fruits and vegetables, and eliminating refined carbohydrates and sugars can go a long way towards keeping your intestinal flora happy. So can eating more foods which contain probiotics – the good microorganisms your digestive system needs.
Fermented and pickled foods are common sources of probiotics, and almost every culture and cuisine has a signature dish that is rich in these beneficial bacteria. Sauerkraut, a form of pickled cabbage, is popular in Germany and much of central and eastern Europe. Korea is famous for its own version of pickled cabbage, kimchi. Both these dishes are excellent sources of vitamins A, C and B as well as being full of probiotics. In Japan, miso soup, made from fermented rye, beans, rice or barley, is a traditional first course to many meals. Even all-American pickles are rich in probiotics. You might want to skip the hot dog, however.
One of the easiest ways to incorporate probiotics into your diet is to eat plain, live-cultured yogurt on a regular basis. Steer clear of flavored varieties, however, since many contain high amounts of sugar or artificial sweeteners. A slightly more exotic version, which can be found in most food stores, is kefir. Kefir is a fermented dairy product made from goat milk and kefir grain. Similar to yogurt, it is high in lactobacilli and other beneficial bacteria.
Including probiotics in your diet is just one factor in leading a healthy, holistic lifestyle. In addition to doing your digestive tract a favor, you’ll reap visible benefits in the form of brighter, healthier-looking skin for years to come.