The human body needs nutrients to exist, rebuild itself and perform its many functions optimally.
Proper nutrient absorption and delivery to the skin cells directly affects the health and appearance or our skin. Macronutrients like carbohydrates, proteins, and lipids (fats) and micronutrients (vitamins and essential minerals) work together to maintain the barrier function of the skin, it’s appearance and the way the skin ages. Nutritional deficiencies directly alter skin structure, function and appearance and allow for bacteria overgrowth and inflammation.
Unlike most organs, skin nutrition can be enhanced directly through topical applications. However, even though we could feed the skin some nutrients externally the majority of what the skin needs will still have to come from our diet and be fully absorbed by the body.
The skin microbiome is also regulated by our internal microbiome and the nutrient status of our body and the skin microbiome are what determines if we will have bacterial overgrowth (acne) or overpopulation of Demodex mites like in the case of Type 2 rosacea.
So, when there are persistent skin issues or premature ageing the first question to ask is are we absorbing all the nutrients from the food we eat or is there a nutrient deficiency.
The breakdown of the food and its preparation for nutrient absorption starts in the mouth and stomach involving the saliva, the stomach acid and later on bile from the liver.
So here is where the problem starts for many of us:
- The salivary glands begin secreting enzymes as soon as we start chowing our food with the sole purpose of breaking down carbohydrates. At the same time, oral microbiome uses various bacteria to further break down nutrients that can aid in regulating blood pressure and protecting against pathogens. Rushing through meals and not chowing long enough (as well as using commercial mouth washes) prevents this initial process from being performed properly.
- Once swallowed, the food enters the esophagus and travels to the stomach, where it is exposed to the stomach acid which further degrades carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. However, many of us don’t produce enough stomach acid, due to mainly stress and diet, which makes it difficult to breakdown food and prepare it for further absorption in the small intestine.
- Bile from the liver also plays a crucial role in breaking down fat and in the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins like Vitamin A (one of the most important vitamins for skin health), D, E and K. A sluggish liver may not produce enough bile and thus resulting in malabsorption of vitamins along other digestive issues.
There are many things that may affect digestion but the top 4 are:
- Stress - when there is a stress response the digestion is suppressed so the body can reroute its energy to trigger fight or flight response
- Eating too fast and not chowing enough – as described above
- Diet – eating hard to digest foods like beans, seeds and nuts, raw vegetables like leafy greens, kale, broccoli, cabbage, very fatty foods
- Thyroid hormones - Every cell in our body relies on thyroid hormones to regulate the basal metabolic rate. This includes the stomach cells that make stomach acid, the pancreatic cells that make digestive enzymes, the small intestinal cells that regulate the gut barrier and the gall bladder cells that help regulate the secretion of bile. When the thyroid is underperforming, the metabolism goes down and stress hormones go up. If the thyroid is underperforming this means less energy being send to the cells and the body choosing to use energy for essential functions only, leaving functions like digestion aside. If this becomes a chronic state the stomach acid starts to weaken, enzyme production lowers, bile flow becomes sluggish.
Signs you may have digestive problems
- Diarrhea/Constipation or alternating both
- Acid Reflux
- Food sensitivities
- Sugar Cravings
- Skin rashes/Eczema/Acne/Rosacea
- Depression/Low mood
- Brain fog/Memory issues
Suggestions for improving digestion and nutrient absorption
Eat easy to digest, nutrient dense foods that support the Thyroid function and increase metabolic rate. Some suggestions are energy rich, easy to digest tropical fruits, roots, juices, honey, cow, sheep, goat or buffalo dairy, grass-fed meats, fish, shellfish, eggs, bone broth.
You will notice that “healthy” foods like greens, nuts, seeds, beans and grains are not in the recommendations above. This is because they are very hard foods to digest and usually create a lot of problems for those of us who already have digestive problems. People are usually on the fence when advised to avoid greens as they are presumably loaded with vitamins and minerals but the reality is that the human body has a hell of a hard time to absorb phyto nutrients at all. This is not to say scrap all veggies from you diet forever, if you a salad lover by all means re-introduce greens but only after the digestion is healed and working optimally again and only consume in small quantities. All vegetables are ok to consume when well cooked but not raw.
Eat ALL MACRONUTRIENTS, the body needs protein, healthy carbs and saturated fats to function, all other forms of dieting (Carnivore, Paleo, etc) will stress the body out and over time create metabolic and hormonal problems.
Eat frequently and ENOUGH, eating regularly and enough energizes the digestive system and prevents blood sugar spikes.
Research and consider these supplements TUDCA, Taurine, Digestive enzymes, Digestive bitters, Betaine HCL