Maintaining healthy skin can be more like an art than a science. As our body’s largest organ, the skin serves as a robust barrier to the world around us. Its resilience is outstanding considering what we put it through, from overexposure to the elements, pollution, dehydration, and just generally having to deal with our increasingly hectic lifestyles.
There’s no definitive list of do’s and don’ts to get healthy skin. Everyone’s is unique, and one of the latest topics up for grabs is whether incorporating probiotic-rich food, drinks or supplements as part of our daily routine can significantly benefit the skin from the inside out.
The answer? Well, as we said, everyone is different, but one thing is for certain: the connection between the gut and general well-being is strong and its function goes far beyond just processing what we eat. So much so that it’s recently been referred to as our second brain!
THE ROLE OF PROBIOTICS
First, it’s important to understand what a healthy gut is – and, of course, why and how probiotics can help to improve or restore its health and, in turn, benefit the skin.
Our intestinal tracts have an overwhelming amount of bacteria, somewhere in the region of 10 trillion. Their job is to help digestion, but what’s often overlooked is that they help keep our immune system healthy and fight off any bad bacteria (yeast, fungi, or viruses) that may be making its way through. A healthy gut hosts a variety of bacterial strains and is well balanced, meaning it has more of the good guys than the bad.
FROM THE GUT TO THE SKIN
Probiotics are live microorganisms that are similar to the naturally occurring bacteria in our system, but our modern diet can lack variety and tends to be laden with preservatives – so we’re not really giving those naturally occurring organisms a chance to thrive.
When it comes to skin care, we often end up scrubbing away any kind of bacteria that could be beneficial. It’s not to say that exfoliation and preservatives are the root of all our woes, but we should tread the line carefully and not prescribe to a wholly antibacterial lifestyle or beauty regime.
An imbalance in the intestinal flora is supposed to trigger good bacteria to counteract the effects of inflammation. This doesn’t always happen if there is a lack of good bacteria present, so it’s essential to keep it topped up to support the process that should naturally occur in the body. Disorders such as acne, rosacea or eczema, whether mild or severe, can reflect inflammation in the gut caused by such an imbalance. So, restoring balance through probiotic ingestion could help minimise the effects of these disorders.
A PROBIOTIC BOOST
It can be tricky to distinguish between products that are genuinely good for your gut and those that are likely to be just a marketing gimmick. Probiotics are not to be confused with sugar-fuelled yoghurt drinks that make big claims about having “friendly bacteria.”
There are lots of probiotic supplements on the market, but the weird and wonderful lacto-fermented foods like miso, kimchi or sauerkraut, and drinks like kefir or kombucha, are much more interesting and potentially more beneficial to your health (they’re likely to have a higher bacteria count).
These are delicious and a fun way to incorporate probiotics into your diet, especially if you try making or brewing these at home with starter cultures.
BELIEVING THE HYPE
It’s not to say that if you fix your gut, you fix your skin – unsurprisingly, it’s a little bit more complicated than that, as we’re only just beginning to understand the complexities of the human microbiome and how it relates and impacts our bodies and our minds. Although boosting probiotic intake may not be a miracle fix for healthy, glowing skin, it’s definitely worth a try!
If you’d like to try making your own probiotic foods, take a look at the homemade sauerkraut recipe below – its the most straight forward to start off with – you only need a couple of ingredients. You can add it to salads or serve as a side dish with any meal.
HOMEMADE SAUERKRAUTPrint This
- 1 medium head of white cabbage
- 1-3 tbsp sea salt
Shred the cabbage and sprinkle with salt.
Knead the shredded cabbage with clean hands or pound with a masher until there is enough liquid to cover it.
Stuff the cabbage into a jar, pressing the cabbage underneath the liquid. You can add a bit of water to make sure the cabbage is completely covered.
Cover the jar with an tight lid or with a coffee filter secured with a rubber band. You should culture the cabbage for at least 2 weeks at room temperature (15-20°C is best).
If using a tight lid whilst fermenting, you should burp daily to release some of the pressure.
Once you’re done, refrigerate and keep with a tight lid.