Did you know there's a big connection between gut health and skin health? The food and drink we consume has a big effect on how healthy and young our skin continues to look. For example, teenagers are often told if they eat too much of the sort of food that's bad for them, like high-sugar, high-salt carbohydrates, they'll break out into acne.
The same is true when we're adults, too: A study published in the journal Bioessays (opens in new tab) looked at the relationship between our diets and our skin, in what's called the "gut-skin axis". Conditions like acne, dermatitis, psoriasis and more can all be treated by promoting good gut health.
A diet with lots of oily fish, for example, has been found to be extremely beneficial for gut bacteria. If you're a vegetarian, or you're struggling to get enough fish into your diet, you can instead opt for the best fish oil supplements instead.
It's also important to get a lot of fibre into your diet, which regulates our digestion and keeps our bowel movements nice and regular. Whole grains, fibrous vegetables like broccoli and carrots and legumes like peas, beans and chickpeas are all great sources of fibre. A green smoothie with broccoli, kale and a fibrous fruit like apple will do the trick nicely (but you'll need the best blender to extract the fruit and veg's fibre content, not just the juice).
It's well-known that drinking water is great for our guts, as the fibre cannot do its job without a constant supply of water. It can also improve the lining of mucous in the intestine, which is necessary to secrete digestive hormones into the gut. Drinking water provides additional skincare benefits, with studies (opens in new tab) finding that "higher water inputs in regular diet might positively impact normal skin physiology", helping us to look years younger.
There's lots more food with benefits to your skin: the vitamin C in citrus fruit, for example, is instrumental in producing collagen, which keeps your skin from sagging. On the other side, there are food and drinks that harm your skin: coffee, for example, has a mild diuretic effect, which dehydrates you faster.
However, alcohol consumption is a much bigger villain here, interrupting your sleep, damaging your gut health and dehydrating your body all at once. Getting good sleep is crucial for better skin, as sleep deprivation causes those dark circles to appear around your eyes. Excess salt and sugar can also dehydrate your skin, causing aggravating dry patches.
Of course, diet isn't the only factor in keeping your skin nice and healthy: protecting it from the sun with SPF products and sunscreen is extremely important. UV light from the sun is by far one of the most common causes of bad skin health, and it's well-known too much exposure can lead to serious skin diseases, such as melanoma.
Matt Evans is an experienced health and fitness journalist and News Editor at Fit&Well, covering all things exercise and nutrition on the Fit&Well website. Matt originally discovered exercise through martial arts: he holds a black belt in Karate and remains a keen runner, gym-goer, and infrequent yogi. His top fitness tip? Stretch.
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