Inside Your Microbiome Part 3

January 07, 2020

book cover for Good Bacteria for Healthy Skin


Beauty Nutritionist & Author of "Good Bacteria for Healthy Skin; Nurturing Your Skin Microbiome for Clear & Luminous Skin"

*This is a continuation from Inside Your Microbiome | Part 2

Kari: Skin health-this is really good nourishment from the inside out.  What you put in and on your body has always played a role in my overall skin health and can you tell me a little more about what you mean when you say that you are what you eat, metabolize and flourish.  I’m very intrigued by “flourish”

Paula: Yes, happy to elaborate on this for you. The notion that “you are what you eat,” has been debated amongst nutrition and health experts for years. I remember sitting in one of my lectures at university and listening to our nutrition professor tell us that you are “not” what you eat, so the diet choices you make don’t really matter.  That statement threw me for a loop, yet there is some truth here. If you’re consuming a well-balanced healthy diet but your gastrointestinal system is in unhealthy or out of balance, then food/nutrients consumed may not be digested properly and thus less bioavailable to the body. The gastrointestinal system is the gateway to how we access nutrition and as an eliminative organ, expel toxins from the body. This is also true for the gut microbiome; the dynamic ecosystem of gut microbes that strive to maintain balance or a state of “symbiosis to support digestion, protect against harmful pathogens and promote a healthy immune system (did you know that most of our immune cells are produced in the gut?) There is now a plethora of clinical data showing that diet can have a positive or negative impact on gut microflora. So, when I wrote “you are what you eat, metabolize and flourish,” I’m referring to the positive impact nutrition can have on those good gut microbes; specifically foods that help them flourish within the gut.

“Flourish” also holds true for the skin microbiome. Skin microflora will adapt to what we apply and expose our skin to. I discuss this in more detail in my book, but your gut and skin microbiome are constantly adapting as we age, the foods we consume, the environment we expose ourselves to and the products we apply to our skin.

Kari: I cannot believe how much great information you put into your book.   I had some real a-ha moments as well as some more that fell into the “of course” category like eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables equals a healthy digestive system and is also a good source of prebiotics due to higher levels of fiber.  What do you think is the most common misconception about a balanced diet?  There are SO MANY diets out there these days, I’m overwhelmed.

Paula: Kari, you’re not the only one..I’m often overwhelmed by the mix of diets out there! I think the biggest misconception about nutrition/balanced diet is that it’s hard to follow or takes too much time to eat healthily. Modern food technologies and processing have made it super easy and fast to pick up prepackaged processed foods over choosing more wholesome nutrient-dense choices. Food that isn’t in its natural or seasonal time, re-engineered and processed has really become the mainstay of the western diet. But with a little research or guidance, you can learn to choose healthier food options most of the time. There are lots of creative ways to boost nutrition without compromising the foods that you love. It’s about finding the right mix for you.

Kari: I feel like everyone is talking about glowy, hydrated, dewy skin but you don’t hear “healthy barrier” come up often.  I really appreciate your warning to “step away from the exfoliants, peels and deep cleansers too often” because it’s so easy to get that hit from a good exfoliation and think that more is better.  I’d love to learn more about the fundamental barrier function and the payoff of a healthy barrier.

Paula: Skin that we see is a part of the epidermis called the “visual stratum corneum." This is the very top non-living skin layer of the epidermis and the main barrier from the external environment. This is also the most active site where the skin microbiome resides. Skin microflora as a component of the skin barrier is in constant contact with our environment and collectively works to control the overgrowth of harmful pathogens, stressors, and chemicals our skin may be exposed to. Although exfoliating and peels help to decongest skin and reveal new skin cells it also strips away the oils and good skin microbes that keep it moist, balanced and resilient against environmental aggressors. When we overdo it, skin barrier and its natural microbial ecosystem weaken; stressing the skin, increasing sensitivity and making it more susceptible to the environmental stressors and chronic skin conditions such as acne, psoriasis to accelerated skin aging.

Kari: I was delighted to find a super easy recipe for a mask I could do at home without any trips to a specialty market for ingredients.  I’ve long been a fan of a plain Greek yogurt mask and so I couldn’t wait to try the recipe that included a probiotic capsule and some honey (and the prebiotic part of the equation).  I used coconut yogurt and it worked great.  Can you speak a little more about how the probiotic lactic acid acts as an exfoliant?

Paula: I’m glad you liked the mask Kari and great idea to try the coconut yogurt! Yes yogurt provides a good dose of lactic acid because when it undergoes fermentation the sugar in dairy (lactose,) is converted to lactic acid, which has several topical skin benefits. Unlike other exfoliating acids, lactic acid doesn’t penetrate as deep into the skin making it a better option for sensitive skin types. The gentle exfoliating properties along with calming and hydrating effect on the skin help to rebalance and bring out a natural glow.

Kari: Putting it all together: I see now, more than ever, that this really is a lifestyle.  If you could give only one tip for each of your fundamental components: Purify, Nurture and Balance, what would each one be?

Paula: It really is about integrating health and lifestyle with your skincare/beauty routine. Nothing works in isolation.

Purify Eat Clean as much as you can. Think about what you put into your body; nourish it and minimize exposure to chemicals and toxins.

Nurture – Be gentle to your skin. Remove harmful ingredients/products that break down healthy skin and replace with products that nurture and balance the skin.

Balance – Find balance in life to breathe, reset and control stress. It’s not only good for your mind and body but will also help your skin!

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