Bloating is one of the most common symptoms I see in my gastroenterology practice, but hair loss and skin problems are also high on the list. When it comes to your appearance, your GI tract might actually play a bigger role than your genes, because without healthy intestines, it's really hard to have glowing skin or a full head of hair.
Your digestive tract is like the soil that your hair and skin grow in; if the soil isn’t healthy, the plants won’t bloom properly. The good news is that the combination of bad skin, thinning hair, and a bloated belly often has one unifying cause, and treating it may improve all three conditions.
The Gut/Skin Connection
Like bloating, skin reactions are often a sign of an unhappy gut. Food allergies and food intolerances can lead to dark circles under your eyes, blemishes, rashes and a puffy, swollen appearance. Studies have found that more than half of all acne sufferers have alterations in gut bacteria, and societies that eat a more indigenous diet with little or no processed or sugary foods have virtually no acne (and very few gastrointestinal problems).
Rosacea has also been linked to inflammation and bacterial imbalance in the gut, and it’s one of the most common skin conditions I see in my bloated patients. Digestive conditions like Crohn’s and celiac disease have accompanying skin manifestations that resolve when the underlying inflammation in the gut is treated.
The Glow of Good Nutrition
If you have glowing skin and lustrous tresses, you may have been lucky in the gene pool, but you probably eat lots of deeply pigmented fruits and vegetables, too. Green fruit like avocados and grapes provide nourishing B-complex vitamins, while oranges are rich in vitamin C that helps reduce free radical damage caused by sun exposure.
The best way to make sure your skin and hair are getting lots of these nutrients is to eat foods that contain them. It’s hard to fake this particular glow with a cream, just like taking a supplement or vitamin won’t cure your bloating if you’re eating an unhealthy diet.
The Bloom of Bacterial Balance
Bacterial imbalance, known as dysbiosis, is one of the most pervasive causes of bloating. A nutrient-poor diet, too many antibiotics, long-term use of acid-suppressing drugs that alter the stomach's pH, parasitic infections, hormone therapy, steroids, and a host of other factors can lead to overgrowth of harmful bacteria and reduced numbers of essential good bacteria. This imbalance doesn’t just lead to digestive problems; it can also show up on the skin and scalp, where it can profoundly affect your appearance.
Gutbliss Solutions for Healthier Skin and Hair:
I hope these tips will motivate you to find your glow from the inside out, while banishing your bloat at the same time:
1. Eat dark green vegetables.
Arguably the single best food group for promoting healthy skin via healthy blood flow. No other food group can match the pound-for-pound nutrient density of dark green vegetables. Shoot for one head of romaine lettuce or three stalks of kale every day.
2. Eat foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids and flavonoids.
Both groups of nutrients are strongly associated with healthy blood vessels, which are essential for maintaining optimal blood flow to and from your skin cells. Healthy foods naturally rich in omega-3 fatty acids include dark green leafy vegetables, raw walnuts, wild salmon, flax seeds, and free-range eggs. Healthy foods naturally rich in flavonoids include lettuce, cherries, citrus, cabbage, kale, spinach, Goji berries, asparagus, lima beans, and raw cacao.
3. Eat foods rich in vitamin A, carotenoids, and healthy fats.
Vitamin A is one of the most important micronutrients for healthy skin, since it’s needed to maintain the integrity and function of your skin cells. Your body synthesizes vitamin A from carotenoids found in dark green, yellow, and orange vegetables like spinach, carrots, and sweet potatoes.
4. Cut down on sugar.
Prevent dysbiosis and yeast overgrowth in your gut and on your skin by keeping sweet treats that yeast thrive on to a minimum. Sugary foods also promote insulin release, and high circulating insulin levels are associated with inflammation throughout the body, including the GI tract and skin.
5. Don’t add salt.
Adding salt to food causes water retention, making you bloated and puffy all over, especially in your face. Food manufacturers add salt to packaged food to preserve its shelf life, so even if you put away the salt-shaker, you still need to read labels to keep your salt intake in check. Aim for 1500 mg or less per day.
6. Avoid gluten.
The gluten-containing grains of today are a modified version of what our ancestors ate and have been associated with lots of different symptoms, including bloating, rashes, and hair loss. Even if you don't have celiac disease, you may be gluten intolerant and not know it. A 6-week trial of a gluten-free diet that excludes wheat, rye, and barley may do wonders for blemished skin, thinning hair, and bloating.
7. Be a teetotaler.
Alcohol is metabolized to acetaldehyde, a cousin of formaldehyde and a substance that's toxic to practically every organ system. And did I mention it can cause bloating, blotchy skin, make your hair fall out, and age you?
8. Limit dairy.
Although the party line from most dermatologists is that acne isn't related to diet, many studies show an increase in acne incidence and severity in people who consume lots of dairy. It’s also a major cause of bloating, since more than half the world’s population is lactose intolerant.
Water helps to move the products of digestion through the colon, avoiding backup, which can lead to toxins leaching into your blood supply and traveling to the rest of your body, including your skin. Drinking lots of water also helps you get rid of toxins through your body’s largest organ of elimination—your skin. Be sure to avoid caffeine and soda, which can actually dehydrate you, and aim for at least 1 liter of water a day.