Why Eating Right Is The Best Skin Care + 3 Gut-Healthy Recipes
When you think of the gut, does your mind go straight to your belly? The truth is that our gut, or gastrointestinal tract, runs from our mouths to our derrière and is the gatekeeper of our overall health and immunity. Like our skin, our gut is in constant contact with our external environment, and every day it is faced with a multitude of challenges.
My philosophy has always been that "beauty begins in the belly"—and it influences everything we do at The Beauty Chef. I truly believe in the power of food as medicine, so it's been wonderful to witness, over the last few years, the building pile of research that supports this philosophy. Every day, more and more studies are shining a light on the intimate link between what we eat, the state of our gut, and our overall health and well-being.
At the center of this research is the gut microbiome. This mini-ecosystem is home to the trillions of microorganisms that populate our digestive tract. Though it's only visible under a microscope, our microbiome, when fully developed, can weigh up to 2 kilograms! In essence, we have more DNA from bacterial cells than from human cells—our gut is a big part of who we are.
While one of the main roles of the microbiome is to process the food we eat, aiding digestion and assisting in the absorption and synthesis of nutrients, the influence it can have on our health extends far beyond the gut wall. Our microbiota control so much when it comes to health and well-being: the mechanics of digestion and metabolizing of indigestible compounds, the absorption and assimilation of nutrients, and the manufacture of some vitamins, essential amino acids and bioactive molecules that support our metabolic and immune health, brain function, skin health, and mood.
Our gut is like a garden. When healthy, it is full of a diverse range of bacteria that live in symbiosis with the plants that grow within its soil. When it is in balance, or eubiosis, we have a much better chance of experiencing optimal health. But when there is an imbalance, or dysbiosis, we can experience ailments that run the gamut from bloating, fatigue, headaches, mental health disorders, allergies, and autoimmune and skin conditions.
Many of these health and skin issues are caused by inflammation, which is our body's protective immune response to a perceived threat or injury. Bacterial-derived lipopolysaccharides (LPS), a type of endotoxin, are part of the cell wall of a bacteria type known as Gram-negative bacteria. When our gut lining is damaged, these LPS, among other compounds, such as food antigens, can pass through the gut lining (a condition known as leaky gut) into the bloodstream, leading to low-grade systemic inflammation, which is closely linked to many skin and other health conditions. This is why it is important to eat a diet that supports microbial health and, therefore, gut wall integrity.
While acute inflammation—for example, a bruised knee—heals fairly quickly, ongoing or chronic inflammation can be far more problematic. If you have chronic skin inflammation, it is likely you have low-grade gut inflammation as well.
The good news is that our gut health, and overall health, can be improved by being a good host—nurturing our relationship with our microbiome through our diet and lifestyle choices. By strengthening our gut lining and ensuring that we have a good balance of bacteria, our dynamic internal ecosystem can thrive and we can experience good health, vitality, and glowing skin. Over the years, this has been one of the greatest pleasures of my job—watching customers nourish their gut health and experience radiant, glowing skin as well as improved health and well-being.
Stage 1 of the Gut Guide focuses on healing your digestive system, and this is the perfect restorative elixir. Slippery elm powder is a demulcent, acting as a barrier to soothe and protect the gut lining. Bone broth may sound like an unusual ingredient to add to a berry smoothie, but don't worry: The flavor flies under the radar, and your tummy will benefit from the calming and anti-inflammatory gelatin.
Specs: Gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian option, vegan option, low-FODMAP
Serves 2 (Makes approximately 750 ml, 25½ fl. oz., or 3 cups)
- 180 ml (6 fl. oz./¾ cup) water
- 180 ml (6 fl. oz./¾ cup) chilled beef Bone Broth or Vegetarian Broth or store-bought stock
- 120 g (4½ oz./½ cup) frozen raspberries
- 60 g (2 oz./¼ cup) frozen blueberries
- 160 g (5 ½ oz./⅔ cup) coconut yogurt
- 100 g (3½ oz. /2 small) Lebanese (short) cucumber, roughly chopped
- 1 tablespoon slippery elm powder or The Beauty Chef Gut Primer Inner Beauty Support
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 3 ice cubes
Combine all ingredients in a high-speed blender and blend until smooth.
Prebiotic Superseed Bread
This delicious loaf is gluten-free and low-FODMAP (at 2 slices per serving), with an extra protein and antioxidant-rich boost from sunflower kernels and pumpkin seeds (pepitas). Your microbes will love it too, with fiber-rich buckwheat paired with the prebiotic power of marshmallow root (which you should be able to find at health food stores). Anti-inflammatory turmeric gives your loaf a rich golden hue!
Specs: Gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian, vegan, low-FODMAP
Makes 1 loaf
- 3 teaspoons sea salt
- 120 g (4 oz./¾ cup) pumpkin seeds (pepitas), plus extra for topping
- 65 g (2¼ oz./⅓ cup) buckwheat groats, plus extra for topping
- 2 teaspoons unpasteurized apple cider vinegar, plus a splash for soaking
- 115 g (4 oz./1 cup) arrowroot
- 150 g (5½ oz./1 cup) buckwheat flour
- 45 g (1½ oz./¼ cup) chia seeds
- 2 teaspoons gluten-free baking powder
- 1 tablespoon ground turmeric
- 1 tablespoon ground marshmallow root (optional)
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 375 ml (12½ fl. oz./1½ cups) water
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon sunflower kernels, for topping
Fill a medium bowl three-quarters of the way with warm water. Add 1½ teaspoons of the salt and stir until mostly dissolved. Add the pumpkin seeds, cover the bowl with a clean tea towel (dish towel), and set aside in a warm place to soak for at least 7 (and up to 12) hours. Drain and rinse.
Fill a small bowl halfway with warm water. Add the buckwheat groats and a splash of apple cider vinegar and set aside in a warm place to soak for 2 (and up to 6) hours. Drain and rinse.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the arrowroot, buckwheat flour, chia seeds, baking powder, turmeric, marshmallow root (if using), soaked seeds, buckwheat groats, pepper, and the remaining salt, and mix well.
In a separate bowl, whisk the water, oil, and apple cider vinegar. Pour into the dry ingredients and stir with a wooden spoon until well combined. Cover the bowl with a tea towel and allow the dough to rest for approximately 1 hour. Check to ensure the dough has absorbed any excess water yet still feels wet and sticky to the touch.
Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F/Gas Mark 4). Lightly grease and line an 18 cm x 8 cm (7-by-3¼-inch) loaf tin with baking paper. Pour the dough into the prepared tin and smooth out the top with the back of a spoon to remove any air bubbles. Sprinkle with sunflower kernels and buckwheat groats, pushing them into the top of the dough. Bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted into the center of the bread.
Remove the loaf from the oven, cover with a clean tea towel, and let stand for 10 minutes to cool slightly. Turn out onto a rack to cool completely, then slice into 10 to 12 slices.
Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week or slice into portions and freeze in reusable bags for up to 3 months.
Cultured butter is rich and decadent in flavor, yet it is full of the anti-inflammatory fatty acid butyrate. It also contains lactic-acid-producing bacteria that help break down lactose (milk sugar) and casein (milk proteins), aiding digestion. Here is a probiotic-boosted version using wakame and miso.
Specs: gluten-free, vegetarian, low-FODMAP
Makes approximately 150 g (5½ oz.)
- Miso and Wakame Butter
- 150 g (5½ oz.) salted cultured butter, diced, at room temperature
- 60 g (2 oz./¼ cup) shiro (white) miso paste
- 2 tablespoons dried instant wakame flakes
Beat the butter and miso in a medium bowl until smooth. Refrigerate for 15 minutes, or until firmed up slightly. Add the wakame to the butter mixture and stir to combine. Shape into an 8 cm (3¼-inch) log and wrap in baking paper. Roll on the countertop to form a uniform log, twisting and tightening both ends. Secure the ends. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour until firm enough to slice or until required.
Store the butter in the refrigerator for up to 1 month or freeze for up to 3 months.
Carla's tip: I love to use these butters when baking fish or chicken, as a topping for steamed veggies or even as a creamy addition to soup.
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Carla Oates is the Sydney-based author of The Beauty Chef: Delicious Food for Radiant Skin, Gut Health, and Well-Being, and founder of Australian wellness brand The Beauty Chef. Named "The Skincare Innovator" by Net-A-Porter magazine, she is the author of best-selling book Feeding Your Skin, editor of The Well-Being Beauty Book, and natural beauty columnist for Wellbeing magazine.