In the environment of COVID19, health professionals are touting a host of dietary supplements for immune function -- like probiotics, zinc, and vitamins C and D. Did you know they also offer profound skin benefits when applied topically?
If you don't already know, my approach to nutrition and to skin tends to be more energetics focused than micro- and macro-nutrient focused, since that's how I feel these nutrients in and on my body, and how I see them on yours. (I draw on awareness, experience, the ancient wisdom of Ayurveda, *and* contemporary scientific understanding when I study and work with skin.) Even with my view of food as energetic information, there are a few micronutrients for internal and topical use that I get really jazzed about. How lucky am I to work with, and connect you to, brands that expertly formulate their products to put these ingredients to their most effective topical use?
Today I'm going to cover the whys and wherefores of probiotics and vitamin D, a duo that is especially suited to my lovelies with opinionated skin. In a future post, I'll cover zinc and vitamin C. If I had more time to focus in between and/or during Zoom schools, I'd give it to you straight all at once. Bear with me.
Feed your skin with probiotic goodness. Here's why.
Just as we have flora in our guts that help keep our immune systems in tip-top shape, we have a microbiome on the surface of the skin that keeps it, too, healthy and resilient. These good bacteria support your skin to fight infection, while protecting it from environmental damage. To nurture this microbiome, your first step is not to destroy your surface immune system with harsh cleansing or over-exfoliation. Your second step is to feed it a good meal of probiotics. Yum!
Visible signs that your skin may need a little probiotic boost include acne, rosacea, and patchy dryness (especially if you were used to having well-lubricated skin, and things are different today). Now, don't go bonkers and reinvent your entire routine around probiotic-containing skincare; multi-product overhauls delivered in one fell swoop rarely have a good ending for opinionated skin with compromised function. But ensuring that probiotics are included in the cocktail of topical actives somewhere in your skincare practice is likely to help. If you notice an improvement in conditions after swapping in one product, consider swapping in another. For guidance, email me.
Below are a handful of suggested products; here are a few more. After the product feature, I'll dive into vitamin D.
__Topical probiotics to use daily__
__Topical probiotics to use weekly or twice weekly__
Now, on to vitamin D. With so much more time being spent indoors, you're going to need to work a little harder to support your body and skin with adequate sources of this health-boosting vitamin.
Besides brightening our spirits (and, for some of us, giving us the fire to get stuff done), the sun's beautiful golden rays help the body create vitamin D. Without a regular daily dose of sunshine, supplementing with vitamin D becomes a critical. In our body, D is an absolute necessity for bone and immune system health. It is also known to have anti-inflammatory properties that are supportive of long-term health. These benefits combine to explain why many health and medical professionals are currently encouraging a little extra vitamin D supplementation.
What's more, spring and summer are naturally the times to store D up in preparation for the darker days of winter. Vitamin D is fat soluble, meaning we can actually store it in the fat cells of our body and call on it later (contrast this with water-soluble vitamins, which we excrete in sweat and urine if we take in more than we need). So, if you're able, enjoy some sun to promote the creation of vitamin D. In moderation, of course, and with a non-nano zinc-based sunscreen (which, even with broad spectrum SPF, lets some of the sun through to create your D).
Topically, vitamin D has the same anti-inflammatory benefits that it has internally. It also helps protect against oxidative damage; it is, in other words, an anti-oxidant -- just a little bit less known as such in comparison with C, E, and CoQ10. But it goes further than protecting against environmental damage. Vitamin D actually repairs damage and regenerates skin cells.
Also, for those of you who may be sensitive to topical vitamin C (and many, many are), vitamin D is a wonderful alternative for sensitive skins in need of powerful, non-irritating anti-oxidant protection and cellular repair.
__Boosting vitamin D through topical treatments__
This highly concentrated serum is the first of its kind, formulated with lipid-supporting L’ergothioneine, Vitamin D and phenolic-acid-rich antioxidants.
Vitamin D contributes to skin’s ability to repair and aids in keeping skin clear, smooth and healthy.
Of course, your daily eating habits matter just as much as what you're putting on your skin. So if you're looking to take great care of your immunity -- surface and internal -- nourish yourself with foods rich in prebiotics, probiotics, and vitamin D.
As I like to say, #greatskintakespractice. We try things, we tweak things. But most of all, we need to commit to things regularly and over time in order to derive the greatest benefit from them. This happens through our daily care of our skin -- as well as any weekly and monthly treatments we enjoy -- and through our eating patterns. It's really hard to have healthy, glowing skin without supporting it from the inside out. No matter how many great serums you are using or how much you are investing in them.
You can support your internal microbiome through pre- and pro-biotic foods, which work hand in hand to populate your gut with diverse, healthful bacteria. Probiotics are foods (and supplements) containing beneficial bacterial cultures that help the body's intestinal flora re-establish themselves -- for example, after a course of antibiotics. We all know probiotic foods like yogurt and kefir. Others that I love are sauerkraut and tempeh.
Probiotics grow and thrive when you feed them with prebiotics, which are undigestible plant fibers that nourish the beneficial probiotics already living in your large intestine. Prebiotic foods include asparagus, flaxseeds, oats, onions, and garlic, among others. Enjoy!
If your digestion is sensitive, a little probiotic goes a long way.
If you don't eat a lot of probiotic foods, introduce them into your diet slowly, as they can actually cause some digestive upset at first if you overdo it. (Ain't that the truth for so many things?!) Probiotics work by "seeding" your system; they multiply on their own as you feed them with prebiotics. So just have a little probiotic regularly, commit to it for a period of time, feed your flora with prebiotics, and notice the effects.
Too many fermented foods can be heating for those of us with a lot of the fiery element (which you may notice in your temperament or your skin or even your response to heating foods!). Above is my yummy avocado GF English muffin with *just a touch* of sauerkraut. For super-fiery me, this little bit is the just-right amount.
If you like yogurt and kefir and are naturally a little hot around the collar, consider diluting them with some water to make a traditional Ayurvedic lassi. A good ratio is 3 parts room-temperature water to 1 part yogurt. Whiz it up in the blender and enjoy.
Vitamin D is a little harder to get through foods, especially if you eat mainly plants. So, don't be afraid of supplementation.
Vitamin D is tough to get from food if you are a veg-forward, whole foods eater like me. While it's rich in wild-caught, fatty fish (think salmon, sardines, mackerel), egg yolks, and organ meat, if these foods are not part of your regular, consistent diet, you'll have to work harder to get your requirements from diet alone. Without our daily dose of sunshine, us plant-worshippers can find vitamin D in mushrooms (wild are better than farmed, as mushrooms create their D from sunlight, just like us!), or in fortified foods like plant mylk or orange juice. Other than these, a supplement is your best way to go, especially if you're already deficient. (And something like 40% of those of us in U.S. are!) My personal favorites are the vegan D3 supplements from My Kind Organics; there are chewables and a spray, so you have options.
That's all for now, folks. Next up: zinc and C. Just as soon as my kids let me have two hands to type.
Is your skin showing signs of extra stress or weakened immunity right now? How can we help?