You Are What You Eat and Your Skin Will Show It
In our latest series of Skin Intel, we sat down with Jessica Cox, a Brisbane based nutritional practitioner that has a passion for food therapy. With over a decade of clinical experience, Jessica has extensive knowledge in dietary planning, nutritional supplementation and the utilisation of food as a medicinal tool. We were keen to ask Jessica about the effect food has on our skin as well as pick up some tips on how to make the right nutritional choices - cue post lockdown food intervention!
Jessica Cox - @jescoxnutritionist
How does our diet affect our skin?
You are what you eat! Everything we consume on a daily basis are the building blocks to the integrity of our cells and organs, and as our skin is our largest organ we need to look after it. The relationship between our skin and gut is very important. A lot of what happens with our skin, particularly when we're dealing with skin inflammation and skin conditions, can come down to an overactive immune response or an inflammatory response in the gut. If you aren't eating the right food to support your gut health, then that can have a profoundly negative impact on your skin. If you're eating the type of food that really supports your gut health, then you see that reflected in your skin.
Are there any specific foods that we can consume to help our skin?
Variety and whole foods are key. Go for the three macronutrients of quality proteins, carbohydrates and fats, then add in a variety of different veggies and fruits, especially those that are of red and orange colour. These are the foundation foods because we need those building blocks to create healthy cells for the skin. Then on top of that, there's certain nutrients that are really critical for skin such as essential fatty acids (oils) including omegas, zinc and vitamin A that can be found in beautiful oily fish like salmon, tuna, sardines and mackerel. Cod Liver oil is also rich in omegas, vitamin A and vitamin D. Nuts and seeds, like chia, walnuts and also avocados are rich in essential fatty acids and great for the integrity of the skin.
Why is it important to focus on the ‘why’ and ‘how’ of eating rather than ‘what’ you are eating?
It comes back to my cookbook (E.A.T.) which is an acronym for Education At the Table and I’ve found this to be the most powerful tool in all my years of clinical practice. Education is crucial and if you understand why you're doing something and how to implement it, it's so powerful because it's not just giving someone a recipe and saying, “you just need to do this” or a list of foods and saying, “just eat these”. If you can educate someone on the why, then they understand why it’s good for them, why it’s important and what's the relationship between their gut and their skin. This education becomes empowerment and you're more likely to make those choices day to day and implement healthier lifestyle style changes.
What food inflames the gut and what foods heal the gut?
If your diet is filled with processed foods, takeaway, fizzy drinks, lots of alcohol, you're eating inflammatory foods and are more likely to have an inflamed gut. There may be foods that you are consuming on a daily basis that are not necessarily defined as being unhealthy but are just inflammatory for you. So perhaps there's something that you're consuming that your body is reacting too and having inflammatory response so its best to reduce those foods that set you off.
What are some simple tips to help people get their nutrition back on track?
You just need to be realistic about changes and take it slow, I often see people have an all or nothing approach. If you've fallen off the wagon, try to jump back on but don’t put that pressure on yourself, you’ll set yourself up to fail. It's important to take it one step at a time. Just build into it, look at the food you're purchasing for the week ahead and fill your trolley or online shopping with fresh produce rather than processed foods, because if it's in the house, you’ll eat it. It’s really just simple, small steps and you’ll get yourself feeling better. That will build up your energy, allowing you to feel more balanced and then you can start to bring exercise into your routine. If you just throw yourself straight back into the gym and strip everything straight away it can be a bit counterproductive and will start you on a rollercoaster ride, balance is key.
Jessica’s cookbook is full of macro-balanced meals including recipes with our favourite skin ingredient, Turmeric. See her website for further recipe ideas and nutritional information.