You’ve likely heard the old adage: beauty begins on the inside. It really is true. More specifically, beauty really begins in the gut.
I subscribe to a more functional approach to beauty that’s deeply tethered to nutrition and health. On top of that, how we navigate stress, environmental factors, rest and repair are critical elements if we hope to really glow from within.
Our gut and the quality of the food that we’re putting into it
Beauty may start on the inside, but it’s more complicated than “you are what you eat.” What goes in is not always what comes out, and our overall health is actually quite dependent on how efficiently we can support our natural detoxification process. Our body’s are detoxing all the time – from endogenous (inside) the body toxins to exogenous (outside) of the body toxins in our environment. That said, it’s possible to significantly reduce the toxic load by eating clean foods and limiting our exposure to toxins where possible.
The body has an extraordinary and innate capacity to detox. It involves a number of our organs, such as the liver and the kidneys, the digestive system, skin, and the lungs, which all work hard to get rid of the impurities in our system – naturally. Today, however, we are exposed to many more harmful chemicals in the environment, which puts additional strain on the body. Consequently, our detox organs can suffer from overload, leaving unwanted toxins circulating in our system, with no rest time to repair.
There are chemicals in food, makeup and beauty products, hand soaps, washing detergent and household cleaning products, non-stick pans – the list is depressingly endless. These toxins have been linked to many health conditions, and they steal our glow one way or another – whether through inflamed, irritated skin or poor digestion.
When your body has to spend less time breaking down and dealing with processed foods, it can spend more time on the important jobs that generally reveal themselves each time you look in the mirror. There are no special makeup tricks that can give you the same results as eating the right kind of foods.
Plant-based eating is clean eating. If you are not already following a plant based diet, there’s really no better way to test the “clean” thesis than to clear out your system for at least a month, so you can see the results for yourself. This is also hugely helpful if you suspect you have an intolerance to certain foods (generally gluten and dairy). After one month you can slowly re-introduce the potentially problematic foods to see if they actually affect you.
I have written about my approach to plant based eating here and here, but if you’re really ready to look and feel better from the inside out, there are a few other restrictions aside from meat, cow dairy, and fish:
No alcohol; caffeine; eggs; gluten; nightshade vegetables (potatoes, tomatoes, aubergine, peppers); refined sugar, peanuts (though other nuts are fine, so long as they are tolerated well); processed oils and dairy free spreads. Stick to cold-pressed olive, coconut, sesame, flax seed, almond/walnut, and pumpkin seed oils.
Don’t worry, there is still plenty to eat! Think brown rice, quinoa, vegetables, greens, beans and legumes with lots of nutrient dense sauces, finishing oils, and mineralising broths to ramp up the nutrition index. To help get you started, I created this guide and this tool to support you.
For sure, the cleaner we eat, the better we look and feel. Clean eating means less bloating, increased energy, and clearer, glowing skin, to name just a few benefits. When the gut is healthy, the intestinal wall keeps harmful pathogens and toxins from passing through to the bloodstream, while allowing in the nutrients we need to function optimally. You can read more about the importance of the gut and health here. The bottom line is the gut matters. A lot of what ails us on the inside and the outside is related to gut issues. The gut is quite literally the engine of life. So we ought to start paying attention and looking after it. Eat less of what irritates it, and more of what’s best for it.
3 Sources TIP: Labels – whether on food or beauty products should tell us what ingredients are included in any given product. To find out more about GMOs, visit justlabelit.org.
When we are eating well, our bodies are better prepared to deal with the environmental factors that can set us back, as well as the stress from every day life. And it all reflects back in the mirror, by way of more lustrous hair and glowing skin, that requires little in the way of makeup.
We know that all foods are not made equal. For example, some foods are more nutritionally dense than others – packed with more vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, healthy fats etc. These foods boost our immune system internally and visibly boost our health externally – which directly affect the quality of our hair and skin. The undeniable “superfoods” in this category contain specific nutrients, phytochemicals, and healthy fatty acids (omega- 3’s) that are significant to our health and well-being. Here is a list of a few of my favourite superfoods, with an eye towards beauty.
Antioxidant rich (vitamins A, C, and E) to help slow down ageing and damaging reactions: acai; blueberries; dark green vegetables (such as kale); green tea; pomegranate seeds.
Omega-3 rich foods, to help build cells, produce hormones, provide energy, and allow us to absorb the fat soluble vitamins (A,D,E,K). Omega 3’s are hailed for their radiance boosting qualities, which also help skin keep its moisture. Rich sources include: cold pressed extra virgin olive oil; flax seed oil; walnuts; pumpkin seeds.
Great all-around nutrient dense dynamos: avocados; beans; chia seeds; chickpeas; cruciferous vegetables (cauliflower, cabbage, kale, garden cress, bok choy, broccoli, Brussels sprouts); lemons; spinach; turmeric.
Building some of these beauty boosting superfoods into your everyday eating should be relatively simple, especially if you are already following a plant-based diet. For plant-based inspiration and recipes, please visit my instagram account, where I post new recipes each week.
Why Organic Matters
Non-organic, processed, and packaged foods are a major source of chemicals and toxins, including pesticides and herbicides, which are linked to hormone disruption, skin, eye, and lung irritation, as well as cancer (1). Eating organic tastes better, is better for you, and helps you look better. When your body isn’t over-burdened from chemical ‘soups’, it’s less inflamed. Add to that the increased antioxidants and phytonutrients present in fresh, ripe produce, and you begin to truly understand how powerfully beautifying eating organic truly is.
However, I fully appreciate it’s not always possible to find, or to afford organic produce, which is why I am a big fan of the Environmental Working group’s (EWG) Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen, who put together a list (updated yearly) of popular fruits and vegetables with the highest pesticide contamination, and, therefore, the ones you have the most benefit to gain from by buying organic. You can access their lists here.
Next week in Part Two: How To Clean Up Your Beauty Routine.