The Skin(ny) on Mood, Mind and NutritionHow on earth is mental health connected with skin health? It’s a good question, with a surprising answer. As many psychologists will now attest, our emotional health has a large impact on the health and quality of our skin. Just look at someone blushing from embarrassment — evidence that the skin is responsive to our thoughts and feelings. The biggest connection appears to be stress, although the mechanisms behind that are far more complicated. The take-home message is that when your mind and diet are in good form, your skin should reflect that.
A gut feelingIt’s well known that some gut-related health conditions worsen with stress, and stress often triggers breakouts (due to it's negative impacts on hormonal balance and immunity) so you can see now how mental health, gut health, acne breakouts and many other health conditions are interrelated. Many studies recognise that the gut microbiome — the bacterial colonies that live within the intestines — are closely linked with the brain. Around 95% of the body’s serotonin is produced by gut bacteria and conversely, it’s been demonstrated that psychological stress can negatively impact microbiome activity. There’s a delicate balance between all body functions, including skin, mood and gut health, and if the see-saw tips too much to one side, there’s a noticeable effect on all areas involved. Of course, gut health is also heavily influenced by diet. Alcohol, high fat, high sugar and processed foods all help to feed the “stress” influenced bacteria, while a whole food, high-fibre diet is more likely to calm things down. Dehydration is also a factor, with the gut requiring an adequate amount of water per day for normal function. It’s no surprise then to discover that a poor diet will affect your mood as well as your skin, and that craving hot chips or chocolate can be blamed on either your emotional state or the bacterial colonies taking over your intestines.
Direct impactMany sufferers of acne, eczema or psoriasis will observe that high levels of stress will aggravate their skin condition. Some people have even experienced a stress rash; a form of hives that shows up over the body in response to high levels of stress. Diet and nutrition will play a role here, however fatigue and mental strain can have an equally large impact on skin health. When sleep patterns are disturbed, mood is low, or you feel you're running on adrenaline, your skin will reflect that. When you’re healthy and happy, people say that you’re glowing, but stressed skin will appear sallow or blemished.
- Drink more water (and avoid or limit caffeinated and sugary drinks).
- Try mini-meditations or short breathing exercises.
- Eat more fresh fruit and vegetables (and reduce your meat and dairy intake) - if you struggle to eat enough nutrient dense foods, consider taking a high quality broad-spectrum superfood complex.
- Use herbs such as Ashwagandha, Siberian Ginseng or Panax Ginseng to help manage stress and boost inner harmony and vitality.
- Include prebiotics, probiotics, digestive enzymes in your diet, particularly if you have used oral antibiotics for acne.
- Get moving! Exercise of any form helps relieve constipation and improves mood.
- Ensure you’re getting enough Vitamin B5 and co-factors to optimise skin health and treat and prevent breakouts - those of us who are prone to breakouts have higher requirements of certain nutrients beyond what you can get from a diet alone.