Beautiful Skin on the Paleo Diet

Eating nutrient-dense, unprocessed foods is a staple of eating like a Cave-Woman or Man, while also avoiding inflammatory, nutrient-void foods (like grains, processed sugars, and unhealthy oils).

Health benefits abound such as weight loss, mental clarity, improved digestion and metabolism, and a feeling of overall wellbeing.

BUT – what about the benefits for skin? Acne, roseasa, eczema, etc. are all avoidable. These conditions are caused by inflammation in the body, and with the right environmental and nutrient-rich lifestyle, these conditions can be lessened and even cleared.

Can Paleo make you look better, too?

The benefits of the Paleo diet for weight loss have been well-documented and touted across many online blogs, but the powerful effects on skin often go unnoticed.

Skin is our largest organ, and it can act as a tool for measuring our body’s health at times. If you’re constantly suffering from rashes, redness, or blemishes, your body may be trying to tell you that everything is not alright inside – it could be inflammation, allergies, or other side effects of an unhealthy diet.

Skincare isn’t just about what you put on your face – it’s about what you put in your mouth! In fact, skincare begins with what you eat. Healthy fats and foods rich in antioxidants should be a staple of any healthy diet.

Omega-3 to Omega-6 Balance

I’m sure you have heard about Omega-3’s and the great benefits of fish oil and foods (such as eggs) that are fortified with Omega-3’s. These healthy fats help protect our cells from oxidation and inflammation.  Omega-3 fats promote health of cell membranes, which acts not only as barriers to harmful things, but also as the passageway for nutrients to enter the cell and flush waste products.  Having a strong healthy barrier controls the cell’s ability to hold water, which leads to skin that is moister, softer and wrinkle-free. Plus, these fatty acids help reduce your body’s production of inflammatory compounds that can cause skin flare-ups.

Elimination of certain foods, which are Paleo No-No‘s, also helps your skin. Vegetable seed oils (think corn, soybean, and canola) and hydrogenated oils add excessive amounts of omega-6 fats to our diet, which disrupts important processes within the body and can manifest as inflammatory skin conditions. Eliminating these types of oils with Paleo can reduce inflammation. As Paleo balances out levels of omega-3 and omega-6 fats, it decreases the body’s overall inflammatory burden, reducing the inflammatory response that leads to redness and swelling at irritated hair follicles.

Here are some foods that are rich in Omega’s

  1. Fish
    • The best fish for Omega 3’s is wild-caught Alaskan salmon (very pricey, but delicious), and sardines (which is very economically priced). LINK to sardines with olive oil
  2. Avocados
  3. Healthy oils (Olive, Coconut, Grass-Fed Butter)

Many people who have suffered from inflammatory skin conditions like eczema or rosacea have been able to clear them up, or at least manage them, with a well-balanced Paleo diet.

Sugar and Processed Foods

Another key to controlling inflammatory processes that can damage your skin: avoiding foods that spike insulin levels. This means simple carbohydrates (white sugar, white flour, starchy foods) – all avoided on a Paleo diet. Any food that causes insulin to spike can cause inflammation, which can irritate many skin conditions, including the way skin ages. This means fruits as well. Fruits that are high in sugar cause a spike in insulin, which can cause havoc on the body. For decreased fructose intake, limit your consumption of the following fruits:

  • cherries
  • any dried fruit
  • grapes
  • bananas
  • mangos
  • figs
  • tangerines

Collagen is Key for Healthy Skin

Collagen is often over-looked in the search for beautiful skin. Collagen is the main protein in connective tissues, the building blocks for skin elasticity and smoothness.

Luckily, there’s evidence that dietary collagen (from Paleo foods like bone broth, tendons, and skin) helps to reduce wrinkles. Other options for boosting your collagen count include homemade gummies or gelatinous cuts of meat. 

Vitamins & Minerals

The variety of a balanced Paleo diet also provides us with tons of nutrient-rich foods and high levels of the vitamins and minerals that our skin needs to flourish.

A balanced Paleo diet should include plenty of fruits and vegetables with high nutrient-density – particularly of Vitamins A, E, and zinc, as people with acne tend to have lower serum levels of these nutrients.

Vitamin A-rich foods (leafy greens, squash, carrots, cantaloupe) help regulate cell turnover, essentially allowing skin cells to perform as optimally as possible.

Anti-oxidant rich fruits and vegetables are one of the most important aspects of a healthy Paleo diet. One of the most powerful antioxidants, lycopene, can be found in tomatoes, guava, watermelon, and papaya.

Combining those healthy omega-3 fatty acids with foods rich in vitamin E, like nuts, can also protect skin from UV damage, reducing the effect of the sun on aging skin. 

Digestion/Gut Problems

Common skin problems can also be visible through poor gut health and digestion – in fact, the gut-skin axis theory suggests that the health of your gut is directly reflected in the health of your skin.

Leaky gut is a common cause of skin issues rashes, acne, eczema, psoriasis, and poor skin tone. In leaky gut syndrome, the cells of your small intestine lose their integrity and become porous, inducing more inflammation and skin issues. Some of the common offenders in leaky gut include: grains, corn, beans, refined foods, alcohol, sugar, dairy, and poor quality fats and oils.

The good news is this condition can be reversed pretty easily with a paleo diet, which creates healthier intestinal cells. A Paleo diet reduces gut-damaging foods like grain proteins (especially wheat gluten) and excessive alcohol, and promotes gut healing through inclusion of things like bone broth, fermentable fibers, and fermented foods.

For even more gut-healing nutrients, eat foods with good bacteria, such as kimchi and raw sauerkraut. Soluble fiber is also great for improving gut health, and can be found in foods like sweet potatoes and butternut squash.

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