While you might have your bathroom stocked with the best clean skincare essentials (courtesy of Goldfaden MD, of course!), you likely won’t achieve the complexion of your dreams if you’re not supporting your skin’s health from the inside out. For that reason, we consulted London-based Nutritionist Clarissa Lenherr to see how you can tweak your diet to boost your skin and promote overall wellness. Below, we asked her for her key insights on the diet/skin connection and her top tips to get glowing from within. But first: discover need-to-know info on gut health, including diet and lifestyle habits worth ditching and adopting.
What inspired you to specialize in gut health?
I think most nutritionists choose to specialize in something that is close to their heart or something that they have personal experience suffering from… and that goes for me. For the first 25 years of my life, I suffered from daily digestive issues and it was only when I trained in nutrition and used myself as a guinea pig, that I found long-term relief.
This personal battle allows me to bring empathy and compassion to my practice, helping my clients feel supported and understood.
What are the key signs of gut imbalance (in digestion and beyond)?
The list is endless! Health really does begin in the gut, and so many symptoms that even seem unrelated can actually be key signs of gut imbalance. Think skin changes, mood imbalances, susceptibility to colds and flu, weight gain, changes in sleep quality, lowered energy and more.
And when we think about signs stemming from the gut (mouth to anus) we can look for bloating, flatulence, reflux, burping, cramps, changes in bowel movements and pain – to name a few.
What are the worst offenders when it comes to gut imbalances, in terms of both diet and lifestyle?
Alcohol is one of the most aggressive compounds when it comes to our gut health. When in excess, alcohol can damage the lining of the gut making it harder for us to absorb certain nutrients whilst killing off our friendly, commensal bacteria in the gut. This can lead to an overgrowth of opportunist, “bad” bacteria, resulting in a mismatch of the microbiome and potentially dysbiosis.
Cutting back on the booze can reduce your chances of stomach inflammation or gastritis, which can lead to heartburn, acid reflux and sometimes even long-term esophageal damage.
Do some research into a non-alcoholic drink that will work for you at social events. I love swapping out a G&T for a gut-loving kombucha or a clean liquor non-alcoholic rhubarb gin, sparkling water and a slice of fresh lemon.
Another major offender is, unfortunately…sugar. High consumption of refined sugar can lead to an increase in free radicals, which can cause oxidative damage in the body, revealed through changes in our skin, hair, nails, gut health and energy levels.
Natural sugar substitutes such as stevia and monk fruit are safe to use as sugar alternatives, however, some individuals are sensitive to sweeteners and may experience side effects such as an upset stomach or bloating. I do not recommend artificial sweeteners, as they can irritate the gut and have been shown in studies to disrupt the health of our microbiome. (Suez J et al. Artificial sweeteners induce glucose intolerance by altering the gut microbiota. Nature. 2014;514:181-6.)
Lifestyle-wise, stress is a big player and managing our stress levels is fundamental. When we are in a fight or flight “stressed” response, we divert energy and resources away from the gut. Over a long period of time, this can impact our digestive function. In addition, high levels of stress have been linked to lower levels of beneficial bacteria in the gut.
I prioritize taking time out and stress management techniques such as adult coloring in books, gentle stretching, outside walks and cooking. Meditation isn’t for everyone, so I always preach to my clients to find out what works for them when it comes to switching off.
What are the best foods and nutrients to boost gut health?
- Sticking to whole, natural foods and avoiding overly processed foods as much as possible. Added preservatives, emulsifiers, glazing agents and trans fats can all trigger nasty gut health symptoms and are not beneficial for our health in general. I practice an 80/20 approach when it comes to eating.
- Swap fruit juices for whole, fresh fruits. This will give you a fiber boost that your gut microbes will love, also aiding the elimination of toxins within the body. My favorite gut-loving fruits are stewed apples, kiwis and berries.
- Adding live, fermented foods into your diet at least 3 times per week to benefit your gut health and mood. Think kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi and miso. They are all a great source of live cultures which may help to improve the composition of our microbiome.
- Incorporate omega 3 fatty acids into your diet, aiming to have oily fish 3 times a week. Studies have shown that people who eat foods rich in omega 3 have more bacterial diversity in the gut.
- Include polyphenol-rich foods- research has shown that polyphenols, a type of antioxidant, can have major impacts on gut health by increasing the volume of healthy gut bacteria which are known to improve immunity, help manage inflammatory diseases within the body and feed out gut bacteria. Consume dark chocolate, pecans, blueberries, herbs and spices.
How does the state of your gut impact how clear and balanced your skin is?
The connection between the gut and our skin is crucial, and one of the main regulators in this gut-skin axis is how the gut microbiota communicates with the skin. It does this mostly via intricate interactions with the immune system to regulate systemic and local inflammation.
Raised insulin levels have been associated with boosting sebum production and increasing androgen hormone production which shows in our skin health, therefore keeping insulin levels in check is important for the gut-skin axis. In addition, an unbalanced gut microbiome is linked to inflammatory skin conditions, so keeping your gut health on track is fundamental for good skin.
What nutrition tips or hacks can improve skin from the inside out?
We all know that staying hydrated is important, but drinking enough water throughout the day helps maintain the skin’s elasticity, which is key when looking fresh. It has been shown that people who drink large quantities of water are less likely to suffer from scars, wrinkles, soft lines and aging. Aim to hydrate every day with at least 2 liters of filtered water, add lemon to give you a vitamin C kick and 1 tbsp of chia seeds for those anti-inflammatory omega 3’s.
Aim to include yellow, orange and red-colored fruits and veggies daily. These richly colored fruits and veg get much of their color from compounds called carotenoids, some of which can be converted into Vitamin A, which is essential for skin cell reproduction. They are also a great source of Vitamin C, which helps in the manufacturing of collagen.
Spotlight omega-3s. Omega-3s are essential fatty acids that are renowned for their health benefits. When it comes to skin, omega-3s can help to improve hydration, reduce inflammation, manage the skin’s oil production and potentially minimize signs of aging.
So how can we pack these into our diet? The best way to consume omega-3s is through regular consumption of oily fish such as salmon, sardines, mackerel and anchovies. Not a fish eater? Flax seeds, chia seeds and walnuts are vegetarian sources of omega-3s. But be mindful that omega-3s from plant sources need to be converted in the body before they can be used, so they may not be as effective.
If neither of these options appeals, you can also consider an omega-3 fish oil or algae-based supplement.
About CLARISSA LENHERR
Clarissa Lenherr is a Registered Nutritionist (mBant) and founder of Clarissa Lenherr Nutrition, a nutrition consultancy where she uses her extensive knowledge and experience to advise on all aspects of nutrition. Clarissa practices from her clinic on Harley St, London, offering clients one-to-one nutrition consultations, corporate seminars and health brand Consultancy.
Clarissa graduated from the College of Natural Medicine with a distinction in Nutrition after three years of studying biochemistry and nutritional therapy. Here she completed 200 clinical hours, giving her the skills and knowledge to work with clients on a personalized basis. Continuous training and further learning courses enable Clarissa to gain increased expertise, ensuring she is abreast of new findings and developments in the captivating scientific field of nutrition. She is a certified member of The British Association for Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine (BANT), The Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC).
As a private nutritionist, Clarissa has helped hundreds of clients back to optimal health. Her mission is to take the science of nutrition and convert it into easy-to-implement strategies so that her clients can achieve ultimate well-being. She is passionate about re-educating, myth-busting and removing stigmas and preconceptions that have developed around nutrition and health so that individuals can discover and celebrate nutritious food. She practices personalized and preventative nutrition, advocating the “not one size fits all” approach.
Her specialties include digestive health, auto-immune conditions, weight management and health optimization. When not in her practice, Clarissa spends her time delivering keynotes and workshops for the world’s leading companies, empowering their employees with the skills, techniques and knowledge to transform and optimize their health, happiness and productivity.
Clarissa has worked with over 200 companies globally including Ebay, BT, Prudential, Chanel, Lloyds, Coca Cola, Investec, Deloitte, Adobe, Allen and Overy and more. Clarissa’s extensive knowledge of the science of health and food has enabled her to frequently comment for publications such as The Telegraph, The Daily Mail, The Metro, Women’s Health and The Evening Standard.