I think we can all acknowledge the impacts of skin conditions on our psychological and social functioning. However, the effects of our mental health to our skin are often overlooked…

Think of a time when you felt embarrassed or did something foolish – that simple cognition can cause facial blood vessels to instantly open up, resulting in blushing.

This simple act shows the strong connection between the mind and the skin. But what about the link between dermalogical issues and psychological issues such as depression and social anxiety?

Mind your Skin

We live in such a visual world, constantly being scrutinised by our looks and compared to the perfectly curated photoshopped images in magazines and on social media. It is no wonder that the presence of social anxiety and depression are so high amongst those with visible skin conditions. This can particularly manifest when skin conditions are thought to be ‘bad’ where individuals often socially isolate and avoid interaction. Dalgard et al (1) reported significantly higher prevalence of clinical depression, anxiety disorder and suicidal thoughts among patients with common skin diseases when compared to a control group. The link between mental health and skin conditions is not a coincidence.

However, this is also present in reverse. Not only does shame and self-criticism that comes along with skin issues play a significant role on mental health, so does poor gut health. Over 70 years ago, the connection between gut health, mood disorders such as anxiety & depression and skin conditions such as acne & psoriasis was suggested by dermatologists (2). They suggested that depression and anxiety could alter intestinal microbiota, increase intestinal permeability and contribute to inflammation (2). This is because inflammation and poor gut health has a direct relationship to brain health. In more recent years, this has been confirmed as the research concerning the gut-brain-skin axis has evolved.

Fuel your Mind and Skin with Nutrition

The complex relationship between the gut microbiota, skin and mind can be influenced by the food we consume. So, what are the best things we can be doing to support all three vital systems?

1. Fuel your Gut.

Your gut microbiome LOVES fibre. Focus on increasing the amount and diversity of your fibre intake by including a range of different plant-based foods such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes and grains in your diet.

By fuelling your gut health with what it needs, you will be better able to support your mental health and skin health.

2. Tackle your Stress, Anxiety and Depression.

Research has shown that psychological issues such as anxiety exacerbate skin disorders through making the skin more sensitive and penetrative (3). That’s why, it is so important to prioritise your mental health to ensure that you are best supporting your skin health.

Whether it is seeking professional help, talking to a friend, meditation, journaling or integrating some gentle exercise into your routine – having some strategies to reduce your stress and anxiety is vital for healthy skin and your general wellbeing.

3. Give your Mind the space it needs.

No matter where you are at with your mental health, meditation is an amazing technique to help keep your mind grounded. Try integrating 5-10 minutes of meditation every day by putting on a timer and simply counting your breaths or following a guided meditation on YouTube.

4. Spice up your life with Turmeric.  

A recent meta-analysis suggests that curcumin (the bioactive compound in turmeric) can alleviate skin issues such as acne, eczema and psoriasis, whilst also helping with mental health (4). This is because of the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties of turmeric.

In addition to this, curcumin demonstrates neuroprotective action and modulates various neurotransmitters in the brain (5), suggesting that profound benefits when it comes to managing various psychological issues.

5. Support your Skin Health with the Right Nutrients.

As we know, the appearance of our skin is a reflection of what is going on within us. Therefore, it is vital to ensure you are getting enough skin-supporting nutrients such as vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, zinc and omega-3 fatty acids.

Unsure of whether you are getting adequate essential nutrients in your diet? Working with a nutritionist is a good way to ensure that you are getting adequate nutrients to support your skin health.

The bottom line.

Whether your skin problems are heightened by your emotional states or your psychological issues being affected by the appearance of your skin – it is clear that the connection between the mind, skin and gut are evidently strong.

Instead of covering up your external skin issues, maybe we should have a listen to the subtle conversation our skin is trying to have with us. There is often a reason that skin issues are presenting to you, so it is important to get to the root cause.

Glowing skin, a nourished gut microbiome and a happy mind is so important for your overall health and wellbeing.

Do you feel healthy in these three areas?

Written by:

Mollie Caughey-Wade,

Clinical Nutritionist (BSc).

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