We can get some powerful clues about our health from our appearance. Skin conditions such as acne, eczema, and rashes can reveal deficiencies or even offer clues about how well your digestive tract and detox systems are functioning. Thinning hair and weak nails can tell you if you have mineral deficiencies or even certain health conditions like hypothyroidism. So take a look in the mirror and interpret what your body is telling you about your health.
What Your Skin, Hair & Nails Say about Your Health
Did you know that the health of your skin mirrors the health of your gut? They’re both permeable barriers designed to keep the good stuff in and the bad stuff out. Epidemiological evidence shows a clear association between gut problems and skin disorders. People with SIBO and dysbiosis are up to ten times more likely to struggle with acne and/or rosacea.
Inflammation in the gut due to leaky gut or over-consuming sugar, alcohol, and foods to which you are sensitive also contributes to inflammatory skin conditions. For example, sufferers of eczema, which is an autoimmune condition, may see improvement when they remove common food allergens such as eggs, gluten and dairy, along with foods high in irritating anti-nutrients, such as nightshades and nuts. Eggs, dairy, grains, soy, legumes, nuts, and nightshades are recommended foods for removal on the autoimmune protocol. (Taking probiotics and normalizing gut flora is necessary too).
Kicking foods to which you have any type of reaction can help inflammatory skin conditions overall. Those who struggle with acne often see huge improvements when they remove dairy, which contains androgenic hormones that may worsen acne and inflammatory skin conditions. I recommend those struggling with skin rashes, acne, eczema, or psoriasis follow an autoimmune protocol elimination diet for at least a month to determine food sensitivities. Avoiding allergenic foods will help heal both the digestive tract and enhance skin health. Healing leaky gut will help you better absorb all the nutrients, protein, and fatty acids in your food necessary for a clear complexion. Supplementing with zinc and vitamins A and C can help acne.
Finally, a congested liver can contribute to acne and rashes. Your liver is in charge of neutralizing toxins in everything you eat, drink, and breathe (not to mention metabolizing hormones and cholesterol and a host of other tasks). Poor diet, OTC drugs, alcohol, sugar, coffee, and bodycare products loaded with endocrine-disrupting chemicals increase the liver’s toxic burden. The body stores excess circulating toxins in fat tissue that can affect hormone levels and skin health. A whole foods-based detox program is a great jumpstart for obtaining clear skin.
Your Skin & Deficiencies
- Cracked lips can be a sign of B or B12 deficiency.
- Horizontal lines on the forehead may signal digestive insufficiency, usually not enough hydrochloric acid. Try an enzyme.
- Dark circles under the eyes can signify food sensitivities. Try an elimination diet.
- Dry, flaky skin can indicate hypothyroidism, lack of good fats, or fatty acid deficiency. Try an omega 3 supplement, and get plenty of avocado, butter, coconut oil, and wild, fatty fish.
- Oily skin can benefit from kicking dairy and sugar. Also consider overhauling your products: overly stripping the skin of oils causes overproduction that can result in oily skin. Apple cider vinegar works great as a toner.
- Puffiness can indicate poor lymph function. Support liver health and try dry skin brushing. Get plenty of the leafy greens, and try hot water with lemon and green juices to help lymphatic drainage.
Hair loss and thinning hair sucks. I know, because I’ve been there. My hair turned brittle and started breaking off due to hypothyroidism and anemia, 2 very common factors in female hair loss. Medical conditions such as androgenetic alopecia are quite common for women in their 50s or 60s. Get blood work to check ferritin levels, B vitamins, and thyroid hormone levels. High DHEA or androgenic hormone levels also cause hair loss, as is common with PCOS.
Beyond that, lack of protein in the diet (common in vegetarians and vegans), zinc deficiency, and low minerals can contribute to thinning hair. Malabsorption issues due to leaky gut can be a factor. Stress, pregnancy, and extreme weight loss can be causes. Also, check your products: harsh heat styling, chemical products, and frequent highlighting/coloring will cause damage and breakage. Read my solutions for hair loss and thinning hair here. Click here for some chemical shampoo alternatives and a look into “no poo” or “low poo” options.
Brittle, thin nails can be caused by hypothyroidism. When your thyroid is underfunctioning, the body slows down and conserves energy for the most important metabolic functions, so the health of your skin, hair, and nails is the first to suffer. Using biotin may help both nail and hair growth. You can also take a hair-skin-nails complex like this one.
Other conditions such as ridges in nails, horizontal depressions, or spoon nails can signify deficiencies or even certain diseases. Spots on your nails may indicate zinc deficiency or just a blow to the nail. This slideshow illustrates the most common nail conditions and what they say about your health.
Nail fungus (dark or green patches under the nail bed which may cause separation) can be due to systemic candida overgrowth. Topically, oil of oregano or tea tree works well, but the underlying fungal overgrowth needs to be addressed.
Want healthy, shiny hair, strong nails, and clear skin? Get your doctor to run a complete blood count panel to check hormone levels and determine if you have deficiencies. Try an elimination diet and exclude reactive foods from your diet. Consider supplementing with a fatty acid, a hair-skin-nails complex, or a supplement that offers necessary nutrients for healthy skin. Take a probiotic for a healthy gut. Above all, make sure you’re getting adequate protein, plenty of anti-oxidant rich fruits and veggies, and healthy fats.
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Mary Vance is a Certified Nutrition Consultant and author specializing in digestive health. She combines a science-based approach with natural therapies to rebalance the body. In addition to her 1:1 coaching, she offers courses to help you heal your gut and improve your health. Mary lives in San Francisco and Lake Tahoe in Northern California. Read more about her coaching practice here and her background here.