Skincare 101 - Improve Your Digestion, Improve Your Skin
A diet rich in nutrient-packed foods is the first step towards nourishing your skin. Good digestion is the second for it ensures these nutrients actually reach their destination.
When foods are eaten and pass into the digestive system they are mixed with a variety of different digestive enzymes. These enzymes break down the various food components and release nutrients so they can be taken up through the gut wall and pass into the bloodstream. Following absorption, nutrients are carried to where they are most needed. But the course of digestion does not always run smoothly. Bloating, indigestion and feeling heavy after a meal are tell-tale signs that something is amiss.
These problems are so common that we often regard them as normal, but this is not so. As well as feeling satisfied we should also feel light and energised after a meal.
Ways to improve digestion
- Chew every mouthful - digestion begins in the mouth. Chewing breaks down food and mixes it with saliva which contains a carbohydrate-digesting enzyme called ptyalin.
- Don't eat in a hurry. Stress inhibits the proper flow of digestive enzymes which is why we get a dry mouth when anxious or fearful. If there isn't enough time to relax, sit down and enjoy a meal in peace, opt for light snacks until the moment presents itself.
- Eat little and often. Eating large quantities at one meal can place a tremendous strain on your body's digestive capacity. Crazing encourages better nutrient assimilation.
- Include raw food in your diet. The cells of fresh fruits and vegetables are rich in live active enzymes which are released during chewing. These enzymes have the power to break down proteins, carbohydrates and fats so they effectively enhance our own digestive powers. Amazingly these enzymes appear to pass unharmed into the small intestine where they help to create conditions favourable to good digestion. Cooking destroys these enzymes. Sprouting grains and seeds on the other hand turn them into powerhouses of active digestion-aiding enzymes.
- Keep it simple. According to the principles of food combining, eating foods rich in protein and carbohydrate together interferes with the proper digestion of both. As a general rule it helps to keep your meal uncomplicated, i.e. don't make elaborate dishes with lots of different ingredients. Simply prepared fish cooked with herbs or pasta with tomato sauce, for example, will be much easier to digest. Eat fruits separately or at least an hour after a main meal.
- Replenish the good bugs. There are millions of bacteria in the digestive tract which play a positive role in defending you from unfriendly microbes, digesting fibre and making small quantities of vitamin Bl2. These good bacteria belong to the Lactobaccillus and Bijidus families. Gastric upsets such as holiday diarrohea can wipe out vast quantities of good bacteria. When this happens we tend to suffer from wind and gastric discomfort. From time to time it helps to replenish the good bugs. Eat live natural yoghurt each morning and consider taking a short course of probiotics - three capsules a day for two weeks.
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Natural digestive aids
- Eat a few slices of fresh pineapple or papaya after a meal. These fruits are rich in protein-digesting enzymes called bromelain and papain respectively. In traditional cuisine they are often used to tenderise meats and will aid the digestion of protein-rich foods.
- Flavor your food with herbs and spices. While their delicious aromas get the saliva flowing before a meal, certain active chemicals aid the digestive process. Fennel, ginger and cayenne pepper are particularly known for their digestion-enhancing qualities.
- If you are prone to indigestion introduce partially fermented foods such as yoghurt, cottage cheese, miso, tofu and soya sauce to your diet. Already semi-digested, they place less stress on your own digestive enzymes and readily relinquish their nutrients.