MAR 15, 2022
Healthy-looking skin depends on many factors, including genetics, the topical skin care products in your regime – and your diet. When it comes to the foods you eat, having a balanced diet is a great start, but it may not be enough. If the nutrients you are eating as part of your meals are not processed correctly by your body, your skin simply can’t benefit. Here is a look at how optimal nutrient absorption works and why it is essential for the health of your skin.
How does the skin get nutrients from what we eat?
A balanced diet contains macronutrients like carbohydrates, proteins, and fats as well as micronutrients. Micronutrients include vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Those macronutrients and micronutrients are essential for fresher, younger-looking skin. They travel from your plate to your skin starting with nutrient absorption in your digestive tract .
What is nutrient absorption and how does it work?
Put simply, nutrient absorption refers to the body’s process of taking nutrients from the digestive system and using the bloodstream to transport them through the body1. At first sight, this seems straightforward, but look closer, and you see an intricate process.
#1 Eating and digesting
Digestion starts as soon as you start chewing. Chewing does not only break down food into smaller chunks. It also adds enzymes from saliva that help extract nutrients from your food. The process continues in your stomach where food is mixed with acid, which breaks food down and mixes it even further.
#2 Nutrient absorption in the small intestine
The small intestine is the body’s nutrient absorption center. Imagine the interior lining of your small intestine like a brush that combs nutrients out of the digested food. Macronutrients and micronutrients diffuse into the “bristles” of the small intestine’s lining, also known as villi. From there, they travel into the bloodstream.
#3 From bloodstream to skin
Every one of your cells, including skin cells, are supplied by blood vessels. Blood vessels transport nutrients to your skin cells, at which point most key nutrients like vitamins, healthy fats, and minerals need assistance from carrier proteins to help them enter skin cells.2
Key nutrients for skin health
Considering that gut health and skin go hand-in-hand , younger-looking skin relies on an adequate supply of healthy fats and key vitamins and minerals. Each nutrient has a distinct role to play when it comes to helping you look your best.
- Vitamin A helps prevent sun damage and may even help cuts and scratches heal.
- Vitamin C supports the formation of collagen. Collagen is essential for skin health, but, as we age, our bodies produce less of it. Vitamin C can help make up for the shortfall.
- Vitamin E complements the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of vitamins A and C. It can also help prevent sun damage, but not as much as sunscreen.
- Minerals like zinc can be real multitaskers. Zinc especially helps skin heal from injuries. This nutrient is also needed to keep cell walls stable. Plus, it plays an important role in helping cells divide and specialize as they develop.
- Selenium is another nutrient that contributes to UV protection. Being deficient in this mineral has been linked to a greater risk of skin cancer.
- Healthy fats in your diet give your skin that dewy glow.3
Apart from ensuring these nutrients are part of your diet, remember that some of them depend on helpers like carrier proteins to do their work. It’s not possible to eat carrier proteins. However, sufficient protein in your diet gives your body what it needs to create new proteins like these carriers.
If you are suffering from inflammation in your small intestine, nutrient absorption is disrupted. No matter how healthy your diet is, the benefits from your food can never reach your skin if there is a disconnect in your gastrointestinal tract .
Your small intestine can become inflamed for several reasons. A bacterial infection caused by food poisoning is the most common. Eating food or drinking water contaminated by bacteria may lead to symptoms like nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, which could ultimately disrupt the gut microbiome .
If those symptoms persist, you may need professional medical attention. 4
What to do when nutrient absorption is disrupted
Supporting your gut health can feel complicated, but it does not need to be difficult. Here are a few ways you can support your gut health to encourage optimal nutrient absorption.
#1 Good bacteria
your small intestine needs healthy bacteria for nutrient absorption. Consider a probiotic supplement if you think your gut microbiome could use the additional support.
#2 Eat enough nutrients
because plants contain phytonutrients that give them different colors, choosing a variety of different colored fruits and vegetables every day helps ensure that you supply your body with a wide range of different nutrients. A good rule of thumb is to “eat the rainbow”, which involves eating some fruits and vegetables of each color on a regular basis. Here are the benefits:
Red: these fruits and vegetables can help lower the risk of heart disease, cancer, and sun damage.
Yellow/orange: apart from lowering the risk of heart disease and cancer, these foods also support eye health.
Green: vegetables like kale and bok choy can lower your risk of cancer and heart disease.
Purple/blue: improved brain function and a lower risk of neurological problems, type 2 diabetes and heart disease has been associated with this group.
Dark red: benefits include increased athletic performance through better oxygen uptake and a lower risk of high blood pressure.
White/brown: white vegetables and fruits can reduce the risk of colon cancer and other cancer types as well as heart disease.
All have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties and serve as some of the best foods for skin repair.5
#3 Choose healthy fats
unsaturated fats from nuts and seeds allow your small intestine to store and absorb vitamins more easily.
A balanced, healthy diet that supports gut health is the key to younger, fresher-looking skin. If you are struggling to maintain a gut- and skin-friendly diet that works to improve intestinal absorption , choose a high-quality supplement to help you look and feel your best.
- Nutrient absorption starts when we chew our food, but the lion’s share of the work is done in the small intestine where nutrients are absorbed and travel into the bloodstream.
- Our skin needs a combination of vitamins (A, C, and E) and minerals like zinc and selenium to stay healthy.
- A balanced diet, including a wide range of different colored fruits and vegetables is an excellent way of ensuring your skin has all the nutrients it needs.
- The appearance of healthy skin starts from within. But, as you nourish your body from the inside out, you can also incorporate moisturizing agents, like a peptide moisturizer , into your skincare routine to help skin feeling soft and supple.
- "Absorption." National Cancer Institute. https://www.cancer.gov/publications/dictionaries/cancer-terms/def/absorption
- "Your Guide to How Nutrients are Absorbed by the Body." Ask The Scientist. https://askthescientists.com/nutrient-absorption/
- Blumberg, Deborah Lynn. "Nutrients for Healthy Skin." Web MD. 12 June, 2021. https://www.webmd.com/beauty/nutrients-for-healthy-skin
- Pietrangello, Ann. "Enteritis." Healthline. Updated 29 September, 2018. https://www.healthline.com/health/enteritis#symptoms
- Davidson, Katey. "Eating the Rainbow — Is It Useful and Should You Try It?" Healthline. 18 December, 2020. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/eat-the-rainbow#benefits