I know you think its fine, but it’s not. I can see it in your face, and in your skin. That’s why I’m asking you about it, because I already know the answer, but I want to see what YOU have to say.
98% of the time when I ask clients how their digestion is, they say, “It’s fine.”
1% of the time when I ask clients how their digestion is, they look at me like I’m from Mars.
And the last 1% actually know what I’m talking about when I ask them about their digestion.
Digestion is important! Most of the skin conditions you are experiencing began with poor digestion that was ignored, often for many years.
When I ask about digestion, after telling me they are “fine”, clients tell me about the probiotics they are taking. Well, that’s great, but probiotics are for your colon. They don’t address the actual breakdown and absorption of nutrients; they are for the “elimination phase”, the recycling station before expulsion from the body.
Food breakdown and nutrient absorption takes place in the stomach and small intestine and this is where we need to focus our attention.
Digestion takes place in your brain, mouth, stomach, and small intestine!
Brain= parasympathetic state, which allows the digestion process to “switch on”
Mouth= chewing and carbohydrate breakdown
Stomach= mixing waves/peristaltic action and protein breakdown
Small intestine (duodenum)= trigger location for bile release and fat breakdown/emulsification
Small intestine (jejunum)= majority of nutrient absorption
As estheticians, we cannot diagnose internal conditions, nor write dietary meal plans for our clients, but we CAN recognize what we see on the surface of their skin, and understand HOW poor digestion is causing that problem. Our job is to read the surface of their skin, and if we can interpret what it’s saying, we will have a window onto what is happening on the inside of their body.
In order to truly address skin conditions like rosacea, eczema, psoriasis, pigmentation, acne, and even melasma, we have to go back to the beginning of the digestive process; to the state of mind when consuming food.
DIGESTION BEGINS IN THE BRAIN
The first thing we need to understand about digestion is that it begins in the brain with our autonomic nervous system and the particular “state of being” we are in. We have two states of being: sympathetic and parasympathetic. Sympathetic is our Fight or Flight state of being. This state is when we are under stress and the only body functions that are important for the body to keep operational are the functions that pertain directly to staying alive: breathing, muscle energy, brain function. Digestion is not important in this state. Our other state of being, parasympathetic, is the Rest and Digest state of being. In this state we are relaxed, our digestion can turn on and start breaking down and utilizing the foods we eat, our brains can relax, our breathing slows, and we can sleep. We MUST be in the Parasympathetic state in order to even begin the digestion process. We have to switch from a sympathetic state to a parasympathetic state. Luckily for us, this is a simple fix.
Most of us are in a chronic sympathetic state on a daily basis. Jobs, kids, relationships, society, all cause us stress. The worse our digestion and absorption is, the worse our chronic sympathetic state is, and the worse we respond to stress, keeping us locked in an endless cycle.
GET INTO A PARASYMPATHETIC STATE
To get into a parasympathetic state to begin digestion, and specifically, to begin stomach acid production (which is a key player in Rosacea), one simply needs to sit down and breathe. Deep diaphragmatic breathing will instantly put you into a parasympathetic state.
There are several easy breathing techniques demonstrated online.
Aromatherapy is another helpful tool to get you into a parasympathetic state of being. Any essential oil that is calming and relaxing can help turn on your digestive system. Some brands of essential oils even have specific parasympathetic or digestive blends ready-made. The oldest, most natural way to get into a parasympathetic state and ready your body for digestion is to prepare your own food. The simple act of standing in your kitchen; seeing, touching, smelling, and taking the time, to prepare and cook your food, readies your body for digestion. THIS is the key to healthy skin and a healthy life!
ACTIVE DIGESTION – WHERE SKIN CONDITIONS BEGIN
Once you’re in a parasympathetic state, the next step happens in your mouth, with the mechanical breakdown of food by chewing, and the enzymatic breakdown of carbohydrates by your saliva. Carbohydrates are sugars, and if these sugars are not broken down into small enough particles to be absorbed in the jejunum, they will pass farther into your small intestine and colon and meet up with, and feed, your candida. Candida eats sugar and excretes an estrogen-like byproduct, and we all know that estrogen drives melasma, that hard to treat pigmentation that shows up on people’s faces. So chew your carbs thoroughly!
The next stop is the stomach. This is where protein breakdown happens. Adequate stomach acid is required to not only break down the protein, but also to kill any germs that come in on the foods you eat. Adequate stomach acid ensures that you don’t get sick and that these germs don’t pass further into your digestive system where they can pass into your bloodstream and cause inflammation which is a driver of pigmentation, rosacea, acne, and a host of other conditions, both skin related and non-skin related. (Here’s a secret: No one has TOO MUCH stomach acid! As noted above, with all the chronic stress we experience, we all have TOO LITTLE stomach acid!).
Finally we come to fat breakdown, which is imperative if we want to combat Essentially Fatty Acid Deficiency (EFAD) that we see in clients with chronic TEWL (trans epidermal water loss). The pH of the stomach has to be low enough so that the pyloric sphincter opens and lets the broken down food come out into the small intestine. Once the food comes out of the stomach there is an immediate trigger point in the duodenum which is the fat emulsifying trigger. This trigger MUST be tripped in order for bile and pancreatic enzymes to be released to emulsify the fat so it can be absorbed. No trigger, no emulsification, no fat absorption, equals no fat going to the cells to create healthy keratinocytes, which become corneocytes and our lipid bi-layer. Hello TEWL and EFAD!
WHAT DO YOU SEE?
If you see a client with rosacea, you can be certain that they are stressed and don’t have enough stomach acid. You will often find that people with rosacea are on acid blockers. Have them talk with their doctor about weaning off them.
People with pigmentation need to reduce their internal inflammation along with the requisite sun protection. And people with melasma specifically, need to concentrate on reducing refined and starchy carbohydrates and chew their food until it is liquid in their mouth!
People with acne also need to be aware of the causes of internal inflammation (stress, low stomach acid, EFAD, etc), in addition to the known acne food triggers.
People with eczema, psoriasis, and xerotic skin, should take Omega 3’s to repair the barrier from the inside, by creating healthy cells with strong cell membranes.
Remember, your clients face will tell you everything you need to know about what is going on inside of them. Learn to read the skin, and you will be able to help your client exponentially!
"The Renegade Esthetician" Cassandra Lanning, LME, NTP, CPE, CLT
Cassandra is a Master Esthetician and Nutritional Therapy Practitioner in the state of Washington. She has over 20 years of experience in the beauty industry including electrolysis, laser hair removal, skincare, nutrition, and teaching. She is a member of the International Association for Applied Corneotherapy, the Association for Holistic Skin Care Practitioners, the National Aesthetic Spa Network, and the Nutritional Therapy Association.