Who doesn’t want glowing skin? Nobody, that’s who.

Because we all want skin that looks lit from within, and because we know a healthy diet is the key to getting it, the original Gut Guru, author and wellness warrior, Lee Holmes, shares with us her best advice on great gut health on a vegan diet.

Beauty starts from the inside out, so looking inwards will help you achieve glowing skin. The state of play of your gut microbiome can say a lot about your health, and when it comes to what is evident on the outside, common skin conditions such as acne, rosacea, eczema, psoriasis and dermatitis can actually be a sign that your gut isn’t functioning properly.

Whether you suffer from acne or fine lines, many skin conditions can be traced back to an unhealthy gut. If our gut is not working properly and there is an imbalance in the flora of the gut it may mean than it has become harder for you to digest and absorb vital nutrients from the foods you’re eating.

Our bodies have a priority system which takes into account our vital organs first, followed by other areas of the body. Areas such as hair skin and nails are low priority and they are one of the last places to receive nutrients from the foods we eat.

Poor gut health can also accelerate the ageing process, as the absorption and metabolism of nutrients in the body are compromised. For example, if you’re not absorbing the foods you eat, the antioxidants in blueberries won’t be available to fight against wrinkle-forming free radicals. Likewise, the Vitamin C in lemons won’t be able to boost collagen production.


If you eat foods that support your insides and nourish your gut, it will help you to repair and reduce beauty issues. A diet that supports good bacteria in our digestive system whilst balancing out the bad bacteria, yeasts and fungi will help you achieve a healthy natural glow. Some foods that support the good bacteria in the gut are naturally fermented foods such as sauerkraut and kimchi.

Your gut flora has been shown to influence sebum production as well as the fatty acid composition of the sebum. Signals sent from your gut flora can communicate with the bacteria on your skin and research is beginning to show these interactions have a major influence on skin conditions such as dryness, collagen production and other skin irritations.

If you suffer from pimples or acne, a form of inflammation occurs when the pores or hair follicles become ‘plugged’ with oil and dead skin cells, recent epidemiological evidence⁵ shows a strong association between gut problems like gut flora imbalance or leaky gut syndrome and acne. Diet can trigger gut flora imbalance and consuming food additives, antibiotics, white bread, sugar etc are common triggers.

To combat wrinkles and dry skin, nutrients like essential fatty acids that moisturise the skin from the inside out are great to consume. These include walnuts and walnut oil, avocados, olives and olive oil, flaxseeds/ flaxseed oil, chia seeds / chia oil.

Some of the best foods to incorporate into diet for overall gut/skin connection are:

• Berries
• Citrus fruits and pineapple
• Green tea or dandelion tea
• Tomatoes
• Leafy greens

To improve gut health and improve the skin when it comes to diet it’s all about your vegetable consumption. Not only are vegetables rich in fibre that feed your good bacteria, but they have a ton of vitamins and minerals that are going to help build healthy skin, as well as antioxidants.

Look towards eating high nutrient, anti-oxidant rich, real and natural foods for glowing skin. Some of my top vegan foods that contribute to good gut health and skin are;

Dark Leafy Greens
These are high in vitamin A which supports cell turnover and production of new skin cells. They also contain vitamin K which helps with blood clotting and skin conditions, and vitamin C which produces collagen and is a potent antioxidant. Vitamin E blocks free radicals from the body, which can slow down the aging process. Folic acid prevents sun damage and helps maintain the replication of health skin cells.

Carrots, pumpkin and sweet potato
What do these three vegetables all have in common? Yes, they’re orange but that’s not the only thing. They’re also high in vitamin A. Vitamin A can help reduce the appearance of wrinkles and brown spots. It’s basically like a modern-day fairy godmother for fine lines and skin damage.

They may be small but they’re mighty as a beauty ingredient. They’re high in omega-3 fatty acids and contain insoluble dietary fibre which helps with bowel movements and promotes digestive health and the key to a healthy skin is a healthy gut.

High in vitamin C and the phytochemical quercetin which makes it rich in antioxidant properties. Antioxidants protect the body from damage.

The compound within turmeric that gives it that golden hue, curcumin, can help reduce inflammation and over-acidity within the body. It’s also high in anti-inflammatory properties that can offer a huge boost to your immune system. Not only can turmeric fight acne and breakouts, it can also add a youthful glow to your skin.

Turmeric is a great antiseptic and is high in both antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. Whilst turmeric lattes are all the go at the moment, don’t forget turmeric is a great addition to any curry, soup, stir-fry and even scrambled eggs.

A powerful antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral agent, garlic is said to reduce skin infections and promote a youthful complexion. The antioxidant components of garlic can protect the skin against damage caused by oxidation, and environmental stressors and therefore prevents skin from becoming elasticized and wrinkly. For a fun snack make garlic chips or add it to roasts or use it raw in dressings.

Eating a diet that is heavy in processed ‘vegan junk food’ can contribute to poor skin and health, as many of these foods are essentially made in a laboratory, or are convenience foods such as vegan sausages, pizza, frozen fake meats and vegan cheeses. Save these for the odd indulgence and stick to your whole, fresh, foods where possible.

To read more from Lee, or purchase her books, visit Nourished Life

5 Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2008 Jul;6(7):759-64. doi: 10.1016/j.cgh.2008.02.054. Epub 2008 May 5. “Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth in rosacea: clinical effectiveness of its eradication.” Abstract available at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18456568

About the Author


After 30 years of working in Australian media, Shonagh is one of Australia’s busiest and most in-demand beauty, health, travel and lifestyle writers.

As a health and lifestyle journalist and consultant, Shonagh has worked closely with international wellness experts and icons, including Dr. Sandra Cabot, Therese Kerr and Miranda Kerr.

In other aspects of her work, she has travelled the world reviewing wellness retreats and luxe holiday destinations, and she has interviewed and written feature articles on some of the world’s best love celebrities, including Sting, Elle McPherson, Pamela Anderson, Simon Baker, Kylie Minogue, Gwen Stefani, Tina Arena, Heather Graham and many more.

She currently lives in the NSW Southern Highlands with her four dogs (three Siberian Huskies and one Maltese Cross), where she grows her own veggies and advocates ending Factory Farming and animal cruelty.

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