Carla Oates is the author of The Beauty Chef: Delicious Food for Radiant Skin, Gut Health, and Well-Being and founder of Australian wellness brand The Beauty Chef, which just launched the Gut Primer Inner Beauty Support. Named “The Skincare Innovator” by Net-A-Porter magazine, she is the author of bestselling book Feeding Your Skin, editor of The Well-Being Beauty Book, and natural beauty columnist for Wellbeing magazine. Here, an excerpt of her newest cookbook, The Beauty Chef Gut Guide.
When you think of the gut, does your mind go straight to your belly? The truth is that our gut, or gastrointestinal tract, runs from our mouths to our derrière and is the gatekeeper of our overall health and immunity. Like our skin, our gut is in constant contact with our external environment, and every day it is faced with a multitude of challenges.
My philosophy has always been that “beauty begins in the belly”—and it influences everything we do at The Beauty Chef. I truly believe in the power of food as medicine, so it’s been wonderful to witness, over the last few years, the building pile of research that supports this philosophy. Every day, more and more studies are shining a light on the intimate link between what we eat, the state of our gut, and our overall health and well-being.
At the center of this research is the gut microbiome. This mini-ecosystem is home to the trillions of microorganisms that populate our digestive tract. Though it’s only visible under a microscope, our microbiome, when fully developed, can weigh up to 2 kilograms! In essence, we have more DNA from bacterial cells than from human cells—our gut is a big part of who we are.
While one of the main roles of the microbiome is to process the food we eat, aiding digestion and assisting in the absorption and synthesis of nutrients, the influence it can have on our health extends far beyond the gut wall. Our microbiota control so much when it comes to health and well-being: the mechanics of digestion and metabolizing of indigestible compounds, the absorption and assimilation of nutrients, and the manufacture of some vitamins, essential amino acids and bioactive molecules that support our metabolic and immune health, brain function, skin health, and mood.
Our gut is like a garden. When healthy, it is full of a diverse range of bacteria that live in symbiosis with the plants that grow within its soil. When it is in balance, or eubiosis, we have a much better chance of experiencing optimal health. But when there is an imbalance, or dysbiosis, we can experience ailments that run the gamut from bloating, fatigue, headaches, mental health disorders, allergies, and autoimmune and skin conditions.
Many of these health and skin issues are caused by inflammation, which is our body’s protective immune response to a perceived threat or injury. Bacterial-derived lipopolysaccharides (LPS), a type of endotoxin, are part of the cell wall of a bacteria type known as Gram-negative bacteria. When our gut lining is damaged, these LPS, among other compounds, such as food antigens, can pass through the gut lining (a condition known as leaky gut) into the bloodstream, leading to low-grade systemic inflammation, which is closely linked to many skin and other health conditions. This is why it is important to eat a diet that supports microbial health and, therefore, gut wall integrity.
While acute inflammation—for example, a bruised knee—heals fairly quickly, ongoing or chronic inflammation can be far more problematic. If you have chronic skin inflammation, it is likely you have low-grade gut inflammation as well.
The good news is that our gut health, and overall health, can be improved by being a good host—nurturing our relationship with our microbiome through our diet and lifestyle choices. By strengthening our gut lining and ensuring that we have a good balance of bacteria, our dynamic internal ecosystem can thrive and we can experience good health, vitality, and glowing skin. Over the years, this has been one of the greatest pleasures of my job—watching customers nourish their gut health and experience radiant, glowing skin as well as improved health and well-being.
Stage 1 of the Gut Guide focuses on healing your digestive system, and this is the perfect restorative elixir. Slippery elm powder is a demulcent, acting as a barrier to soothe and protect the gut lining. Bone broth may sound like an unusual ingredient to add to a berry smoothie, but don’t worry: The flavor flies under the radar, and your tummy will benefit from the calming and anti-inflammatory gelatin.Specs: Gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian option, vegan option, low-FODMAPServes 2 (Makes approximately 750 ml, 25½ fl. oz., or 3 cups)Ingredients
- 180 ml (6 fl. oz./¾ cup) water
- 180 ml (6 fl. oz./¾ cup) chilled beef Bone Broth or Vegetarian Broth or store-bought stock
- 120 g (4½ oz./½ cup) frozen raspberries
- 60 g (2 oz./¼ cup) frozen blueberries
- 160 g (5 ½ oz./⅔ cup) coconut yogurt
- 100 g (3½ oz. /2 small) Lebanese (short) cucumber, roughly chopped
- 1 tablespoon slippery elm powder or The Beauty Chef Gut Primer Inner Beauty Support
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 3 ice cubes
Combine all ingredients in a high-speed blender and blend until smooth.