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With an average surface area of between one and two square metres, your skin is your largest organ – and it can say a lot about your health. As far back as 1930, researchers began making connections between skin conditions such as acne, rosacea and eczema and the health of your gut, so while this is a not a new phenomenon, it is certainly something to consider if your skin is persistently suffering.

There are endless products on the market aimed at helping with skin conditions, but though you may see positive effects, it can be hugely frustrating to feel that you are not getting to the root of the problem. “Research shows that as many as 40% of those with acne have hypochlorhydria (low stomach acid), which can set the stage for migration of bacteria from the colon towards the small intestine, as well as an alteration of normal intestinal microflora,” says Claudia Louch of The Harley Street Nutrition Clinic. “Stress-induced alterations to microbial flora could increase the likelihood of intestinal permeability, which in turn sets the stage for systemic and local skin inflammation.”

The relationship between stress and bad skin is known all too well to most of us—it’s that familiar moment when you wake up on the day of an important meeting or event faced with a breakout. But Louch explains that stress is often what causes gastrointestinal and hormonal changes, which in turn show themselves in the skin. So it truly is an internal, and vicious, cycle.

Related article: 10 Head-To-Toe Soothing Fixes For Sensitive Skin

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A visit to holistic skincare specialist Claudia Louch shares no similarities with the typical perception of ‘hippy dippy’ natural medicine. Situated at the top of a Harley Street townhouse that she shares with medical doctors, her staff are dressed in smart starched uniforms and bustle around efficiently measuring your blood pressure and weight, and taking a brief medical history. While she uses only 100% natural and non-invasive procedures, she looks to science and medicine to test her patients. Unlike many dermatologists whose focus can seem – literally – skin deep, Louch looks at the body as a whole, ordering full blood tests as well as, often, stool and urine samples to get to the bottom of what’s causing an unbalance.

Whether you are there for medical or cosmetic reasons, each client is assessed individually. A first appointment involves the use of a skin tool, part microscope, part computer software, which analyses the condition of the skin. A quick study of mine diagnosed chronic dryness and a yeast overgrowth, which she suspected was due to a year taking countless courses of antibiotics. This onslaught of antibiotics had killed off much of my ‘good bacteria’ leaving me with both eczema and digestive problems. “Excess bacteria can successfully compete for nutrients, produce toxic metabolites, and cause direct injury to the small intestine,” she explained. This intestinal permeability (sometimes known as ‘leaky gut’) causes both systemic and local inflammation, often showing up in the skin.

Related article: How To Get The Best Beauty Sleep Ever

When I visit her a second time to receive my test results, she presents me with a full analysis pack and a list of intolerances. Most are not foods to avoid forever, just until the gut is significantly healed. On top of this she prescribes a bespoke treatment of phytomedicines, which includes both a probiotic and antifungal, all produced from natural ingredients at her in-house laboratory. Clients can also receive phytomedical facials and body treatments aimed at soothing skin conditions further.

“I do not subscribe to so called ‘superfoods’.”

Louch explains that, while she sees patients with a range of skin conditions, she has noticed a rise in those with adult onset acne. She put this down partly to poor dietary habits, “too much sugar (not only the starchy carbohydrate variety, but in tropical and dried fruits and alcohol), as well as high fat/protein diets, excessive exercising, take away foods and eating out a lot.” But, whilst it is of course important to follow a healthy balance diet, simply turning to diet fads or foods touted as ‘super’ is not the answer for those whose digestive system is out of whack. “I do not subscribe to so called ‘superfoods,’ she explains. ‘We need to have an adequate amount of good quality proteins, carbohydrates [again not so much the starchy variety but vegetables and fruits that fall under the same umbrella] but also fats in order for our body to be able to absorb all fat soluble vitamins such as Vitamins A D E K. One should definitely avoid too much alcohol, high sugar and saturated fat containing foods, for example takeaways.”

Related article: 4 Signs Your Skin Hates What You’re Putting On It

So if you feel you have exhausted every option out there for your problem skin – from prescribed creams to peels and facials – take a look elsewhere and, most importantly, inside. With the help of holistic technicians like Louch, you can construct a diet plan to suit your individual make up. It may turn out that your gut contains the answer.

From: Harper’s BAZAAR UK