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Glowing Skin Secrets from a Functional Medicine RD

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Did you know an inside-out approach is necessary for glowing skin? Your internal health has an equally important impact on your skin as what you put on your skin externally.

glowing skin

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Did you know an inside-out approach is necessary for glowing skin? Believe it or not, your internal health has an equally important impact on your skin as what you put on your skin externally. For this reason, your functional medicine health plan can help you achieve glowing skin!


Your skin is the body’s largest organ. On average, the skin comprises approximately 16% of total body weight. It’s also your largest protective barrier, which is a primary part of your immune system. It protects what’s inside you by keeping water and nutrients in, while keeping harmful bacteria and viruses out. Your skin helps you maintain your body temperature and makes vitamin D when exposed to the sun. It’s also full of nerve endings to help you sense the outside world and avoid damage from things that are too hot, cold, or sharp.

Furthermore, your skin continually produces new skin cells, replacing approximately 40,000 old skin cells shed by your body every day. As a result, you have entirely new skin approximately every 30 days!

Clearly, your skin is a big deal. More so, what goes on inside your body will be reflected on the outside. In other words, your skin is like a sponge and often takes the brunt of your health imbalances, stress, and exhaustion. And, it’ll show. Think back to the last time you were noticeably stressed. Did you experience a skin breakout? That’s right, it all shows up on your skin. In addition, what we eat and drink affects all of our vital organs—including our skin.


There is a glaring connection between overall inflammation in the body and the health of your skin. Inflammation can show up through various signs and symptoms, including glowless skin– or skin that shows visible signs of distress, such as:

  • Psoriasis 
  • Eczema
  • Rosacea 
  • Acne 
  • Dullness
  • Premature fine lines/wrinkles

Many of these common skin problems are linked to inflammatory issues within the body, including autoimmunity, overgrowth of bacteria, nutritional deficiencies, hormonal imbalances, cortisol imbalances, etc. The key is understanding exactly what is causing glowless skin.


One of the biggest players in the skin game is your gut. As with every other aspect of your health, your gut is largely responsible for glowing skin– or not. The gut-skin connection explains the direct influence that your gut health has on your skin. Referring back to the common causes of skin problems (listed above), an imbalanced gut is often the root cause. 

An imbalanced gut microbiome can also lead to an imbalanced skin microbiome. Yes, your skin is covered in bacteria– good and bad. Similar to the gut microbiome, when the balance is off, it weakens your skin’s barrier. Since the gut-skin connection is so strong, healing the gut microbiome is an essential first step for glowing skin! 


A foundational belief of functional medicine is that food is medicine. Fortunately and unfortunately, the foods we eat can have lasting impacts on our skin. So, include more of these nutrient-dense anti-inflammatory foods for glowing skin:

glowing skin
Fiber-Rich Foods

Fiber plays a crucial role in supporting gut health by nourishing the beneficial bacteria in your digestive system. When you consume fiber-rich foods like fruit, vegetables, and sprouted grains, these bacteria ferment the fiber to produce short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), such as acetate, propionate, and butyrate. These SCFAs are known for their anti-inflammatory properties, helping to reduce inflammation throughout the body, including in the skin. By promoting a healthy balance of gut bacteria and supporting the production of SCFAs, fiber contributes to clearer, more radiant skin by minimizing redness, irritation, and inflammatory skin conditions. 

Healthy Fats 

There are several kinds of dietary fats, but not all are created equal. It’s important to maintain a healthy ratio of Omega-3 to Omega-6 fatty acids when trying to lower inflammation. In America, we naturally consume more Omega-6 fatty acids, resulting in a poorly balanced ratio and increased inflammation. Include more sources of Omega-3 fatty acids to reduce inflammation, like wild-caught salmon and sardines, sprouted nuts and seeds, and avocado. It’s important to also consume MCT fatty acids and conjugated linoleic acids coming from animal fats. Examples of these fats include coconut oil, ghee, duck fat, beef tallow, and grass-fed butter.

Anti-Inflammatory Superfoods

Antioxidants with a high ORAC score naturally fight free radicals and reverse damage caused by toxins. Include more anti-inflammatory foods to reduce inflammation, such as: colorful fruits and veggies, beetroot powder, camu camu, acerola cherry, cacao, acai, matcha, and turmeric. Many of these superfoods come in powder form and can be a great addition to smoothies! In fact, smoothies are a great hydrating breakfast option to support glowing skin. You can learn more about how to make a smoothie with the best protein powder for leaky gut and autoimmunity here


Water is an essential nutrient and plays many important roles in your body. It’s the main component in your cells and fluids. It allows you to maintain your body temperature and it provides shock absorption for your joints. It’s no wonder that adults are 60% water.

When it comes to our skin, water is just as essential. 

Your skin has three layers. The outermost layer—the one you see and feel—is called the epidermis. The middle layer is the dermis and underneath that is your hypodermis. When your epidermis doesn’t have enough water, your skin feels rough and loses elasticity. The water your epidermis needs comes from the inside. One clinical study found that when participants who didn’t drink a lot of water increased their intake, their skin became more hydrated and their skin’s “extensibility” improved within 2 weeks. Drinking more water can help skin hydration and may be particularly beneficial if you have dry skin or don’t drink enough water.

How much water do you need every day? 

This will vary depending on many factors and I like to ask a lot of questions before figuring out how much water intake is best for someone. A good starting point is about half your body weight in ounces. 

Note that these fluids can come from drinking water or other beverages, and can even come from water-rich foods like soups, fruits, and vegetables. Your personal water needs may be higher if you sweat a lot (from physical activity or living in a hot, humid environment), if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, or if you are prone to urinary or digestive tract conditions. 

Another important note: It isn’t just about how much water we drink, but how much water we are absorbing that will help support the skin. I recommend adding a pinch of Redmond’s sea salt to your water to absorb the water you drink and to maximize hydration. 

Last note! The quality of water is also really important. For glowing skin, we want to avoid environmental toxins that can often be found in drinking tap water. Always try to opt for filtered water. Added bonus if the water has added minerals! My favorite water filter is the Pur2o system for a whole house filtration system and the AquaTru for a portable and smaller (but still powderful) countertop filter. 


Protein is an essential macronutrient which means you need quite a bit of it every day (more than with micronutrients like vitamins where you need much smaller amounts every day). It makes up parts of your cells, immune system antibodies, and the enzymes needed for thousands of reactions (including digestion). 

Your body’s main structure is also made from proteins. This includes your bones, muscles, organs . . . and skin! Different proteins are made by combining different building blocks called amino acids. Your skin is made up of several different proteins. For example, collagen and elastin are very plentiful and build up the structure of your skin. Over time, and with exposure to the elements, your body’s ability to produce collagen decreases. Keratin is another important protein in your skin. Keratin makes up the outer epidermis layer giving it rigidity and enhancing its barrier protection.

The recommended daily amount of protein is based on your body weight. The general recommendation is that for every 20 lbs you weigh, you should try to get just over 7 grams of protein each day. This means a person who weighs 140 lbs needs about 50 g protein/day, while someone who weighs 200 lbs would need about 70 g protein/day. 

I find though that this number is often way too low. Individuals trying to heal leaky gut and who have autoimmune disorders typically do better with more protein, as it can help support the mucosal membrane and cells along the gut lining, thus speeding up the healing process. 

My typical recommendation for most individuals is to be between .8 grams – 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight. So if you are 130 pounds, you can aim for anywhere between 104 and 130 grams of protein per day. If you eat 5 meals per day, this looks something like 23 grams of protein per meal. I find most women are severely undereating protein! 

Choose quality protein coming from grass fed and finished meat, poultry, wild-caught fish, raw dairy, eggs, and quality protein powder. These types of proteins will be high in essential amino acids which is not only helpful for the skin, but also for a healthy gut! 


Avocados are high in healthy fats, particularly monounsaturated fats. Therefore, eating more avocado with meals can promote moisturized, more elastic skin. They are also rich in vitamins E and C, both antioxidants that protect the skin from oxidative damage, which can lead to signs of aging and skin damage. Avocados can also improve firmness due to their phytonutrients and vitamins. Regular consumption of avocados is found to enhance skin texture, making it more supple and vibrant.

Raw Carrot Salad

The raw carrot salad isn’t just for balanced hormones! Incorporating raw carrot salad into your diet can be a game-changer for achieving healthy, glowing skin. Carrots are packed with beta-carotene, a powerful antioxidant that not only gives carrots their vibrant orange color but also converts to vitamin A in the body, promoting cell repair and growth. This process is crucial for maintaining skin’s elasticity and overall health. Additionally, the high water content in carrots helps hydrate the skin from within, while their vitamin C content supports collagen production, further enhancing skin firmness and preventing premature aging.

Vitamin A in carrots also plays a crucial role in protecting the skin from sun damage. This essential nutrient acts as a natural sunblock, absorbing and reducing harmful UV rays that can lead to sunburn, premature aging, and increased risk of skin cancer. By reinforcing the skin’s defense mechanisms, vitamin A helps maintain a healthier, more resilient skin barrier, effectively safeguarding it against environmental stressors while promoting a radiant complexion.

Smoothies for Breakfast 

Not only is a balanced smoothie great for blood sugar regulation, digestion, and an energy boost, but it is also nourishing and hydrating for the skin when properly balanced. Between the fruits, vegetables, superfood powders, protein, healthy MCT fats, and even boosters such as ginger, these antioxidants serve as a skin health powerhouse! Replacing your breakfast with a smoothie can incorporate many of the top foods and nutrients to support a healthy skin barrier. 

In addition, smoothies that include quality protein powder can support gut healing, which is an essential step in recovering from skin conditions such as eczema, acne, psoriasis, and dermatitis. 


In addition to incorporating nutrient-dense foods into your diet, it’s crucial to identify and eliminate trigger foods that may exacerbate skin conditions. Understanding your individual food sensitivities is so important in promoting skin health. Contrary to popular belief, food sensitivities don’t always result in immediate reactions, making them challenging to pinpoint without thorough testing. Surprisingly, foods that seem harmless could be triggering inflammatory responses within your body, leading to skin issues. 

Common culprits known to trigger skin flare-ups include gluten, grains, soy, conventional dairy, refined sugars, and alcohol. By having a proactive approach and prioritizing testing over guesswork, you can gain insights into your unique sensitivities and make informed dietary choices to support clearer, healthier skin. 

For this reason, I love testing the MRT (Mediator Release Test) on my clients


PUFAs are known to be highly unstable fats that can oxidize at relatively low temperatures. This oxidation can lead to the formation of free radicals, which are molecules that can cause cellular damage. This damage can manifest both internally, affecting organs and glands, and externally, leading to prematurely aging skin. The instability of PUFAs and their ability to oxidize and become rancid, even before consumption, is a significant concern. 

The processing of PUFA-rich oils often involves high heat, potentially leading to the oils becoming rancid before they are even consumed. Not only are these substances potentially harmful to internal health but can also promote inflammation, which can be detrimental to skin health, and exacerbating conditions like acne, dermatitis, and eczema.

Additionally, the excessive consumption of nuts and seeds, which are high in PUFAs, can potentially slow down metabolic rates. This metabolic slowdown may not be conducive to optimal human health, including skin health. 

To protect your skin and overall health from the potential negative effects of PUFAs, consider minimizing the intake of high-PUFA oils like canola, sunflower, and soybean oil, and instead use more stable fats like coconut oil, ghee, and butter for cooking. In addition, being more mindful of the PUFA content in nuts, seeds, and processed foods, and opting for organic, pasture-raised animal products can also help reduce PUFA intake.

Incorporating saturated fats over PUFA fats may further support skin health by providing essential vitamins and minerals and promoting a more balanced and less inflammatory dietary profile.


Consuming high amounts of processed sugar can accelerate skin aging through a process called glycation, where sugar in your bloodstream attaches to proteins like collagen, making them stiff and less elastic. This leads to wrinkles and sagging skin, often referred to as “sugar sag”.

Processed sugar can also trigger skin inflammation, leading to flare-ups of conditions like eczema, rosacea, and psoriasis. Inflammation is the body’s response to irritants, and the increase in cortisol levels caused by sugar intake exacerbates this, potentially worsening these skin conditions. The worst part, high sugar consumption can exacerbate acne. 

For the 5 best natural sweeteners to support gut health, click here


In addition to diet, supplementation can be effective in addressing the root cause of your glowless skin. Many of these supplements have been shown to improve skin health.


Collagen is the most abundant protein in our body and it makes up about 70% of our skin. Unfortunately, collagen stores naturally decline as we age, so collagen supplementation can be effective in improving skin, hair, and nail health. Specifically, types I and III of collagen boost skin elasticity, reduce wrinkles, and reduce the appearance of cellulite and stretch marks. You can incorporate more collagen into your diet by adding collagen powder to smoothies or coffee, sipping bone broth, or making gelatin gummies. 

Looking for more ways to incorporate collagen? Check out this post here!

I also share my favorite matcha collagen latte here for glowing skin

Omega 3 Fatty Acids 

As our knowledge grows, it’s becoming increasingly evident just how essential omega-3 fatty acids are for our health. These nutrients play a vital role in rebalancing the fatty acids in our bodies. Specifically, they help rejuvenate cell membranes, improving their integrity and ability to retain moisture, which is crucial for healthy, hydrated skin. 

When it comes to getting your fill of omega-3s, high-quality fish oil is one of the best sources available. Adding fish oil to your daily routine can provide a reliable boost to your omega-3 levels, supporting not only skin hydration but also for your overall health!

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is a super vital essential nutrient found in your skin that makes other nutrients more absorbable and available. It is a water-soluble antioxidant vitamin that plays many roles in your body, including in skin health. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information our skin’s outer layer, the epidermis, is naturally packed with Vitamin C. When you add a little extra vitamin C to the mix through supplements, it’s like giving your skin a serious boost. 

Studies have shown that vitamin C supplementation can really amp up your skin game by naturally promoting essential skin cell turnover—basically, helping your skin renew itself more efficiently. And get this: it’s not just about renewal; vitamin C also works wonders for enhancing skin elasticity and strength. So, if you’re looking to keep your skin fresh, firm, and glowing, making sure you’re getting enough of this powerful nutrient is definitely the way to go.

A deficiency of Vitamin C (scurvy) results in skin lesions, as well as skin that is easily bruised and slow to heal. This is, in part, because of Vitamin C’s role in stabilizing the protein collagen. Another sign of Vitamin C deficiency in the skin affects hair follicles and can cause “corkscrew hairs.” These are examples of why Vitamin C is so important for skin health.

Every day you should aim for at least 75 mg of Vitamin C. Fruits and vegetables are rich sources In particular, bell peppers, citrus fruits (oranges, grapefruits), broccoli, cauliflower, strawberries, kiwis, blackcurrants, potatoes, rose hip, and parsley.

When it comes to supplementing with vitamin C though, I don’t recommend taking it in the ascorbic acid form for more than 6 months. This can result in depleting other important vitamins and minerals, leading to imbalances in our chemistry. Instead, I like to opt for whole food vitamin C capsules coming from concentrated Acerola cherry capsules.


Antioxidants are naturally found in many superfoods, such as camu camu, acai, acerola cherry, and beetroot. Many of these foods can be found in powder form to add to smoothies, oatmeal, or yogurt. Also, supplementation can further increase the positive effects of antioxidants on your skin. Look for an antioxidant supplement that contains Quercetin, grapeseed extract, and rutin for a potent antioxidant boost.

Vitamin E 

Vitamin E is a group of essential vitamins called tocopherols. They are fat-soluble antioxidants that work synergistically with Vitamin C. When given together, vitamins C and E (and zinc) can speed up wound healing. Deficiency of Vitamin E is linked to red, dry skin.

Vitamin E is often applied directly (topically) on the skin to reduce redness and some of the effects of sun damage. Ingesting Vitamin E helps the skin from the inside by protecting collagen and fats from breaking down. One clinical study successfully improved symptoms of dermatitis (skin inflammation) in participants who took Vitamin E supplements over the course of several months.

The recommended daily allowance for Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) is 15 mg. You can get Vitamin E in vegetables, oils (wheat germ oil, olive oil), nuts (almonds, hazelnuts), spinach, broccoli, and kiwis. 

Vitamin A 

When it comes to supplementing with vitamin A, I prefer liver capsules or eating beef liver. Another option to consider is pure cod liver oil. Both of these options are in supplement form but are food-based. Since overdosing on vitamin A can lead to serious complications and isn’t well absorbed, I always like to opt for food first without knowing someone’s unique chemistry and nutrient levels. 

Another good source of vitamin A includes sweet potatoes. Sweet potatoes contain beta-carotene, which acts as a natural sunblock and may protect the skin from sun damage. Once consumed, beta-carotene is converted by the body into vitamin A, an essential nutrient for skin health, contributing to a healthy skin tone and cell turnover.


Selenium is a powerhouse mineral for skin health, offering protection against environmental damage and aging. Its antioxidant properties help safeguard the skin from free radicals and UV-induced damage, reducing the risk of sunburn, skin cancer, and premature aging. 

Additionally, selenium plays a role in maintaining skin elasticity and firmness by supporting the production of glutathione, the master antioxidant in the body. Incorporating selenium-rich foods like Brazil nuts, seafood (such as tuna, halibut, and shrimp), organ meats (like liver), eggs, sunflower seeds, and mushrooms into your diet can promote a radiant, healthy complexion.


Many skincare products are filled with toxic ingredients, such as endocrine disruptors, that disrupt our hormones and damage the gut. This is why it’s important to switch to nontoxic, natural skincare products. 

ClearStem is THE #1 skincare line specifically for acne prone skin. Especially when it comes to wearing daily skincare products containing SPF, ClearStem is my brand of choice. Their products are meticulously crafted to be free of pore-cloggers and hormone disruptors, making them ideal for acne-prone skin. They have some of the best performing cleansers, serums, exfolliators, and moisturizers I’ve ever used that are equally clean and safe from a toxin standpoint.

Developed by acne specialists, ClearStem formulas are designed to nourish your skin while calming inflammation, reducing acne, and even reversing acne scars in the safest possible way. Plus, they’re gluten-free, cruelty-free, silicone-free, and toxin-free, ensuring that you’re not only protecting your skin but also supporting ethical and sustainable practices. 

If you want to experience the ClearStem glow (yes it is a thing) for yourself, use code “NIKKIYELTONRD” at checkout to save 15% off your purchase! 


In addition to diet, supplementation, and skincare, your lifestyle habits can influence the health of your skin. Implement these basic lifestyle habits for glowing skin beyond nutrition:

  • Use gentle cleansers and warm (not too hot) water to keep skin clean
  • Moisturize after taking a shower or washing your hands
  • Avoid things that bother your skin such as harsh cleansers, fragrances, and irritating fabrics
  • If you have allergies or intolerances (e.g., to gluten or pollen), avoid those
  • Consider using a Red Light Therapy device 
  • Use a humidifier and wear gloves when the weather is dry and cold
  • Work on stress 
  • Consider a professional reset/cleanse to enhance detoxification and remove toxins 
Level Up: Hydration 

Yes, it is a nutrient but it is also a lifestyle habit worth prioritizing! Hydration is a key to healthy, hydrated, glowing skin. Hydration benefits your skin by flushing out toxins, increasing elasticity, and clearing out pores. In order for your skin to be hydrated, you have to drink enough water every day. Make it a goal to drink at least half your body weight in ounces of water per day. To increase water absorption, add sea salt or Trace mineral drops to your water. You can also eat more hydrating foods like watermelon, cantaloupe, and cucumber. Also, be aware of the foods and drinks that deplete your hydration stores, such as alcohol, coffee, tea, and juice.

Level Up: Sleep

Sleep isn’t just about feeling rested; it’s a crucial ingredient for vibrant, healthy skin. When we fall asleep, our bodies kick into repair mode, and our skin gets a much-needed boost. During sleep, collagen production ramps up, helping to keep our skin firm and youthful. Plus, it’s when our stress hormones (cortisol) start to dial down, which is a big win for skin health. Skimping on sleep disrupts these vital processes, leaving us with dull, tired-looking skin and increased inflammation. Not to mention, it can mess with our skin’s moisture levels, leading to dryness and irritation.

In short, quality sleep is like hitting the reset button for your skin, ensuring it’s off to a running start, come morning. If you’re after that coveted healthy skin glow, prioritize those precious hours of shut-eye!

Level Up: Sunshine + Movement 

Yes, both of them together can work synergistically to support your skin! Moving your body and sweating is essential for releasing toxins through the skin. Combining vitamin D from sun exposure with moving your body can also support opening drainage pathways, making detox more efficient so you can heal your body. Since the sun increases your stores of vitamin D and vitamin D is essential for skin health, as it supports your immune system, reduces inflammation, and regulates cell turnover. 


To attain that coveted glow, it’s all about embracing a holistic approach that focuses on both internal nourishment and external skincare. Your skin is a mirror reflecting your inner health, making the gut-skin connection a pivotal factor in achieving radiant skin. Fueling your body with nutrient-rich foods such as fiber-packed options, nourishing fats, and anti-inflammatory superfoods lays the foundation for a healthy gut microbiome, resulting in vibrant skin from within. Supplements like collagen, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin C, and antioxidants complement this internal nourishment, boosting skin elasticity and hydration. When it comes to skincare, opting for clean, toxin-free options ensures your skin gets the care it deserves without any harmful additives. Finally, don’t forget the importance of lifestyle habits like staying hydrated, getting quality sleep, and moving your body daily for maintaining that enviable glow. 

If you have an autoimmune condition like Hashimotos and struggle with your skin, know that you are not alone! This is a common complaint I hear all the time in the women I help. Know that your gut and skin are directly connected. For a deeper dive into addressing skin concerns, explore my Microbiome Makeover program, designed to heal your gut and reverse autoimmunity–while holistically transform your health, including your skin along the way! With my 7-step gut-healing process, functional testing, personalized and personalized approach, my program promises unparalleled support on your journey to feeling better and getting your life back. Discover more about the transformative Microbiome Makeover here!

I would love to know how you are giving your skin a glow up! Share them with me in the comments below! 


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"When it comes to balancing our body, healing the gut, reversing autoimmunity, and achieving optimal health—we are a lot like a car that won’t run right. In order to fix the problem once and for all instead of relying on jumper cables, we must get underneath the hood, run the diagnostics, and replace the battery so that it runs good as new."

-Nikki Yelton, RD

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