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The Beauty Chef, also known as Carla Oates, is fond of saying that beauty begins in the belly—it's even her best-selling brand's tagline. Since its inception in 2009, The Beauty Chef (both the woman and the brand) is dedicated to inside-out health that you can actually see with benefits like radiant, glowing skin. But for many people, myself included, the idea of "starting in the gut" can feel a bit like renovating a house or trying to organize a group dinner: amazing in theory but logistically tricky. If you're a novice like me and can barely decipher the difference between a prebiotic and a pre-workout, you might need something of a cheat sheet.
Fortunately, Oates is a fantastic teacher who's all about constructing the easiest possible roadmap to internal and external health. "Starting a lifestyle change can be such a daunting task, and for some, extremely challenging," Oates explains. If you're unsure where to start on an internal gut-health journey, she's making it simple by sharing some of her top tips for feeling your personal best.
Start With What Goes In Your Body
The practice of avoiding processed, sugar-filled foods isn't revolutionary, but Oates's approach is refreshing. Rather than concentrating on calories, weight, and food morality, she focuses on how foods biologically behave in your body's ecosystem. Foods like white bread, ice cream, and pizza can cause inflammation, she explains, and can even compromise your gut wall. "Sugar feeds pathogenic bacteria, and dairy and gluten are hard to digest," she says. "If you're in the habit of regularly consuming sugary, processed foods, your microbiome is likely to be imbalanced, and you may suffer from leaky gut." This allows food antigens and endotoxins to leak into your bloodstream, causing inflammation in the body, Oates continues.
Once you're aware of certain foods' downsides, you can move on to what's actually beneficial to eat, like fiber-filled food. "Your gut bugs, they love fiber," Oates says. "They feed on fiber, and they create to make these anti-inflammatory compounds called short-chain fatty acids which are really essential for our metabolic brain, gut and our immune health." She recommends adding whole grains, plus plenty of fruits and vegetables, for better immunity. But Oates also suggests incorporating fermented foods, like sauerkraut, kombucha, kimchi, and kefir, "which are truly essential for creating bacterial diversity," she explains. [Editor's note: It's important to incorporate fiber into your diet slowly, as too much at once can cause bloating and discomfort.]
Sleep Is a Top Priority
We all know a good night's sleep is often part and parcel of any health recommendation, but there are some pretty solid reasons why a nightly eight hours is crucial to gut health. According to several pre-clinical trials and studies, a sleep cycle interruption can disrupt the body’s ability to maintain a healthy and diverse microbiome. "The reason is that your gut bacteria begins to pump out toxins when your body is short on sleep, which causes fatigue, leaky gut, brain fog, and inflammation," Oates says.
Lack of microbiome diversity not only affects serotonin production—that famous feel-good hormone—but also can reduce melatonin production, making it even harder to fall asleep. Oates also points out that 90% of your serotonin is made in the gut, so lack of sleep directly translates to less serotonin.
Don't Forget Your Vitamins and Supplements
Supplements can help provide the nutrients, healthy bacteria, and fiber you want—almost like how soil fertilizer can accelerate and augment a garden's growth. The Beauty Chef's own in-house supplement (and her line's signature product) GLOW Inner Beauty Powder ($65), delivers bio-fermented whole foods, prebiotics, probiotics, postbiotics, fiber, and antioxidants. It's a lot to keep track of, but their mixable, berry-flavored powder can be added to virtually any drink, making it easy to give your gut what it needs.
The powder also comes with the added benefit of vitamin C to help increase collagen production and zinc to support healthy nails and hair. The taste truly sets it apart from other supplements, something Oates says is a key focus in development. "When creating the products, we go through numerous rounds of tastings to make sure we have nailed the flavor," she tells us. "The flavors typically come from the genuine taste of the bio-fermented wholefoods, and then we complement the flavor of the bio-fermented blend with small amounts of natural flavor if needed."
Remove Shame from Indulgence
No matter how many expert quotes or infographics you see about inflammation, sometimes you're craving delicious, greasy pizza. We're only human, and what human could resist the good things in life like a glorious combination of cheese and bread? Don't beat yourself up. "After times of excess, it’s always good to take one day at a time, relax, and rejuvenate," Oates says.
But in the meantime, combat that next-day sluggish feeling with plenty of water and any exercise you can spare, even if it's just a lap or two around the block. Most importantly, forgive yourself. Not to sound like a sentient motivational poster here, but health isn't a destination you arrive at; it's a lifelong journey that comes with highs, lows, and triumphs. Try not to feel guilty if you've deviated from your goals. There's always tomorrow.
Make Sure You're Eating Plenty of Gut-Happy Foods
And speaking of tomorrow... If you feel like your gut health has fallen by the wayside, Oates says a cleanse can be the key to getting back in the saddle. If the word "cleanse" gives you visions of mouth-puckering $15 juices and hunger pangs, don't worry. Oates says all you need to do is remain conscious of those inflammation-triggering foods like sugary snacks, alcohol, and caffeine and take in plenty of greens and bitter herbs. "When you cleanse, you are primarily cleansing your liver, kidneys, and skin," she explains, "as these organs are responsible for eliminating metabolic waste from the body."
"Stock up on your cruciferous veggies too, including cabbage, broccoli, and kale as they are rich in cleansing, sulfur-containing compounds," Oates instructs. If you want to take your cleanse a step further, Oates recommends adding a supplement, like The Beauty Chef Cleanse Inner Beauty Powder ($65). "It contains cleansing herbs, vitamins, minerals, fiber, and natural prebiotics and probiotics to support both your liver and immune health, nourish your body from the inside, and put you on the path to radiant skin."