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You may not know it, or think about it very often, but your microbiome, the thriving ecosystem of 38 trillion microorganisms in and on your body, has a direct link to your skin clarity, quality, and vitality. If eyes are the window to the soul, the skin reveals what’s going on in your gut. When this all-important ecosystem is thrown off balance, it starts to send stress signals to all parts of your body, especially the skin. 

No one knows this better than Sakara Life founder and co-CEO Whitney Tingle. Today, her luminous skin is the result of honoring her body (particularly her gut) and wielding food as her most powerful beauty secret. Unfortunately for Whitney, who suffered from cystic acne for years, it was a bumpy decade to discover this secret and implement it into her own life. 

“I never wanted to talk about it. I never wanted anyone to even notice my skin, let alone have a conversation about it. I spent years trying to heal it with everything from acupuncture to Accutane. Lights, lasers, and intense peels. The kinds that required days of downtime, hiding from the sun and from other people,” Tingle recounts. “My dermatologists had me on so many antibiotics that I kept a Z-Pak (a high-powered antibiotic typically prescribed for things like pneumonia) in my desk drawer at college for when a big cyst would pop up.”

After Tingle moved to New York to work on Wall Street, crazy work hours, stress, and a diet heavy on fast food and alcohol exacerbated the problem. “My skin only got worse—and it began to affect every area of my life," she says. “My confidence, my dating life, my career.” Seeking help from Manhattan’s top dermatologists, she found their solution was to prescribe round after round of Accutane, a serious drug that requires bimonthly blood draws and additional prescriptions of antidepressants and birth control. “I had my aha moment sitting in a dermatologist’s chair on the Upper East Side as he tried to shove another prescription into my hand,” Tingle says. “There was a voice inside screaming at me, ’Don’t do this! It’s not the answer! Go inside and get to the core cause of what is going on inside your body!’”

Whitney returned to her Sedona roots and her belief in the power of food as medicine. Looking to take her health into her own hands, she partnered with childhood best friend, Danielle DuBoise, who was also seeking a transformation through food. They set out on a journey to discover the true secret to health, nutrition, and glowing skin.

They studied a breadth of healing modalities, from ancient Eastern lineages like Ayurveda to the most modern, cutting-edge science including nutrigenomics to create the nutrition philosophy that drives Sakara's weekly menu today. They completely reshaped their relationship with food and their bodies through plant-based eating. Whitney and Danielle built a protocol that addresses the powerful connection between microbiome health and skin vitality, as well as a host of additional benefits ranging from energy, to digestion, to sleep, to mental clarity.

Below, Whitney shares the revelations that changed her body, shifted her mindset, and healed her skin for good: 

“Skin issues are most often an inflammatory response,” Tingle says. “When the body is under constant stress—whether it’s physical stress due to a lack of sleep or improper diet, mental stress from work, or emotional stress from relationships (with yourself and others), it throws the ecosystem of the microbiome out of balance.” This shift allows for “bad” bacteria or yeast to grow inside your body. It also triggers a natural inflammatory response—your body’s reaction when it’s trying to heal itself. 

“This microbial imbalance in the body can show up in many different ways—sinus infections, throat issues or tonsillitis, yeast infections, Crohn’s, colitis, and more,” Tingle says. “And it most definitely can show up as acne.” It can also accelerate signs of aging, like fine lines and wrinkles. When we continually operate from a place of stress and inflammation, our cells and telomeres shrink and DNA duplicates faster—essentially speeding up the aging process. The best way to rebalance the body and get back to looking and feeling your best is through food. “Reducing the number of inflammatory triggers (processed foods, coffee, dairy, sugar, alcohol) is great,” Tingle says. “But in order to actually rebalance the microbiome and decrease inflammation, you must feed the ‘good’ bacteria and recreate that healthy ecosystem.”

Here, Whitney’s tips to rebalance your gut for clear, glowing skin:


Feed On Plant Fiber: “I always say, ‘you don’t have to eat only plants to feel healthy, but you can’t be healthy without them.’ The microbes living inside our digestive system love clean, organic plant fiber. They thrive on it. The best way to up your plant intake is to start consciously incorporating them into the meals you already eat. Making a smoothie for breakfast? Add a handful of spinach before blending. Having soup for lunch? Stir in chunks of carrot, squash, some cabbage, or other leafy green. Order a salad as an appetizer before dinner. Better yet, make salad your dinner—Sakara’s Signature Nutrition Program includes at least 6 cups of greens each day.”

Part of the reason being a vegetarian did not help my skin is that a vegetarian diet doesn’t necessarily mean I was eating lots of vegetables.

Embrace Diversity: “Once you get into the habit of eating more plants, you want to focus on the kinds of plants you’re eating. I had been vegan and vegetarian before and that alone didn’t clear my skin. I needed to eat the right combination of plants to really make a difference. Each plant contains its own powerful nutrients to support your body. By getting a variety of plants into your diet, you get an array of nutrients as well. Sakara includes an abundance of plant ingredients in each meal—upwards of 20 different ingredients in a single dish, and more than 180 unique ingredients in a week. We know that’s not always reasonable for the home chef. A good place to start is to shoot for at least five different plants in each meal. Bonus points if you can make each one of them a different color (green lettuce, orange carrots, red tomato, purple cabbage, yellow peppers). Don’t be afraid to try new fruits or veggies to add to your repertoire. Make sure to include at least one sulfurous (cruciferous) vegetable like broccoli, bok choy, or Brussels sprouts. They have incredible detoxifying and beautifying benefits.” 

Add A High-Quality Probiotic: "The biggest revelation to healing my complexion was understanding that I did not have a skin problem; I had a gut problem. The gut microbiome is the control center to our body’s systems—dictating the libido, sleep quality, nervous system health, how calories are absorbed, immune response, and more. Probiotics are the beneficial, living bacteria that maintains body balance, while prebiotic fiber (what’s found in organic fruits, veggies, nuts, and seeds) feeds these strains to keep them thriving. There are whole aisles devoted to probiotics, and it’s critical to seek out a high-quality supplement that offers a number of diverse species (at least 10). Lactobacillus acidophilus, for example, helps to crowd out candida, a yeast that can wreak havoc on the internal system, vaginal microbiome, and cause breakouts. Harvard Women's Health Watch recommends taking a probiotic of 1–10 billion CFUs (colony-forming units). Sakara recommends this dose twice daily (or more, if recommended by your doctor). And check for the time of expiration, not manufacturing, to ensure the bacteria is not dead on arrival. Sakara’s Complete Probiotic Formula also includes systemic and digestive enzymes, which aid in breaking down foods for better nutrient absorption, and in turn improve skin texture and radiance (along with relieving belly bloat).”

The biggest revelation to healing my complexion was understanding that I did not have a skin problem; I had a gut problem. 

Seek Water Everywhere “Hydration is another key element to transforming the skin. Part of the reason being a vegetarian did not help my skin is that a vegetarian diet doesn’t necessarily mean I was eating lots of vegetables. I was eating a lot of shelf-stable foods like organic crackers, trail mix, snack bars, and peanut butter. My main vegetable was the avocado that I typically put on sprouted, whole-grain toast. These foods, considered by many to be ‘healthy,’ were super dehydrating to my system. And things were getting blocked up, if you know what I mean. Digestion requires a lot of water. If foods aren’t high in water content, the body has to borrow hydration from its system to digest the food. Once I started eating the right plant-based foods, my system started to flow again. Keep a bounty of hydrating foods (containing 90 percent water) on hand like cucumber, melon, berries, leafy greens, tomatoes, and peaches. These plants deliver much-needed hydration for healthy digestion and provide moisture to the entire body including the skin. When drinking water, be sure that you’re drinking pure, clean H2O filled with essential minerals and electrolytes so that you fully absorb all the beautifying benefits—I add Beauty Water Drops to just about every glass I drink to help maintain a healthy microbiome ph balance and flush out toxins. 

Plant Positive Energy: “You may want to dismiss this last point, but don’t. When it comes to clearing your skin, this is crucial to getting you there. So much of my time went into worrying about my skin. The time I spent criticizing my skin in the mirror (pretending I wasn’t picking or prodding), the time I spent hating pictures taken of me, the time I spent dreaming of what my life might look like if only I had clear skin...it was all wasted time and energy. I realized that the time I spent hating myself was selfish time. And that needed to change. I decided to channel all of that energy into being in service to others. Teaching others, building things for others, volunteering for others, calling and being a listening ear for others. Being creative and helping others channels that energy away from your skin and just makes you feel good. Feeling good decreases the feelings of stress and anxiety on your body, therefore decreasing stress on your microbiome and helping it to stay in balance. Next time you look in the mirror and want to say something negative to yourself, I challenge you to pick up the phone and call someone who might need to hear from you. Convert that energy from disappointment to love.” 


Filed Under: Acne, Best probiotic, Foods for gut health, Foods for skin

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