As much as January can make you feel a bit blue, there’s also this great sense of optimism and rejuvenation in the New Year. Despite often arctic temperatures, the countdown to spring and eventually warmer, longer days seems tantalizingly close! This time of year signals the end of indulgence and a time to hone in on wellness. It’s where we can strip back and realign ourselves with habits and goals that nourish and promote good health. The great thing is we can apply this thinking to so many areas… skin health, gut health, immunity, energy, sleep, nutrition, movement, self-love… the list goes on! 

We recently sat down with Brittany Ford of Biohacking Brittany (@biohackingbrittany) to talk about all things skin health, post-Christmas health habits to awaken the soul, foods that fuel our wellbeing and the wonderful world of supplements with her partnership with Forest Spa Finland.

The pandemic has been tough for everybody in so many ways… What have you been doing to keep yourself well and nourished during this stressful time?
It certainly has been! I’ve been focusing on a holistic approach that prioritizes fitness, nutrition, supplements, stress management and sleep quality. I regularly do things that make my mind and body feel good, like hopping on my Peloton for a ride, taking a hot Himalayan salt bath, using the local steam room or hiking with my dog. In addition, I make sure that I’m eating whole foods (both plant and animal-based) as much as possible, and I’m careful not to overdo it on the alcohol or fast food!

Can you explain a bit more about what biohacking is and the benefits?
Biohacking is holistic self-care for optimal health. It assesses an individual as a whole and uses tactics and tools that promote healing from the inside out. Rather than merely trying to fix a symptom, biohacking tries to find the root cause of the problem that’s causing the symptom. A large part of biohacking includes quantifying yourself, which means using different trackable devices (like an Oura Ring) or health tests to gather data on what you’re experiencing. From there, you can try different biohacks to improve your data and biomarkers. 

Skin health is a big topic for many people looking to enhance their glow! Where would you recommend starting when looking to prioritize your skin?
I always recommend looking deeper than just what appears on the outside! Healthy skin starts within. Whether it’s acne, redness, eczema, texture, melasma or any other standard skin issue, there’s always an underlying cause, and typically It’s related to our gut or hormones. Getting tested for gut or hormonal health issues can be really helpful for healing chronic skin complaints.

How does stress affect our skin?
Stress impacts our ability to have a healthy gut and balanced hormones, both of which can cause skin issues. When we’re stressed, we struggle to digest our food properly, causing many concerns inside the gut, including protein fermentation, dysbiosis and Leaky Gut. Chronic stress also disrupts our natural cortisol production, negatively impacts our blood glucose levels and sex hormones. These fluctuations typically appear in the skin as acne or a bumpy texture on the chin and between the eyebrows. 

When you’re feeling run-down and low in energy (like we all might be feeling post-Christmas!), what supplements and lifestyle habits do you gravitate towards?
This is to be expected after the holidays! My go-to recommendation is to use supplements designed to balance out our hormones, like adaptogens. Plants like Chaga, Bilberry, Rhodiola and Pine Bark all have an adaptogenic effect in the body, meaning they support homeostasis and aim to keep the balance between all hormones. Products like the Nordic Adaptogen Supplement from Forest Spa Finland can really help support this balance where you need it and help to boost the vitality of your skin.

They say wellness starts from within… What is your take on this and what do you focus on internally to enhance your wellbeing?
Wellness certainly starts from within! First and foremost, it starts from a mindset shift. Maintaining a healthy body and mind takes a lot of self-awareness, effort, and time. Choosing to begin your wellness journey and deliberately making healthy choices every day can be challenging, but the reward is well worth it every time. While I focus on eating whole foods, moving my body a lot, getting adequate sleep and managing my stress, I also prioritize having positive self-talk, regular meditation, and enhancing my mindfulness. 

There are many supplements out there but what do you look for in a product/brand to help support a healthy lifestyle?
The supplement world can certainly be overwhelming! Therefore, I look for authenticity and transparency from a brand (no hidden additives or preservatives), highly absorbable ingredients and a brand with an excellent reputation from its customers. When you are choosing a supplement, it is important to look for high-quality natural ingredients as these will provide the most effective sources of the vitamins and minerals that you need.

We’ve seen a huge focus on immunity over the last couple of years, do you have any advice for keeping the immune system healthy and strong?
Aside from proper nutrition, supplementation and exercise, I highly recommend assessing your sleep quality. If you wake up feeling groggy and not refreshed, wake up multiple times throughout the night or struggle to fall asleep (it takes you longer than 15 minutes), your sleep could use some work. There are a ton of biohacks you can do to support your sleep, so feel free to reach out to me personally if you have any questions! 

As a registered holistic nutritionist, what are the most common problems you hear from clients?
Many of my clients come to me with gut or hormonal health issues, and most of the time, they are also dealing with skin concerns. With the quality of our food declining and the bombardment of toxins we’re exposed to on a daily basis (everything from smog to EMF), my clients are just trying to get to a healthier place than they’ve been in the last few years. They’re tired, overworked, gained weight, and just feel like they’ve lost control of their health. I’ve been there, so I get it! 

How intrinsically connected is our skin and overall wellbeing?
I think a big part of skin health that most people don’t talk about is its impact on our mental health, which directly impacts our well-being. For example, during the start of the pandemic, I had my first experience of serious acne, which created a new level of anxiety, depression, and stress like I hadn’t had before. It impacted my willingness to see people, do activities and much more, which led me to be less physically active and social, which in turn caused more anxiety and stress. So, there’s a real mental component to having skin that isn’t as healthy as you’d like. That’s why healing skin must take a holistic approach: you can’t just fix it with a cream and be done with it. It requires healing from the inside out.

Finally, if you could recommend 5 top tips for anyone, no matter who they are, to help improve their skin health and wellbeing, what would they be?

I would suggest a holistic approach and looking for the underlying cause!

1. Get your gut and hormones tested (and regularly) to find out why your skin is acting up in the first place. 

2. Focus on eating whole foods (plant and animal-based) and severely reduce inflammatory foods that are processed. Your fridge should be fuller than your pantry.

3. Choose the right supplements for you to manage your stress. Include adaptogens for optimal hormonal balance and to support your skin as well. 

4. Exercise and move your body every day as much as possible. It can be anything from hiking to stretching to spinning! Just get the blood flowing and focus on sitting less. 

5. Sleep better! Turn down the bright lights at night, don’t eat any food late at night and create a regular sleep routine that you can stick to.

Disocver more about Brittany and her services at biohackingbrittany.com

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