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Nutrition for Healthy Skin: Silica, Niacin, Vitamin K2, and Probiotics


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Note: The Prescript-Assist supplements discussed in this article are no longer available. Please click here to learn more about a substitute, the Daily Synbiotic from Seed.

It’s time to close out my series on nutrition and skin health. I believe that a nutrient-dense, whole foods diet, with particular attention paid to certain vitamins, minerals, and other compounds, is a powerful tool in the treatment of skin disease. It’s unfortunate that many mainstream doctors and dermatologists typically deny any connection between diet and skin health, and many patients miss the opportunity to make major improvements in their skin simply by changing what they eat. I hope that this series will give you the evidence you need to make the switch to a skin-supporting diet.

It’s unfortunate that many mainstream dermatologists deny any connection between diet and skin health. Tweet This

In this final article, I will discuss the benefits of four nutrients that can play an important role in improving the look and feel of one’s skin: silica, niacin, vitamin K2, and probiotics. (Yes, probiotics are not a nutrient, but they may be one of the most important parts of a healthy skin diet!)

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While silica may not be considered an essential nutrient by current standards, it is likely that this trace mineral plays a functional role in human health. (1) In animals, a silica deficient diet has been shown to produce poorly formed connective tissue, including collagen. In fact, silica has been shown to contribute to certain enzyme activities that are necessary for normal collagen formation. Silica is essential for maintaining the health of connective tissues due to its interaction with the formation of glycosaminoglycans (GAGs), which are structural building blocks of these types of tissue. One well-known GAG important for skin health is hyaluronic acid, which has been shown to promote skin cell proliferation and increase the presence of retinoic acid, improving the skin’s hydration. (2)

Therefore, a deficiency in silica could result in reduced skin elasticity and wound healing due to its role in collagen and GAG formation. As we know, proper collagen formation is essential for maintaining tight, wrinkle-free skin, so silica can also be beneficial for slowing down the signs of skin aging.

It’s best to get silica from natural sources, and food sources of silica include leeks, green beans, garbanzo beans, strawberries, cucumber, mango, celery, asparagus and rhubarb. (3)

Silica can also be found in certain types of water, such as Fiji brand water, which contains more than four times the levels found in other bottled waters due to the leaching of water-soluble silica from volcanic rock. (4) In fact, beverages contribute to more than half of the total dietary intake of silica, and the silica content of water depends entirely on its geological source. Silica can also be found in trace mineral supplements, such as ConcenTrace Trace Mineral Drops, which can be added to plain drinking water.


Niacin, also known as vitamin B3, plays a vital role in cell metabolism as a coenzyme in energy producing reactions involving the breakdown of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins, as well as anabolic reactions such as fatty acid and cholesterol synthesis. (4) The deficiency of niacin is rare these days, but was fairly common historically due to the reliance on niacin-poor food staples, such as corn and and other cereal grains, in low-income communities. (5) Pellagra, the disease of late stage niacin deficiency, causes a variety of skin symptoms such as dermatitis and a dark, scaly rash. In fact, the word “pellagra” comes from the Italian phrase for rough or raw skin. (6) The skin symptoms are often the first to appear, and may be exacerbated by even a slight deficiency in niacin over a long period of time.

While a low intake of niacin is unlikely, there are some diseases that may cause inadequate niacin absorption from the diet. An example of this is in celiac disease, where absorption is impaired by the swelling and thickening of the intestinal lining that occurs in celiac disease. (7) Other inflammatory gut conditions such as IBS or Crohn’s disease can also lead to a reduction in niacin absorption, and could conceivably lead to the skin-related symptoms of pellagra such as dermatitis and scaling.

Good whole-foods sources of niacin include meat, poultry, red fishes such as tuna and salmon, and seeds. Milk, green leafy vegetables, coffee, and tea also provide some niacin to the diet. Your liver can also convert tryptophan from high-protein foods like meats and milk into niacin. (8)

In the case of true deficiency, supplementation may be necessary, but for most healthy people, a varied diet with adequate meat consumption should be enough to meet one’s nutritional needs.

If choosing to supplement, be sure to consult with a licensed medical professional, as too much nicotinic acid can be harmful.

Vitamin K2

I’ve written before about the incredible health benefits of a diet rich in vitamin K2. Vitamin K2′s role in the body includes protecting us from heart disease, forming strong bones, promoting brain function, supporting growth and development and helping to prevent cancer – to name a few. It performs these functions by helping to deposit calcium in appropriate locations, such as in the bones and teeth, and prevent it from depositing in locations where it does not belong, such as the soft tissues. One of the health benefits of vitamin K2 not often discussed is its role in ensuring healthy skin, and this vitamin is likely beneficial for preventing wrinkling and premature aging.

Adequate dietary vitamin K2 prevents calcification of our skin’s elastin, the protein that gives skin the ability to spring back, smoothing out lines and wrinkles. (9) This is because K2 is necessary for activation of matrix proteins that inhibit calcium from being deposited in elastin fibers and keeping these fibers from hardening and causing wrinkles. In fact, recent research suggests that people who cannot metabolize vitamin K end up with severe premature skin wrinkling. (10) Vitamin K2 is also necessary for the proper functioning of vitamin A- and D- dependent proteins. As I discussed in the first article in this series, vitamin A is essential for proper skin cell proliferation, and cannot work properly if vitamin K2 is not available. Therefore, vitamin K2 is important in the treatment of acne, keratosis pillaris, and other skin symptoms of vitamin A deficiency.

It’s important to get adequate amounts of dietary vitamin K2, particularly if trying to heal the skin or prevent wrinkles. Great sources of vitamin K2 include butter and other high fat dairy products from grass-fed cows, egg yolks, liver, and natto. Fermented foods such as sauerkraut and cheese are also quite high in vitamin K2 due to the production of this vitamin by bacteria. It is important to note that commercial butter and other dairy products are not significantly high sources of vitamin K2, as most dairy cattle in our country are fed grains rather than grass. It is the grazing on vitamin K1-rich grasses that leads to high levels of vitamin K2 in the dairy products of animals, so be sure to look for grass-fed dairy products when trying to increase your intake of vitamin K2. (11)

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Probiotics are one of the most fascinating areas of modern nutrition research, and a topic I am passionate about. I will be discussing what is known as the “gut-brain-skin” axis during my presentation upcoming at the Weston A. Price Foundation Wise Traditions Conference in November, and have been researching the connection between gut flora and skin conditions for months. While there is a great deal of information on the skin-gut axis, I’ll give a quick summary of the information in this article – the rest you’ll have to see in my presentation in a few months!

The skin-gut axis has been studied since the 1930s, and yet we’re only just beginning to understand the role that probiotics may play in skin health. The ability of the gut microbiota and oral probiotics to influence systemic inflammation, oxidative stress, glycemic control, and tissue lipid content, may have important implications in skin conditions such as acne, rosacea, atopic dermatitis, and psoriasis. (12) Recent studies have shown that orally consumed pre and probiotics can reduce systemic markers of inflammation and oxidative stress, which may help reduce inflammatory acne and other skin conditions. (1314, 15) There is also a connection between small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) and the incidence of acne, suggesting that reestablishing the proper balance of gut microflora is an important factor in treating acne.

There are far more beneficial effects of probiotic bacteria for skin health than I will be able to mention in this article; I will cover the topic much more in-depth at the conference in November.

However, I believe the evidence strongly supports the role of probiotics in treating a variety of skin conditions, and recommend that anyone suffering from skin trouble be especially diligent about including fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, yogurt, and kefir in your regular diet.

Probiotic supplements can also be helpful—but be careful, because not all probiotics will be beneficial for skin conditions. As I’ve mentioned, many people with skin conditions also have SIBO. SIBO often involves an overgrowth of microorganisms that produce a substance called D-lactic acid. Unfortunately, many commercial probiotics contain strains (like Lactobacillus acidophilus) that also produce D-lactic acid. That makes most commercial probiotics a poor choice for people with SIBO.

Soil-based organisms do not produce significant amounts of D-lactic acid, and are a better choice for this reason. In my clinic, I have great success with a product called Prescript Assist when treating skin conditions. Other popular choices include Gut Pro from Organic 3 and D-Lactate Free Powder from Custom Probiotics. I used these in the past, but have much better success with Prescript Assist so I now use that exclusively.

Well that’s the end of the “Nutrition for Skin Health” series! As a quick recap, the top whole-foods nutrients I recommend as part of any skin-healing diet are:

  • Vitamin A
  • Zinc
  • Vitamin C
  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids
  • Biotin
  • Sulfur
  • Vitamin E
  • Pantothenic Acid (vitamin B5)
  • Selenium
  • Silica
  • Niacin
  • Vitamin K2
  • Probiotics

I hope this information has been helpful to you, and I would love to hear any success stories from readers who have treated their skin conditions using nutritional changes!

Other articles in this series:

Nutrition for Healthy Skin: Vitamin A, Zinc, and Vitamin C
Nutrition for Healthy Skin: Omega-3 Fatty Acids, Biotin, and Sulfur
Nutrition for Healthy Skin: Vitamin E, Pantothenic Acid, and Selenium

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Join the conversation

  1. Hello Chris,
    I’ve just read on NCBI Pubmed that DMSO is a potent estrogen-receptor modulator – it increases estrogen receptors’ action, and thus the absorption of xenoestrogens in salmon (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16828892). It is quite a recent study , and few other scientists have pinpointed that, but I suspect not many people have suspected that the high absorption of phytoestrogens DMSO provides could be because of its action on estrogen receptors. Its success in hairloss treatments (in combination with castor oil) could also be because of the ERs, rather than because of the complete absorption it provides . Anyway, wouldn’t it be risky to use it in topical treatments and most of all, intravenously or orally, as, in the long term, it might prove to be carcinogenic?

  2. Chris,
    What has your experience been with cases of scalp folliculitis on the back of the head/neck that seemed to occur after a shaved hair cut? I have been dealing with this for 7-8 years and being in my mid 20’s, this has really taken a toll on me with physical discomfort as well as emotional stress.

    Any advice would be great.

    • to be honest with you, I also had the same thing for YEARS and the thing that ended up working for me was prayer. I know it’s sounds crazy but praying and actually believing I would find relief played the biggest part. Also the shampoo/conditioner I used was also a big contributor. lastly cleaning up diet I believe is also important.

  3. I do believe I am not absorbing these nutrients from food. Therefore I have to find them in lotions and body washes because the skin on my back and upper arms is severely dry and rips open.

    • Do not use soap in the shower. Never use off the shelf body washes EVER. Try using a multi blend hair oil, like Africa’s Best or one from Sally Beauty supply stores, they come in a tall bottle and last the month…add essential oil for mind healing fragrance. Rose and Neroli would be best for your complaints. Use a luffa sponge or boar bristle brush (never nylon) with a light touch! Drink water not soda or excess alcohol, cut the white refined sugar, processed foods and eat a serving of melon every day. Take the supplements suggested above. You will be a new person.

  4. I make natural personal care products and have recently become interested in making products that “feed” (support) our skin’s natural flora. Do you have any tips for topical ingredients or vitamins/minerals I should look into?

    (ghee (vit k), goldenseal (silica) etc etc…)

  5. Can someone answer my question regarding FLCO supplementation?
    I am on a high dosage Vitamin D3 serum shot of about 100,000IU once every 3 months. This is a standard GP prescribed dosage for every dark skinned vitamin D deficient person in the Netherlands. 😉 When I discovered FCLO on Chriskesser’s blog, I ditched the supplement and started with FCLO since it was a ‘real food’ supplement. But 6 months later my D3 levels had dropped from 70nmol to 36nmol ! It has nothing to do with the FCLO probably because I know D3 absorption is dependent on a number of health markers. It was just not working out for me. So I went back to my GP prescribed D3 shots now and doing better. I had the EBV virus last year, so I really have to make sure my D3 and immunity are really good all the time. I think the FCLO has other potent benefits that I can really help my immunity status and frequent fatigue attacks. Also I am planning to have a baby very soon. Can i continue to take the FCLO in addition to my D3 shots or would I be overdoing it? Any thoughts?

    • Clare, have you researched other supplements? Vitamin K-2 (menatretranone) and Vitamin A are supposed to help process Vitamin D3. You should look into these to see how they relate.

  6. Hey Chris,
    Thank you for all the things I’ve been learning this summer.
    I’ve started using ‘Concentrace’ ionic mineral drops to a chia-hemp-grass juice powder cocktail I have in the morning. I use the recommended (40drops / 1/2 teaspoon) amount.
    I also recently started purifying my tap water (I live in Pleasant Hill, Ca. We’re neighbors! 😉 with Adya Purity black mica solution to remove fluoride, chlorine, heavy metals, pharmaceuticals and other toxins. This product also remineralizes the water with ionic trace minerals, although I think to a lesser degree as the purification aspect is the primary purpose.
    My question is:
    can I be / or is it possible and/or harmful to be getting too much trace mineral supplementation? I can always back down the dosage of drops or quit using them if need be.
    I’d appreciate your unbiased wise opinion in this matter. I don’t want to ask the Adya or Concentrace people about this as I want a honest response and not one based on their product loyalty.
    Thanks again,

  7. A friend just sent me a reference to a recent study of Niacin and an article in the New England Journal of Medicine. The article concludes that Niacin provides no benefit vis heart disease and, in fact, INCREASES the risk of heart disease when taking it. The NEJM article is at: http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMe1406410

    Do you (Chris) have an opinion about this conclusion?

    • And how high was this increase then?
      If it just a few %, who cares. Everything u eat gives cancer… just that some gives a hell lot more cancer risk 😉

      • From the study:

        “…The larger of the two studies tested Tredaptive — a Merck & Co. combo of niacin and an anti-flushing medicine — in nearly 26,000 people already taking a statin. Full results confirm there was a 9 percent increase in the risk of death for those taking the drug — a result of borderline statistical significance, meaning the difference could have occurred by chance alone, but still “of great concern,” Lloyd-Jones wrote in a commentary in the medical journal.

        The drug also brought higher rates of gastrointestinal and muscle problems, infections and bleeding. More diabetics on the drug lost control of their blood sugar, and there were more new cases of diabetes among niacin users.

        The initial results in December 2012 led Merck to stop pursuing approval of Tredaptive in the U.S. and to tell doctors in dozens of countries where it was sold to stop prescribing it to new patients.

        Prompted by that study, leaders of an earlier one that tested a different niacin drug, Niaspan, re-examined side effects among their 3,414 participants and detailed them in a letter in the medical journal….

        • The problem is the study quoted didn’t test niacin by itself, but a combination of niacin and laropiprant Laropiprant which was never approved for use in the USA by the FDA has a questionable safety profile. The side effects of laropiprant include gastrointestinal bleeding.

          So was it the niacin or the laropiprant that caused the problem?

          You can read more about it in the link below.


          • Please read The Niacin Story by Abram Hoffer, MD. His main goal was to help schizophrenics who he found were deficient in niacin. But along his journey, he found niacin cured his bleeding gums, arthritis, and a host of other health problems. Cheap book but worth a million bucks in information.

      • I also read something similar, I was planning to begin taking niacin, then read about the increased risk of “The Big D.” That was enough to change my mind. It’s more than “a few points” it’s conclusive evidence that it does harm.

  8. i was wondering if anybody could tell me what would work on getting rid of keratosis pilaris, as i have tried everything and nothing seems to work. i would be so greatful.

    • Try dove soap and then put lotion with lactic acid on your skin. It works great for me.

      • Yes, I’ve also read that keratosis pilaris is a result of a dove soap deficiency.

    • Here are 2 very effective starting points 1. Try eliminating eggs, dairy and or grains- either one at so time or all together & reintroduce one at a time back in. Other foods can also be involved (like some nuts or seeds). 2. Also look at fatty acid intake- omega3s- both DHA/EPA (fish oil) and ALA (flax)- and omega6s- especially GLA (borage or evening primrose).

  9. What probiotic would you recommend for children? They obviously can’t swallow a capsule… Also, do you know how I can give my kids more pantothenic acid without giving them too much of the other b-vitamins that you can get too much of? Everything seems to be in a b-complex form and the pantothenic acid is in such small amounts. I’d like to use a more therapeutic dose for help with allergies.

    • Get your hands on a kefir culture and make them smoothies with kefir and add raw sauerkraut to meals. My kids like sauerkraut. You can get raw sauerkraut in the fridge of health foods Torres. A little goes a long way, unless you have kids who love it like mine 😉

  10. Just thought I’d add my 2 cents. Yes, a healthy diet and holistic lifestyle is of paramount importance, but there are just so many variables and contributing factors to consider before jumping to someone else’s conclusions. What works for one may not for you. Water quality is like ground zero, and a great place for anyone to start. Consider this, water evaporates right? When it does, absolutely perfect H2O vapors escape into the atmosphere (ok maybe a few volatile compounds too). But the point is, the dissolved solids are left behind… in your environment, on your dishes and countertops, and clothing, even the soil in your veggie garden accumulates the wide spectrum of chemicals in your water supply. Water is just so universal that toxic exposure can be huge. Every drop of municipal water leaves a water spot behind, right? Many foods (and of course beverages) are processed with municipal waters. The instant oatmeal we feed to our baby, is cooked in giant vats, then dehydrated, leaving the residual chemicals in the oats. Then we reconstitute the dried cereals later with more tap water? What is the ppm now of these chemicals? If our skin can absorb the toxins, we’d better consider our bedding and clothing as well. We’d better think about swimming pools too because extra toxic chemicals are constantly being added (like BROMIDE). Meanwhile the H2O is constantly evaporating. Our daily hot shower exposes us from head to toe. We’re breathing the vapors and VOCs into lungs and directly into our bloodstream. Many folks consider a hot tub to be therapeutic but its more like a sick joke; a toxic soup of Chloride Bromide and Fluoride. These toxic halides kick IODINE (also a halogen, and a very crucial nutrient) to the curb! Its no accident that I have a deep well on my property, and use a 1 gal water distiller when I travel (for drinking). Many chemicals cannot be filtered effectively. Especially FLUORIDE. To my knowledge, a good RO system and distillation are the only reliable methods.

  11. Hi Chris,
    I’ve read that the product you mentioned for silica (ConcenTrace Mineral Drops) contains arsenic and fluoride, as well as smaller amounts of cadmium and aluminum. Do you have any concerns about the levels in this particular product? Is there a max dose one should take?


    • hi Sarah,

      putting the arsenic, fluoride, cadmium, aluminium aside.

      i would personally avoid, just based on the 7th largest mineral in that product, Bromide (an ion of bromine).

      have a google on bromide & bromine
      eg. google bromide thyroid

      bromine is a halogen & competes with iodine (another halogen). the other notable halogens are chlorine (chloride) and fluorine (fluoride).

      plus it does not look very balanced to me…the largest mineral is chloride.

      • Daz,
        Thanks for your input. I hadn’t even looked at the bromide, but it is something I definitely want to avoid as I already have thyroid issues.

        Unfortunately, I think I will have to continue my quest for a good trace mineral supplement. I had high hopes for this one.

        Thanks again!