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What's Her Secret: Carla Oates

The Australian "beauty chef" explains why fermented foods can improve overall health and skin, while helping to counteract holiday excess.

Source: Carla Oates

Carla Oates is the force behind The Beauty Chef, the world's first "living" skincare range. The Australia-based author and entrepreneur has spent 15 years whipping up beauty products from foods in her kitchen and herbs from her garden. She believes in the power of easily-digestible fermented foods, and shares thoughts on balance, fermentation and hangover prevention—just in time for the holidays.

What does wellness mean to you? "For me, wellness is when physically, emotionally and mentally you feel harmonious and in balance. It's about balance; when you feel content and that your body is in the best state that it can be."

What are some of the things you do in your own life to maintain that? "Balance is very important, so with The Beauty Chef range, I have my supplements and my inner beauty powders—I'm very big on digestive health. I think beauty, health and well-being actually begin in your belly. My saying is, 'Good health begins in your gut.' Because your digestive system is, as doctors refer to it, your second brain. From a skin and health perspective, it's where we make detoxifying enzymes, it's where we make nutrients, metabolize hormones, neutralize pathogens, and more than 70 percent of our immune system lies in our gut. So achieving good gut health is super important for overall well-being and balance in your life."

What's Her Secret: Carla Oates

What's your diet like? "I eat a lot of fermented foods, and my whole range is based on fermented foods—and that's lactose-fermented, not alcohol-fermented! I start my day with lemon juice and water, and my Glow inner beauty powder, which is all fermented super foods. If I eat grains, I make sure they're soaked really well to make them easy on my digestive system. I eat lots of green vegetables and antioxidant-rich foods."

How did you first discover the relationship between gut health and overall health? "I had really bad eczema as a kid, so my mum took me to a naturopath when I was about 12 or 13, and at that point I realized the correlation between gut health and skin health and overall health. That's where it all started. It's amazing. I don't have any eczema anymore, from maintaining good gut health. It was a bit of a journey for me; I was a writer, and in my early 20s, I got a job as a beauty editor for a mainstream publication. I couldn't believe how many toxic chemicals were in skincare. So I decided I was only going to write about natural skincare and remedies. Fermentation is something I'm really passionate about, and I started 20 years ago and really noticed a big difference in people's skin."

What's Her Secret: Carla Oates

What else contributes to your well-being? "I love Pilates, which is all about core strength. I think that by improving your internal belly health and also by doing Pilates and exercising your tummy area, it helps to maintain good posture and it's a fantastic exercise for core strength and balance in the body. I love walking, I do meditation. We have so much pollution, processed foods, medications, antibiotics, stress—all of which compromise gut health."

Any tips for staying healthy throughout the holiday season? "It's about trying to moderate. Go out and have your glass of wine, but for every glass of wine you have, have a glass of water. Or if you know you're going to have a big night, try and have a beautiful salad for lunch. If you know you're going to be drinking, make sure you eat some protein and antioxidant-rich vegetables before you go out. The protein will help negate some of the nasty effects of drinking on an empty stomach, and the antioxidant-rich food will help mop up the free radicals that are triggered by drinking alcohol and staying out late. And most importantly, eat some fermented foods! When you ferment food, it makes all the nutrients more available for the body to use."