Believe it or not, but your skin and gut are in constant communication with one another. In fact, more and more research shows that where skin conditions have manifested or there is skin inflammation—there’s also gut inflammation. Did you know that IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) is almost four times as likely to occur in people with eczema, while SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth) is ten times as prevalent in people with acne and rosacea?
So while applying clean, nourishing products to the surface of your skin is important, nurturing a healthy gut is also an important step on the journey to a clear complexion and optimal skin health (not to mention an improved immune system and overall wellness).
The Gut-Skin Axis, Explained
When you look in the mirror, what do you see? Clear, radiant skin? Or an inflamed, red and irritated complexion?
The answer to this simple question can provide you with a deep insight into what’s going on beyond the surface. Where there is gut inflammation, there is almost always skin inflammation caused by dysbiosis—an imbalance in your microbiome.
Just like the gut-brain axis—whereby our gut and brain are in constant communication via the vagus nerve—our gut and skin also enjoy a consistent dialogue via what is known as the gut-skin axis. This pathway allows the gut and skin to communicate via the microbiome—so it makes sense that if our gut is out of balance or inflamed in any way, our skin is one of the first places to show symptoms.
So How Exactly Does Our Gut Health Affects Our Skin?
The simplest way to understand exactly how our gut health affects our skin is to use the analogy of our gut as a garden. If the soil in the garden isn’t healthy, balanced and thriving with a good array of nutrients and bacteria, then the plants that grow within its soil will struggle to blossom. For glowing, healthy skin, we must first turn our attention to our gut.
While almost all skin conditions are either caused by—or linked to—gut health issues, diagnosing this link can be a complex task. This is because the symptoms we experience when faced with skin health issues are often similar in nature to those we experience when our gut is out of balance. If, for example, we consume something that triggers inflammation in the gut—such as gluten or dairy—we may experience a skin manifestation such as a rash or hives. This link may seem obvious, but it requires that we pay careful attention to our bodies and the substances that trigger a reaction.
Similarly, if we suffer from leaky gut, we may be unable to fully absorb and utilise the key nutrients, minerals and vitamins that are essential for glowing, healthy skin. Furthermore, if our gut is considered to be ‘leaky’, endotoxins that would ordinarily be processed and expelled may escape into our bloodstream, placing extra pressure on our liver, thereby causing our skin to pick up the slack. Leaky gut also causes inflammation in the body, which is implicated in most skin issues, from acne to eczema and psoriasis.
To heal our skin, it’s therefore important to heal and nourish our gut garden first.
Common Skin Conditions Linked To Gut Health
While there is a myriad of skin conditions linked to gut health issues, here are some of the most common:
Unfortunately, acne can be an incredibly complex skin condition to treat, as its underlying causes can be either hormonal, digestive—or both.
Hormonal acne may be the result of fluctuations in hormone levels or sensitivity to a certain hormone, such as testosterone. In fact, excess testosterone is a common contributor to acne, as it stimulates the sebaceous glands in the skin, resulting in excess oil production and clogged pores. Our stress hormone, cortisol, can also wreak havoc on our complexion by triggering inflammation in our gut, which then manifests on the skin.
Digestive acne is closely implicated with gut disorders such as leaky gut and SIBO. SIBO is ten times as prevalent in people with acne, and leaky gut syndrome may also contribute to local skin inflammation, which is seen in people with acne. This cycle can be self-perpetuating, as an imbalance of bacteria or leaky gut can cause inflammation and malabsorption issues, meaning the skin isn’t getting all of the essential nutrients it needs.
As one of the most complex skin conditions to diagnose and understand, eczema—or atopic dermatitis—can be triggered by seemingly anything. However, for many, food allergies and intolerances, as well as leaky gut, play a major part. To help keep symptoms at bay, it’s essential to avoid trigger substances—which may include gluten, dairy, corn or soy—and foster a diverse and balanced microbiome, as microbial diversity is linked to a more robust immune system and reduced skin inflammation.
Similar to acne, those with SIBO are 13 times more likely to have rosacea—the redness or flushing that most commonly affects the cheeks and nose. Microbial diversity again plays a role in keeping symptoms at bay, so nurture your belly by enjoying a wide range of fibrous plant foods and steer clear of potential triggers, like caffeine, alcohol and spicy foods, which are known to exacerbate rosacea.
Like eczema, this dry, flaky skin condition is thought to share a link with a leaky gut. When endotoxins and other compounds leak through the gut wall, the body stages an attack, which causes an inflammatory response in the body, and subsequently, leads to skin manifestations. Stress and emotional upset can exacerbate psoriasis, so be sure to incorporate meditation, breathwork and similar strategies into your everyday life to keep symptoms under control.
Keratosis Pilaris (KP)
Sometimes referred to by sufferers as ‘chicken skin’, KP typically appears on the back of the arms and thighs. The cause is also mysterious, but research suggests that our gut health may be a contributing factor, with KP linked to malabsorption issues and/or nutrient deficiencies.
Vitamin A, which can be found in The Beauty Chef GLOW Inner Beauty Essential, plays an important role in smooth, healthy skin and a deficiency in this key vitamin may contribute to KP. Essential fatty acids are also important when it comes to fighting skin inflammation, and can be found in fatty fish such as sardines and mackerel, avocado, nuts and seeds.
As we age, collagen—the protein in our skin that keeps it looking firm and plump—naturally declines. But what we may not realise is that our gut changes too, as our ability to produce anti-inflammatory short-chain fatty acids also declines. These age-related modulations in our microbiome can trigger low-grade chronic inflammation which, as we’ve explored, can be the underlying cause of many skin and gut health issues. Low-grade inflammation—also known as ‘inflammaging’—can contribute to premature ageing of the skin and body as well as dysbiosis in the gut and weakened intestinal barrier function.
While the ageing process is unavoidable, research suggests that by promoting a healthy gut and encouraging microbial diversity, we may help to slow down the effects of ‘inflammaging’ and ameliorate some of its symptoms.
- Tags: Skin Science