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The gut-skin connection

The skin is more than just the stuff that covers your body. For starters, it’s our largest organ in terms of surface area and is continuously self-renewing. Your skin plays...

The skin is more than just the stuff that covers your body. For starters, it’s our largest organ in terms of surface area and is continuously self-renewing. Your skin plays an important role in providing an effective barrier that protects underlying organs from nasty toxins, pathogens, injury, and fluid loss. It also helps regulate your body temperature and immunity and is involved in detoxification and making vitamin D. 

When you experience acne, eczema, psoriasis, rosacea or dermatitis, this shows you there is inner disharmony and requires a deeper look inside the body to find out what might be contributing to its state. 

Here are a few internal factors that may be creating your skin imbalances. 

 

How gut inflammation influences the skin

Studies have found people with acne rosacea are 10 times more likely to have small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), a condition where there is an abnormal growth of bacteria in the small intestine. SIBO results in producing toxic substances, which interfere with digestion and can cause intestinal permeability also known as leaky gut, which eventually leads to systemic inflammation.

How your diet affects your skin

A balanced diet is vital for providing all the necessary nutrients to support healthy skin. A diet high in saturated fats and processed sugars has been shown to disturb the balance of your gut microbiome. Excessive alcohol consumption can also cause an imblance in your gut and intestinal inflammation both contribute to dehydrating the body, leading to dull skin.

Research has shown specific foods such as dairy and high glycemic (GI) load products, typically found in the Western diet are a potential cause of acne. High GI products include white bread, white rice, and processed sugars, which are rapidly absorbed, leading to a spike in glucose levels and elevated insulin levels. Drinking cow’s milk raises a hormone known as insulin-like growth factor-1, which increases oil production and male sex hormones such as androgens -  hello pimples!

A 10-week low glycemic load diet showed an improvement in acne through decreased inflammation and reduced size of oil-producing glands. 

How does your immune system affect your skin? 

Eczema is also associated with a leaky gut, which allows pathogens like bacteria, fungi, and viruses to cross the gut barrier and enter the circulation, triggering an immune response. About 70% of the immune system lies within the gut, so balancing the immune response is key to reducing gut inflammation. 

What nutrients can affect your skin 

Deficiencies in key nutrients including zinc, vitamin A and D, iron, and b12 have been associated with leaky gut. These nutrients are crucial in immune function, wound healing, and reducing microbial infections.

Zinc is a known antioxidant, which in particular has been shown to have positive benefits for acne, it does this by reducing oxidative stress and decreasing elevated androgens. Good dietary sources of zinc are found in pepitas, oysters, red meat, poultry, legumes, and sunflower seeds. Consider supplementation if required. 

How low stomach acid affects your skin 

The main component of stomach acid is hydrochloric acid, which is extremely important for healthy digestion and helps the body absorb nutrients from food. Many individuals with acne and rosacea have been found to have low stomach acid and often feel better with digestive support. Symptoms of low stomach acid include burping, reflux, bloating, indigestion, and gas after meals. 

Microbiome influence

An imbalance in gut flora is often linked to inflammatory gut diseases. 7-11% of inflammatory bowel disease patients also suffer from psoriasis. This is mainly due to a depletion in good bacteria of Lactobacilli, and Faecalibacterium prausnitzii and a higher amount of bad bugs including Helicobacter, Escherichia coli, Salmonella Campylobacter, Mycobacterium, and Alcaligene species.

One documented case of severe pustular (pus-filled) psoriasis, who did not get the results with pharmaceutical treatment found after giving Lactobacillus sporogenes supplementation three times per day had completely resolved itself within 4 weeks. In a separate trial, another probiotic strain Bifidobacterium infantis 35624 reduced inflammatory markers in the probiotic-treated group.  


HOW YOU CAN IMPROVE YOUR SKIN

  • Help fight gut inflammation by eating the rainbow! Your microbiome loves a diverse whole-food, high fibre diet to feed it. 
  • Reduce consumption of high GI foods, dairy and limit alcohol. 
  • Support immune function by reducing sugar and including vitamin C-rich foods such as berries, oranges, capsicum, broccoli, fresh spinach, papaya, and kiwi fruit. 
  • Consume 5ml of apple cider vinegar and ½ a lemon, 15 mins before meals to stimulate hydrochloric acid to help with digesting foods. 
  • Consider a probiotic by talking to your health care practitioner to find the right one for you. 

If you’ve tried all that and you’re still seeing imbalances with your skin. I’d seek help and guidance from a qualified professional such as a naturopath, who will be able to help you connect the dots and find what's causing inner disharmony. 

 

References: 

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6048199/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5545644/
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4106357/
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7916842/

 

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