When you consider the overall condition and vitality of your skin, is the health of your intestinal tract the first thing that comes to mind? Maybe it should be!
The gut and the skin are in constant communication; the condition of one intrinsically affects the function of the other. If you notice signs of distress in one organ, supporting the optimal function of the other is your best bet for true and lasting healing.
The skin and the intestinal tract may seem like two completely different and unrelated parts of the body, but they are remarkably similar, both in function and in many aspects of their anatomy.
Both the skin and the gut are:
- First-line barriers between our internal organs and the environment in which we live. Their surfaces of interaction with the outside world are both covered in epithelial cells (outer layer of the skin and inner surface of the gut).
- Highly vascular and full of nerves.
- Organs with a high cellular turnover rate
- Highly reactive to stress and anxiety.
- Bursting with friendly microorganisms (when healthy). The skin is host to about 10^12 (trillion) foreign cells; the gut hosts roughly 10^14 (hundred trillion)! (1)
Acne, psoriasis, rosacea, and atopic dermatitis are all common inflammatory skin conditions that have been well-documented to be associated with unbalanced gut microflora. (3,4) The same intrinsic relationship is observed between intestinal diseases (Crohn’s, celiac, IBS) and disruptive skin conditions like ulcers, blistering rashes, and even vitiligo and oral lesions. (5)
Why does this happen? How does what happens inside the gut manifest on the surface of the skin?
There are four main ways the gut affects the skin:
- Its digestion and absorption duties are responsible for providing nourishment for all parts of our body, including our skin.
- The absorption of food affects hormonal production, which also affects the skin’s function. (6) For instance, insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1) activates sebaceous glands and promotes inflammation - the reason why consuming highly refined carbohydrates can contribute to or worsen acne outbreaks. (7)
- The gut microbiome governs the immune response of our entire system, including our skin. Science has identified several examples of the relationship, although its exact mechanisms are not yet clearly understood. (8)
- Fluctuating changes to the gut microbiome - the amounts of different species relative to others - releases metabolites that can have distant effects on the skin, and all body systems. (6)
Our gut and our skin are in constant communication with each other. The condition of one intrinsically affects the function of the other.
The first two mechanisms of gut influence on the skin are processes we control with our dietary choices. Selecting foods that are low on the glycemic index and nutrient-dense, while avoiding processed foods and trans fats, is a powerful step towards a healthy, balanced gut and happy, glowing skin.
Maintaining and supporting the gut microbiome is the other way we can easily support our immune system, our hormonal well-being, and by extension, the health and appearance of the skin. Dietary choices critically affect this process as well, because the types and quality of the food we eat will promote either friendly or dangerous bacterial growth in the gut. (8) Reducing or eliminating processed foods and refined sugars while increasing plant-based options positively affects the vitality and diversity of the gut microbiome.
Ensure your diet contains ample prebiotics - the soluble plant fibres our bacteria friends love to eat. Top plant foods rich in prebiotic fibre include garlic, onions, leeks, jerusalem artichokes, chicory root, dandelion greens, legumes, and whole grains like oats. Making sure to include some of these foods in your diet every day is the best way to feed your microscopic gut army the fuel it needs.
When you don’t get enough fresh vegetables and fruit in your diet, consider supplementing with a soluble fibre blend, like WomenSense FibreSense!
Regular supplementation with a high-quality probiotic formula is also an effective way to support optimal microbiome health. Select a product with at least 1 billion colony-forming units, or CFUs, containing genus like Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, and/or Saccharomyces boulardii - some of the most well-researched probiotics - for best results.
Opti Elite Probiotics contains 15 billion colony-forming units as well as the DDS-1 strain of Lactobacillus acidophilus, a species extensively studied to be particularly resistant to stomach acid and able to successfully colonize the large intestine in human studies. (10)
The constant dialogue between the gut and skin is an excellent reminder that all of our body systems are involved in an ongoing dance, each reacting to and exerting influence on all the others. Exploring their interconnectedness is the most cohesive approach to identifying real solutions for lasting healing, be it for hard-to-treat chronic skin ailments, digestive disorders, or any other barrier to optimal wellness.
- Gut–Skin Axis: Current Knowledge of the Interrelationship between Microbial Dysbiosis and Skin Conditions
- Revised Estimates for the Number of Human and Bacteria Cells in the Body
- Targeting the gut-skin axis—Probiotics as new tools for skin disorder management?
- The Gut Microbiome as a Major Regulator of the Gut-Skin Axis
- The Gut-Skin Axis
- The Gut-Skin Axis and Mechanisms for Communication | Natural Medicine Journal
- Diet and acne - Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology
- The role of regulatory T cells and anti-inflammatory cytokines in psoriasis
- Gut Microbiota: An Important Link between Western Diet and Chronic Diseases
- A human origin strain Lactobacillus acidophilus DDS-1 exhibits superior in vitro probiotic efficacy in comparison to plant or dairy origin probiotics