Did you know that the health of your gut plays an important role in the condition of your skin?
In recent years gut related messages including the ‘gut-skin axis’ are everywhere and so too are foods, powders, drinks (think Kombucha) and pills designed to promote optimal gut health. In fact, recent research and medical publications suggest our gut is critical to our overall health & wellness; so much so, it is has been named our ‘second brain’.
In this article, we explore the connection between gut health and skin.
The Role of Our Gut
The gut (gastrointestinal tract) is the long tube starting at the mouth and ending at the back passage (anus). Its primary role is to process food – from digestion, absorption of nutrients and the excretion of waste.
It plays a critical role in our mood, emotions, immune system and hormone balance. Therefore, ensuring the healthy development & ongoing care of your gut is paramount to your health.
Some interesting facts about your gut:
- It is home to tens of trillions of microorganisms known as the microbiome (formerly called flora)
- Over 1000 different species of bacteria exist in the gut and weigh up to a total of 2kg
- It has its own nervous system
- Most of your serotonin (over 90%) is in your gut
Your ‘gut microbiome’ is home to microorganisms that are critical to your health. Your microbiome begins to develop at birth. During this time, the microbiota start developing and we soon start to pick up useful bacteria from our family and the environment around us.
These bacteria live in your digestive system and help you digest food and absorb nutrients. A healthy microbiome helps support your immune system.
There are several factors influencing the quantity and type of bacteria in our microbiome and whilst most of us have a common type (based on our blood group), we also have our own unique bacteria.
Signs of an Unhealthy Gut
Processed foods, stress, too little sleep and antibiotics can play havoc on our gut microbiome. As a result, this can affect other aspects of our health.
Common signs of an unhealthy gut include:
- Upset stomach
- Sugar cravings
- Skin problems
- Food intolerances
- Autoimmune conditions
The Connection Between Gut Health & Skin Conditions
Both the gut and the skin play a key role in defending our bodies against pathogens from the outside environment. Furthermore, our gut is in constant conversation with our skin via the microbiome and it is suspected that this connection, named the the gut-skin axis has a critical role to play in our skin health.
Whilst your gut does not directly cause bad skin, there is certainly a strong association between poor gut health and skin conditions. Whilst some skin conditions and their link to gut health are easy to diagnose, others are less obvious.
It is believed that when there is an imbalance in gut bacteria (when bad bacteria overrule) our immune system fights back which contributes to inflammatory skin conditions such as acne. Additionally, a poor diet and food allergies may cause certain proteins to leak out of the gut and irritate the skin, causing conditions such as eczema.
How the Gut May Influence Skin Conditions
This common skin condition can be caused by allergies from foods such as nuts, chocolate, fish, eggs, milk. Chronic urticaria may be triggered by an underlying persistent infection caused by the gut bacteria Helicobacter pylori, Streptococcus or parasites.
Both hormonal and digestive issues can cause acne. The gut plays an important role in how oestrogen is eliminated from the body. When digestive issues slow this process, it can lead to hormonal imbalances. When oestrogen levels are too high in comparison to progesterone levels, it may cause acne.
There are several triggers for rosacea. Diet, climate, allergies and stress can all cause flare-ups of this chronic inflammatory skin condition. It is also believed there is a link between rosacea and gastrointestinal disorders.
It is suspected that reduced microbial diversity and a leaky gut can result in a weakened immune system. As a result, it can cause skin inflammation and damage to the skin’s protective barrier, increasing susceptibility to eczema.
Using a Holistic Approach to Maintain a Healthy Gut
As part of our holistic approach to skin care and general health and wellness, it is important we look after our gut.
The BBC recently published an article suggesting how to eat right for your gut bacteria. To improve your overall gut health there are a few principles to follow:
- Eat a wide range of plant-based foods. A healthy gut has a diverse community of microbes, each of which prefer different foods.
- Eat more fibre. Most people eat less than they should. Fruit, vegetables, pulses, nuts and wholegrains feed healthy bacteria.
- Avoid highly processed foods. They often contain ingredients that either suppress 'good' bacteria or increase 'bad' bacteria.
- Probiotic foods, such as live yoghurt, might encourage more microbes to grow. Eat them if you enjoy them.
- Choose extra-virgin olive oil over other fats when you can. It contains the highest number of microbe-friendly polyphenols.
- Antibiotics kill ‘good’ bacteria as well as ‘bad’. If you need antibiotics, make sure you eat lots of foods that boost your microbes afterwards.
- If your diet is low in fibre, a sudden increase can cause wind and bloating. This is less likely if you make gradual changes and drink extra water.
Kiri Yanchenko, founder of AMPERNA® suffered severe health complications from stress and side effects from medication. She found by that adopting holistic principles she was able to help herself back to full health and glowing skin.
AMPERNA® is inspired by this skin health journey. Our five products are full of anti-inflammatory anti-bacterial ingredients and contain our probiotic complex. The products and ingredients are inspired by Kiri’s learnings on Holistic Skin Health and the link that she found between gut health and skin health.