There are times when our skincare products alone aren’t enough when trying to clear up a breakout or reduce inflammation. This is when you have to look at why that might be. But one thing you might not have considered is the responsibility your gut has in the health of your skin. So today that’s exactly what we’ll be covering – how it affects it and what you can do to protect and support the health of both…
HOW GUT HEALTH AFFECTS SKIN HEALTH
The gut refers to our entire gastrointestinal tract in our body. It plays a really important role in our body which influences our overall health and the appearance of our skin – the body’s largest organ. This connection between the gut and skin is commonly referred to as the gut-skin axis.
Our gut microbiome refers to the bacteria in our digestive system and intestines which is responsible for processing all nutrients that we consume by absorbing them efficiently, moving it through our digestive system and excreting any waste substances that our body doesn’t need. We all have more than 100 trillion microorganisms including different species of bacteria in our gut. These are surrounded by our gut wall which is made up of lots of cells tightly packed together. There is a mix of both ‘good’ and ‘bad’ bacteria so we need to ensure that our body is provided with enough of the ‘good’ bacteria to fight off the ‘bad’ bacteria.
An unhealthy gut can cause stomach problems such as gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhoea, IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) and more. Many autoimmune and skin conditions are caused by leaky gut syndrome which is where your intestines allow partially digested food bacteria and parasites to escape through the cells in the gut wall into the bloodstream, impacting our skin as it is our body’s natural reaction to remove these substances. Our skin has a microbiome of its own so the bacteria in the gut influences the balance of bacteria on our skin, causing inflammation, redness, sensitivity and breakouts. Alcohol, gluten, dairy, food preservatives and pesticides can contribute to damaging the wall making it easier for the bacteria to pass into the blood. Skin health can also be an indicator that there is an intolerance to a food group. If you have concerns that this is the case for you, a functional nutritionist would be able to help in this area.
HOW TO PROTECT AND SUPPORT THE GUT MICROBIOME
- Everything in our body is interconnected. Our skin, hair and nails are the last to receive nutrients, so if they are not healthy then there can be an issue with nutrition, which includes how well it is being absorbed. Absorption happens in the gut, therefore it’s essential to have a healthy, balanced diet to ensure that our body is getting all the nutrients it needs.
- Include foods rich in fibre such as fruit, vegetables, legumes, beans, nuts and seeds. Our lower gut (bowel) excretes the substances that our body doesn’t need so eating fibre and having fluids will allow this to happen. If substances are left stored in the body too long, the skin will be left to excrete what it can from the body, leading to skin problems.
- Restrict or avoid refined carbohydrates, refined sugars, gluten and processed foods as these can all contribute to gut damage and inflammation.
- Try eating fermented foods such as yoghurt, kimchi, sauerkraut as these are all packed with healthy bacteria.
- Drink plenty of water. Our whole body is made up of cells which consist of water. The gut becomes imbalanced if it doesn’t have enough water consumption and our skin becomes dry and flaky.
- Drinking herbal teas such as green tea, chamomile or lavender can reduce both internal and external inflammation.
- Limit alcohol as this can have a harmful effect on good bacteria – it dehydrates the body and gut, leading to dry, flaky skin, redness and irritation.
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- When eating, take the time to properly chew your food to aid your digestive system. This also helps you to practise mindful eating, making it easier to recognise when you’re full as well as helping you to savour every mouthful by identifying the flavours and textures. When you swallow food the body uses digestive enzymes, acids and probiotics to break it down even further into smaller molecules so the body can absorb the nutrients. Food needs to be absorbed so it doesn’t just sit in the gut. A lack of digestive enzymes can reduce the amount of fat and protein being absorbed and leave skin feeling dry and dull. Some people do experience a lack of acid in their gut which can cause bloating, gas, reflux and redness in the face. This can often be overcome by having a drink of lemon juice before meals. Also, make sure you are getting enough sleep as a lack of it can cause poor digestion and subsequently result in skin inflammation, sensitivity and breakouts.
- Gut bacteria influence serotonin production – 90% of our body’s serotonin can be found in your gut. Not only does serotonin make you feel happy, but it also aids digestion. Exercise is great at boosting serotonin levels and as a result, can help alleviate gut health and skin health issues.
- Gut bacteria can also have a negative impact in that it can affect our response to stress and anxiety. Our gut microbiome has an impact on our hormones so when we feel stressed or anxious, our gut also feels it and reacts. Stress and anxiety are expressed through the body; when we are stressed the levels of our stress hormone, cortisol becomes elevated in the gut, our digestive system speeds up and we tend to go to the toilet more frequently, our skin breaks out, and inflammation and sebum production in the skin is increased. The more you practise mindfulness, focus on the things you can control and let go of what you can’t, the less stressed and anxious you will become which will enable you to better regulate your cortisol levels for a calmer gut and happier skin.
HOW DO YOU LOOK AFTER YOUR GUT HEALTH?
We’d love for you to tell us in a comment below!