The link between gut and skin health

What is your skin telling you about your gut health?

The link between gut and skin indicates that what happens in our gut has an effect on our skin’s response. Acne, eczema and allergies are all signs of an imbalance within the gut and immune system.

November 26, 2018

We carry around a vast array of microbes in our gut that are completely unique to us, and these dictate how we digest food, maintain weight, and fight off disease among the many other jobs the microbes have. Our skin is triggered when the gut is at an imbalance and this can show on the skin depending on the skin condition you have.

What is the gut microbiome?

Think of the gut’s microbiome as an inner universe in our gut – it has billions of microbes that all have their own functions to play. 

When we are in the womb we receive our gut microbiome from our mother. As we age bacteria in the gut can come and go but the profile will always remain the same.  

In the first years after birth, our gut is introduced to new kinds of bacteria that join the diversity in the gut, and studies show this plays an enormous part in how our immune system matures. When this goes wrong and the immune system does not mature correctly, immune conditions such as food allergies and eczema develop in childhood.

In adult life, if the balance between the immune system and microbiome is destabilised such as through infection, stress or change in diet then this can act as a trigger for immune-associated conditions such as IBS, acne, eczema and food allergies. This is known as gut dysbiosis and if the imbalance continues then a vicious cycle of gut and skin issues becomes established. It is very important to understand that there must be an underlying genetic tendency to the skin condition and that the gut dysbiosis is a trigger instead of a cause.

Why is gut health important for acne prone skin?

If your gut microbiome is unbalanced this impacts the skin microbiome, which is why we see the effects of the gut on our skin. The health of our gut affects more than our skin, it also has a direct link to our brain.

Our gut microbiome has also been linked to behaviour including anxiety, stress, depression and mood swings. This is because it has an impact on our hormones. When we feel anxious or stressed, our gut feels it and reacts to the elevated hormone – cortisol – causing excess sebum oil production, excessive gut motility (cramps and diarrhea), and gas.

Anxiety produces the stress hormone cortisol, which in turn plays havoc with all your other hormones.  Cortisol encourages your skin to release sebum oil, which can result in inflammation and then finally, dreaded breakouts. Inflammation occurs when the pore is blocked with excess oils, dead skin and bacteria and this combination forms a pimple. Keeping anxiety and stress under control can benefit the skin greatly.

How does gut health influence other skin conditions?

The immune system is regulated by pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory cytokines. When gut health is poor the gut produces pro-inflammatory cytokines. Cytokines are made by the immune system to ward off infection. However, if too many are present it inflames the gut. This throws you into a vicious cycle of gut imbalance, hormonal fluctuations, skin issues, weight gain or loss and underlying inflammation.

The inflamed response in the gut shows on the skin dependent on what skin condition you are living with.  

Hormonal fluctuations show on the skin as acne and rosacea. Immune conditions show as lupus, eczema, psoriasis, and rosacea.

Environmental Factors

Various environmental factors, such as stress, anxiety, lack of sleep, diet, and pollutants, will affect the composition within the gut but also the skin microbiome. 

Scientific research has found that the gut microbiome in early life is associated with age of onset, severity, remission, flares, and even types of conditions such as eczema, acne, food allergies and rosacea.

Building scientific evidence is indicating that the development of these immune skin and gut conditions appears to be a combination of the microbiome diversity, the immune system and the harmony between the gut and the body.

The Role of Genetics

It is important to appreciate that this microbiome imbalance is not the cause of the development of skin conditions, but instead maybe the trigger or aggravator of the condition. Every skin condition has either an underlying genetic or microbial infection cause.

How can gut health be restored?

Our microbiome is as unique as our fingerprints so what diet or treatment may work for someone does not necessarily mean it will work for you and your unique gut. Keeping a diary on your bowel habits, skin condition, daily wellbeing and what you have eaten will help to determine what is triggering your skin. 

Using Probiotics

Probiotics are essentially us adding foreign bacteria into the gut system, which is a great way to enrich gut health. 

It is important to note however that a probiotic that works for one person may not always work for another due to the uniqueness of the bacteria in the gut. An overactive immune system can decide the bacteria are the enemy and attack. It pays to try different probiotics but also to use diet and prebiotics (food for good bacteria) to restore your own natural gut microflora and stabilise your gut immune balance.

It is also important to listen to your body to find out what your body needs and what it does not like. Do not be pressured into thinking you have to give up chocolate, wine or dairy. We are all unique and so is your gut microbiome and immune system. Work out what your gut does and does not like while it is inflamed and remember this will also change with a maturing gut.

How to Enrich Your Gut Health

There’s no denying the gut is interlinked with our skin, brain, and mood. Treating skin conditions requires time and effort to determine the cause and triggers and then find the most suitable plan for yourself. 

Here’s some easy tips to start you on the journey to sustainably clear skin and a healthy gut:

  • Food
    Eat an array of plants – a great excuse to try something new, head to the supermarket grab some wholefoods and mix things up! The more plant diversity you’re exposed to, the larger your internal variation of beneficial bacteria will be.  
  • Fibre is Key
    Fibre is prebiotic ‘fuel’ for your friendly bacteria, helping it to flourish and multiply. Whole-grains are rich in fibre.
  • Fermented Foods and Drinks
    They are an easy way to add probiotics to your diet. Unlike prebiotics, which help pre-existing bacteria and microorganisms within you, probiotic foods actually contain live microorganisms that are able to be added to the gut.
  • Sleep
    Poor sleep can affect your gut, and bad gut health can affect your sleep. Studies show that a normal gut flora aids in a natural sleeping pattern (being tired at night and feeling awake during the day). For a good night’s sleep it is essential to take care of your gut, and if you want to boost your gut health then a solid night’s sleep will help. How great is that?!
  • Exercise
    Exercise has the power to alter the gut bacteria composition for the better. Exercise appears to generate butyrate which is known for reducing inflammation. Recent studies have found that those who have higher levels of fitness tend to be more likely to have a more diverse microbiome than the more ‘stationary variety’ of humans.

Skin Care

Enhancing your gut doesn’t just work from the inside out. Since your skin is your biggest organ, it’s important to restore your skin’s natural function with natural skincare products and a routine designed to work in synergy with one another, offering layers of protection and benefits.

The Atopis range is scientifically designed to enhance and strengthen the body’s immune responses, reverse skin damage and promote skin cell repair on a surface and cellular level. Atopis manages and calms the skins’ reaction to environmental triggers, stress and hormones, rebalances and restores your skin’s microflora.

Discover how Atopis products restore skin health by clicking the links below.

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