If you thought trillions of tiny microorganisms only live on your skin, think again! Just like your skin, your gut is home to approximately 100 trillion bacteria, both good and bad. Research shows that the gut has a strong connection to your brain, immune system, and the skin. It’s said that the gut and skin actually communicate with one another through the gut-skin axis.
What Is The Gut-Skin Axis?
The “gut-skin axis” describes the relationship between the gut and the skin, including the gut’s ability to influence skin health. While current research about the link continues to bring new findings today, the connection has been known for over 80 years.
Research shows that when imbalances in the gut result in inflammation, the inflammation can spread through the gut-skin axis to result in symptoms on the skin, including inflammatory conditions such as rosacea, acne, and eczema.
Skin Inflammation Could Indicate Gut Inflammation
One study found that small bacterial intestinal overgrowth, also known as SIBO, was ten times more prevalent in participants with rosacea. Another study found seven to 10 percent of people with inflammatory bowel disease, also known as IBD, also have psoriasis. Researchers have uncovered a link between gut health and rosacea, eczema, and acne. In other words, science shows us that inflammation of the skin is a strong indicator of inflammation in the gut.
Gut Health and Skin Problems: The Symptoms to Monitor
Irritated and inflamed skin signals that there may be an underlying disturbance in the gut microbiome. The skin symptoms of inflamed skin may vary wildly, depending on several other factors, including your skin type and genetic makeup. Blemishes, discoloration, as well as dry, flaking skin can all be symptoms on the skin that signal gut health imbalances.
What Is Leaky Gut Syndrome?
Leaky gut syndrome isn’t a diagnosis you’re likely to receive from an MD. It isn’t even taught in traditional medical schools. Most doctors today would likely refer to it as a “gray area.” The term “leaky gut syndrome” is used to refer to increased intestinal permeability, also known as intestinal hyperpermeability.
With increased intestinal permeability, substances leak through the lining of the small intestine and enter into the bloodstream. This occurs in people with Crohn’s and celiac disease, for example. Symptoms of leaky gut include bloating, cramps, gas, food sensitivities and intolerances, as well as stomach pain.
The exact cause of leaky gut remains a mystery — along with many other aspects of the syndrome. However, some gastroenterologists speculate that diet and stress play a large role in intestinal hyperpermeability.
A lot more research is needed to know for sure, but some evidence suggests leaky gut could play a role in the development of eczema, in the same way an imbalance of gut bacteria can.
How to Take Care of Your Gut Health
Balancing your gut microbiome can positively affect the whole body, including the skin. Care for your gut by:
Minimizing Inflammatory Foods
Because inflammation can spread out from the gut and through the body, minimizing inflammatory foods may also help reduce inflammation of the skin. Inflammatory foods include refined carbs (like white bread), fried foods, sodas and other sugary beverages, and processed meats.
Foods that you have a personal sensitivity or intolerance to are also pro-inflammatory. Common food sensitivities include dairy, gluten, and eggs. If you suspect you have a food intolerance, visit your primary healthcare provider or a dietician who can provide testing to confirm.
Overall, eating fresh, seasonal whole foods helps to keep food-induced inflammation at bay.
While the benefits of topical probiotic products for skincare are still up in the air, research shows that consuming probiotics can improve gut health and acne. One study found that consuming a probiotic supplement improved acne in 80% of participants. How? Probiotics help restore the gut microbiome, which prevents gut inflammation that triggers inflammation of the skin. Aside from taking supplements, you can also consume probiotics by eating probiotic-rich whole foods. Foods high in probiotic content include kefir, kimchi, yogurt, sauerkraut, miso, kombucha, natto, and tempeh.
Alleviate stress by practicing meditation, lightly exercising, spending time with friends and family, and talking about your stressors with a trusted person, whether a loved one or a professional.
We can’t get rid of all of the stressors in our lives, but by managing our stress response with a toolkit of stress-reducing activities, we can better protect our gut and skin microbiomes from the effects of high cortisol levels.
The Gut and Skin Microbiome Connection
The gut-skin connection shows us that caring for our skin goes far beyond just the topical products we apply on a daily basis. Caring for our skin requires a holistic viewpoint of our overall body. Because of the gut-skin axis, one of the first places imbalances in the gut show up is the skin. If you’re experiencing unwanted skin symptoms such as breakouts, dry, flaking skin, or redness and discoloration, evaluate your gut health for additional ways to support the wellbeing of your skin.