You may often hear that the glow comes from within – and they say it for a reason. Did you know that there is a consonant dialogue between our skin and the gut? When the gut is disturbed, our skin suffers too. If you keep your gut healthy, your skin will follow as well. In this article, our clinical dietitian Lama Dalloul helps you understand how a healthy gut will help you on your skincare journey and why you should not neglect your stomach problems.
What is the role of the gut?
First, let’s understand the role of the gastrointestinal tract and the gut.
The gastrointestinal tract is our digestive system that contains all the major organs that help you absorb the nutrients from the food – the oesophagus, stomach, and intestines.
The gut is home to a whole colony of bacteria and microbes, known as the gut microbiome. The gut microbiome plays a functional role in the digestion process of macronutrients, production of vitamins, synthesis of amino acids, and breakdown of toxins. It also assists in the production of pro- or anti-inflammatory molecules and peptides that support our immunity. In other words – your gut microbiome helps not only to control your digestion process but benefits your whole wellbeing. A healthy digestion process ensures that your body gets all the important nutrients from food, while disruption in the process leads to malnutrition, vitamin deficiencies and an upset stomach.
That is why taking care of your gut health means taking care of your whole body. If we experience microbiome disbalance – or bad bacteria overgrowth – we can suffer from inflammation and digestion problems. However, changes in our skin are the first place where gut issues show up.
How do gut issues affect our skin?
We might not realize that the skin and gut communicate with each other through the unique interconnected microbiome systems that become markers of inflammation or irritation. If our gut is inflamed, so is our skin.
The issues start when the good bacteria in the stomach can’t assist digestion and maintain gut immunity due to harmful bacteria overgrowth or intestinal dysbiosis. There are many reasons behind bacteria overgrowth – it can occur through stomach infections, long-term antibiotics intake, celiac or crohn diseases and conditions like diabetes or intestinal diverticulosis. When the bad bacteria overpopulate over good bacteria, we may experience symptoms of fatigue, nausea, loss of appetite, diarrhoea or constipation. As a result, our skin health is affected as well.
When the gut is disturbed, harmful gut bacteria can access the blood flow and accumulate in the skin, affecting the skin barrier health and the skin microbiome. Studies show that certain gastrointestinal disorders or dysbiosis may contribute to skin conditions, such as acne, atopic dermatitis, and psoriasis.
For that matter, it is important to maintain a proper balance of good microbiomes and live bacteria in the gut through probiotics – fermented foods or additional supplementation of live bacteria, or prebiotics – high-fibre foods that act as food for those bacteria. Overall, the presence of good microbiomes in the gut promotes not only a healthy digestion process but strengthens our whole immune system, including skin health.
The positive effects of good gut bacteria on skin health have been documented in many studies. A 2018 clinical study revealed that a 12-week oral supplementation of probiotics improved skin elasticity and hydration in 110 middle-aged subjects. Another study showed that a daily intake of Lactobacillus paracasei – a strain of probiotics – can improve symptoms of reactive skin inflammation and promote the recovery of the skin barrier.
How can we improve the gut microbiome balance?
A diet that is rich in probiotics and prebiotics can improve gut health, as it promotes the population of good bacteria in the microbiome.
Foods that improve your prebiotic balance are high-fiber foods that act as nutrients for the microbiota colony – fruits, vegetables, and whole grains such as bananas, onions, garlic, leeks, asparagus, artichokes, beans, and whole-grain foods.
On the other hand, probiotics or good bacteria are found in fermented dairy products rich in live cultures, such as bifidobacteria and lactobacilli – yoghurt, kefir, and some types of cheese.
You can also improve your microbiota balance by taking probiotics supplements. The dosage of probiotics is measured by the number of bacteria in the colony – colony forming units (CFU). If you don’t suffer from specific gastrointestinal conditions, the recommended dosage usually would not be high and would vary between 10 to 20 million CFUs per daily intake. In other cases, your physician might recommend a higher dosage that varies between 50 to 100 million CFUs per day.
Another factor to keep in mind is that certain probiotics need to be kept in the fridge, while others can be stored at room temperature. A more convenient option would be the latter, as you won’t have to worry about the proper storage.
Nutritional tips for your skincare
To avoid upset stomach and inflammation on your skin, you should refrain from processed foods that are rich in refined carbohydrates or added sugar. Basically, any junk food means potential issues with your skin. Soda and fried food, as well as cow milk can also trigger breakouts on your skin.
On the other hand, a diet that can promote glowy and fresh skin consists of foods rich in antioxidants. Here is the list of recommended foods for you to consider:
- Sources of vitamin C – citrus fruit, bellpepper, broccoli and kiwi
- Sources of vitamin E – almonds and sunflower seeds
- Sources of Omega 3 – fatty fish, chia seeds, flax seeds, walnuts and almonds