While skincare products and topical treatments do wonders for the health and condition of our skin from the outside in, research suggests that in order to maximise our skin health, we should also be aware of what’s going on with our body on the inside. Collective evidence has shown that there is an intimate connection between the health of our gut and the health of our skin. Gastrointestinal disorders are often accompanied by skin conditions such as breakouts, dryness, redness, sensitivity and inflammation. In particular, studies have shown that the gastrointestinal system – specifically the gut microbiome, appears to contribute to the exacerbation of many inflammatory skin disorders such as acne, psoriasis and atopic dermatitis.
While it may sound gross, our bodies share a special symbiotic relationship with trillions of bacteria and fungi. These microbes don’t cause damage under normal healthy circumstances but directly influence the body’s functions and immune responses. Collectively, they make up what is call the microbiome which can be found in throughout the body, in areas such as the surface of our skin and within the digestive system. This microbiome helps us digest our food correctly, benefits our immune system and is also vital in the production of various nutritional components such as vitamin K. All in all, our gut flora is vital to our health and wellness and plays a key role in keeping our body in a state of homeostatic balance.
Further to this, factors such as stress, a poor diet, and antibiotic medications can all contribute to an imbalance within the microbiome of our gut that can lead to a range of health issues, including inflammation. This is where the gut-skin connection occurs. While gut health isn’t the only contributing factor to skin health, studies show that the inflammation that occurs as a result of gut microbiome imbalances may exemplify and aggravate many inflammatory skin conditions.
Certain bacteria in our gut such as Bacteroides fragilis, Faecalibacterium prausnitzii, and bacteria belonging to Clostridium cluster IV and XI help promote the production of T-cells and other immune cells, which enables the body to create an anti-inflammatory response. When the gut microbiome is out of balance, the body’s anti-inflammatory response can be disrupted, so inflammatory skin conditions can become more severe. Changes in the gut microbiome may also increase the penetrability of the intestinal tract which may lead to leaking of the gut microbiota into the bloodstream and skin resulting in systemic, cutaneous inflammation.
Research has been ongoing for over 70 years, with clear links shown between gut health and skin health. One study completed by Dr. Robert H. Siver found that 80 percent of subjects with acne had some degree of clinical improvement following the introduction of a commercially available probiotic, and that the intervention was most valuable in cases of inflammatory acne. Further to this, a study published in 2011 found that subjects with gastrointestinal issues such as constipation, halitosis, and gastric reflux, were more likely to suffer from acne. This article also described a recent report detailing small intestinal bacterial over-growth, (SBIO) is 10 times more prevalent in those with acne and rosacea vs. healthy control subjects, and that rebalancing of the gut microbiome leads to marked clinical improvement in patients with rosacea and acne.
For more information on this, see the link below to the aforementioned article:
So, what can cause in imbalance within our gut and how do we fix it? Well, antibiotics for one can reach havoc on our inner microbiome. While antibiotics are crucial to fighting some infections, they kill both bad and good bacteria which can allow the bad bacteria to take over and create an imbalance. Eating fermented foods and using a probiotic and after a course of antibiotics can help to restore the balance of gut flora. Lack of sleep, stress and a poor diet deficient in vitamins, minerals and essential macronutrients can also create imbalance and impact overall health.