The Gut-Skin Connection
February 10th, 2019
Beautiful, glowing skin is a huge confidence booster. However, the opposite is also true. Skin that is flaky and dry, or peppered with unsightly blemishes can make even the idea of leaving the house seem overwhelming.
We have all experienced pimples, rashes, or other skin issues at some point in our lives and we’ve been taught to think that these issues are caused by infrequent washing, naturally oily skin, or not using this season’s miracle cream. This is simply not true. Beautiful skin is within everyone’s reach. And since you’re reading this article, that also means you too! Yes, if you take charge of your overall health—and seek to get to the root cause of the problem—your skin can be fresh, smooth, and unblemished.
However, if you don’t take some simple steps, dry patches, pimples, blemishes, and other issues can become part of your everyday reality. You may even be paving the way for more serious skin problems, including eczema, psoriasis, cystic acne, rosacea, and even fungal infections.
Your skin is the largest organ in your body, your first defense against the outside world. It is directly connected to your whole-body health. Your gut regulates your immune system. In fact, 70 to 80% of your immune system is located in your gut, so when your gut is healthy, you are well protected!2 So what’s the connection? In this article I’ll uncover the critical link between your skin and your gut, and how you can use this association to achieve vibrant health and radiant skin.
The Skin-Gut Axis
In some ways, your gut and your skin play similar roles. Both defend your body against pathogens, and both are covered in beneficial bacteria when in a healthy state.3 In fact, your gut contains between 300 and 500 bacteria species. The more diverse the mix, the better.4 This also applies to your skin. Studies show that certain strains of bacteria found on your skin are associated with acne reduction, skin hydration, elasticity, and maintaining the your skin’s overall health.5
Your gut’s job is to keep toxins, infections, and inflammation at bay. Your skin is the major detoxifier that helps eliminate the substances and waste created during this standoff. This connection and relationship is called the skin-gut axis.6 When the gut is not functionally optimally, it can result in issues throughout the body, even to the point of autoimmune disease. The skin is often the first place to show the effects of an unhealthy gut.
In fact, virtually every patient I saw in my clinic who came to me with a chronic skin condition had underlying Candida overgrowth. This is a condition in which the normally occurring yeast in your gut grows out of control. It breaks down the wall of your intestine and penetrates the bloodstream, releasing toxic byproducts into your body. Several studies suggest that people with psoriasis are more likely to have Candida colonize in their body. It is thought that substances called “super antigens” and toxins from species of Candida can worsen psoriasis symptoms. Additionally, a study in Clinical & Experimental Allergy found that Candida exposure exacerbated certain skin lesions such as eczema. And of course nail fungus, ringworm, tinea versicolor, jock itch and dandruff are known fungal infections. These are typically not just local infections; they are a result of underlying yeast overgrowth in the gut.
Another powerful gut-skin connection I often saw in my clinic is the rosacea – SIBO (Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth) connection. Most of your gut bacteria is meant to be located in your large intestine and colon, where they help to break down food, synthesize vitamins, and eliminate waste. When these “good” bacteria colonize the small intestine, SIBO occurs. SIBO can also be caused by an overgrowth of otherwise normal bacteria in the small intestine itself.
I had so many patients who saw dermatologist after dermatologist for their rosacea with no improvement. After I treated their SIBO their rosacea completely vanished. My experience has been backed up by a recent clinical study. Researchers found that 46% of rosacea patients tested positive for SIBO, and that patients with rosacea were nine times more likely to have SIBO than patients without rosacea. How exactly does a gut infection lead to facial redness and irritation? SIBO damages gut lining, causing leaky gut, which leads to the release of pro-inflammatory cytokines (regulators of host immune responses that promote inflammatory reactions) resulting in skin inflammation.
Your gut can also communicate with your skin. The absorption of nutrients has a direct effect on your skin health, as do hormonal changes that change your skin on a physiological level. One example is that your skin can become tinted orange if you drink too much carrot juice. Studies show that this occurs because the carotenoids in fruits and vegetables get carried to your skin, where they can accumulate.7,8 There is also evidence that eating more refined carbohydrates could increase your risk of developing acne because increased insulin levels can stimulate oil gland production.9
In an ideal situation, your healthy gut will be reflected in your beautiful skin. A healthy gut will even synthesize extra vitamins and minerals that benefit your skin, such as the B vitamins thiamine and riboflavin.10
When Your Skin is Compromised
Healthy skin free from cuts and burns can also help you maintain a healthy gut and immune system. Studies show that burns and cuts affect your gut bacteria. One recent study showed that burn injuries actually increase the permeability of your gut and cause bacteria to move from your intestines into your bloodstream and other areas.11 Burns can also change the mix of bacteria in your body, allowing for Gram-negative aerobic bacteria overgrowth, such as E-coli and Salmonella, which can lead to infections.12 After a scald, your gut also responds to prevent immune suppression.13
What’s more, even a paper cut can affect your microbiome. When this happens, bacteria colonize in your wound.14 Studies show that chronic wounds are hosts to complex communities of microbes comprised of a much wider variety of species of bacteria that scientists have ever realized.15
Healthy Skin Inside…
Your gut is just one layer thick. Its cells, like the ones on the outer layer of your skin, can be replaced very quickly, so healing can be an accelerated process. This means that once you get to the root of the problem, you can get fast results inside and out.
I recommend removing irritants that can cause gut inflammation. The best way to do this is by completing an elimination diet to determine your personal food sensitivities. The goal is to get rid of things that negatively affect the environment of the GI tract including gluten, dairy, corn, soy, eggs, and sugar that can lead to food sensitivities.
Reinnoculating your gut with beneficial bacteria to re-establish a healthy balance of good bacteria is critical. This may be accomplished by taking a probiotic supplement that contains beneficial bacteria such as bifidobacteria and lactobacillus species. I advise taking my 100 Billion Probiotic, which contains a potent blend of four proven strains of beneficial bacteria.
Providing the nutrients necessary to help the gut repair itself is essential. One of my favorite supplements is collagen which is rich in amino acids that quite literally, “seal the leaks” or perforations in your gut by healing damaged cells and building new tissue. Another one of my favorite supplements is L-glutamine, an amino acid that helps to rejuvenate the gut wall lining.
Taking a multivitamin can also ensure you’re receiving adequate levels of skin-beautifying vitamins and minerals for a glowing appearance. The Myers Way Multivitamin® is one of four essential supplements I recommend everyone takes. It provides the nutrients needed for glowing skin, and helps neutralize the deficiencies that may be preventing you from moving forward with your gut and skin health.
Drinking filtered water is the best way to stay hydrated. How much should you be drinking? Try taking your weight in pounds, dividing it in half, and drinking that many ounces of water every day. Be sure to take a water bottle with you when you leave the house, so you’re never caught out while on the go.
Vitamin D supports skin cell growth, repair, and metabolism, so plan to optimize your levels by spending time outside daily. Just don’t forget to apply a natural sunscreen to prevent your skin from damage if you’re going to be outside for extended periods of time or you have fair skin. A supplement can ensure you don’t become deficient in vitamin D in winter.
While you’re thinking about protecting your skin on the outside, don’t forget that what you put on the outside can also affect your insides. When shopping for soaps, shampoos, lotions, and cosmetics, select the safest options possible. I get my personal care products at Beautycounter, an industry leader in innovative, clean products.
Are you ready to embrace a dewy, smooth, soft and blemish-free face and body? They can be yours if you’re willing to try a few new healthy habits that will give you a healthy gut to boot.