More than skin-deep: Why gut health is a key ingredient in achieving that healthy glow

Ranjan Sinha

August 03, 2020

When “gut health” comes up in conversation, one may think of bloating, gas, constipation, diarrhea, or chronic inflammatory conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). However, gut issues are not always localized. They can impact other parts of the body, including the skin. For instance, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) has been connected to acne and rosacea.

Healthy skin is the result of a combination of factors, and genetics does contribute. A genetic predisposition can increase the likelihood of a specific skin condition. The good news is that sometimes restoring the balance of the gut microbiome can benefit even those with genetic predispositions.

Factors that negatively impact the gut-skin axis and cause “bad bacteria” to proliferate in the gut include stress, insomnia, or poor diet. This can further lead to inflammatory conditions that impact the skin, resulting in acne, redness, increased sensitivity, or even wrinkles caused by the breakdown of collagen. A combination of neurologic and immunologic responses to changes in the environment can cause chronic systemic inflammation and affect the skin.

Typically, these are the skin conditions that can be connected to poor gut health:

  • Acne
  • Atopic dermatitis (AD), also commonly referred to as eczema
  • Rosacea
  • Psoriasis
  • Seborrheic dermatitis

Tweaking the composition of the microbiome through a healthier diet, and adding pre- and probiotics can prevent and/or treat inflammatory skin diseases, like acne, atopic eczema, and rosacea.

Skin disorder management via the gut:

There are a few things you can do to help manage skin issues through the management of the gut.

  • Including high-fiber and prebiotic-rich foods in the diet can help with better digestion and restrict the proliferation of bad bacteria. These include the allium family (garlic, onions, and leeks in raw form) as well as bananas, legumes, nuts, and whole grains.
  • In the case of food sensitivities, avoiding common allergens like lactose (found in dairy) and gluten (found in wheat and processed wheat products) can also benefit the skin.
  • Adding probiotic foods such as fermented foods like active-culture yogurt, kefir, pickled vegetables, tempeh, kimchi, miso, sauerkraut, and kombucha can also help.

Revamping the system and rebooting the gut with an active lifestyle is the next step towards a well-functioning skin-gut axis.

More studies are needed to understand how modulating the gut microbiome can modulate the skin microbiome. Additionally, clinical trials should be designed to determine the optimal formulation of the most effective single-probiotic strain or the right combination of beneficial strains that alleviate dermatological conditions. Studies should also be conducted to further figure out the duration and dose of probiotics supplementation and observe its long-term effects in patients with a variety of chronic skin conditions.

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