One minute your skin is blemish free and glowing, and the next it looks like you’re back in high school?
You thought you had your skincare and make up nailed and now you’re scratching your head trying to figure out what’s gone wrong?
So where do you turn?
My suggestion to you is to look at your gut health!
That’s right, as far back as 1930 researchers suspected there was a link between the gut and skin and advances in modern research have now confirmed this Gut-Skin Axis.
So how does your Gut communicate with your skin? Mechanisms of communication include:
- A microbiome that is out of whack
- A compromised gut barrier (aka leaky gut)
- Influences of your gut microbiome and the immune system
- Absorption of nutrient and toxins with direct effect on your skin
- Absorption of nutrients that can stimulate hormonal changes that affect the skin
What is microbiome?
Your Gut Microbiome is essentially a population of trillions of microorganisms and their genetic material that live in your intestinal tract.
Primarily composed of bacteria, the microbiome is involved in many functions that are crucial to optimal health and wellbeing - including happy skin!
You may have heard of this term before. No, you’re not leaking everywhere but the protection that your gut provides may be compromised!
Your gut is naturally permeable to allow for the uptake of water, minerals and nutrients, and protects the gut lumen from damage from harmful substances. Intestinal permeability is a measure of the barrier function of the gut.
We have what is called epithelial tight junctions that open and close all the time - I like to think of them as gates that are closed to protect us.
Any impairment to this intestinal barrier (or when the gates are left open) can lead you down the path of leaky gut syndrome. Diet, food intolerances, medication, stress, environmental toxin and infections can all damage this barrier.
Not only does leaky gut trigger an immune response in the body and then inflammation, it also allows absorption of toxins which puts greater burden on the liver and when that burden becomes too much, the skin is affected as the next line of elimination.
Are you holding it in?
Do you get constipated? The skin is your largest organ and does perform some functions of elimination. Therefore, toxins that enter the body accumulate when constipated and are then reabsorbed and eliminated through the skin.
It is really important to address any irregularity in going to the toilet - drinking enough water is a great place to start!
Did you know that your skin has its own microbiome? I know the thought of bacteria ON your skin makes you want to reach for the hand sanitiser but it is actually PROTECTING and supporting you!
The microbiome in your skin regulates inflammation and serves as a barrier against pathogens. Bacteria can play an important part in promoting skin health by preventing infections from becoming more serious.
Chronic inflammation, stress, changes in the skin’s pH levels, and your diet, among other factors, can create an imbalance in these microbes. When this ecosystem gets imbalanced, it can result in infections or skin conditions, such as acne, eczema and rosacea.
Now if you suffer from acne the bacteria Propionibacterium acnes has long been held up as the bad guy in causing your acne. But the fact of the matter is this microorganism is a natural and normal part of your skin’s microbiome. It's when it overgrows it can trigger inflammation. But the trigger that causes it to overgrow is excess and oxidised sebum on skin!
Using strong antimicrobials on the skin not only fails to address the root cause of the bacterial overgrowth, it also upsets the rest of the skin microbiome.
What to do?
Now you might be saying that you are going to the toilet just fine so your gut can’t be the cause of your skin problems but I encourage you to think a little differently about it.
The fact your skin is unhappy is a signal to me that your gut needs some loving, and STAT!
To support a happy gut (and skin) look at including some of these into your diet:
- Plenty of water - hydration and going to the toilet is a big one and something that is so easy to address. I like to use the rule of thumb to drink 3% of body weight a day. So if you weigh 60kg you should be at least drinking 1.8L of water a day.
- Enjoy some probiotic foods such as yoghurt (if you have skin issues I would avoid dairy, so head to coconut yoghurt), kombucha, miso, kimchi, tempeh, kefir, fermented vegetables and natto.
- Increase your veggies! This is literally the easiest thing anyone can do for their gut health! The recommended daily intake is 5 serves a day - with 1 serve being equal to a cup of salad or 1/2 cup of cooked veggies! Vegetables are rich in fibre and in some cases this fibre act as a prebiotic supporting the growth of bacteria in the gut (see below). If bloating is an issue then you may want to steer clear of eating large amounts of typically ‘windy’ vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and sprouts.
- Increase foods high in polyphenols. These are essentially colourful plant based foods. They can act as antioxidants (so reducing free radicals that could damage your cells and increase your risk of disease) and reduce inflammation.
- Increase foods high in essential fatty acids such as oily fish, avocado, olive oil, hemp seeds and flaxseeds
If you can’t put a finger on what could be causing your skin issues then reaching out to a qualified naturopath such as myself would be a great place to start.
About the author:
Rachel's passion for naturopathy and gut health was sparked when she was experiencing her own gut issues many years ago and the only person who could bring everything back into balance was a naturopath. This was a game changer - not only for her health but finally inspired her to follow her “gut feelings” and study to become a naturopath.
Her background is in the corporate world, so she knows the stresses and the balancing act that comes with budgets and deadlines. Rachel believes her experience allows her to bring a unique perspective when working with clients to reduce the overwhelm that often comes with wellness.