Is your skin looking a little dull lately? If you’re at your wit’s end with expensive lotions and facial treatments, you may want to look at an unexpected place: your gut health. And, how to heal your gut naturally.
Your gut microbiome is tied to conditions like acid reflux, bloating, and allergies. But did you know gut health is closely tied to skin issues?
The Connection Between Gut Health And Skin Health
Surprised to hear that your digestive health is so closely related to skin health? Scientists first made this connection in the 1930s, but the exact details of how still aren’t entirely clear.1,2 Here’s a quick explanation of the function of both the skin and the gut and how they may be related.
The Function Of Your Skin As An Organ
You may not think of your skin as an organ, but it is one. In fact, it’s the largest organ of your body. Like other organs, it has a job to do. Your skin is your body’s first defense against physical, chemical, and bacterial threats.
Since much of your skin is exposed to the outside world, it comes into contact with, and is colonized by a diverse collection of microorganisms.
This includes bacteria, fungi, and viruses – and together, they make up the skin’s microbiome.
Many of these microorganisms are harmless, and in fact, they help the skin do its job. But when the bacteria is out of balance, you may experience some skin issues.3
The Function Of Your Gut
Your “gut,” also called your gastrointestinal tract, digestive system, or digestive tract, does a lot for your body. Here are a few of its functions:
- Breaking down nutrients so your body can absorb them
- Energy and vitamin production
- Hormone regulation
- Toxin and waste elimination4
Similar to your skin, your digestive tract also hosts colonies of microorganisms and bacteria.
The health of your gut microbiome can impact your immune system, mood, mental health, endocrine health, and last but not least – your skin health.
Most of the microbes in your intestinal system are found in a “pocket” of your large intestine called the cecum. This is what’s called your gut microbiome.5-8
The Gut-Skin Axis
When the balance of the bacteria in your gut is out of whack, it can have a huge impact on your skin. Your gut and skin are more closely connected than many people realize. Scientists call this connection the gut-skin axis.9
So, why are these two so closely intertwined? One recent study describes it like this: If the gut microbiome is disturbed, it stops producing substances that help regulate the immune system. The immune system starts to overreact, which in turn makes the skin overreact.10
If that all sounds kind of confusing, just know this: good gut health equals good skin health. The opposite is also true.
How The Gut Microbiome Can Become Out Of Balance
When one of the beneficial bacterial colonies in your GI tract is out of balance, it can lead to a condition called dysbiosis. A number of factors may be causing this:
- Diets high in processed food, sugar, alcohol, and low in fiber
- New medications, like antibiotics, that affect gut flora
- Poor dental hygiene
- Stress or anxiety
- Lack of sleep
- Environmental toxins11
Improve Your Gut For Better Skin
If you want to optimize your skin’s health and appearance, it’s essential that you focus on your gut. Growing and maintaining a healthy balance of good bacteria can support healthy skin.
The following 5-step method can be beneficial for supporting the health of your gut and skin. Ask your doctor before trying this method. They will be able to say whether or not it is safe for you to try and may have other suggestions.
The 5 Rs of Supporting Your Gut:
Step 1: Remove
To help address leaky gut syndrome and for general gut health, you’ll first want to remove anything that may be causing an unhealthy gut, such as:
- Food allergens. If you notice any reaction or digestive discomfort after eating certain foods, you may want to try an elimination diet or a fodmap diet under the guidance of your doctor.
- Stress. Too much stress releases cortisol into your bloodstream, which can cause gut issues.13
- Environmental toxins, like pesticides.14
- Infections, bacteria, and pathogens (again, your doctor will need to help with this).
Step 2: Replace
Once you’ve removed common triggers, it’s time to replace essential elements that are key to digestion and absorption. Talk to your doctor about testing for deficiencies in stomach acid, bile, and digestive enzymes. Your body might also be deficient in essential nutrients that are key to digesting food.
Once you identify deficiencies, speak with your doctor about finding suitable supplements.15
Step 3: Re-inoculate
In this step, good bacteria are reintroduced into the gut in a few ways:
- Probiotics introduce good bacteria. You can get these by eating fermented foods or by taking supplements.
- Prebiotics stimulate the growth of existing gut bugs. You can get these by eating foods with non-digestible fibers like leeks, garlic, bananas, and apple cider vinegar. You can also find prebiotic supplements and beverages.16,17
- Load up on foods or supplements with fiber, which can help feed good bacteria.18
Step 4: Restore
Once your gut has been re-inoculated with good bacteria, you want to create an environment that will support long term gut health. In this stage, vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients are introduced to the diet to help. This may include:
- Zinc, which can be found in nuts and whole grains, may help maintain the intestinal wall of the small intestine19
- Foods, supplements or drinkable powders high in vitamins B, C, and D20
- Foods rich in amino acids21
Step 5: Rebalance
In this phase, you’ll look beyond your diet. Think of lifestyle factors that may be impacting your gut bacteria and skin health. Here are some common ones:
- Your stress level
- The amount of sleep you get a night
- Your diet – continue to incorporate fermented foods or probiotics regularly
Foods, Herbs, And Supplements To Take For Radiant Skin
Once you’ve straightened out any intestinal issues, it’s important to get the right balance of nutrients in your diet to help keep your skin healthy. To keep your skin looking and feeling healthy, focus on eating these foods and supplements:
- Vitamin C plays a role in supporting healthy skin23
- Vitamin D helps keep skin hydrated24
- Foods containing minerals like zinc, selenium, and copper aid in skin health25
- Omega-3 fatty acids are also essential for skin health26 You likely aren’t getting enough omega-3s into your diet through food alone. Consider taking a supplement carefully formulated with plant based omega-3s.
- Fermented foods, and probiotic supplements
- Coconut oil which supports healthy bacteria on the skin27,28
Time To Get Started
If your skin is less-than-perfect and you’re ready to take action, focusing on your gut health could be a great move for you. Even if you don’t have a serious condition, improving your gut health can have far-reaching results for your skin health and beyond.
In addition to better skin, you may be delighted at some of the other benefits that come from a healthy gut. Fewer stomach issues, enhanced mood, and energy could also be waiting for you on the other side.29
The Importance of Gut Health & How It Affects Your Brain
Fact: Your Gut Bacteria Could Be Impacting Your Mood
Increase Your Probiotics’ Healing Power (6 key tips)