Gut-skin connection

Gut-Skin Connection (All You Need to Know)

Do you suffer from skin issues such as eczema, acne or psoriasis? Do you have more bad skin days than good ones?

If so, you may be surprised to learn your gut could be to blame!

As a naturopath who has treated many people with various skin issues (including myself), I get looks of disbelief when I tell my clients that their gut could be the source of their skin issues. But believe me, there is a clear  connection between the two!

In this article, I will discuss what the-skin connection is, how your gut communicates with your skin, and how various skin issues (like eczema, acne, psoriasis and rosacea) are related to the health of your gut.

Last but not least, I will discuss how to heal your gut and your skin.

Gut-skin connection

What is the Gut-Skin Connection aka Gut Skin Axis?

For starters, your gut and skin have a lot in common. They have rich blood supplies, contain tons of bacteria and protect your organs from the environment. They also communicate with your nervous, immune and endocrine (hormonal) systems.

As a result, it is not surprising that your gut and skin are connected via the “gut-skin axis”.

Studies show that you are more likely to develop skin issues if you have problems with your gut. For instance, close to 15% of patients with ulcerative colitis and close to 25%of patients with Crohn’s disease have skin issues.

How is the gut connected to the skin?

Well, for those of you who suffer from acne, think about how you suffer from more acne issues when you are under stress. When you are stressed out, your stomach does not secrete a lot of hormones. This causes a change in the makeup of bacteria in your gut, a condition called Gut Dysbiosis. The result? Your body becomes inflamed and you get acne.

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How Your Gut Communicates With Your Skin

The idea that your gut communicates with your skin is not new.

In the early 20th century, dermatologists Stokes and Pillsbury, found a link between disorders in the gut and disordersin the skin. Citing a study that up to 40% of acne sufferers have suboptimal acid secretion, they proposed that gut dysbiosis leads to acne. Since then, studies have led to the conclusion that gut dysbiosis leads to various skindisorders.

How does gut dysbiosis lead to skin disorders?

Well, for one, when you are in a state of gut dysbiosis, the bad bacteria in your gut take over and produce toxic substances (LPS). Your blood then carries these toxic substances or bacterial endotoxins, to your skin where they wreak havoc and create inflammation.

For example, they prevent your skin cells from developing and maturing. They also disrupt the barrier between your skin and the external environment, letting in bacteria and other organisms. Gut dysbiosis can also lead to dry and inflamed skin.

Aside from gut dysbiosis, here are a number of ways your gut may communicate with your skin:

  • Your gut absorbs nutrients that directly affect your skin

When you consume beta-carotene, it provides protection from sunburns. Likewise, when you consume vitamin E, it helps rejuvenate your skin.

  • Your gut absorbs nutrients that cause a change in the production of hormones

Certain nutrients shift the production of hormones in your body. For example, when you consume too many high-glycemic, refined carbohydrates, more of the hormone called insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1) may be produced. IGF-1 stimulates your sweat glands to make more sebum and more inflammatory substances, increasing your chances of developing acne.

  • Your gut bacteria affects your immune system

The bacteria in your gut communicate with inflammation-causing regulatory T cells. These cells increase the likelihood of you developing inflammatory skin disorders.

  • Changes in your gut bacterial by-products affect your immune system

The good bacteria in your gut digest fiber and form substances called short chain fatty acids. If you do not have enough of these short-chain fatty acids, you are more likely to develop acne.

Similarly, the bad bacteria in your gut form bacterial-derived lipopolysaccharides (LPS). If you have too much LPS, you are also more likely to develop acne.

Gut Health and Eczema

Do you or your kids have eczema?

Well, you may be surprised to find out how common eczema is!Eczema is a common inflammatory condition of the skin that affects as many as 30% of children and 10%of adults.

What causes eczema?

Eczema occurs when your immune system is too active. The good bacteria in your gut help keep your immune system in balance. However, when your bad bacteria overtake your good bacteria, gut dysbiosis occurs, throwing your immune system into hyperactive mode. This results in your skin becoming inflamed aka eczema.

The diversity of bacteria in your gut also plays a role in the development of eczema, particularly childhood eczema.

Did you know that childhood eczema occurs in up to 20% of children in developed countries but less than 2% of children in less developed countries? Why the difference? This coul be explained by the hygiene hypothesis.

According to the hygiene hypothesis, children who are not exposed to a wide variety of microbes including bad and good bacteria can develop an over-active immune system. This leads to the development of more allergic and autoimmune diseases. This hypothesis may explain why studies have found infants with a greater diversity of gut bacteria are less likely to develop eczema in childhood!

Gut bacteria diversity tends to be greater in infants who:

  • Are delivered vaginally: Infants born via C-section have lower numbers of E. Coli, bifidobacteria, and Bacteroides than infants born vaginally. This is because they do not come into adequate contact with their mother’s vaginal and faecal bacteria.
  • Are breastfed: Breastfeeding exposes infants to different types of bacteria at different ages. Research has shown that infants breastfed for 6 months or more have more Lactobacilli and bifidobacteria.
  • Are not given antibiotics: Antibiotics are known to wipe out both good and bad bacteria and can lead to months or even years of gut dysbiosis.
  • Have a greater number of older siblings: Research has shown that by the age ofone, infants without older siblings have more of the bad bacteria Clostridium.
  • Consume a non-Western diet: Research has shown that children who consume a Mediterranean diet (adiet with antioxidant and inflammation fighting properties) are less likely to developeczema than children who consume a Western diet (a diet that promotesinflammation).
  • Have more siblings: Research has shown that infants without siblings have the same bacterial diversity as infants born via C section.
  • Have a less sanitary environment: Research has shown that children born in developing countries are less likely to develop eczema.
Gut-skin connection

Gut Health and Psoriasis

Psoriasis is an inflammatory skin disorder that causes a rapid buildup of skin cells on your skin’s surface.  Psoriasis affects up to 11% of people in developed countries.

Just like eczema, psoriasis is caused by an overactive immune system. Research suggests that gut dysbiosis is the culprit as well. Gut dysbiosis causes an imbalance in your immune system which leads to widespread inflammation that extends to your skin.

What is the evidence for this?

Patients who have psoriatric arthritis (a form of psoriasis) suffer from gut inflammation and are more likely to develop irritable bowel disease (IBD). In fact, up to 11% of patients with IBD have psoriasis.

Further evidence for the role of gut dysbiosis in the development of psoriasis is demonstrated by the fact that IBD patients and psoriasis patients have similar patterns of gut dysbiosis.

They have less of the good bacteria Bifidobacteria, Lactobacilli and Faecalibacterium prausnitzii and more of the bad bacteria Salmonella, Escherichiacoli, Helicobacter, Campylobacter, Mycobacterium and Alcagligenes.

How does having enough good bacteria prevent psoriasis? F.prausnitzi, for example, plays a role in fighting inflammation.

Gut Health and Acne

Acne is a skin disorder in which your hair follicles and their surrounding sweat glands become blocked and inflamed. About 85% of teens and young adults get acne.

Why does acne occur? Again, it appears that gut dysbiosis may play a role. People who don’t produce enough stomach acid are more likely to develop acne.

When you don’t produce enough stomach acid, bacteria move from the large intestine to the small intestine. This causes dysbiosis of the intestines and small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO). This gut dysbiosis leads to inflammation and hence acne breakouts.

Also, more bacteria in the small intestine means more competition for nutrients. Meaning there is less absorption of skin-protective nutrients such as folic acid, zinc, chromium, selenium and omega 3 fatty acids. When these key nutrients are not well absorbed, acne can occurs.

And as mentioned earlier, other factors may make you more prone to acne. These include the overproduction of lipopolysaccharides(LPS) by your bad bacteria and the consumption of too many high-glycemic, refined carbohydrates.

Gut-skin connection

Gut Health and Rosacea

Rosacea is an acne-like inflammatory skin condition. However, unlike acne, rosacea occurs more often in adults aged 30 -50 years.

What is the link between your gut and rosacea? There is a strong link between small intestinal bowel overgrowth (SIBO) and rosacea. For example, research shows that SIB0 is 10xmore common in patients with rosacea. Also, when patients with SIBO are treated with antibiotics, their rosacea tends to clear up.

In a study examining the effect of the antibiotic rifaximin on SIBO patients with rosacea, rosacea cleared up completely in 71% of patients and significantly improved in 21% of patients.

What to do ….

Since gut dysbiosis is at the core of most of these skin issues, you will want to look at the causes and treatments for gut dysbiosis.

Potential causes of gut dysbiosis include:

  • Using antibiotics and antibacterial medications
  • Consuming too much sugar, refined starch, processed foods and food additives such as artificial sweeteners and preservatives
  • Accidentally consuming harmful chemicals and toxins from foods (e.g. eating unwashed fruits, vegetables and cereals)
  • Drinking too much alcohol
  • Not taking care of your teeth properly
  • High levels of stress, anxiety or depression
  • Infections – parasite, bacterial, viral
Gut-skin connection

Treatments for gut dysbiosis include:

  • Consuming fermented foods
  • Consuming more fiber
  • Getting dirty
  • Taking probiotics
  • Not using too much antibiotics
  • Not eating highly processed foods
  • Not eating a high-fat diet
  • Targeted antimicrobial remedies
  • Improving stomach acid production
Gut-skin connection

Conclusion

I hope you now understand how your gut is connected to your skin. If you are looking for an easy to follow plan to heal your gut and heal your skin, check out our program Gut Heal & Nourish here.

If you are wanting to get to the root cause of your skin complaints, you may also want to consider gut microbiome testing. You can learn more here...

I hope that you have enjoyed reading this article. Let us know if you have any questions in the comments below 🙂 

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