Acne, Psorirasis, Eczema, Rosacea...? It's time to look at the health of your Gut Microbiome!
The gut and the skin are intricately connected through the Gut-Skin Axis and numerous studies have shown a link between gastrointestinal (GI) health and skin homeostasis, especially with regards to inflammatory skin conditions.
As a Natural Health Practitioner, I look at the skin like a window into the health of the Gut Microbiome...
There are a few mechanisms by which the Gut and Skin are connected, the first of which is Gut Dysbiosis (imbalanced of gut bacteria). In cases of Dysbiosis, pathogens like parasites, yeast and bacteria drive up inflammation and damage the intestinal lining. This creates ‘Leaky Gut’, in which the intestinal lining develops cracks and holes that allow toxins, waste and by-products to ‘leak’ into the blood stream and travel throughout the body. This elicits an inflammatory response from the immune system that directly impacts the skin, causing breakouts, eczema flares, rashes and more.
We also need to consider the actual Skin Microbiome. Similar to your Gut Microbiome - which is made up of trillions of bacteria, fungi and other microbes that play a very important role in your health - the Skin Microbiome is an ecosystem of bacteria on the surface of your skin that protects against external factors like extreme weather, pathogens, damaging sunlight, etc. In cases of Dysbiosis and Leaky Gut, toxins travel from the gut to the skin and disrupt the skin microbiome, causing flare-ups and breakouts.
Finally, the skin is also the body's largest site of elimination and absorption, meaninng anything you put on your skin (including chemicals in topical products, perfumes, body washes, etc.) is instantly absorbed into your blood stream and can travel to other areas of the body, including the gut microbiome. The issue here is that these toxins have a negative impact on healthy gut bacteria and can lead to Dysbiosis - yet another link between the Gut and the Skin!
Toxins absorbed through the skin will also increase your body's overall toxic load, placing an additional burden on detox organs like the kidneys, liver, lymphatics and bowels. Since the skin is our largest site of elimination, the body will push toxins through the skin and use it to 'pick up the slack'. This is why supporting the liver and moving the bowels are so important in cases of inflammatory skin issues.
Toxic Beauty & the Gut-Skin Axis
When it comes to skin care (and beauty products, in general, including soaps, deoderants, makeup, shampoos, perfumes..), the popular products we know and love are sadly often loaded with toxins that directly disrupt our Skin microbiome and negatively impact our Gut Health, driving cases of Dysbiosis.
Some of the most common toxins to look out for on ingredient lists include:
Parabens (Propyl-, Isopropyl-, Butyl-, and Isobutyl- parabens): Thesse stop bacteria growing in products such as cosmetics, face and body creams, bubble bath, shower gels.
Phthalates: They carry fragrances in products such as lotions, nail polish, shampoos, soaps and perfumes. They are also found in plastic packaging and can leach into the products they contain. If you see “fragrance” or “perfume” on a label, it may contain phthalates unless it’s listed as organic.
Bisphenol-A: Used for its preservative properties in cosmetics and used in plastic packaging and the lining of food and drink containers such as cans/tins
Triclosan: A common anti-microbial used in toothpaste, deodorant, hand sanitizers, disinfectants and soaps.
UV filters: such as oxybenzone, oxy methoxy methyl cinnamate, and methylbenzylidene camphor which are found in sunscreens.
Lead: up to 61% of lipsticks contain mineral metals such as lead. Science indicates there is no safe level of lead exposure. Lead is a neurotoxin and can be dangerous at even small doses.
What to do? Swap the toxic labels for natural, safe alternatives. I wrote an entire Clean Beauty Bible Ebook covering the ins and outs of clean beauty - Click here to grab it!
Supporting a Healthy Gut-Skin Axis
Probiotic supplementation presents promising results in the role of prevention and management of various skin disorders, as suggested by recent research. Acne is a great example. Probiotics can suppress Propionibacterium acnes (P. acnes), the bacteria responsible for acne breakouts. They do this by secreting an antibacterial protein, which inhibits the growth of P. acnes.
There are many strains of bacterial species available as probiotics. However, the important ones to consider in the context of skin health are Lactobacillus species and Bifidobacterium. In a recent double-blind human study, they observed a significant decrease in water loss across the skin epidermis and increased skin hydration after taking Lactobacillus brevis oral supplementation for 12 weeks. Another study also demonstrated a marked improvement in skin elasticity and increased skin hydration after 12 weeks of oral supplementation with Lactobacillus Plantarum.
Consumption of probiotic foods are a great way to ensure you’re getting a wide diversity of the beneficial strains to promote skin health and help to maintain a healthy gut microbiome, as well. You can supplement with a quality probiotic that includes the Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium strains or consume foods like Sauerkraut, kimchi, coconut kefir, miso, organic tempeh, or a low-sugar kombucha daily to get your probiotics.
Fiber acts as a Prebiotic, meaning it feeds healthy Gut bacteria; We know that these healthy bacteria play a big role in the look, feel and overall health of our skin, so helping them grow is important! Fiber also helps to keep the bowels regular, which is crucial for daily detoxification (moving your bowels daily should actually be a top priority for skin health).
All plant foods contain Fiber, including beans, grains, fruits, vegetables and even herbs and spices. Ideally, we should consume about 30 different plants each week. This is because different gut bacteria feed off of different types of fiber, and different gut bugs also serve different functions. Since our goal is to promote a microbiome that is robust and diverse, we need to make sure we are feeding all of the good guys, and not just a select few by eating the same things over and over.
It's no coincidence that skin conditions like eczema, psoriasis and acne tend to flare under times of high stress. One of the main mechanisms here is the Gut-Brain axis - Studies have shown that when we're under stress, it can actually alter the makeup of our Gut microbiome, which can than impact our skin.
Practicing stress managment techniques like yoga, meditation, breathing techniques and daily exercise is a great way to support the Gut-Skin Axis and reduce the occurence of skin symptoms.
Curious tot learn more about Skin? Check out my latest Ebook - The Clean Beauty Bible.