Struggling with acne? Nothing seems to help calm your skin and keep the pimples away? I have suffered from acne in my adult years prior to my gut healing journey, so I know your pain.
One thing that may seem a bit out there when looking at healing your skin is to look into the state of your digestive health. The skin is our biggest organ, and can tell us a lot in terms of what is going on inside of our body. There are a few main ways that the state of our digestive health effects our skin health – our overall inflammation, the microbiome, and hormone balance. Let’s look into these further.
Hi, I’m Cathy, Holistic Dietitian and Gut Health Coach, owner of Nutrition Wellness Life, and Mum to 3 little munchkins. I love working with women who are struggling with digestive issues to help improve energy levels, reduce stress, and have a happier gut!
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Acne is an inflammatory condition, so let’s look firstly at calming down any inflammation in the body. “Leaky gut” or increased intestinal permeability can be a cause of chronic inflammation. A compromised epithelial barrier in the intestine allows toxins and antigens in the GI lumen to enter the bloodstream (1), and this triggers an immune response. This can show up as symptoms of food intolerances, acne, bloating, IBS, and eczema. One of the best ways to support our immune health is to address leaky gut and digestive issues. Seek out the guidance of an experienced health professional to support you through your gut healing journey. We can support gut health by firstly looking into your own digestive health (I often recommend a comprehensive stool test to my clients) – this way we can see where your gut health is at a certain point in time, and prioritise strategies to right any imbalances. If there is dysbiosis, there are some step by step strategies to correct this. The stool test also indicates if there is an issue with the body’s natural detoxification process – often this goes hand and hand with dysbiosis. This can have negative impacts on your hormonal balance. Also, if you suffer from constipation, you may also feel the effects of hormonal imbalance – instead of the estrogen being passed via the feces once it has been used, it is reabsorbed. So, making sure you have enough fibre and fluid each day to stay regular, will really help the state of your skin.
The microbiome – in a nutshell, the good bacteria appear to help the condition of our skin through the positive effect on overall immunity.(2) There are certain pathways that encourage the proliferation of new cells and skin homeostasis, and studies have indicated that having an abundance of good bacteria in our microbiome helps this process.(2) It also affects the intestinal barrier – if there is dysbiosis and disrupted gut barrier integrity this can result in a cycle of metabolic inflammation.(2) So, finding out if you have dysbiosis (either from your symptom history or a comprehensive stool test), and then going about correcting this is the best place to start. Once your microbiome has good diversity, then you work on feeding that and keeping it happy (introducing pre- and probiotics).
There are studies linking SIBO (Small Intestinal Bacteria Overgrowth) to increased prevalence of acne. The association here is that the bugs that should usually be in the large intestine head up further to the small intestine resulting in many GI symptoms, one of them being increased systemic (whole body) inflammation (I will have a later blog post on SIBO, keep an eye out for that).
One last point to mention is that stress has an effect on our skin by messing with our hormone balance, our gut microbiome, and increasing overall inflammation.
I hoped this has helped to give you some insight into the effect our gut health can have on our skin.
Signing off for now.
Yours in good health and wellness,
1. Hills RD et al. Gut Microbiome: Profound Implications for Diet and Disease. Nutrients 2019; 11(7):1613.
2. Salem I et al. The Gut Microbiome as a Major Regulator of the Gut-Skin Axis. Frontiers in Microbiology 2018; 9:1459.