Is there a connection between your gut health and skin health? Read on and find out!
The Gut Skin Connection:
Ninety-five percent (95%) of all people will experience acne or skin problems at some point in their lives (leaving only 5% of people to never struggle).
Skin problems don’t just apply to just 14-year-olds either.
- Fifty percent (50%) of adult women and,
- 25-percent (25%) of adult men have acne at some point in their adult lives
Translation: if you feel like you are the “only one” who has acne, you are not alone.
Most Skin Care Products & Dermatologists Miss the Root Cause
Unfortunately, the dermatology and skin care industry does not address the root cause of skin conditions, often attributing skin conditions like acne and dry skin to things like excess oil and bacteria; hormonal shifts; stress; use of the “wrong products” for your skin; environmental toxins (such as laundry detergent or metal earrings); and sugar.
They rarely mention the “skin-gut” connection.
7 Ways Your Gut Health Affects Your Skin Health
The primary role of the gut is to absorb the nutrients from your food that your body needs for growth, repair, and normal functioning of organs—like your skin. Your skin is a direct reflection of both what nutrients your gut and body absorbs, as well as how your gut functions.
Here are 7 Ways Your Gut Health Affects Your Skin Health:
1. Nutrient deficiencies or absorption issues contribute to skin problems.
Poor digestion, as well as lack of certain nutrients in the diet contribute to skin problems. Essential nutrients for skin health include Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Selenium, Biotin, zinc and essential fatty acids (Vitamin A, Vitamin D, Vitamin K, Vitamin E). When we fail to eat a nutrient dense diet, OR our gut cannot digest all our foods and nutrients due to low stomach acid, bacterial overgrowth or motility issues (constipation), certain organs take a hit—like our skin. However, if your gut microbiome is healthy, digestion is working adequately, and you consume enough nutrient-dense foods, than those nutrients will go directly to nourishing your skin.
2. Your skin is part of your immune system (80% of which is produced in the gut).
Your skin is an immunologic organ (immune system organ) with more than 20 million T-cells (immune cells) in it. Given that 80% of your immune system is produced in your gut, if your gut health is “down,” it can’t produce immune fighting cells to protect your body against pathogens.Hello acne, eczema, rashes and beyond.
3. Your skin is a direct reflection of what’s going on inside
Your skin is your largest organ in your body, comprising about 8 pounds (3.6 kilograms) and 22 square feet (2 square meters) of you. (To compare: your heart weighs 11 ounces, your brain weighs 3 pounds, and your small intestines and large intestines weigh about 4 pounds each).
Unlike other (unseen) organs inside your body, your skin is an organ that you can easily touch, see and check its health daily. It a great indicator of what’s going on inside your body – especially your gut health. Acne, facial redness, eczema, psoriasis, dry skin, and rosacea are all skin conditions that typically have the same root cause: poor gut health and gut function.
4. Healthy gut bacteria protect the skin against sun damage.
The healthier and stronger your gut microbiome, the less sensitive your skin is to sun damage. In one study, 10 days of oral supplementation with Lactobacillus johnsonii in hairless mice protected the mice against UV-light “sunburns”—attributed to increased immunity (1).
Another study in 54 healthy volunteers who supplemented with the same strain during UV radiation also experienced similar results (2).
5. Acne and skin flares are triggered by stress via the gut-brain connection.
There is a high association of acne in individuals with both mental health comorbidities (like anxiety and depression) and GI distress (bloating, IBS, constipation). Both mental and physical stressors are hypothesized to cause the gut flora to either produce different neurotransmitters – serotonin, norepinephrine and acetylcholine – and/or trigger the release neuropeptides (neurotransmitters that increase leaky gut), leading to both intestinal and systemic inflammation. (3, 4).
6. Low stomach acid is correlated with acne and skin breakouts.
Hypochlorhydria is frequently associated with acne. Low levels of acidity allows for the migration of colonic bacteria to distal parts of the small intestine, creating a state of intestinal dysbiosis and small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO). A larger bacterial population competes for nutrients and impairs the absorption of fats, proteins, carbohydrates, and vitamins. Malabsorbed nutrients, including folic acid, zinc, chromium, selenium, and ω-3 fatty acids influence systemic skin stress. SIBO also results in the production of toxic metabolites. (5, 6).
7. The average American puts 120 toxic chemicals on their body before leaving their house.
According to the Environmental Working Group (7), we use an average of 9 different hygiene or beauty products with toxic chemicals in them every day—from toothpaste to soap, shampoo, makeup, lotion, deodorant and more. The hygiene, food, cleaning and beauty product industry alone is home to over 85,000 different chemicals that are unregulated by the U.S. government—many of which are banned in other countries. Our liver in our digestive system is responsible for filtering all of these products. What do you think happens over time when we use them day in and day out?
- Guéniche A. G., Benyacoub J., Buetler T. M., Smola H., Blum S. (2006). Supplementation with oral probiotic bacteria maintains cutaneous immune homeostasis after UV exposure. J. Dermatol. 16 511–517. 10.1684/ejd.2006.0023
- Dougan S. K., Kaser A., Blumberg R. S. (2007). “CD1 expression on antigen-presenting cells,” in T Cell Activation by CD1 and Lipid Antigens. Current Topics in Microbiology and Immunology 314 ed. Moody D. B., editor. (Berlin: springer; ), 10.1007/978-3-540-69511-0_5
- Katzman M., Logan A. C. (2007). Acne vulgaris: nutritional factors may be influencing psychological sequelae. Hypotheses. 69 1080–1084. 10.1016/j.mehy.2007.02.037
- Salem, I., Ramser, A., Isham, N., & Ghannoum, M. A. (2018). The Gut Microbiome as a Major Regulator of the Gut-Skin Axis. Frontiers in microbiology, 9, 1459. doi:10.3389/fmicb.2018.01459
- Bures J., Cyrany J., Kohoutova D., Förstl M., Rejchrt S., Kvetina J., et al. (2010). Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth syndrome. World J. Gastroenterol. 16 2978–2990. 10.3748/wjg.v16.i24.2978
- Bowe W. P., Logan A. C. (2011). Acne vulgaris, probiotics and the gut-brain-skin axis-back to the future? Gut Pathog. 3:1. 10.1186/1757-4749-3-1
- Environmental Working Group. 2018. Skin Deep. https://ewg.org. https://www.ewg.org/key-issues/toxics/chemical-policy; https://www.ewg.org/skindeep/2004/06/15/exposures-add-up-survey-results/