Our skin. It’s our largest organ. We can see, touch, and feel the health of our skin on a daily basis, but when our skin has a reaction- acne, eczema, rosacea, dermatitis, inflammatory skin conditions, etc., the first thing we normally do is rush to the store to buy topical lotions, pills, or spot treatment creams to quickly fix the imperfection. However, we should be looking a little deeper into what is actually causing these skin issues… and you may be surprised to hear the answer is actually in our gut.
The condition of your skin is a wonderful tool to be able to read what is going on inside of you, as skin conditions are normally a sign of something else going on in your body. Inflammation begins in the gut, and digestion is the root of our health.
When we are suffering from poor gut health and function we are not absorbing nutrition properly, and when we are not absorbing properly our bodies start to prioritize where our nutrients get used. The reason that we notice changes in our skin, hair and nails first is because our body will always supply our most vital organs first- heart, lungs, brain. If we are not absorbing nutrients properly during our digestive process we do not have enough nutrients for beautiful glowing skin, healthy hair, and strong resilient nails, resulting in poor conditions.
Our gut microbiome is made up of trillions of bacteria. In a perfect world, we would have 85% good bacteria and 15% bad bacteria. These microflora in our stomach and intestinal tracts have their own unique balance, much like an ecosystem, and the food we eat can feed either the good bacteria or the bad bacteria, but it’s important to always have a balance of both.
One large study manipulated the microbiome by changing variables such as probiotic and prebiotic supplements and observed the results. These researchers were able to conclude that probiotics, prebiotics, and synbiotics (the combination of both probiotics and prebiotics together) are both treatment and preventative measures for inflammatory skin diseases like acne and psoriasis. Disorders such as Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) commonly affect the skin; those with the disorder can experience ulcers, oral lesions, rough patches of skin, and other inflammatory skin conditions. Other factors such as food allergies, like lactose intolerance, cause an inflammatory response in the body – which can show up in our skin as well. Overall, scientists have found strong links between inflammatory skin disorders and gut dysbiosis.
When our gut bacteria become unbalanced it decreases our ability to produce anti-inflammatory metabolites as well as absorb nutrients from our food. Thankfully, we can accomplish this through eating a diverse diet of many types of healthy, probiotic, prebiotic, plant-based foods.
Foods that are rich in probiotics, or as some manufacturers refer to as “live or active cultures,” means that the bacteria in these foods are still living. Often, food processing procedures often kill off these bacteria. If the product is available on the grocery store shelf and not refrigerated it may not contain any vital living actives. Some of the best probiotic foods and drinks are: Yogurt (ideally dairy-free), kimchi, kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut, miso, pickles, pickled vegetables, and more.
Prebiotics are types of dietary fiber that feed the friendly bacteria in your gut (mostly from fiber), that humans cannot digest. The good bacteria will eat this fiber, aiding in the digestion process and supporting your colon cells. Foods that contain prebiotics include: Garlic, onions, leeks, Jerusalem artichoke, dandelion greens, chicory root, asparagus, bananas, barley, oats, apples, and the list goes on.
Once you’ve got your pre and pro biotic foods working, you want to round out your food intake with fresh, local (when possible) fruits and vegetables, and finishing with lean proteins. Polyphenol-rich foods, such as cocoa, green tea and olive oil, can also increase healthy gut bacteria levels.
Avoid foods rich in refined carbohydrates, such as white bread, white sugar, white rice, artificial sweeteners, and sweets.
It is also recommended to avoid dairy for optimal skin health, as a recent scientific study estimates that potential lactose and dairy intolerance is approximately 70% of the world’s adult population. Consumption of dairy when you have an intolerance can result in inflammation of the digestive tract, which often shows up as reactions on the skin such as eczema, dermatitis, rosacea or acne breakouts.
Drink Up, Buttercup!
As always, make sure to drink plenty of water. This helps us flush the body to achieve happier and healthier skin in a number of ways including hydration and improving gut mucosal lining… enter dewy glow and healthy gut!
If you aren’t in love with the idea of drinking water throughout the day, try flavouring it naturally with fruit, veggie and herb infusions. Some of our favourite blends are cucumber + mint, strawberries + basil, watermelon + mint, citrus + ginger, or thyme + blackberries.
We recommend starting your morning with a cup of warm or hot water and lemon or lime (about ½ lemon or lime should do it!), as it helps to keep your stomach acid at a healthy level and aid in digestion. Many people who have more irritable stomachs or just trouble digesting food will start each meal with lemon water to prepare their stomach acid for digestion. It’s very effective, simple to incorporate into your daily routine, and your skin will be glowing within days.
We know this is a lot of information, but making some small changes to improve your gut health through diet will have you on your way to your healthiest and clearest skin ever.
Information in this post was condensed and adapted from a 3 part series on the Gut-Skin Connection by Huna Skin. Read the whole series here.