The skin-gut nexus
Dr Sly Nedic explores the connection between our gut and skin health, and whether keeping our gut healthy could be the way to have immaculate skin.
Our body is not simply a collection of organs and tissues that function independently of each other but rather an intelligent, interconnected being. Increasingly, scientific data supports this belief and the scientific community now recognizes these facts as fundamental to the practice of both conventional and integrative physicians.
The relationship between skin problems and gut issues has been known for a very long time. Increasingly, research is showing a significant association between gut health and skin disorders. As such, as integrative medical doctors, we always take into consideration this skin-gut connection when treating skin problems.
How important is the gut for our skin?
Some skin disorders are commonly associated with certain gut problems. For example, rosacea (redness, visible blood vessels and red, pus-filled bumps on the face) is much more common in a condition known as SIBO (small intestine bacterial overgrowth). A recent study showed that treating SIBO resulted in the permanent cure of rosacea in 72% of individuals that had both conditions.
Allergic skin reactions and eczema are often presentations of ‘gut imbalance’.
Nutrient deficiencies are often present if the gut is not healthy; in fact, celiac disease, leaky gut, and SIBO can all lead to various skin problems. The absorption of nutrients can be severely affected, causing skin disorders that are often missed in making the connection with gut problems.
Why is the adequate absorption of these nutrients so essential for skin health?
The main vitamins that are important for skin health are vitamins C, E, A, and D. Vitamin C and E, as potent antioxidants, are essential to prevent skin aging, while vitamin D is essential in keeping skin well hydrated, preventing dryness. In one study, women with more wrinkles had lower potassium, vitamin A, vitamin C, phosphorous, and even protein levels. Protein absorption is often affected by gut disorders.
Furthermore, certain minerals such as zinc, copper, and selenium, can affect skin tremendously if deficient – from skin detoxification, maturing collagen and melanin synthesis to immune protection. Omega-3 fatty acids and carotenoids are also essential for skin health and they not only protect against aging but also benefit the skin’s immune response.
Ensuring gut continuum and gut barrier sufficiency is vital for the prevention of nutrient deficiencies and ensuring a more than adequate intake of these nutrients. Next time your skin is dry and looks prematurely aged, consider having a gut health-check before you decide to pick that new cream on a market.
Probiotics for healthy skin
The importance of the microbiome (bacteria) in the gut and the impact this has on the skin is increasingly illustrated; researchers have found that replacing ‘bad’ bacteria with ‘good’ ones can relieve many skin problems. Numerous studies prove that probiotic use is crucial to ensuring a healthy microbiome. Certain probiotics can help with general skin health, improving the skin barrier function, as well as reducing skin sensitivity. One such a probiotic is Lactobacillus paracasei.
There is a connection between dry skin and abnormal bowel movements, which contribute to the growth of some toxic bacteria. These toxic bacteria produce phenols that can interfere with the renewal of keratinocytes – skin cells contributing to dryness.
Consuming prebiotics, probiotics, and fibre can improve bowel movements and decrease the production of phenols. So if your dry skin is not responding to moisturizers prescribed by your doctor, it is wise to seek the help of an integrative physician who will look at your body holistically, including your gut!
Keep the gut healthy for flawless skin
Integrative doctors always pay attention to gut health if skin disorders, premature skin aging, skin sensitivity, dry skin or ‘wasted’ looking skin present.
Typically, after comprehensive investigations and finding the cause of the gut problem, we would start with a standard gut protocol called 5 Rs: Remove, Replace, Reinoculate, Repair and Rebalance. This is tailored to each individual.
In the Remove phase, anything that might be contributing to an unhealthy gut will be taken away, such as stress, pathogenic bacteria, food allergens, toxins, etc.
In the Replace phase, we would supplement digestive enzymes, gastric acid, and bile acids if necessary for better digestion and absorption.
The Reinoculate phase focuses on supplementing your diet with probiotics, fibre and prebiotics to attain a healthy microbiome. This is done in a personalised manner dependent on the skin condition.
In the Repair phase, vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients are introduced to assist in repairing any gut damage such as a leaky gut, inflammation, etc.
Finally, in the Rebalance phase, modifications are introduced to create personalised lifestyle supportive measures to propagate long-term gut health.
In the end, looking after your gut is vital to your holistic health and it is absolutely necessary to identify and correct any concerns that are present, as only a happy gut will support flawless and healthy-looking skin.
All refrences are available on request.
Insert image 3