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Can Gut Health Affect Your Skin? (Spoiler: YES!)

Have you invested a small fortune trying different skincare products and treatments but not seeing any improvement in your skin? 

Have you ever considered that the root cause of your skin problems may lie in your gut? 

Recent studies have shown a strong connection between gut health and skin health, suggesting that what you eat and how you take care of your gut can have a significant impact on the appearance and health of your skin.

As someone who has struggled with both skin and gut issues from an early age, I feel like I have tried everything out there – creams, antibiotics, expensive serums, you name it! But what if the solution has been simpler? 

What if fixing your gut health could have a ripple effect on the rest of your health and wellbeing, including the appearance of your skin?

Quick Answer: Can Gut Health Affect Skin?

In short, yes! When there is an imbalance in gut bacteria, it can lead to inflammation throughout the body. This inflammation can manifest in the skin, causing issues like acne, eczema, or rosacea. So, a healthy gut can contribute to clearer, healthier skin.

Eczema on a woman's collar bone from gut health issues
Can gut health affect skin?

Understanding Gut Health

Let’s start off by briefly going over what gut health actually is. If you know this part, feel free to skip ahead. 

Your gut is home to trillions of microorganisms, including bacteria, fungi, viruses, and other microbes. These microorganisms help break down food, produce essential nutrients, and support your immune system. A healthy gut microbiome is essential for overall health, including skin health.

The gut microbiome is a complex ecosystem that can be influenced by a variety of factors, including diet, lifestyle, medications, and stress. 

A balanced and diverse microbiome is key to maintaining gut health. When the microbiome is disrupted, it can lead to a whole host of health problems, including digestive issues, inflammation, and even skin problems.

The Gut-Skin Axis

The gut-skin axis refers to the connection between the health of your gut and the health of your skin. This connection is a two-way street, meaning that the health of your gut can affect your skin, and the health of your skin can also affect your gut.

The Science Behind the Connection

Research has shown that the gut and the skin are connected through the immune system and the nervous system. Let’s explain it using an analogy of a city. 

Think of the gut as a bustling metropolis filled with trillions of residents, some good and bad. A healthy gut is fortified enough to keep its bad residents inside and in check. 

However, if the gut microbiome becomes imbalanced – i.e. too many bad residents move in, it can’t do its job well. 

When the gut microbiome is imbalanced, it can lead to inflammation. An inflamed gut, in turn, becomes more permeable, allowing unwanted substances into the bloodstream, which can lead to systemic inflammation. 

Factors like food allergens, medications, alcohol, and diets low in fiber can all irritate the gut. And that irritation can trigger skin conditions such as acne, eczema, and psoriasis. 

For more on the connection between gut health and your skin, I recommend this short video:

How the Gut Communicates with the Skin

The gut communicates with the skin through a variety of pathways. One of the main pathways is through the immune system. 

As we just noted, when the gut microbiome is imbalanced, it can cause the immune system to become overactive and trigger inflammation. This inflammation can then show up on the skin in the form of redness, acne, or other skin conditions.

Another pathway is through the nervous system. The gut and the skin are both connected to the brain through the nervous system. This means that stress and other emotional factors can affect both the gut and the skin. 

For example, when you’re stressed, your gut can become imbalanced, which can then lead to skin issues. It’s why you might feel sick to your stomach when you’re overwhelmed and experience breakouts. 

All of it’s connected!

Impact of Gut Health on Skin Conditions

So let’s take a deeper look at some skin conditions that can be impacted by your gut health. It’s important to note that these skin conditions are not only caused by gut health problems, but gut health can be a contributing factor. 

This is why communicating with your doctor and/or dermatologist and taking a whole-body approach to your treatment plan is so important. 

1. Acne

Acne is a common skin condition that can be caused by a variety of factors, including imbalances in the gut microbiome. When the gut is unhealthy, it can lead to inflammation in the body, which can trigger acne breakouts. Studies have shown that people with acne tend to have a less diverse gut microbiome than those without acne, though more research is needed on the exact implications. The causes of acne are complicated, and gut health is probably just one of several factors that contribute to it. 

2. Eczema

Eczema is a chronic skin condition that causes dry, itchy, and inflamed skin. A 2020 study examined the relationship between microbiome and environment in infants with eczema. They found disruptions in the gut’s microbiome development in infancy can shape immune system development and increase the risk of allergic diseases like eczema. 

Researchers also found that people with eczema have a less diverse gut microbiome than those without eczema. There’s some optimism that eczema symptoms might be alleviated by altering the gut microbiome and/or reducing gut inflammation. 

I experienced this one firsthand.

During my heavy drinking days, I started to develop eczema, which baffled my dermatologist because apparently, it’s not common for adults to suddenly develop eczema. (She didn’t know how much I was drinking.)

I remember having one flare-up after a particularly boozy day of drinking while on vacation in Barcelona. I woke up with horrible hangxiety and eczema covering the palms of my hands. Nothing like that had ever happened to me before. The itching and discomfort were maddening and it took days to clear up. 

Before then, it was mostly little patches of eczema on my side or my arm, but always tolerable. 

In retrospect, I’m not surprised.  

I was drinking a lot, which made my gut and body an inflamed mess

Once I quit drinking alcohol for good, the eczema went away and didn’t return. 

Eczema on hands
eczema and gut health

3. Rosacea

Rosacea is a skin condition that causes redness and inflammation on the face. And, as you’ve probably guessed, there is research that indicates gut health may contribute to flare ups. 

A study out of Denmark showed a possible connection between rosacea and gastrointestinal diseases like celiacs, IBS, inflammatory bowel disease, and SIBO. 

It’s been well-documented that certain foods and beverages can trigger rosacea flares in patients. Many people have also experienced relief from rosacea symptoms by making dietary and lifestyle changes that improve their overall gut health. 

It’s why you see so much advice online to avoid spicy foods and hot beverages if you’re struggling with rosacea.

4. Psoriasis

Psoriasis is a chronic skin condition that causes patches of thick, red, and scaly skin. It’s an autoimmune disease. When your gut health is out of balance, you may suffer from something known as leaky gut. 

This is when bad bacteria escape the intestinal barrier and enters our bloodstream, triggering an immune response throughout the body, including a psoriasis flare among sufferers. 

There have been a few studies showing promising results of using dietary and lifestyle changes (like switching to a Mediterranean diet) to manage psoriasis symptoms. 

At this point, it probably sounds like I’m repeating myself, but that is largely because gut health plays such a key role in so many health-related problems involving the skin (and other conditions, frankly). 

This is by no means an attempt to simplify these problems or reduce the solutions down to “just fix your gut health” (as if it were so easy to do!), but it is to highlight a clear relationship between our gut and skin. 

Related >> How To Protect Your Gut While On Antibiotics

How to Improve Gut Health for Better Skin

Alright, so now that we know the gut and skin are highly interconnected, what do we do about it? How do we improve our skin health by working on our gut health?

Diet and Nutrition

What you eat can have a big impact on your gut health. To improve your gut health, the first step is to eat a healthy, well-balanced diet.

The goal here is to eat a diet that promotes diverse gut microbiota. Have you heard the phrase, “Eat the rainbow?” This is that. 

Consuming a range of different foods, especially plant-based foods, can help nourish different bacterial species. That’s what we’re going for, here. 

Eating for gut health is a topic worthy of its own article, but here’s the basic overview.

Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. It’s also important to limit your intake of processed foods, sugar, and alcohol.

Revolutionary? No. But it’s still hard to get right, especially when the Standard American Diet is basically the opposite of this.

Some foods that are particularly good for your gut health include:

  • Fermented foods, such as kimchi, sauerkraut, and kefir
  • High-fiber foods, such as beans, lentils, and whole grains
  • Foods rich in prebiotics, such as garlic, onions, and asparagus

Probiotics and Prebiotics

Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that are good for your gut health. They can be found in fermented foods, such as yogurt and kefir, as well as in supplement form. Prebiotics, on the other hand, are a type of fiber that feeds the good bacteria in your gut.

To improve your gut health, you may want to consider taking a probiotic supplement, like this one from Clear 360, or eating more probiotic-rich foods. You can also increase your intake of prebiotic foods, such as bananas, oats, and flaxseed.

Regulates inflammatory response Supports healthy immune function Soothes swollen joints sore muscles Calms GI Tract irritation Probiotic Blend for long-term inflammatory response balance Turkey Tail & Ginger Delayed-release acid-resistant veggie capsu

Stress Management

Stress, whether it’s physical or emotional, can have a direct impact on the gut. When you’re stressed, your body releases stress hormones like cortisol. 

These hormones can alter the gut’s environment, potentially leading to an imbalance in the gut bacteria (dysbiosis). 

Stress can also affect the gut’s barrier function, making it more permeable. This is that leaky gut we talked about earlier. 

This increased permeability can allow unwanted substances to enter the bloodstream, which can trigger inflammation and other health issues. 

It’s also worth noting that chronic stress can slow down digestion, leading to constipation or diarrhea, and exacerbate conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

To improve your gut health, it’s important to find ways to manage your stress. Again, we could spend an entire article on stress management techniques, but here’s a 50-foot overview. 

Some of the best known (and effective) stress-management techniques include:

By working on your diet and stress, you’ll be on the right path toward improved gut and skin health! 

Frequently Asked Questions

What are some foods that promote gut and skin health?

Some foods that promote gut and skin health include fermented foods like kefir, kimchi, and sauerkraut, as well as fiber-rich foods like whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. These foods help to nourish the good bacteria in your gut, which can help to improve your overall gut health and, in turn, promote healthier skin.

How can leaky gut affect the appearance of your skin?

Leaky gut, also known as intestinal permeability, can cause inflammation throughout the body, which can lead to a variety of health problems, including skin issues like acne, rosacea, and eczema. When your gut lining is compromised, it can allow toxins and other harmful substances to enter your bloodstream, which can trigger an immune response and cause inflammation.

What steps can you take to improve your gut health for clearer skin?

To improve your gut health for clearer skin, you can try incorporating more fiber-rich foods and fermented foods into your diet, as well as taking probiotic supplements. Also, reducing your intake of processed foods, sugar, and alcohol can also help to improve your gut health and promote clearer skin.

Are there any specific gut-related skin conditions?

Yes, there are several gut-related skin conditions, including dermatitis herpetiformis, which is linked to celiac disease, and psoriasis, both of which have which has been linked to gut inflammation. Additionally, some people with leaky gut may experience common skin issues like acne, rosacea, and eczema.

Can improving your gut health lead to better skin?

Yes, improving your gut health can lead to better skin. When your gut is healthy, it can help to reduce inflammation throughout your body, including in your skin. Additionally, a healthy gut can help to promote better absorption of nutrients, which can also help to nourish your skin from the inside out.

Is there a connection between gut health and acne or eczema?

Yes, there is a connection between gut health and acne or eczema. Both conditions have been linked to inflammation in the body, which can be caused by gut issues like leaky gut or an imbalance of gut bacteria. Improving your gut health can help to reduce inflammation and improve these skin conditions.

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