The Gut-Skin Connection: Underlying Factors to Skin Health

The Gut-Skin Connection: Underlying Factors to Skin Health

Unless you have avoided all mass media lately, you are likely hearing about the “human microbiome,” particularly the gut and its wide-reaching impact on our daily lives. You have also most likely heard of many sampling kombucha or kimchi, testing probiotics, or partaking in a trendy detox — in an attempt to foster the “good” bacteria. The gut microbiome has made its long-awaited debut in the health world. Each of us is hungry to get a piece of this information.

Defining the Gut Microbiome

As you read in the last post, the microbiome is defined as a community of bacteria, viruses, fungi, archaea, and eukaryotes that inhabit the human body — the gut, skin, organs, and even the blood. It communicates with the immune system and the nervous system. These organisms are collectively referred to as the “second human genome,” the “gut microflora,” the “gut microbiota,” and so on. An ecosystem all in itself, the gut microbiome is now considered a separate organ with its own metabolic and immune activity. 

Gut bacteria are involved in harvesting energy from food, balancing the beneficial versus harmful bacterial composition, releases neurotransmitters such as serotonin, and manufactures enzymes and vitamins like vitamin K (1). They are also involved with immune and metabolic functions. The current health of our gut determines the efficiency in which nutrients, minerals, and vitamins are either absorbed or not absorbed. 

The gut microbiome of Westernized, industrialized populations (including the U.S.) is less diverse than that of people from rural, less developed populations (2, 3). Diet plays a critical role, but a general shift away from natural environments impacts the gut in detrimental ways. This is because there is little to no exposure to soil, animals, and other environmental microbes (3). Think of it like this: nature inoculates our personalized internal ecosystem. The further we retreat from the natural world and into the industrial matrix the more it is likely that we use antibacterial soap products, take prescribed rounds of antibiotics, and vaccinate (3, 4). 

Gut Disruptors 
As you can see in the graphic above, many factors impact the health of our gut and are in abundance in the Standard American Diet. We call these “gut disruptors.” Ingredients such as refined vegetable and seed oils, processed flours (refined grains), and artificial (refined) sugars are a recipe for compromised health. These highly processed ingredients — from which we consume daily — aid in the manifestation of numerous health challenges outside of skin health. 

Diet seems to be the most powerful influence of the gut microbiome. Nutrient-dense, colorful whole plant foods that contain soluble and insoluble fiber provide prebiotics, which stimulates the growth and activity of the gut microbiome. Whereas processed foods containing emulsifiers, fillers, and preservatives (food antibiotics) may damage the intestinal lining. A damaged intestinal lining potentially leads to “leaky gut,” small-intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), Crohn’s disease, and systemic inflammation, which contributes greatly to skin ailments — acne, eczema, rosacea, psoriasis, dermatitis, and much more (5, 6, 7, 8). 

Recent studies show that a wide diversity of gut microbiota is currently thought to be of healthier composition than having only a select few organisms in the gut. This diversity is affected by a varied diet rich in plants, vegetables, and fruit, so those who have a limited diet also have a low variety of microbiota. 

Skin Health is Gut Health

The gut and the skin are in constant bi-directional communication with each other. If the skin on the outside of your body is inflamed, you can be certain that the skin on the inside is inflamed too. The lining of your insides, from your mouth right down to your anus is really like an internal skin. Healing the skin on your inside is the key to glowing, radiant, healthy skin on the outside.

Healing the skin within involves directly connecting to what it is we are feeding our faces. As mentioned above, the lining of our digestive tract not only comes into contact with the food we eat but the outside world. But there is much more below the surface concerning feeding our faces. The skin products that we place on our faces are of significant importance. As well as what our facial skin comes into contact with from the outside world. This is a long list of environmental toxins that are in the air, soil, and water. Because of the overwhelming amount of toxins surrounding us, learning what nourishes our skin on the inside and outside is a liberating personal discovery. Below is a common list of gut triggers that potentially trigger different reactions with our skin. There is more emphasis on what not to consume versus what we should consume because the truth is most of us are doing our absolute best. Sometimes the next step is more so reducing or removing instead of adding another task on our to-do lists.
A Special Note:

I want to first emphasize my philosophy of healing. There is no magic silver bullet, no cure-all. No one on this Earth is going to heal you. There are simply people who facilitate healing, and they also perform wonders through their passions, service, and work. These souls provide amazing resources, like Cassandra. BUT only you will heal you. Healing is unique, but it is not isolated or exclusive. Healing is profound. Sometimes, not all the time, healing can be simple. But transmuting the dis-ease that limits us can also seem endless and exhausting. A good start is acknowledging that something must be done. And another great start is acknowledging that you are the catalyst. I don’t even have to meet you to know this in my heart. We all experience different earthly challenges, all in varying degrees. Do what you can, direct your energy toward recovery, honor your process, and embrace your successes (no matter how grand or tiny).

Finding Balance

The best way to maintain a healthy microbiota is to eat a range of fresh, whole foods, mainly from plant sources like fruits, veggies, legumes, beans, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. I am not recommending any special, once-in-a-lifetime detox program because you most likely do not need one right now. We’re here to inspire you to seek guidance from your plant allies. Use food as medicine to heal your gut-skin axis, and any other organ too! 

Five Things You Can Do Right Now

_ Eat more whole, plant-based nutrient-dense foods. Eat a diverse amount of plant foods weekly, this introduces diversity to the organisms working hard in your gut! 
_ Eat slowly. Do not overeat, do not overfill your fork. Make sure to chew your food well and not swallow food whole. Digestion starts in the mouth, chewing is necessary to break down food particles before they reach the stomach. If the stomach is full too quickly with unchewed food it cannot properly do its job.
_ Prioritize at least 7–8 hours of uninterrupted sleep per night. Not getting enough or sufficient quality of sleep can have serious impacts on your gut health because it induces stress on the body
_ Invest in a quality daily probiotic supplement with +1 billion CFUs.
_ Stay hydrated. Drink half your body weight (pounds) in drinking water (ounces) at the minimum daily. Aim for a gallon daily as hydration has a beneficial effect on the mucosal lining of the intestines, as well as on the balance of good bacteria in the gut.
Stay tuned for future blog posts! We will share how to maximize the nutritional benefit of our colorful, nutrient-dense plant allies so that you are empowered knowing every option in creating a diverse, personalized healing diet! 
The next posts will cover “Eating the Rainbow” and each benefit of every color... How to prepare/cook/eat each so that our gut is happy. 
Contributor: Gabrielle Hall
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