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Gut Health and Skin Health: How Improving One Can Help Improve the Other!

Reviewed by Leigh Ann Scott, MD of Forum Health Las Colinas


Skin health is vital. After all, when you look at your skin, it can seem miraculous. This living organism can be cut, beaten, bruised — and heal itself! But like any other part of the human body, what happens within can affect the skin. And that can result in skin issues like acne, eczema, psoriasis, and rosacea. 


And while many creams, pills, and ointments flood the market to deal with these skin issues, there’s more to it. With functional medicine, we look at the underlying cause of any physical issue. And while skin issues can have multiple causes, research shows that the gut microbiome and skin microbiome are in constant communication — and that the gut plays a major role in the skin’s health. 


But before we dive into the gut-skin connection, let’s discuss the microbiome itself — both skin and gut.


The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences describes the microbiome:

“The microbiome is the collection of all microbes, such as bacteria, fungi, viruses, and their genes, that naturally live on our bodies and inside us. Although microbes are so small that they require a microscope to see them, they contribute in big ways to human health and wellness. They protect us against pathogens, help our immune system develop, and enable us to digest food to produce energy.”

The Skin Microbiome

The skin is the largest organism in the body and our major protector against environmental factors. And while you may have read about the gut microbiome, you may not know a lot about the skin microbiome. Also called the skin flora, it’s home to trillions of bacteria, fungi, and viruses.


Interestingly, the skin microbiome changes based on where you live, as well as whether the area of the skin is moist, dry, hairy, or oily. And depending on your age and gender, your microbiome can vary widely.


What does the skin microbiome do for us? It trains the immune system to recognize helpful and harmful bacteria. Additionally, it blocks pathogens, keeps down inflammation, builds up the skin barrier, helps block UV radiation, and much more.


So, when the skin microbiome is out of balance, you see things like dry skin, dermatitis, and much more — including accelerated aging. But the skin microbiome doesn’t do all the work on its own. It has a partner: the gut microbiome. And the relationship between the two is more important than you may realize.  

The Gut Microbiome

Like the skin microbiome, the gut microbiome comprises trillions of microorganisms. These bacteria live in the gastrointestinal tract and play a key role in digesting food and synthesizing nutrients.


The microbiome is directly involved in most of our daily metabolic functions. Everything you consume can influence the composition of your microbiota. Additionally, stress, age, gender, health status, and geography can be factors, amongst many others.


Basically, your gut is the frontline of defense for your immune system, which is constantly being exposed to toxins, chemicals, pesticide residues, bacteria, and more. The processes that take place in your gut can affect your central nervous system, brain, and even your moods.


And when the gut bacteria are out of balance, it can have a major impact on the health of your skin. This is commonly referred to as the gut-skin axis.

The Gut-Skin Axis: How Gut Health Can Affect Skin Health

skin health


The connection between gut health and skin health is not new: researchers have been studying the gut-skin axis since the 1930s. Continuing research shows that the gut microbiome affects skin health in the following ways:


  • One study reported that SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth) was 10 times more common in people with rosacea than in those without that skin condition — and that almost all participants cleared up their rosacea after treating the SIBO.
  • Likewise, a bacterial imbalance in the gut has been linked to inflammatory skin conditions like eczema, psoriasis, dermatitis, and acne.
  • Gastrointestinal disorders like IBD (irritable bowel disease), celiac disease, and Chron’s disease have been linked to a higher incidence of these same types of inflammatory skin conditions.
  • Stress and inflammation in the gut can cause skin breakouts, redness, infections, and other inflammations.


Based on this and many more studies, it’s clear that improving gut health can be a huge factor in reducing or eliminating skin issues.

Ways to Improve Gut and Skin Health

As you can see, the importance of your gut health cannot be overstated. And if you want to optimize your skin’s appearance, it’s essential to maintain a healthy gut microbiome.


What you eat has a lot to do with that, of course. Eating healthy, clean foods plays a big role in keeping your gut, your skin, and you, healthy. That includes eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables to provide the body with the essential vitamins and nutrients it needs for optimal health and wellness.


Probiotics are also essential in maintaining a healthy gut microbiome. Fermented foods like kimchi and unsweetened yogurt are excellent sources of probiotics. And of course, to keep the good bacteria thriving, you also need prebiotics which you’ll find mainly in fibrous foods.


Maintaining a healthy gut flora also keeps the gut lining of the small intestine strong and intact, which is aided by eating healthy foods. When the gut wall becomes compromised, it allows toxins and minute particles of food to permeate it and get into the bloodstream. This is one of the biggest reasons food sensitivities occur, and it has also been found to be a cause of certain inflammatory skin conditions.


Additionally, when the gut microbiome isn’t thriving, it can cause malnutrition issues, even though you may eat enough or too much food.

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