Your gut health plays a role in helping to maintain a blemish-free complexion and beautiful skin – here’s how.
Your skin needs a constant supply of essential vitamins and minerals – as well as plenty of water – to look and feel healthy. If you deprive your body of these nutrients, by eating a diet high in sugar and saturated fat, for example, then your skin will suffer in the long term. Clear, glowing skin is a good sign you’re healthy on the inside and the outside.
As well as a good diet, though, your gut health – or, more specifically, the bacteria in your gut – may have the power to influence your skin health.
How are gut health and skin health linked?
Inside your gut, there are millions of ‘microbial cells’ – bacteria, viruses, and yeasts. There are ‘good’ and ‘bad’ microbial cells – the good keep you healthy and fight off the bad, which are those that cause disease and illness.
These cells play an important role in digesting food and keeping you healthy. Interestingly, there are more of these microbial cells than there are human cells.
Sometimes, though, there can be an imbalance in your gut microbiome. An imbalance means that there are too many bad bacterial cells or not enough good bacterial cells.
Stress, a poor diet, and antibiotic usage can all lead to an imbalance. When the balance of bacteria in your gut is out of whack, there can be inflammation in the body – and that’s where the link to skin health occurs.
The gut-skin connection
Gut health doesn’t cause bad skin as such. Rather, researchers suspect that the imbalance in gut bacteria contributes to the development of skin conditions like acne and even eczema. Both acne and eczema are inflammatory skin conditions, and inflammation occurs when the immune system is fighting against bad bacteria.
Restoring the balance of bacteria in the gut could, therefore, have positive benefits for the skin, with emerging research suggesting probiotics may help to address problem skin.
Some earlier research from 2001, which studied 114 people with acne, suggested probiotic usage could help acne to clear up faster1.
Also, in 2008, Italian researchers proposed that small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, also known as SIBO, is more prevalent in acne sufferers than it is in people without acne2.
But while there’s a growing body of evidence linking gut health to skin health, the concept isn’t new. In 1930, dermatologists John H. Stokes and Donald M. Pillsbury suggested that mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression could alter the gut flora which results in the inflammation that causes skin conditions such as acne2.
What causes an imbalance?
Your gut bacteria can be impacted by:
- Antibiotics – because antibiotics kill both good and bad bacteria, the bad can take over from the good after one or more courses
- Stress – and a lack of sleep
- A poor diet – not enough fruits, vegetables and whole grains, or too many high-sugar and high-fat foods
Helping to correct imbalances
Here’s how you can help to maintain a healthy gut and, in turn, support skin health:
- If you use antibiotics, take a probiotic – a probiotic can help to restore the balance after antibiotic use
- Eat a healthy diet, full of fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains – and avoid processed foods high in sugar and saturated fat
- De-stress – focus on actively reducing your stress levels
- Eat fermented foods – foods that are naturally high in live cultures include sauerkraut, miso, kefir and yoghurt