Your Glow Starts in the Gut: The Important Connection Between Skin and Gut Health
Jun 28, 2022
Written by Apothékary's in-house naturopathic doctor and Certified Nutrition Specialist® Dr. Jessica Christie.
Have you ever heard the phrase, “You are what you eat?”
Well, it couldn’t be more true! Skin health is directly related to the health and wellness of your gut, which is influenced by what you eat!
A healthy gut has both a robust gut lining and a balanced ecosystem of various microorganisms living in harmony within our intestines. When we eat a variety of nutritious foods, it feeds these beneficial bacteria and also helps to keep the cells of the gut lining strong and robust. But, what does this have to do with our skin?
Similarities Between Skin and the Gut
The gut and the skin actually have a lot in common. The main similarity is that the outer surface of the skin and the inner surface of the gut are both covered in a type of cell called an epithelial cell. This type of cell acts as a barrier to the outside world and as a first-line defense mechanism of our immune system to keep out harmful microorganisms.
Another similarity is the fact that both the gut and skin are coated with a rich microbiome. We often hear about beneficial gut bacteria, but we rarely hear about the beneficial bacteria on our skin! In reality, the two areas are intertwined, and when we have healthy diversity of bacteria in the gut microbiome, we also tend to also have healthy diversity in the skin microbiome.
How Gut and Skin Health Connect
The strong relationship between the gut and the skin is known as the gut-skin axis. This gut-skin axis has a strong connection to our immune system, which is likely the tie that bonds the two areas together, although the exact mechanism is still not well understood. We do know that dysbiosis (the imbalance of beneficial bacteria to harmful bacteria in the gut) creates an inflammatory reaction in the gut, and this inflammation is highly connected to skin disorders. Inflammation caused by gut dysbiosis irritates the gut lining and creates microtears in the lining, which is also known as “leaky gut.”
One hypothesis proposed by current research is that there is simultaneously a phenomenon known as “leaky skin” that’s connected to the “leaky gut” via the portion of our immune system called the systemic immune system. Research shows that by balancing the gut microbiome, the inflammatory response often seen as a rash, outbreak, or other skin condition can be reduced.
Gut → Skin & Skin → Gut
Interestingly, the relationship between gut and skin health goes both ways. Research suggests that a healthy amount of exposure to UVB light (which we can all get by simply going outside in the sun!) has a positive effect on gut diversity and the overall health of the gut. UVA and UVB are different ultraviolet rays from the sun. UVB has a shorter wavelength and typically affects only the top layers of skin (think sunburn!) versus UVA which penetrates more deeply. Both UVA and UVB peak between 10:00am and 4:00pm, which would be the best time of day to get some healthy UVB exposure. To stay safe, 10-30 minutes each day is sufficient for desired effects and is short enough to prevent most cases of sunburn. So, while some topical skin treatments may be helpful, it turns out that a little sunshine may be even more beneficial.
To sum things up, gut issues have long been associated with various skin conditions such as acne, eczema, psoriasis, atopic dermatitis, and rosacea. This research is fascinating because it is finally starting to prove what naturopathic practitioners have known all along —— that the path to vibrant, youthful, and beautiful skin is through the health of the gut. We truly can heal our skin from within!
About Dr. Jessica Christie
Dr. Jessica Christie is a naturopathic doctor and Certified Nutrition Specialist® who works with clients across the United States. She specializes in helping clients get to the root cause of their symptoms, while optimizing health and wellness through nutrition and natural protocols.
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