You have heard the saying that “beauty is only skin deep,” but new research on gut health is demonstrating that “beauty is actually gut deep.” It turns out that while we spend more than 5 billion dollars per year topically applying lotions and potions to the surface of our skin, our best beauty results are likely achieved from within. If you are interested in glowing, youthful, and healthy skin, gut health should be a top priority. The gut-skin relationship appears to be impaired in a number of skin conditions.
More than 80 years ago, John H. Stokes and Donald M. Pillsbury formulated the idea of the gut-brain-skin axis, but it is only recently that there has been an exponential boom in research related to how these three influence each other. This tri-directional superhighway is centered on the association between changes in emotional states (e.g., depression and anxiety), intestinal microbiota shifts, corresponding increases in intestinal permeability, elevated systemic inflammation, and attenuated or aggravated skin pathologies. Conversely, poor gut architecture and dysbiosis in the gut can go the other direction causing swings in mood and mental wellbeing, which then can play out on our skin.
It is not our imagination that stress, lack of sleep, and tummy churning GI issues can also have a negative impact on our skin. Clinical studies show that digestive disorders often occur in conjunction to chronic skin conditions.
Your skin and your gut have more in common than you think.
The habitats of the skin and gut offer a beautiful and intricate portrait of the interaction between multiple, distinct, biological, and ecological systems. Scientists are only now learning to appreciate how these extraordinary environments collaborate and how their equally unique residents come together to form a dynamic ecosystem with a dizzying array of potential health implications. Though seemingly distinct, your skin and gut have a great deal in common. They are both marvels of nature and engineering wonders. For instance, the structures of the small intestine lining are designed to increase the surface area of your gut by over 100 times to magnify its ability to sense environmental changes and optimize nutrient absorption.
New research is showing how the gut microbiome may also influence the biome of the skin. Likewise, sun exposure, smoking, stress, pollution, poor diet, and aging all manifest themselves on the surface of the skin and cause fluctuations in the gut microbiota.
The communication between your skin and gut is a function of two important things:
1) Integrity and health of gut architecture, including mucosal immune system, barrier function, surface area, and lumen environment. Having a proper home or infrastructure for your microbiome is critical to facilitating communication, managing inflammation, and supporting immunity inside and outside of the gut. The gut’s mucosal barrier is a smart sensor designed to identify and sort which compounds should be transitioned to other parts of the body, like nutrients, hormones, and immune molecules, and which elements need to stay contained within its walls, including microorganisms, inflammatory molecules, and toxins. Ultimately, the gut barrier (colonocytes) are the control switch modulating microbial homeostasis from gut dysbiosis.
2) Diversity and balance of the microbiome. When good bacteria eat, they ferment certain foods to create or stimulate by-product messenger molecules, including hormones, immune modulators, and short chain fatty acids (SCFA). The number-one-way to influence the composition and metabolism of your gut bacteria is through what you feed them – that means diet and prebiotics.
Fermentation of prebiotics by the gut microbiota produces SCFAs, which improve the function and integrity of the gut, modulate the immune system and inflammatory response, and affect lipid and glucose metabolism. It is through immune system modulation that your gut exerts a powerful influence over your skin health. When the gut barrier is permeable instead of “water-tight,” things that should stay in the gut escape their proper habitat and cause trouble all over the body, including the skin.
You can have tons of good gut bacteria, but if you don’t provide them a good home and proper nutrition to do their job, then they get out of balance and can’t produce the molecule messengers that travel out of the gut and provide essential information, nutrition, and protection to our skin, brain, lungs, joints, and heart.
Many skin conditions are influenced by gut architecture and microbiome composition, everything from the markers of glowing and youthful skin to more aggressive and chronic skin conditions.
Ways you might notice wellness in your gut is manifest on your skin:
a. Protect the skin from UV damage
b. Reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles
c. Improve elasticity and firmness
d. Help your skin retain moisture and improve hydration
e. Prevent or mediate some allergic skin conditions
f. Calm and soothe blemished or troubled skin
g. Support hormonal balance related to skin health
Recent studies have shown that improving gut health may reduce sun damage, increase skin elasticity and hydration, and even minimize wrinkles. There is a growing body of research that microbes at one site can affect the host at other sites. Researchers are finding the gut microbiome’s influence permeates the brain, respiratory and urogenital tracts, heart, and skin. These are exciting discoveries that could lead to new approaches to health maintenance, disease prevention, and even optimal aging.
If you are looking to upgrade your skin routine, it might be time to do a little internal housekeeping – starting with good gut health!
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