We’ve all heard about the gut-brain connection. But did you know there’s a GUT-SKIN connection?
Eczema, acne, rosacea, psoriasis, vitiligo and atopic dermatitis all show up differently on the skin. But if you trace the root cause, all are related to the health of your gut and microbiome.
How does gut health relate to skin health?
Let’s start with the anatomy of the gut.
The gut lining, or the lining of the intestines, has only one layer of cells. These intestinal cells have a layer of protective mucus where immune cells live. These intestinal cells are tightly connected so nothing can pass to the other side except water and nutrients.
On one side of these cells, there is everything inside your gut – food particles, bacteria, yeast, toxins, fiber, enzymes and certain hormones.
On the other side, there are more immune cells and your bloodstream. This system works well for absorbing nutrients and protecting the rest of the body from invaders.
The intestinal cells, or gut lining, can be damaged by many things, leading to permeability, or “leaky gut.” The mucous layer breaks down. The junctions between the intestinal cells begin to gap. When this happens, the contents of the gut start to leak through to the other side and into the bloodstream. The immune cells tag these contents as “the enemy” and mount an inflammatory response to them. (This is one way that food sensitivities start.)
As these activated immune cells circulate throughout the body, they create inflammatory reactions in different places in the body – the brain, the joints, the digestive tract and the skin. Different types of skin conditions can manifest, including autoimmune conditions.
What causes leaky gut?
There are several factors that can break down the gut lining.
- Common inflammatory foods such as sugar, vegetable and seed oils, gluten, dairy, corn and soy increase inflammation and damage. Gluten in particular is a bad actor in the gut, directly causing permeability. Some people are more sensitive than others to this effect.
- Pathogens and the toxins they produce increase inflammation and break down the mucosal barrier.
- Dysbiosis – an overgrowth of certain microorganisms along with an insufficient number of beneficial microorganisms – can cause inflammation in the gut lining.
- Chronic stress hormones such as cortisol compromise the gut lining.
- Substances such as alcohol, NSAIDs and certain medications break down the mucosal barrier and gut lining.
How can you protect your gut lining and your skin?
- Boost beneficial microorganisms. Beneficial microorganisms in the gut produce short-chain-fatty-acids that protect the mucosal barrier and the integrity of the gut lining. Creating an environment that supports these beneficial microorganisms is key.
- Eat plenty of high fiber foods such as vegetables, fruits, legumes and whole grains. These microorganisms thrive with a high fiber diet. The colorful vegetables and fruits also provide antioxidants that tamp down inflammation.
- If someone has a low number of beneficial microorganisms due to antibiotic use, high stress, a low-fiber diet or certain medications, taking probiotics and eating probiotic foods can help to bolster their number and their protective effects.
- Drink plenty of filtered water and other hydrating beverages to help the body clear out toxins from the gut.
- Avoid inflammatory foods such as sugar and processed seed oils to lessen inflammation.
- Try an elimination diet that removes gluten, dairy, corn, soy, eggs, peanuts and shellfish for 3 weeks. This can illuminate common food sensitivities that cause inflammation related to skin problems.
- Avoid alcohol or drink only in moderation.
- Only take NSAIDs and antibiotics when necessary.
- Do stress-relieving activities every day as part of a normal routine.
These steps alone will greatly improve gut and skin health!
At Radiance Functional Medicine, we specialize in gut health. When extra help is needed, we hope that you will allow us to help you heal your gut, balance your hormones, or find a way of eating that helps you thrive! Schedule an appointment to get started. Whether you are looking for a Nutritionist or Functional Medicine Doctor in Denver or your local area, we see patients in person and virtually. Call our office at 303.333.1668 to schedule your Initial Consultation.