Gut Health and YOUR Health

Gut health is a hot topic right now. Everyone seems to be talking about how it can reduce bloat, cut constipation, help you loose weight, be happier, get better grades, more money, cuter boyfriend… But does it do anything else? Yes! Duh…It can do so so so much more, and one of those things is benefit your skin in a lot of different ways.

Before we get into how to feed your gut to get glowing skin, let’s look at how damage in the gut can cause acne, rosacea, premature aging, eczema, and all kinds of not-so-fun-actuallyreally-sucky things: “The Gut” or mircobiome are the trillions of bacteria in your intestines that help you to digest your food. The gut also makes the antioxidants that protect your skin! Antioxidants keep free radicals at bay that can damage the cell membrane by stealing electrons through a process called oxidation, (anti-oxidant, geddit?) which can cause premature aging and wrinkles. The body also releases some enzymes during oxidation that break down some of the most important building blocks for the skin. I’m talking hyaluronic acid, elastin, and collagen. Important stuff.

Another way that poor gut health can impact skin is through inflammation. Inflammation in the gut can be caused through food intolerances, stress (more on that in a later post), and a variety of other things. But while the body is fighting this inflammation it can’t focus on other things, like detoxifying the skin, making collagen, or elastin. More on inflammation in a hot sec.

The cell danger response is another component. This is a normal and beneficial metabolic response that protects cells from harm. It makes sure that if you aren’t getting enough nutrients (if you’re gut isn’t healthy and you aren't digesting all the good stuff you’re putting inside your body as well as not getting enough food in general) the essential organs are getting what they need. Yay body! Keeping you alive! But that unfortunately means that the skin, hair, and nails might not be getting the nutrients that they want because the body is giving all of the good stuff to the other parts of your body (you know, like your heart and liver and lungs).

The things that I’ve mentioned above are all well and good, but the biggest link in the gut-skin axis is called leaky gut. Leaky gut is exactly what it sounds like; your gut isn’t 100% healthy so it leaks stuff into the blood through the gut lining. There are so many studies that link leaky gut to acne, rosacea, and eczema (all very inflammatory conditions if you’re sensing a pattern). The gut leaks all the toxins into the blood and that manifests on the skin (and a bunch of other places, but I digress) and you get really upset in the morning before a big presentation to find a bunch of little red dots on your face. Studies show that those with acne are more likely to have leaky gut (and vice versa) because they are more reactive to lipopolysaccharide endotoxins in the blood. These lipopolysaccharides are produced by strains of bacteria that are present due to rotting food in the bowel when it’s stuck and you’re constipated (regularity for the win y’all). These pockets where the food rots are called “diverticula” and come from too much straining. They then leak into the blood stream from the gut and produce inflammation on the skin.

Another condition that has been linked to skin issues is called SIBO, or small intestine bacterial overgrowth. It is especially linked to acne and rosacea as it is, like leaky gut, another inflammatory condition. If you think you might have SIBO there is a breath test you can do to test for it.

So, pretty much; anything that damages the gut and causes inflammation is going to show up on your skin. What can you do about it?

Food! Eating fermented foods is a great way to get both probiotics and prebiotics (the good bacteria and their food respectively). Taking a good quality probiotic is also a good idea even if you see yourself eating spoonfuls of kimchi in the near future (power to you, you lucky duck).

Less sugar is another good idea if you’re looking to heal your gut. Inflammation is the gut’s worst enemy and, unlucky for me (don’t ask how much Nutella I want to eat when it is available), sugar causes inflammation in the gut and thus, on your face. Doing a three to seven (or longer if you have more willpower than I do) sugar ‘detox’ is always a good idea, especially before and after the holidays.

Fiber is another good idea for the gut. Not only does it provide food for the good bugs in your microbiome (those pesky probiotics again), but it also adds a little *hem* necessary bulk to keep you poopin’.

Water! Hydration station bitches. Keep it regular. We all know we should drink more water and don’t *raises hand guiltily*.

Supplements! Like I mentioned above a probiotic is always a good idea. I also like taking magnesium as it not only helps your gut, but also helps sleep and reduces stress. I also keep digestive bitters (I use Urban Moonshine) and enzymes (from papaya) on hand for those days when something is just not right. With the holidays coming up and no intention on eating fewer than 100 gingerbread cookies having some backup on hand is never a bad idea. Stress Less! Soooo much harder than it sounds. Meditation, yoga, long walks on the beach, petting pets…you do you! But research is research; excessive cortisol (your stress hormone) and your gut don’t exactly get along, so less stress is best!

Break a Sweat: Exercise is so important for your gut. New research has found that those who exercise regularly have a higher firmicutes-to-bacteroids ratio. What does that mean? Firmicutes keep the bacteria in the gut from leaking into the blood stream. They help prevent leaky gut! If you’ve been paying attention you know that leaky gut is one of the skin’s biggest enemies, so firmicutes are a good thing to have and if exercise helps them live long and prosper, I’m on it! If nothing is working and you’re skin and/or gut is still ridding that struggle bus, try and elimination diet; cut out potentially problematic foods (gluten, dairy, sugar, peanuts, soy) for a few weeks to see how you feel and slowly add in foods to see when/if you have a reaction (a full post on how to do an elimination diet correctly to come). Makes sense, right? If that doesn’t work try keeping a food-gut-skin diary. Just write down your meals (or take pictures) and then notice how your gut and skin reacts to it. It’s a lot harder than it sounds though… Ultimately, improving gut health has no drawbacks. You brain will benefit, your poops will be better, you’ll lose more weight (if that is a goal for you), and your skin will improve. Tasty food for all that? Sign me the f&*k up.

Written by Kate Rich

kate forman