We spend so much on skincare and beauty treatments, but we often tend to forget that beautiful, glowing skin begins in your gut. It may seem odd, but it’s true that these two entirely different organ systems work collectively to promote good health. So, before you speed-dial your facialist or resort to your favorite face cream, consider investing in improving your gut health.
If you’re interested in learning more about gut health and skin, keep reading as we discover all about it! After all, the gut skin connection is strong enough to affect your physical appearance and glow — and deserves more attention than given. So, let’s get started.
The Gut-Skin Axis
The gut is your gastrointestinal tract. It is responsible for processing food and nutrients, followed by transferring them throughout the body. As such, it takes care of the food as soon as we eat it, until it is absorbed by the bloodstream and passed as stool.
The gut is home to plenty of microbes and bacteria, called the gut microbiome. There should be enough good bacteria to counteract the bad bacteria. Hence, maintaining a balance between these is essential. When the balance is disturbed, the consequences can be seen in other parts of the body, such as the skin.
This correspondence between gut health and skin is what we call the gut-skin axis. According to the gut health expert Carla Oates, “The gut and skin enjoy a constant dialogue via what has become known as the gut-skin axis”.
Does Gut Health Affect Skin?
There is a strong link between gut health and skin. In fact, when you experience gut-related problems, such as a leaky gut or inflammation, the first signs appear on the skin. Skin problems could actually indicate something is wrong in your gastrointestinal tract! But why exactly is it so?
The gut is where 70% of your immune system lies. With such a high immunoregulatory role, it can massively influence other parts of the body, including the skin.
The gut is responsible for the efficient absorption and transfer of nutrients. When your body doesn’t digest and transfer food efficiently due to poor gut health, your skin doesn’t receive the nutrients it needs to maintain it.
Moreover, imbalances in the gut release pro-inflammatory cytokines. The skin reacts to these in many different ways, which in turn affects skin health.
As such, we need the right bacterial balance and optimal gut health to ensure our skin is strong and lustrous.
Gut Disorders and Skin Conditions
When the gut microbiome is altered, it has effects on the skin microbiome as well. This is called dysbiosis. Dysbiosis changes immune responses — and consequently, the body’s resistance to skin diseases. As a result, the skin becomes more prone to developing diseases. Common skin conditions resulted from altered gut microbiomes are:
Atopic dermatitis is a chronic disease causing redness, irritation, and inflammation on the skin. It is also known as eczema, and is often featured by dry and itchy skin.
Psoriasis is a skin disorder that causes cells to multiply faster than normal. This causes thick patches of red skin paired with silvery scales.
Acne vulgaris occurs due to obstruction and inflammation in the skin. It is characterized by papules, pimples, blackheads, and more.
Dandruff causes the skin on the scalp to flake. It may be found on other parts of the skin as well. Although it isn’t a serious problem, it may be tough to handle.
What Is Leaky Gut Syndrome?
Leaky Gut Syndrome is exactly what it sounds like — the leaking of the gut. The gastrointestinal tract is made of a wall with small holes. These holes act as filters, allowing small particles to move into the bloodstream. Larger molecules (that are harmful to the body) are restricted from being absorbed by the body.
The leaky gut syndrome involves damage to this wall/gut lining. The holes become larger, allowing dangerous substances to enter the bloodstream. These include bad bacteria, gluten, and undigested food particles. When the gut lining can no longer filter particles optimally, the passage of harmful molecules is encouraged, which can considerably affect one’s health.
As such, this ‘intestinal permeability’ acts as a passageway for several other health problems. Generally, it results in autoimmune responses that may cause rashes, pimples, and breakouts on the skin. It also affects other parts of the body and has several other signs and symptoms, including but not limited to:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Joint pain
- Chronic digestive problems, such as diarrhea or constipation
- Nutritional deficiencies
- Hormonal imbalances, such as PCOS
What Are Probiotics?
Probiotics are live bacteria and yeast that are good for the body, particularly the gut. Consuming “germs” may sound counterintuitive, but those found in probiotics are actually useful for the body. These can also be found naturally in the body.
To be considered a probiotic, the consumed microorganism must be able to survive through stomach acid and bile to make it all the way to the colon. There, it mixes with existing bacteria and survives in its environment, promoting gut health.
Probiotics help digest food efficiently, produce vitamins, and fight disease-causing pathogens. Moreover, probiotics improve digestive health, promote heart health, and help with depression.
Beyond that, the gut health and skin connection means they have plenty of benefits for the skin as well. They are used to treat and prevent multiple diseases, such as acne, dermatitis, and eczema. Probiotics also help with skin inflammation and hypersensitivity, recover damage caused by the sun, and offer wound protection.
How Do Probiotics Work?
Probiotics primarily aim to maintain a healthy balance in your body. They rapidly grow in amount, outnumbering the bad bacteria that may have been able to take control. The good germs fight with their bad counterparts for food sources and space, thus making it difficult for the latter to survive.
Additionally, probiotics produce a variety of acids that discourage the growth of bad bacteria. This also allows the good bacteria to take over, creating an environment suitable for their growth.
Where Can Probiotics Be Found?
Probiotics are widely found in fermented products (such as yogurt, natto, and tempeh), beauty products, and nutritional supplements. Pickles and some types of cheese are also rich sources of probiotics.
What Are Pre and Postbiotics?
Prebiotics are plant fibers that encourage the growth of healthy bacteria in the gut. This, in turn, improves digestion and strengthens the immune system.
For the skin, prebiotics have miraculous impacts. They keep the surface of the skin looking young and balanced. They prevent redness and dryness, and combat signs of aging. Finally, prebiotics help restore a healthy microbiome in the skin.
Prebiotics differ from probiotics in the way they work — as discussed below.
How Do Prebiotics Work?
Prebiotics are a food source for bacteria in the gut. You can think of them as a fertilizer that that stimulates the growth of good germs. So, prebiotics head to the lower digestive tract and act as food for probiotics (the actual strains of bacteria).
On the other hand, postbiotics are bioactive compounds produced by probiotics (bacteria) when they consume prebiotics (fiber). Healthy postbiotics include vitamins B and K and several amino acids.
They have hydrating, inflammatory effects and antioxidant properties. Postbiotics also help reduce inflammation in the skin. The vitamin B in postbiotics helps with fine lines and wrinkles, while the vitamin K content helps protect collagen.
How Long Does It Take For Probiotics To Affect The Skin?
Probiotics take anywhere between a few days to a few months to affect the body, depending on what you’re consuming them for. When ingesting probiotics to aid with the skin (particularly acne and premature aging by the sun), they take upto 4 weeks to show considerable change. See improvements in up to 12 weeks as the treatment continues.
Is acne related to gut health?
Gut health and skin are deeply related, meaning acne is also affected by gut health. In fact, studies have proven that 54% of people with acne also had gut problems/imbalances. Using probiotics can help fight off acne while promoting gut health.
To glow from inside out, it’s essential to look after your gut. This is because the gut affects many other parts of the body. And to ensure optimal health of other organs, it’s essential to promote a healthy gut.
The skin is one of our largest organs — and because the gut health and skin connection is massive — skin and gut health are interlinked, and need to be looked after simultaneously to ensure youthful, glowy, and clear skin.
- Britta De Pressemier,.., “Gut–Skin Axis: Current Knowledge of the Interrelationship between Microbial Dysbiosis and Skin Conditions” [Online]
- Mary-Margaret Kober,…, “The effect of probiotics on immune regulation, acne, and photoaging” [Online]
- L A Volkova,…, “[Impact of the impaired intestinal microflora on the course of acne vulgaris]” [Online]