Naturally Healthy Skin Starts with Digestive Health

Take steps to promote a properly functioning gut and, by extension, healthier skin.

| July / August 2018

  • To help heal your GI system, eliminate irritants in your diet, and fill your meals with gut-healthy foods instead.
    Photo by Stocksy/Lumina
  • Increasingly, research has shown evidence of a correlation between a healthy gut and healthy skin.
    Photo by Getty Images/gradyreese
  • Because of its rising popularity in the health food scene, kombucha is an increasingly accessible way to add more probiotics to your diet.
    Photo by Adobe Stock/Brent Hofacker
  • To help heal your gut, try including at least one serving of probiotic-rich food, such as kefir, in your daily diet.
    Photo by Adobe Stock/Dušan Zidar
  • Sauerkraut is filled with gut-loving probiotics.
    Photo by Adobe Stock/Marek
  • Start and end your day with a cup of bone broth, in order to help soothe and heal the gut lining.
    Photo by Getty Images/Madeleine_Steinbach
  • Gluten can promote leaky gut by inflaming the gut lining and causing the spacing of the intestinal lining to expand.
    Photo by Getty Images/nimis69

When addressing skin issues, we often look to lotions, potions, peels, and prescriptions. However, in many cases, the key to naturally healthy, glowing skin is connected to something you likely wouldn’t expect: our digestive health.

More and more research points to the importance of proper digestion and gut balance for the improvement of our overall health and well-being, and skin health is certainly no exception. In fact, some researchers have referred to the gut and the skin as “two sides of the same coin,” and even suggest that gastroenterologists and dermatologists team up to take on skin issues. In my personal struggle with acne and dermatitis, and through my private nutritional therapy practice, I’ve witnessed the connection between the gut and the skin time and time again.

So how exactly does the gastrointestinal (GI) system so intimately impact the skin?

First of all, we can see this connection through the successful (or unsuccessful) process of digestion. If we’re not properly digesting our food, we can’t properly break down and assimilate nutrients, so they literally get flushed down the toilet. This of course impacts all parts of the body, including our largest organ, the skin. Without critical nutrients — such as vitamins A, C, and E; zinc; and anti-inflammatory omega-3 essential fatty acids, among many others — the skin’s health suffers.

Poor digestion and gut imbalances may also cause chronic inflammation, the skin’s archenemy. Increased intestinal permeability, or “leaky gut,” is one such cause of chronic inflammation — an affliction where the gut lining thins and inappropriately allows undigested food particles and toxins to enter the bloodstream and negatively impact the digestive system and other parts of the body, including the skin. This medical issue is becoming increasingly common thanks to poor diets, stress, and certain widespread medications, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Not surprisingly, inflammatory skin conditions, such as acne and eczema, are considered some of the telltale signs of leaky gut. Oxidative stress may accompany these inflammatory issues, reducing the cells’ ability to defend themselves from free-radical damage. This promotes collagen breakdown, causing all the classic signs of aging: wrinkles, loss of elasticity, and skin sagging. Oxidative stress also causes the skin’s oil, or sebum, to oxidize and become extremely comedogenic (susceptible to causing blackheads), which further promotes blemishes and acne.

The trillions of bacteria housed in the gut also play a significant role in skin health. A healthy gut microbiome is filled with many different types of “good” bacteria, which keep the “bad” bacteria in check. The good bacteria not only help reduce the inflammation and oxidative stress that wreak havoc on the skin, but they also enhance digestion, nutrient absorption, and the integrity of the gut lining. And whereas bad gut bacteria produce toxins, good gut bacteria synthesize a number of nutrients, including vitamins B7 (biotin) and K, as well as essential fatty acids, which are key for healthy skin.

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