There is an undeniable relationship between the gut microbiome and the skin. This has become an important topic in dermatology and gastroenterology. It is evident that many environmental factors such as diet and psychological stress can influence the gut microbiome, which can directly or indirectly affect skin health.
But first let`s start out with the basics! What is skin?
Skin is our largest organ! Adults can carry some 8 pounds (3.6 kilograms) and 22 square feet (2 square meters) of it. It helps protect us from microbes and the elements, helps regulate our body temperature, and permits the sensations of touch, heat, and cold. It helps prevent infection and manufactures vitamin D for converting calcium into healthy bones.
Skin has three layers:
1) The epidermis, the outermost layer of skin, which provides a waterproof barrier and creates our skin tone.
It consists mainly of cells called keratinocytes, made from the tough protein keratin (also the material in hair and nails). Keratinocytes form several layers that constantly grow outwards as the exterior cells die and flake off. It takes roughly five weeks for newly created cells to work their way to the surface. This dead skin can be more than ten times thicker on the soles of the feet than around the eyes.
2) The dermis, beneath the epidermis, contains tough connective tissue, hair follicles, and sweat glands.
3) The deeper subcutaneous tissue (hypodermis) is made of fat and connective tissue.
“Skin-Gut Axis” What is it?
You are probably wondering or thinking “What is the connection between the gut and skin?” The gut and skin are organs with crucial immune and neuro-endocrine roles and are uniquely related. The relationship between these organs is referred to as the “skin-gut axis” and numerous studies have linked gastrointestinal health to skin health. GI disorders are often accompanied by skin manifestations and the gut microbiome appears to play a key role in the development of many inflammatory disorders of the skin. The assimilation of nutrients in the gut, or the lack of, is critically important to skin health. Several nutrients are key in supporting the skin’s integrity and ability to repair itself, including fatty acids, protein, zinc, vitamins A, C, and E, and amino acids.
Consuming adequate amounts of these nutrients is just the first step—we also need a healthy, fully
functioning digestive system to assimilate nutrients into our cells and tissues. Many of the interactions between the skin and the GI tract depend on the gut microbiome, which plays a pivotal role in maintaining skin allostasis, beginning with our ability to break down and absorb nutrients.
When the function of the gut is compromised or imbalanced, inflammatory skin conditions may be more likely to arise. Many skin-related issues including eczema, psoriasis, and acne have been
shown to have a direct link to the state of the gut’s tissues and function.
The skin microbiota, like the microbes present in the gut can interact with the immune system, helping to maintain skin homeostasis by inhibiting the growth of pathogenic bacteria found on the skin and decreasing inflammation.
Food Habits and Their Relation with Skin and Gut Health
Diet is widely recognized as a key factor that mediates the function of the gastrointestinal microbiome. It is highly recommended to have a daily intake of 30g of fiber per day however nowadays we are consuming about half of that. Good sources of dietary fiber include oats, chia seeds, flax seed, all beans and pulses, grains, vegetables, avocado, apple, banana, nuts, and seeds.
Consumption of probiotic foods are a great way to ensure you are getting a wide diversity of the beneficial strains to promote skin health and help to maintain a healthy gut microbiome. Try to include a portion of the following foods daily: sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, miso, tempeh, kombucha or even natural live yogurt. Recent research has suggested that probiotic supplementation presents promising potential in the role of prevention and management of various skin disorders, including acne.
Food sensitivities and allergies are linked to a higher incidences of skin disorders and can create inflammation and other immune responses and symptoms in the gut. Dairy, soy, wheat and gluten, egg, beef, corn, fish and shellfish, and nuts are among the most common allergens. Keep in mind that individual sensitivities and their effects on the body can manifest in many ways. Food sensitivities and intolerances are not the only diet-related culprits in skin disorders. A high glycemic diet has been linked to gut issues as well as a higher incidence of acne.
You should also be mindful when eating. Ways to encourage mindful meals include sitting down while eating, perhaps in the relaxed company of others, savoring the smell and taste of every bite, and eating without the distraction of work or electronics. Eating while under stress can significantly affect digestion.