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The Link Between Gut Health and Your Skin by Amelia Vitale

Gut Health Amelia Vitale Skin

Do you have persisting skin problems, tried a bunch of skin treatments and creams and nothing has worked, but haven’t looked internally at your gut health?

The skin is the biggest organ in the human body and when symptoms present themselves it’s a sign that something isn’t balanced, and you require more support. When we have an inflamed and problematic gut it can be a root cause for a host of skin issues, from acne, psoriasis, eczema, rosacea, hives, and more.

Our gut houses about 70% of our immune system in a tissue called GALT (1), meaning that your gut health directly affects your overall health and immunity.


SYMPTOMS THAT CAN RELATE TO GUT PROBLEMS:

  • An upset stomach: frequent gas, bloating, diarrhoea, constipation, and other symptoms are all signs of poor digestion & gut health.
  • Unplanned weight changes: if you haven’t changed your diet or increased/decreased food consumption and you are gaining or losing weight, it may be a sign that your gut health is not at its best. Bacteria in the gut can regulate metabolism (2) and nutrient absorption, therefore, affecting your body composition.
  • Skin irritation and inflammation: acne, eczema, psoriasis, chronic rashes, and breakouts are all external symptoms that can relate to your gut function.
  • Fatigue, high stress, mental health problems & sleep disturbances: neurotransmitters responsible for keeping us happy & energised are produced predominantly in the gut, we also have a nerve called the vagus nerve which links our gut and brain, so when our gut microbiome is imbalanced, this can heavily impact our brain health.
  • Food sensitivity: occurs because undigested food particles make their way into your bloodstream, normally these should be broken down and absorbed in the small intestine, instead, these junctions which are normally tightly bound, become loose allowing molecules to make their way into areas of the body they shouldn’t be.
  • Food intolerance: your body lacks the production of enzymes to break food particles down, most common intolerances are dairy and gluten products.

SO, WHAT CAN AN UNHAPPY GUT BE CAUSED FROM?

  • An imbalanced microbiome: our gut contains a plethora of good and bad bacteria, if we consume foods that feed our bad bacteria then our gut can become unhappy.
  • Poor digestion and absorption of food (can be due to low stomach acid or enzyme production).
  • Intestinal permeability (leaky gut – the tight junctions in your intestinal lining becoming weak allowing bacteria and other substances to enter your bloodstream when they shouldn’t)
  • Food intolerances, allergies, and sensitivities.
  • SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth causes fermentation of foods which causes bacteria to build up in the small intestinal where they shouldn’t be).
  • Low butyrate: Butyrate is a short-chain fatty acid that has high antioxidant properties and thrives off fibre. Butyrate helps to maintain the integrity of the bowel wall. This wall prevents bacteria, toxins, and other substances from crossing into the bloodstream.
  • High sugar diets and processed foods: Diets high in these foods have a big impact on gut health, they are pro-inflammatory and therefore can cause a great deal of inflammation not just in your gut, but in all areas of your body including your brain! Remember all disease starts with inflammation.

Your skin is hungry for nutrients to maintain proper function. Your body will take care of vital organs needed to keep you alive first such as your heart, lungs, kidneys, and brain. Everything else will become deprived of nutrients if you aren’t feeding your body with nourishing and nutritious foods.

Our bodies require many macronutrients (protein, carbs & fats), micronutrients (vitamins, minerals), to keep us healthy and well.


SOME KEY NUTRIENTS THAT PLAY A ROLE IN YOUR GUT AND SKIN:

Vitamin A

Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin. This key nutrient supports cell growth, immune function, and reproduction. (3) For skin health, vitamin A regulates skin cell turnover in your epidermis and dermis (top 2 layers of your skin) to reduce the build-up of dead skin cells that can clog your pores, leading to congestion. It also plays a role in hydrating and healing the skin as well as maintaining your gut lining integrity. (4)

To ensure you are getting enough vitamin A in your diet, you should incorporate a variety of animal proteins such as egg yolks, lamb beef, and chicken liver and butter. Animal sources are more readily absorbable by the body due to it being the active form of retinol (vitamin A). Plant sources contain a precursor of vitamin A that needs to be converted to retinoids during digestion so if you have any underlying issues with absorption plant sources may not be providing you with optimal amounts. (5)

Low vitamin A levels lead to poor immunity, skin issues, hormonal imbalances, thyroid problems, and mood disorders.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C s one of the most powerful antioxidants we can get (reduces free radical damage). Free radicals are unstable molecules produced by normal chemical reactions in the body & external factors (pollutants, cigarette smoke ect) (6) that can latch on to healthy cells, causing oxidative stress (cell & tissue damage) (7). We need vitamin C in our diet as it’s a water-soluble vitamin and is constantly being used and we store only limited amounts, especially if you are highly stressed, smoke or live in an area with high pollutants. Vitamin C also plays a role in collagen production (helps to improve skin strength & elasticity as it thickens the dermis layer in the skin), hydration, and repairing skin function. Vitamin C aids in iron absorption and gut bacteria. (8) Having a variety of fruit and veg daily will help support your vitamin c levels.

Zinc

This is a mineral required for your immune system, growth, and repair of bodily tissues, metabolises nutrients, and more. Like vitamin A, zinc helps to regulate your skin cell turnover, controls oil production, protects against bacterial infection, and helps speed up wound healing. Foods high in zinc are oysters, red meat, chicken, pork. Plant sources such as legumes and whole grains contain zinc as well however they also contain phytic acid which can lower the absorption rate. (9)

Magnesium

Magnesium is another mineral required for more than 300 enzymatic processes in the human body! From assisting detoxification, energy production, blood sugar management, cortisol regulation, gut lining support, and more. Most humans these days do not get enough from their diet alone, so supplementation is often required. As skin issues generally stem from inflammation, poor gut health, and stress, magnesium helps to heal these processes leading to better skin health. (10)


WHAT ELSE CAN WE DO TO HELP?

  1. REDUCE STRESS: long periods of stress have been shown to weaken your intestinal barrier causing permeability of the gut lining (relates to leaky gut stated earlier) (11). Stress is a natural part of life, however when it becomes chronic having high cortisol (stress hormone) can have major long-term effects on your health. With your skin, excess cortisol stimulates sebaceous glands to produce more sebum (oil production) that can result in congestion and breakouts on the skin. (12)
  2. MOVEMENT: regular exercise has been shown to increase good gut bacteria. (13) Aside from this, exercise increases circulation, therefore blood flow is more efficient at carrying essential nutrients and oxygen to the cells (including skin) and eliminating waste & toxins more effectively.
  3. SLEEP: getting enough, and good quality sleep reduces inflammation. Sleep is a time for your body to rejuvenate and repair itself. In the later stages of sleep, our bodies produce collagen and growth hormones which are both vital for happy skin and guts. At night and during sleep our bodies secrete melatonin which is a hormone required for a good night’s sleep, melatonin has antioxidant properties so assists in repairing tissue damage. (14)
  4. LIMIT ALCOHOL: alcohol impairs your ability to absorb nutrients, it also inflames your gut lining and leads to inflammation and dehydration on the skin. Long-term alcohol use can lead to a skin condition known as rosacea (red cheeks & little red veins appear on the skin). (15)
  5. INCREASE WATER INTAKE: we are around 60% water. Every cell in our body requires water to function at its best. Keeping hydrated maintains a good balance of bacteria and healthy function of the mucosal lining of the intestines. (16) It also ensures that your PH level on the skin stays between 4.5-5.5. This is the environment that the skin can thrive in.
  6. REMOVE PRO-INFLAMMATORY FOODS: foods such as dairy, gluten, soy, alcohol, high sugar & processed foods have all been shown to increase inflammation in the body. Focus on choosing slow-releasing, lower GI carbs such as sweet potato, pumpkin, quinoa, and rice and utilise slow cooking methods when preparing protein sources as they are more easily digested.
  7. ‘EAT THE RAINBOW’: choosing a wide variety of vegetables with every meal will increase essential nutrients available for your body to use when it needs it.
  8. DRINK YOUR FOOD & EAT YOUR WATER: sounds weird I know, but mindful eating is so important for our guts! When we take the time to eat and chew our food properly it helps us absorb nutrients more effectively. When we drink water, be mindful not to just guzzle it down. Drinking water slowly will allow our saliva to mix in to increase water delivery to your cells. (17)

REMEMBER: Your body’s symptoms are not an isolated issue. Don’t just look at one place. Do your research and go see your doctor or naturopath for professional help 🙂


REFERENCES:

[1] Vighi, G., Marcucci, F., Sensi, L., Di Cara, G., & Frati, F. (2008, September). Allergy and the gastrointestinal system. Retrieved December 12, 2020.
[2] Martinez, K., Pierre, J., & Chang, E. (2016, December). The Gut Microbiota: The Gateway to Improved Metabolism. Retrieved December 12, 2020.
[3] Office of Dietary Supplements – Vitamin A. (n.d.). Retrieved December 12, 2020.
[4] Quadro L;Gamble MV;Vogel S;Lima AA;Piantedosi R;Moore SR;Colantuoni V;Gottesman ME;Guerrant RL;Blaner WS;. (n.d.). Retinol and retinol-binding protein: Gut integrity and circulating immunoglobulins. Retrieved December 12, 2020.
[5] Gilbert, C. (2013). What is vitamin A and why do we need it? Retrieved December 12, 2020.
[6] What is oxidative stress? Effects on the body and how to reduce. (n.d.). Retrieved December 12, 2020, from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/324863
[7] Bio-K+. (n.d.). Link between iron absorption and the microbiome: Bio-K+. Retrieved December 12, 2020.
[8] Zinc. (2020, October 20). Retrieved December 12, 2020.
[9] What is oxidative stress? Effects on the body and how to reduce. (n.d.). Retrieved December 12, 2020.
[10] Stress Effects on the Body: Gastrointestinal. (n.d.). Retrieved December 12, 2020.
[11] Feeling Stressed? How Your Skin, Hair And Nails Can Show It. (2007, November 12). Retrieved December 12, 2020.
[12] Monda, V., Villano, I., Messina, A., Valenzano, A., Esposito, T., Moscatelli, F., . . . Messina, G. (2017). Exercise Modifies the Gut Microbiota with Positive Health Effects. Retrieved December 12, 2020.
[13] Reiter RJ;Mayo JC;Tan DX;Sainz RM;Alatorre-Jimenez M;Qin L;. (n.d.). Melatonin as an antioxidant: Under promises but over delivers. Retrieved December 12, 2020.
[14] Alcohol consumption increases rosacea risk in women. (2017, April 20). Retrieved December 12, 2020.
[15] Dix, M. (2020, August 25). 7 Signs of an Unhealthy Gut and 7 Ways to Improve Gut Health. Retrieved December 12, 2020.
[16] PaulChekLive. (2008, March 07). Drink your food, Chew your water – Digestion with Paul Chek. Retrieved December 12, 2020.


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