Here’s a question you may not have thought to ask: How does gut health affect skin?
Turns out that many skin problems, including acne, psoriasis, rosacea, eczema, and more, can be connected to an “altered gut microbiome.”
Just what is that? We explain below. Indeed, we have frequently talked about protecting your skin microbiome, but since the gut microbiome affects the skin, you need to protect that too!
We have some tips below on how you can improve your gut health and thereby improve your skin health as well.
How Does Gut Health Affect Skin: What is the Microbiome?
A microbiome is a community of microorganisms (bacteria, viruses, fungi) that exists in a particular environment. When we’re talking about human health, we’re usually talking about the microorganisms that live in or on a particular part of the human body, such as the gut or the skin.
Right now, there are trillions of microorganisms supported by your body. Indeed, microbes outnumber our human cells ten to one. Most of them are beneficial to you, but some can promote disease and damage.
When you’re healthy, these “bugs” coexist peacefully and play many key roles in your body’s daily operations. The gut microbiome, for instance, regularly:
- Helps digest food
- Regulates the immune system
- Protects against “bad” bacteria that cause diseases
- Produces some vitamins and nutrients
- Helps absorb nutrients
- Supports brain health
- Helps you maintain a healthy body weight
- Promotes a good night’s sleep
- Influences mood
- Keeps your skin healthy
The skin microbiome regularly:
- Fights infection
- Helps alert your immune system to harmful bacteria or viruses
- Heals wounds
- Controls inflammation
- Supports the health of the skin barrier
How Does the Microbiome Affect Human Health?
If something disturbs the balance among the microbes in your gut or on your skin, you may suffer from health or skin problems.
Factors that may affect the health of the gut and skin microbiome include:
- Infectious illness
- Certain diets (unhealthy diets)
- Prolonged use of antibiotics
- Psychological stress/anxiety
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Sedentary lifestyle
Some additional factors that can affect the skin microbiome include:
- Harsh beauty and cosmetic products
- Frequent use of antiseptic and disinfection products
- UV/sun damage
Each person has a unique network of microbiota that is originally determined by your DNA. You’re first exposed to microorganisms as an infant, during delivery in the birth canal, and through mother’s breast milk. Later, environmental exposures and diet can change that microbiome for the better or worse.
Recent research has found that the gut microbiome and the skin are strongly connected. In other words, the health of your gut microbiome can affect the health of your skin.
How Does Gut Health Affect Skin Health?
According to a recent study, “The microbiome plays an important role in a wide variety of skin disorders.” The scientists go on to say that many skin diseases—like acne, psoriasis, dandruff, skin cancer, eczema, and rosacea—“are accompanied by an altered gut microbiome.”
Let’s say you get sick and have to take a round of antibiotics. These drugs kill off the bad bacteria making you sick, but they also kill off the good bacteria in your gut. (Antibiotics can’t tell the difference—they kill all bacteria.)
That throws off the balance in your gut microbiota. Any alteration like this can, according to scientists, alter the immune response, potentially increasing your risk of skin problems.
Other things such as those listed above—prolonged stress, poor diet, smoking—can also negatively affect the balance of the microbes in your gut, which in turn, can affect your skin.
In a 2020 review, for example, scientists found that alterations in the gut microbiome could increase the risk for psoriasis. “The skin and intestinal microbes of patients with psoriasis were significantly different from those of healthy subjects,” they wrote.
In another 2020 study, researchers noted: “Recent studies also showed that the gut microbiome is involved in acne, through interactions with the skin microbiome.” They explain that as the balance between certain types of bacteria is disrupted, this alters the skin microbiome in such a way that acne is more likely to occur.
And so it goes for many skin disorders. Research shows that in people with dermatitis, eczema, psoriasis, rosacea, and acne, there is often a compromise to the health of the gut microbiome too. Usually, the findings show:
- A lack of bacterial diversity (not as many different species)
- Lower levels of beneficial species (friendly bacteria)
- Higher levels of harmful species
How Does Gut Health Affect Skin: Tips to Improve Skin’s Appearance
What does all this mean?
Taking care of your gut health could help your skin look and feel better! Here are some tips to help you do that.
Maintain a Healthy Gut Microbiome
Maintaining a healthy gut involves three steps:
- Giving the gut what it needs for the friendly microbes to thrive.
- Populating the gut with good bacteria.
- Avoiding habits that destroy good bacteria.
The best way you can accomplish the first step is through a healthy diet. The food and drinks you consume are the primary sources of microorganisms in your body. The more healthy fibers, probiotics (friendly bacteria), and prebiotics (food for friendly bacteria) that you consume, the better for your gut. That means eating lots of fruits and vegetables, fermented foods (like yogurt, kefir, and kombucha), and high-fiber foods.
To populate the gut with more friendly bacteria, you may consider taking probiotic supplements (particularly after a round of antibiotics), but it’s usually better to focus on food. Good sources include the following.
- Dandelion greens
- Wheat bran
Finally, avoid those habits that will destroy the friendly microbes in your gut, such as smoking, eating an unhealthy diet, and failing to exercise.
Help Your Skin Protect Itself
You can see now that your gut microbiome can affect the skin microbiome. Keeping your gut healthy will help, but it’s not always easy to avoid every illness or to keep stress from getting you down sometimes.
Your skin will be more resilient if you regularly take care of it. A healthy skin care routine will reinforce the outer barrier and make skin more resistant to inflammation or other changes that may negatively affect it.
A healthy person will typically get over an illness faster than an unhealthy person. The same is true of your skin. If you regularly keep it healthy, it will be better able to resist problems that arise from changes in the gut.
- Have a gentle cleansing, toning, and moisturizing routine that you use twice a day.
- Always cleanse and moisturize before bed.
- Use only non-toxic products that won’t disrupt the skin’s microbiome. Our CV Skinlabs products are all made to gently care for skin while supporting a strong outer barrier.
- Keep an eye on inflammation. Any redness or irritation can signal a gut problem. Address it immediately with cool compresses, and regular application of our Rescue + Relief Spray and other products.
How did you think that gut health and skin health were related?