*This article was originally featured on Yoga Today.
As I mentioned in my previous article, the gut is the center of our health, as it houses about 70 percent of our immune system. So naturally, our gut health affects our skin health. While often thought of as a separate entity entirely, the skin is our body’s largest organ. It is also one of our main sources of detoxification. All those sweaty yoga classes truly are detoxifying.
The different organ systems in the body are affected by one another. Western medicine has a tendency to separate the body into different pieces and treat them as such, with specialists for this and specialists for that. However, we know that the body is one, whole functioning system.
I believe that the skin is like a window that can show us what is going on inside of the body.
Our skin is affected by hormonal changes, gut health, stress levels, etc. Chronic skin inflammation, not necessarily a random pimple here and there, reveals an imbalance inside of the body and is a clue that we need to look into the root cause of this issue. Yes, creams and lotions can provide temporary relief, but eventually, the body will most likely become immune to these products. In addition, leaving an underlying issue unresolved will lead to other, more detrimental issues. On the other hand, do you want to be reliant on these products for the rest of your life? Probably not.
Skin conditions like acne, rosacea, eczema, psoriasis, candida and dermatitis are typically a symptom of imbalance somewhere else in the body. Often if there is a skin-related problem, the root cause can be traced to a problem in digestion, detoxification, or brain chemistry (stress, emotions).
There is a pathway called the gut-skin axis that is drawing a lot of attention in the medical world right now. Both the gut and the skin play key roles as defenders against pathogens from the outside environment. The skin has its own microbiome that is just as important to health as that of the gut microbiome. Think about it, we are constantly coming intact with bacteria. The two biggest ways this happens is through 1) our skin (touching) and 2) our food (swallowing and digesting). The microbiota provides protection through acting as a barrier against potential issues. Just like the gut, it is imperative to have a good balance of bacteria here.
The gut and skin interact, with each one affecting the other through several pathways. This allows them the ability to influence one another’s health, with the gut having a greater impact on skin health. Science also shows us links between specific skin disorders and gut health issues. For example, intestinal permeability (leaky gut) causes both systemic and local inflammation, which in turn contributes to skin disease. Rosacea has an association with SIBO (small intestine bacterial overgrowth). Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is associated with a higher risk of developing inflammatory skin conditions like psoriasis and rosacea. Celiac disease identifies a direct connection between gut and skin health. When people with celiac disease consume gluten, a red, blistering, itchy rash called dermatitis herpetiformis can form.
There is even a strong association between gut health and acne, with several studies linking dysbiosis, a microbial imbalance inside the body, to the development of acne.
A diet rich in plant fibers and low in processed foods has been linked to an improvement in acne, possibly through gut changes or attenuation of insulin levels. Go plants!
When working with clients, I treat these two systems as one in the same. As soon as a skin imbalance is noticed, we work together to repair the gut.
What will damage your gut, will damage your skin.
Here are some amazing foods for radiant skin:
Bone broth: This is rich in collagen, making it great for healing the skin and gut.
Fermented vegetables: Sauerkraut and kimchi are loaded with beneficial bacteria for the gut.
Fermented cod liver oil: This nutrient-dense oil contains skin-healing vitamins A, D and K2. It's also an incredible source of healthy omega-3 fatty acids, which are highly anti-inflammatory.
Coconut oil: This contains those healthy medium-chain fatty acids including lauric acid, capric acid, and others, which provide an antimicrobial effect by disrupting bacterial, fungal, and viral cell membranes, leading to cell death.
Leafy greens: These contain lots of fiber, feeding those healthy bacteria in the gut and therefore positively affecting the skin.
In addition to the foods above, whole, unprocessed foods will help you get that glow. Aim for a diet rich in vegetables, healthy fats, fiber and good quality protein. Try staying away from foods that are going to cause the most damage including sugar, gluten, dairy and alcohol.
Science is also revealing a large connection between brain health, skin health and gut health, referred to as the gut-brain-skin axis. Without getting too far into it, our mental health does affect our skin health as well. Stress, for example, can cause skin disturbances, wearing of the gut lining, and mental strain.
But don’t take my word for it. Try it out for yourself! Try sticking to a whole-foods diet filled with nutritious leafy greens, proteins and healthy fats. Notice if your skin seems clearer and maybe even a little brighter. I bet you it will.
*The information on this website has not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration or any other medical body. We do not aim to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any illness or disease. Information is shared for educational purposes only. You must consult your doctor before acting on any content on this website, especially if you are pregnant, nursing, taking medication, or have a medical condition.