Gut flora & Skin health: their cosy relationship explained
I have an organic skincare business so looking after skin is kind of my thing. I’m also a naturopath so I try to educate my clients that having great skin is not as simple as choosing a decent moisturiser.
By having good digestive health, your skin can glow and you can rid yourself of many of the common skin issues plaguing society today.
The first thing to remember about the digestive tract is that it contains 70-80% of our immune system. Many skin issues are immune or inflammatory related e.g. eczema, psoriasis, acne.
It is also where a great deal of nutrient absorption occurs and healthy skin is dependent on getting the right vitamins and minerals into our bodies. The balance of gut flora can make or break this system.
Gut flora is the term given to the millions of microorganisms living within our digestive tract and can include bacteria (e.g. Lactobacillus, Streptococcus), yeasts (e.g. Saccharomyces, Candida) and viruses. These guys can take up a whopping 2kg of our body weight but they are oh so important. They play a vital role in digesting foods, absorbing important vitamins and minerals, and expelling toxins.
Our gut flora is established before we are even born and grows as we move through birth and are exposed to the wide variety of microorganisms in the world. Many things we do can affect the balance of this flora. In today’s modern world the two biggest factors are poor diet and medications. Fortunately, studies show that by recolonising the gut with new flora via probiotic foods and supplements, many skin disorders can be dramatically improved.
Eczema is the subject of the greatest number of studies showing the benefits of probiotic supplementation. Probiotics have been shown to help alleviate this skin condition by altering the immune response and potentially stopping the development of an allergic reaction. A recent review of studies showed that a mixture of prebiotics and different strains of probiotics was highly effective for treating eczema symptoms. Studies have also shown how probiotics can alleviate eczema by boosting cellular antioxidant capacity and reducing inflammation.
By introducing probiotics into your diet during pregnancy and breastfeeding, you can also help to decrease the incidence of eczema in your newborn. The World Allergy Organisation began recommending the use of probiotics in pregnant and lactating women after analysing more than 28 studies and concluding that the evidence was definitely in favour of probiotics for eczema reduction.
Getting the balance of gut flora right can also help improve the quality of mucous membranes which are responsible for absorbing many of the key nutrients necessary for healthy skin. These include zinc and vitamins A, C, D and E. Combined with a healthy diet and an organic skincare routine, the addition of probiotic foods and supplements can help to make your skin the best it can possibly be.
Bridget Carmady is a Naturopath (BNat, BHSc Hons) with an interest in skincare, particularly ageing, acne and eczema. Bridget is also founder of organic skincare brand Clémence Organics www.clemenceorganics.com
Clémence Organics’ purpose is to empower consumers to make smart skincare choices, based on the relationship between beauty, health and the environment. Furthermore, we create luxurious organic skincare without compromise.
Bridget Carmady, BNat BHSc Hons