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.