If you think gut refers to the belly part only, you’re in for a surprise. The term Healthy Gut refers to the entire digestive tract starting with the mouth and ending with the rectum. Everything including the stomach, intestine, and esophagus is involved in the breakdown of food and nutrient absorption.
But, the majority of this digestive task is carried out by the trillions of bacteria that live in your gut. A healthy gut is the one that has a healthy growth of all the necessary bacteria. A lack of essential gut flora is linked with IBS, diarrhea, constipation, acid reflux, etc. which are all symptoms of unhealthy gut. An overgrowth of bad bacteria can cause inflammatory conditions like autoimmune disorders, diabetes, and even heart diseases.
Gut-brain and Skin Axis
For decades, scientists have been trying to study the gut-brain connection. Recently, it’s getting more attention which is a good thing! There’s a direct relationship between gut and brain health and how the two are constantly influencing each other. Therefore, the fact that the gut impacts all the other organs majorly including skin should not come as a surprise.
The first relationship between gut and skin was studied over 70 years ago by two dermatologists. The study suggested a close connection between stomach health and mood disorders like anxiety as well as skin conditions like acne.
The dermatologists proposed that emotional stress can alter gut flora and increase intestinal permeability and intestinal inflammation. The condition is normally called ‘the leaky gut’. Altered gut flora can lead to systemic inflammation as well. The study suggested Lactobacillus acidophilus – a common bacteria present in fermented/cultured foods as a remedy. The study witnessed some success with an introduction of this bacteria in restoring the gut flora.
Gut Disorders and Skin Conditions
We have plenty of evidence that gut problems and skin disorders share a close connection. One study shows that people who have rosacea (a skin condition) are ten times more likely to have an overgrowth of bad bacteria in the small intestine (SIBO) than those who do not have rosacea. The study also shows that by minimizing the overgrowth of the bad bacteria, the skin condition regressed/eliminated almost entirely.
Many other clinical findings also talk about how those with IBD, ulcerative colitis, and Crohn’s disease also have some or other skin conditions.
How to Improve Gut and Skin Health?
While you cannot alter your gene expression, you can change your diet and lifestyle. With a combination of easy-to-follow approaches over a long period of time – you can rebalance your gut microbes.
Consume a high-fiber diet
High-fiber foods are good for promoting the growth of healthy microbes. Since fiber is not digested in the small intestine, it helps balance the pH level in the large intestine, thus hindering the growth of harmful pathogens and microbes.
Some high-fiber foods like whole grains, legumes, garlic, leeks, onions, bananas, berries, etc. also act as the food for the good bacteria. These are called prebiotic-rich foods. But, do consume them in moderation because an excess of fiber can cause gas, bloating, and other digestive issues.
Additionally, avoid sugar, gluten, and dairy as much as you can. At the same time, eat more healthy proteins, Cruciferous vegetables, and leafy greens.
Go for Ingestible and Topical Prebiotics
Fermented foods like kefir, kombucha, miso, sauerkraut, tempeh, and pickled veggies are nature’s best probiotic sources. All of these are excellent for aiding gut flora and digestion.
Probiotics improve your health both on the inside and outside. Using topical probiotics could do wonders for your skin health and complexion. It can soothe the skin and help to fight skin inflammation.
Probiotics have time and again proved helpful in fighting inflammation of both gut and skin. They can protect your skin from environmental stress, aging, and free radicals. Regular usage may reduce wrinkles and fine lines.
Introduce Healthy Changes
It’s pretty obvious by now that gut and skin health are affected by a variety of internal and external factors. Therefore, you need to follow a multifaceted approach that takes both of these into account.
Maintaining a steadily healthy diet is the first thing you need to do. You simply cannot do without making diet changes. What you eat is bound to show on your skin.
Next you need to follow a healthy sleep schedule. This is essential to support healthy gut functioning. It can take a couple of months to reset the gut microbes. A good diet, supplementation, and healthy sleep are a good starting point. You should also try to incorporate at least one form of exercise. It can be anything you like. Go for dancing if running on a treadmill sounds too exhausting.
Do note how skin inflammation and other health conditions change with a change in your lifestyle.
Avoid Unnecessary Antibiotics
According to the CDC, 1 in 3 antibiotics prescription is unnecessary. You should know that most antibiotics are designed to kill bad bacterial growth. And they are pretty helpful in fighting off certain infectious pathogens and bacteria. But, most antibiotics can’t discern good bacteria from the bad ones. Therefore, they can wipe out significantly important microbes as well.
In case of prolonged antibiotic usage, it can take a long time (months and years) to restore the lost gut flora. Therefore, avoid unnecessary antibiotics and ask your doctor for a milder prescription. Always aim for the best treatment course.
Balancing your Healthy Gut flora is a slow and gradual process. But, with the right approach, it’s possible!