Updated: Dec 17, 2021
Our amazing body tells us when we are in need of attention and support through many different ways. Specific cravings tell us what nutrients we are truly yearning for and if there is an imbalance in our gut flora. Fingernails tell us about nutrient deficiencies and an imbalance in stomach acid - which is important for digestion and protects us from infection. But, the skin … the skin is the most visible indicator of our overall health.
Our skin is the largest organ of the human body! Here are some of the amazing duties of our skin:
It is one of the major body systems by which the body eliminates toxins and waste.
It acts as a shield protecting the body from extreme temperatures and damaging sunlight.
It is the first line of defense against bacteria and other pathogens that could cause harm or illness.
It absorbs sunlight to aid in the body’s production of essential nutrient vitamin D as well as moisture from the air to keep us hydrated.
It helps maintain fluid balance which is essential for maintaining proper body temperature (a cooling system via sweat).
It helps protect us from aggressive chemicals found in cleansing products and skin care products.
Acts as a sensory organ giving us information on pain, pleasure, temperature, and pressure.
The Gut-Skin Connection
They call the gut the second brain for a reason! More and more studies are proving that the health of our gut plays a huge role in our overall wellbeing. A happy and healthy gut equals a happy and healthy immune system and mind. In holistic health, we respect nature (we are nature) and the fact that everything is connected, that everything matters.
I’m sure you have heard about the gut-brain connection, but have you heard of the gut-skin connection? Skin issues are a sign that your gut health needs attention. When the gut is not functioning optimally, it can result in issues throughout the body, even to the point of autoimmune disease. The skin is often the first place to show the effects of an unhealthy gut.
Did you know that 70-80% of our immune system is within the gut? The gut is also where we:
Produce and absorb nutrients
Metabolize hormones and detoxifying enzymes
And make neurotransmitters (such as serotonin, GABA and dopamine)
Therefore, your digestive health is extremely important – everything starts with the food you eat, the way you eat, and your body’s ability to digest optimally.
The gut has between 300 and 1000 different bacteria species and trillions of bacteria strains making up the microbiome. The more varied the mix, the healthier you will be. This gut microbiome helps us to maintain a healthy balance throughout the entire body.
When the gut microbiome is not in balance, we can experience issues that can affect our other organs, especially our skin. If there is an issue with the skin, you can be certain there is a deeper issue that needs attention including inflammation, food sensitivities, increased intestinal permeability (leaky gut), dysbiosis or digestive or absorption issues.
Studies have shown a major connection between gut health and skin conditions such as eczema, acne, psoriasis, rosacea, dry skin, collagen breakdown (or sagging skin), and excess wrinkles. Loving up the gut can heal the skin from the inside out!
It is not always easy to connect the gut issue to the skin issue, but that is why we utilize the Elimination Meal Plan (Check out the blog: How to Use the Elimination Diet for Food Sensitivities for guidance), explore through extensive health assessments and offer functional testing. Everyone is different and therefore healing plans are different, but they all have one thing in common: cleaning up your diet.
We Must Go Deep Within the Gut to Heal the Skin
I have had many clients come to me with chronic skin issues where Candida or Bacterial overgrowth is the underlying issue. This is when the normally occurring yeast and bacteria in your gut grows out of control. Candida, opportunistic bacteria, and SIBO (Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth) are all able to damage and break down the wall of your intestine (causing ‘leaky gut’) and then enter the bloodstream, releasing toxic byproducts into your body. The result can include not only food sensitivities but also:
This leads to the release of pro-inflammatory regulators of the immune system called cytokines, which results in skin inflammation. Therefore, we cannot ONLY focus on the specific problem area on the skin; these issues are a result of underlying yeast and bacteria overgrowth within the gut that need to be addressed.
Here is some more in-depth information on a few common skin conditions and what your body may be trying to tell you:
Eczema: This is a term referring to a group of inflammatory skin conditions. The most common being Atopic Dermatitis. Food allergies or sensitivities are usually to blame, cow’s milk and eggs being the top offenders. Contact sensitivity to nickel has also been recognized, mostly due to increased intestinal permeability (leaky gut) which is common in those with eczema. Candida or bacterial overgrowth in the gut also exacerbates this issue.
Nutrients and supplementation that have been shown to support healing include: pancreatic enzymes with betaine Hcl, fish oil and omega 3 fatty acids, zinc, vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin E, and the B vitamins.
Psoriasis – This is a chronic recurring skin condition characterized by raised, inflamed, scaly, pruritic lesions covered with a silvery-white scale. Psoriasis is believed to be an autoimmune disease and appears to involve both genetic and environmental factors. Food allergies/sensitivities have been seen to play a huge role, especially gluten. Several studies suggest that people with psoriasis are more likely to have Candida overgrowth in their bodies as well.
Nutrients and supplementation that have been shown to support healing include: pancreatic enzymes with betaine Hcl, B vitamins such as riboflavin and folate, chromium, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin E, fish oil and omega 3 fatty acids, and zinc.
Acne – There are many reasons for acne including hormone imbalance (elevated estrogen and/or testosterone), a poor diet high in sugar and refined carbs, unbalanced gut flora, a need for detox support, food allergies/sensitivities (usually dairy), and nutrient deficiencies.
Nutrients or supplementation that have been shown to support healing include: zinc and selenium, vitamin A, Pantothenic Acid (vitamin B5), Vitamin C. TIP: Vitamin B6 can help to prevent premenstrual acne flares.
Rosacea: A condition that causes redness and often small, red, pus-filled bumps on the face. Here, SIBO (Small Intestinal Bacteria Overgrowth) and food sensitivities are very common and should be addressed.
Nutrients or supplementation that have been shown to support include: pancreatic enzymes with Hcl, B vitamins, and zinc.
Check out How To Heal Your Skin From Within (Part 2): 4 Factors That Play a Role in the Health of Your Skin for other important factors to consider when healing your skin naturally.
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Ali, I., Foolad, N., & Sivamani, R. (2014). Considering the Gut-Skin Axis for Dermatological Diseases. Austin Journal of Dermatology, 1(5). Myers, A., MD. (2021, February 18). The Gut-Skin Connection. Retrieved March 11, 2021, from https://www.amymyersmd.com/article/gut-skin-connection/ Gaby, A. R. (2017). Eczema. In Nutritional medicine (pp. 728-738). Concord, NH: Fritz Perlberg Publishing.