A healthy gut for gorgeous skin
It’s no secret that the bacteria inside our gut is essential for our health, especially when you consider more than 80% of the body’s immune system is located in our digestive system1!
With what seems like an ever increasing list of food intolerances and poor-health symptoms being traced back to our gut, our inner ecosystem is the current hot-health topic! And when we discovered good gut health was linked to gorgeous skin as well as good health, we wanted to share the news!
Gut health refers to the hundreds of thousands of bacteria that work to promote healthy absorption of nutrients while fighting infection and disease. A healthy gut is colonised with around 160 different bacterial species, and in total, they should outnumber our body cells around 10-12. These colonies work to supply nutrients, absorb minerals, activate and destroy toxins and promote the formation of new blood cells…they are even responsible for the sole source of our body’s vitamin K3.
Healthy and abundant gut colonisation also has a ‘power in numbers’ effect. The sheer number of beneficial bacteria make it hard for any potentially harmful bacteria that you may ingest to find the space and the nutrients to grow and make you unwell. This is why even the slightest imbalance in your normal gut flora can cause problems and throw your gut health out for weeks, months, sometimes even years.
So where does skin fit in?
It’s easy to forget that our skin is an organ too, our bodies largest in fact, and just like any other organ, it requires oxygen and essential nutrients to function effectively. As we’ve established, our gut bacteria are largely responsible for the effective uptake of vitamins and minerals, so ensuring your gut is functioning effectively will see amazing improvements in your skin’s health and appearance.
Although the main abundance of scientific research into the gut microbiome has occurred in the last 5 years, it was actually 70 years ago that dermatologists John Stokes and Donald Pillsbury proposed the gut-brain-skin-axis4, an observation that raised the intriguing prospect that a healthy gut flora can exert profound beneficial effects on skin homoeostasis, skin inflammation and peripheral tissue responses to perceived stress5.
Essentially, when your gut is happy your skin is happy, so we’ve looked into some things that do your gut good, and some things that are not-so-great for the gut!
THINGS THAT ARE GOOD FOR YOUR GUT HEALTH
THE RIGHT DIET…a healthy diet full of plant-based, fibre-full foods, legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds are essential for the diversity of gut bacteria6, which is really important, bacterial variety is key to receiving all the benefits! Seek out foods that are known to be anti-inflammatory, things like turmeric, aloe vera and fatty fish like salmon and mackerel work well to soothe the gut lining7.
MILK KEFIR…increasing your probiotic intake is definitely beneficial for your gut, however, some probiotics work better than others when it comes to improving the diversity of your gut flora. A study of three groups each trying a different gut-bacteria-boosting approach (off-the-shelf probiotic; a fermented drink called milk ‘kefir’; foods high in prebiotic fibre, inulin) showed that milk kefir produced the best improvement to gut flora8. Kefir is a Turkish word and loosely translated means ‘good feeling’. It’s thought that the fermented cultures in milk kefir can more easily survive the acidic environment during digestion to reach and colonise the gut more effectively8.
KOMBUCHA…described as the ‘immortal health elixir’, kombucha is a fermented beverage of black tea and a natural source of sugar (fruit or honey). It contains a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast (SCOBY) and after the fermentation process, the drink is brimful of probiotics and gut-healing properties. Drink daily to bring your body’s gut bacteria back into balance9.
EXERCISE…recent studies provide evidence suggesting that in addition to its other health benefits, frequent exercise may influence our weight and overall health by actually altering the kinds of bacteria live inside us. More exercise, more diverse and abundant gut flora10, worth a try!
THINGS THAT ARE NOT-SO-GOOD FOR YOUR GUT HEALTH
PROCESSED FOODS… sugary processed foods are known to have a highly inflammatory effect on the gut, with many processed foods containing emulsifiers to improve the food's texture and extend shelf life. Emulsifiers have shown to cause a dramatic increase in gut inflammation11, which in turn disturbs the balance of healthy bacteria which can lead to bacterial overgrowth and protein uptake in the gut. Protein uptake tends to lead to further inflammation, and a tricky inflammation-bacterial imbalance cycle continues.
LATE NIGHTS AND STRESS…it appears our inner ecosystem also appreciates a good night’s rest! Lack of sleep or a shift in our sleep-wake cycle may affect the health and diversity of the human microbiome owing to the fact that the communication between our gut and brain is affected12.
TOO MUCH MEAT…what we eat dictates the type of bacteria that are present in our digestive tract. If you eat a lot of red meat, your gut will see a rise in bacteria that like to digest red meat. These type of bacteria produce trimethylamine N-oxide, and when this is produced in large amounts it can have an artery-clogging effect13.
HAND SANITISER…although it might feel like hand sanitising is protecting you from harmful bacteria, diligently sanitising and using anti-bacterial products doesn’t actually do our gut health any favours. As we’ve mentioned, the bacteria found in your gut does oh-so-many great things for your health, and sanitizers designed to kill harmful bacteria, don’t discriminate between the two!
3. Zhang YJ et al. Impacts of gut bacteria on human health and diseases. Int J Mol Sci. 2015;16(4):7493-7519