Here’s something new: it’s no longer bad manners to talk about what’s going on inside our tummies. Research now confirms that if we pay attention to the health of our gut, we can prevent breakouts, redness, dullness, in ammation and toxic build-up in our skin. Sounds good. But how can we improve gut health, fast? And what exactly is the connection between the gut and our skin? We ask the experts to shed some light on what’s going on inside.
The Skin-Gut Connection
Think of it like this: the skin and gut are like job-sharing co-workers. Both have been assigned the big job of getting rid of unwanted nasties. “The gut and the skin are two of the body’s key pathways of elimination,” according to Danielle Steedman, naturopath and Blackmores expert. “They work in partnership, so if
one is not functioning efficiently, then the other will be burdened.”
The reason that matters? If that burden on the skin gets too much, it could mean anything from redness and rashes, to sensitivities and acne – or it could just translate to skin that’s dull and out-of-sorts.
When it’s working properly? Our gut is a little factory that pumps out a host of vital vitamins and nutrients, such as skin-boosting B2, B3 and biotin. It also produces detoxifying B12, folic acid and vitamin K. But if things get a little out of whack, our gut’s first path of resistance is inflammation. If issues like this persist for too long, it can be bad news for your complexion.
“Where there is gut inflammation, there will be skin inflammation,” says Carla Oates, founder of The Beauty Chef. Inflammation can increase sebum production, which at skin level can equal redness and spots. It can also “accelerate the decline of collagen and elastin”, adds Oates. The upshot of which can be lines, sagging and general skin dullness.
A Fine Balance
Considering our fast-paced lifestyles and the fact that we’re constantly surrounded by highly processed, calorie-laden foods (hello work vending machine!) it’s little wonder our bellies often feel off-kilter. A healthy gut is all about balance. Simply put, when it comes to gut bacteria, there needs to be more good than bad swimming around down there. If we’re under too much stress, or over-indulging in nutrient-poor food and wine time, our system can quickly get toxic.
Also keep in mind that, along with our nails and hair, our skin is one of the last parts of our body to get access to any nutrients (our vital organs get first dibs), so it’s usually the first area to suffer if things aren’t balanced inside. The good news is, changing up your diet and lifestyle will help a complexion in crisis.
“Limit excessive amounts of refined sugar and alcohol and avoid foods you have been diagnosed as allergic or intolerant [to],” advises Jessica Gorman, Swisse expert and naturopath, who also suggests reducing stress and hitting the gym regularly.
The Role Of Probiotics
Naturally found in our stomachs in their millions, probiotics reduce inflammation, support the skin’s barrier function, and play
a major role in how we obtain nutrients from the food we eat. Basically, they’re the white knight for stressed-out skin.
“A diet that includes probiotic-rich foods is the best way to improve your gut bacteria ratio,” confirms Steedman. “Probiotics can be found in many of the foods we regularly eat, including yoghurt, miso and fermented foods, such as sauerkraut.”
“Good bacteria is your best friend when it comes to beautiful skin, hair and nails,” says Oates. “There are numerous clinical trials that link a specific strain
of bacteria with a positive health or skin benefit.Lactobacillus acidophilus, for example, has a very positive effect on acne.”
So What Are Prebiotic's?
Prebiotics are equally important in the quest for serious skin glow. “The combination of prebiotics and probiotics helps promote
a healthy gut more than either consumed alone,” says Oates. “They boost your immune system and support the body’s detoxification and elimination pathways.”
Able to pass through the small intestine undigested, prebiotics can travel all the way to the colon where they’re fermented by gut flora. Basically, they act as the probiotics’ home-delivered meal.
“Prebiotics are fuel for probiotics,” explains Steedman. “These good bacteria need nourishment and they fuel their growth and activity by feeding on prebiotics.” To get more of them in your diet, stock up on “slippery elm, banana, Jerusalem artichoke, leek, garlic and onions”, says Gorman.
The Way To Gut Equilibrium
“Filling your plate with unprocessed, organic, antioxidant-rich fruit and vegies, seeds, nuts, herbs and spices is a great way to keep inflammation and disease at bay,” says Oates. “Antioxidants also help to mop up free radicals, which cause oxidative stress and inflammation.”
If you can’t get your probiotic quota up through food, or your gut is taking a hit due to travel or illness (prescription antibiotics kill off good bacteria along with the bad), you may want to consider a supplement. “When we don’t have access to these foods in high amounts, probiotic supplements are recommended,” says Gorman.
In short? When it comes to good skin, it really does seem to start in the belly. So next time your skin is crying out, try getting your gut happy, rather than the latest fad. “When you have a healthy gut you will have fresh, even, glowing skin, free from breakouts,” says Gorman.
We’ll drink a kombucha to that.