The Ultimate Guide to the Gut-Skin Axis

Beauty is skin deep. This is an old saying that holds more merit than we’ve ever realized. Sure, the annotation is a powerful commentary on being a good person. However, this adage is also quite literal. What we project on the outside represents what’s going on inside. That’s why those with skin conditions tend to also suffer from gastrointestinal distress and stomach problems. If you are experiencing issues with your hair, skin, and nails, then your gut health might be to blame.

Inflammation and Skin Care

Whether you’re diagnosed with a skin condition, are having an immune response, or are battling bouts of anxiety, there’s always one common culprit causing such adversity. These great antagonists are inflammations.

Our body goes above and beyond to alert us that inflammation is onboard. After the brain realizes there is an intruder, symptoms can persist such as:

  • Runny Nose
  • Skin Rash
  • Insomnia
  • Diarrhea
  • Blotchy Complexion
  • Anxious Thoughts
  • Itchiness
  • Stress
  • Flaky Skin

These reactions all depend on the location of the inflammation and how long it’s been festering. For many with skin conditions, inflammation is not too far from the area showing symptoms.

The Skin Microbiota

On the other side of our skin is an intricate ecosystem of microbes known as the microbiome. The microbiome relies on our skin to act as a barricade. Skin is the first line of defense for the gut biome against the germs in our everyday life. This important function is why the skin is considered our largest organ.

Within our microbiome are trillions of microscopic bacteria, fungi, viruses, archaea, and other microbes. These microbes are the last line of defense for our intestinal flora.

Foreign bacteria can enter our system through many means including:

  • Digestion of Food
  • Inhaling Toxins in the Atmosphere
  • Antibiotics Wiping Out Beneficial Bacteria
  • Via An Open Wound
  • A Mucous Membrane (Eye, Nose, Etc.)
  • Entering Through Your Porous Skin

Upon intrusion, your microbes will go into defense mode to eliminate these intruders. However, many factors can start to balance the power onto the side of the harmful bacteria. This may be in thanks to aging, poor dietary choices, a round of antibiotics, or a litany of other life’s decisions or obstacles.

Stomach Bacteria and Skin Health

If harmful bacteria thrive in the nook it carved out in your gut biome; they will begin to oxidize. Their volatile aromatic molecules are too abrasive for our gut health to flourish. The scent of these bacteria will trigger neural tissues on receptors throughout the body. Based on the vicinity of the inflammation, a symptom will persist.

When you are battling skin conditions, there tends to be an inflammation right under the epidermis. You can pinpoint where the inflammation is quite easily because your symptom will spring up in the exact area. This will start as sensitivity in the area, a rash, or itchy skin.

Our immune system sparks acute inflammation as a means to fight off an intruder in the gut biome. If the swelling can’t defeat the pathogen, bacteria, fungi, or virus that has entered the system, the immune system lets the inflammation linger. This turn of events may lead to chronic inflammation, which can cause long-term skin problems.

The Gut Brain Connection and Gut-Skin Axis

The body relies on governing parts to remain in contact with one another. Our brain is sort of at the top of the spectrum, keeping a lookout like a lighthouse. Meanwhile, the gut sort of acts like the control center. This strong bond is known as the gut brain connection.

The main soldier on the ground for the gut brain connection would be the skin. Skin is the first contact with outside chemicals and acts as a filter for the whole body. In fact, this complex ecosystem has its own microbiome [*]. Here is just how intricate the gut-skin axis can be.

Nutrient Absorption

There is more to our skin than just feeling good. We rely on our skin for nutrient and supplement absorption. For one, our pores soak up the sun. This is essential for our Vitamin D absorption. Our body can’t make this essential vitamin. Therefore, we need to get outdoors and absorb this crucial catalyst from the sky above.

Sadly, over one billion people suffer from a Vitamin D deficiency [*]. Vitamin D deficiency can throw off the system because it plays a crucial role in the creation of neurotransmitters including serotonin [*]. This fact shows that our skin plays an integral role in the gut brain connection.

Intestinal flora also has a profound impact on the skin. You can gauge your nutrient intake and the state of your gut health by looking at your skin. For instance, those who consume too much beta-carotene or Vitamin A may have an orange tinge in their outer glow.

In the same respect, anyone who fills up on empty calories and artificial sweeteners may develop a dull complexion. That is because they lack the essential micronutrients to maintain the elasticity and vibrancy of their skin microbiome.

Hormones and Skin Care

While turning a tad bit orange can be manageable, other foods may have more harmful effects. One way or another, everything we consume has an impact on the system. Some of these effects may be a shift in our hormone production.

For example, whey protein and carbs have exhibited the ability to increase levels of Insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1). When IGF-1 gets stimulated, it will activate our sebaceous glands. Your body goes into defense mode and actually churns out extra inflammatory mediators. As a result, studies find that this sort of activity increases the extremity of an acne flare-up [*].

The best way to keep your hormones in check is to adopt a low-glycemic diet. It will lower the need for inflammatory modulators. Consequently, the onslaught of acne outbreaks should cease.

How Gut Health Affects Skin Health

Our insides are sort of set up like our outsides. Think of your skin. It’s a porous surface. Water and nutrients can seep in. Blood, toxins, and mucus may all excrete out. Your gastrointestinal tract is set up much the same.

During the digestion food, particles enter the small intestines. To break down the solid material, your body ferments it within your stomach acid. However, if there isn’t ventilation (much like our pores), then our stomach would turn into a science experiment gone awry. That is why our digestive system is designed with tiny holes known as tight junctions.

Leaky Gut Syndrome and Skin Health

Tight junctions allow for the odorous vapors to escape your GI tract. Otherwise…boom goes the belly!

Besides ensuring our gut doesn’t turn into a CGI movie explosion, the tight junctions also allow nutrients from the digestion of food to enter the bloodstream.

Unfortunately, some of our dietary decisions are causing a problem for this autonomous process. As we consume more refined sugars, artificial ingredients, and processed foods, it slows our system down. Excess solid food matter finds itself sticking around in the GI tract. Over time, these substances will build up causing a number of gastrointestinal disorders and various skin conditions.

When you add more food into the GI tract, it becomes the episode of I Love Lucy where Lucy and Ethel work at the chocolate factory. The conveyor belt gets full, and the supplies must spill out somewhere.

Inside of our intestines, the toxins spill out through the tight junctions. This unfortunate side effect of the digestion process is known as dysbiosis. When dysbiosis happens, it may lead to Leaky Gut Syndrome.

Whether you have Leaky Gut Syndrome or any other gastrointestinal disorders, a common side effect is skin issues. Many GI issues coincide with skin flare-ups. Let’s take a more in-depth look at the connection.

Skin Conditions Associated with Poor Gut Health

When you are experiencing GI problems or a skin condition, there may be another gastrointestinal illness or skin condition going on. Typically, the problem started internally and has manifested into the skin condition you see on the exterior. Luckily, science has made it easier to determine which gut health condition is causing our skin to react the way it does.

Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth and Rosacea

SIBO is a common gut health condition where bacteria that typically reside in other areas of the gut sets up shop in the small intestines. While most of the body enjoys biodiversity, the small intestines is a “members-only” club.

The small intestines want beneficial bacteria that will work toward getting the most nutrition and energy out of your food. When they get upset by intrusive bacteria, you feel it. Therefore, SIBO can cause a lot of discomfort for those who have invaders in the VIP section.

Some of the first symptoms of SIBO may actually show up on your skin. They may result in:

  • Pustules (Pus-Filled Blisters/Pimples)
  • Papules (Non-Pus-Filled Blister/Pimples)
  • Erythema (Redness/Blotchiness)

These three symptoms are all classified as rosacea. Typically, they are caused by dysbiosis of the skin microbiome. However, if an infection caused by SIBO is happening inside, the same inflammation will form under the skin.

Remember, your skin is the way out. So, when gravity takes hold, these inflammations will find a nice nook to hang out inside. That will result in skin conditions [*].

Leaky Gut Syndrome and Psoriasis

When we suffer from extreme cases of dysbiosis, our probiotic to harmful bacteria ratio might flip-flop. This swap may cause skin conditions such as psoriasis.

One study found that those with psoriasis have increased levels of
Faecalibacterium. Meanwhile, they also tested low for levels of the probiotic strain, Bacteroides, within the GI tract [*].

Consequently, the skin microbiome also experienced dysbiosis. However, the bacteria affected were different. The same study saw that the skin microbiome of psoriasis patients saw a decrease of Propionibacterium and Actinobacteria. Meanwhile, levels of Streptococcus, the culprit of Staph infection, were elevated.

Insulin and Acne

You are what you eat. Therefore, if you consume garbage, you may look the part. The typical Standard American Diet (SAD) has found many with elevated insulin levels. Further studies confirm that these dietary choices set off a litany of pro-inflammatory biomarkers [*].

Staples in the SAD include red meat and other animal proteins. These are rich in omega-6 fatty acids such as leucine. Leucine is an amino acid known to stimulate mammalian target of rapamycin complex 1 (mTORC1) [*]. This area of the body controls protein synthesis and energy consumption. It also activates our body’s SREBP,33.

When SREBP,33 enters the gut biome, it feasts on the leucine consumed in the SAD [*]. As a result, sebaceous lipids get synthesized. These are the glands responsible for producing oily skin associated with acne. That is why studies suggest the overstimulation of the mTORC1 causes acne vulgaris. This condition is further exasperated by those who consume a high-glycemic diet as outlined by SAD.

Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) and Skin Lesions

Irritable bowel disease (IBD) can affect up to 60 million people each year. Typically, IBD springs up in two forms:

  • Crohn’s Disease
  • Ulcerative Colitis

While IBD starts internally, it also manifests on the skin microbiome. In fact, 6% to 47% of IBD patients will have visible sores [*]. These lesions can be anywhere from on the skin to the inside of the mouth.

Studies find that those with these two types of conditions have one significant similarity. They both exhibit elevated levels of Tumor necrosis factor (TNF). A group of these proteins is known as a “superfamily.” Together, they team up to spread IBD, resulting in excess skin lesions throughout the body.

Bacteria Associated with Skin Conditions

Our skin has its own microbiome. These little critters affect everything from the appearance of our skin to the grayness of our hair follicles, to the strength of our cuticles. We just need to make sure that there’s balance going on in the inside. Otherwise, harmful bacteria will win on the outside as well.

For instance, 25% of healthy people have the bacteria strain, Staphylococcus on their body [*]. Untriggered, Staphylococcus can be quite harmless. However, when this pathogenic bacteria causes an infection, it can be dangerous…and in some cases, deadly.

In even more severe cases, bacteria such as Mycobacterium lepraemurium is the known pathogen behind the flesh-eating disease, leprosy [*]. In less extreme situations, the bacteria known as Acinetobacter lwoffii is an opportunistic bacteria that infect wounds, exasperating the symptoms and prolonging the healing process. While these are extreme ends of the spectrum, this just shows how crucial of a role gut bacteria play in the vitality of our skin.

Unless bacteria is opportunistic, there aren’t many strains that facilitate the outbreak of typical skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis. Regular skin conditions that hinder the everyday lives of most people are a cause of bacteria your system may be lacking on the inside. This is why it’s so important to get a personalized probiotic supplement. Let’s take a deeper look at how you can improve your skin conditions naturally.

Ways to Improve Skin Conditions

While the key to improving the outside is to get the inside up to speed, there are other things you can do to help improve the health of your skin microbiome. After all, strengthening your gut biome may take a bit of time. Therefore, you might need some superficial relief until the internal problems are addressed accordingly.

Change Up Your Skin Routine

To combat skin conditions, start with treating your skin. A lot of times, these issues may be the cause of some habits you’ve grown accustomed to. Here are some quick ways to change up your skin routine while your gut biome gets up to speed.

SHORTER SHOWERS

For starters, cut down on the hot showers. Sure, your shower voice can land you a record contract any day of the week. However, try to get that audition over within five minutes. Otherwise, you end up scorching and drying out your skin.

MOISTURIZE AFTER A SHOWER

Once you get out of the shower, this is the ideal time to apply moisturizer. Since the steam from your shower opened your pores up, they are susceptible to the benefits of lotions.

In fact, any time you notice you are dry, lotion up! Letting your skin dry out causes itchiness. Itchiness leads to scratching. Scratching results in open wounds. From there, opportunistic bacteria can come in and disrupt your gut biome.

ONLY ORGANIC PRODUCTS ON SKIN MICROBIOME

Be aware of what types of lotions you are using. Be sure to stick with organic products where the active ingredients are words you can pronounce. Otherwise, you run the risk of clogging up your pores.

Not to mention, these hard-to-name ingredients are a lot like the synthetic food items backing up your gut biome. Your skin is like a sponge. Anytime you add a moisturizer to your skin, the pores soak up the formula. This gives the active ingredients in the product direct access to your bloodstream.

When synthetic molecules come into contact with your cells, they have unnatural chemical reactions. This can actually cause some electrons to get over-excited and spawn off to become free radicals [*].

Free Radicals and Antioxidants

Free radicals are precursors to inflammations that cause the unsightly skin conditions you are trying to prevent. They are the culprits behind saggy skin, circles under the eyes, and Varicose Veins. To overthrow free radicals, you need antioxidants.

Antioxidants have exhibited the ability to inhibit the growth of free radicals that cause the decay of tissues and cells [*]. As a result, damaged cells become rejuvenated, giving your outward appearance a fresh coat of paint and a new take on life.

An ideal way to get rid of free radicals is to consume foods rich in antioxidants. Some great options include:

  • Berries
  • Dark Chocolate
  • Red Wine
  • Nuts
  • Avocados
  • Dark Greens

What’s ideal about these foods is they serve duel purposes. This list of foods doubles as food sources for another antioxidant-rich supplement…probiotics. Let’s take a moment to learn how probiotics can help with your skin care issues.

Probiotics, Microbiome Testing, and Skin Care

Research shows probiotic species Bacillus coagulans reduces oxidative stress in the gastrointestinal tract [*]. Therefore, this bacterium alleviates inflammatory responses inside the microbiome that attracts opportunistic pathogens on your skin microbiota. To keep beneficial bacteria like Bacillus coagulans strong, it’s best to consume prebiotic-rich foods like those listed in the antioxidant-rich sources above.

While you are considering supplementing with probiotics, it’s best to get a clear idea of what your body is lacking. After all, most skin conditions are a result of low diversity residing inside your gut. Studies show that a lack of diversity in the microbiome of children leads to autoimmune diseases such as autism [*]. Skin autoimmune diseases are no exception.

In particular, low levels of Lactobacillus paracasei strains of probiotic bacteria have shown to exacerbate the symptoms of asthma, allergic rhinitis, and eczema.

On top of supplementing with strains of Lactobacillus paracsei Th1 and Th2, you can further improve skin conditions by fortifying your supplement with Lactobacillus fermentum. Together, the strains have a bit of an entourage effect on the other, improving the onset of atopic dermatitis [*].   

For those who want to relive their youthful glow, it’s possible with proper probiotic supplementation. The fountain of youth lives inside of you. You just need to nourish it with Lactobacillus plantarum.

Studies have found that this bacteria can help repair a damaged skin barrier. This is crucial in keeping opportunistic pathogens on your exterior from getting in. Research reveals that the presence of Lactobacillus plantarum in the microbiome has reduced the size of acne lesions and exhibited anti-aging effects [*].

Lastly, to keep your dry skin in check, there’s a probiotic strain scientifically proven to help ease these symptoms. Bifidobacterium breve helps improve the skin’s elasticity while simultaneously hydrating the skin [*].

Want to look beautiful on the inside? You’ve got to start with the inside. The best way to combat skin conditions is to see which bacteria your microbiome may be lacking. Invest in a microbiome test kit. With these results, Thryve Probiotics can formulate a supplement that will meet the personal needs of your body…and skin.

Case Studies

I had Eczema growing up and it started to get more and more drastic as I got older. I noticed a lot of different foods would trigger my Eczema and cause it to flare up for days at a time. During my flare-ups, I realized my digestion was usually always shot as well with diarrhea and bloating. When I started researching about gut health it started to make more sense, that our bacteria which helps train and regulate our immune system could be the solution to my problem. I was able to track using Thryve’s Gut Health program that I was low in diversity, Bifidobacteria (good probiotics), and increased levels of Staphylococcus aureus on my skin. I’m thankful to say that while on the program I was able to test myself every month to see how my microbiome was shifting into a better state. I was able to increase diversity, lower Staphylococcus aureus, and increase Bifidobacteria. By applying their personalized diet recommendations and their immune supporting probiotics my Eczema hasn’t shown up in months!


MICHELLE Z

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