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How is gut health and what you eat, related to your skin?

Whilst it may seem far-fetched that whatever we eat and the resulting state of our gut health, seems a long way away from our external skin layer (our largest organ),...

Whilst it may seem far-fetched that whatever we eat and the resulting state of our gut health, seems a long way away from our external skin layer (our largest organ), there is such a massive correlation between the two body parts.

Everything we eat and drink goes through the gut and our body will respond to this food in a certain way. For some people a certain food may cause no reaction, and for some others it causes an allergy or intolerance, which, through a series of reactions in the immune system, can manifest as an adverse skin reaction.

Some of the most common skin symptoms which can indicate that something you are eating, may be having an impact on your skin include:

  • Acne
  • Rosacea
  • Eczema
  • Psoriasis

Gut Health and Acne

Whilst it's not directly true that eating chocolate, for example, will cause acne, what is true is that persistently raised blood sugar and insulin spikes, from eating high sugar foods, can cause an increase in our androgen hormones (eg: testosterone). 

An increase in these hormones can cause an overproduction of sebum in the skin surfaces, which can then lead the pores to become blocked and cause spots and breakouts.

Eating a diet rich in these ‘inflammatory foods’ can also cause the acne to be more ‘angry’ and red. Alcohol, caffeine, processed foods, sugar, dairy are some of the big trigger foods for blood sugar dysregulation and resulting in acne.  

One of the most effective ways to reduce this inflammation and the excess sebum production is with an anti-inflammatory diet, high in antioxidant foods such as brightly coloured fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and plenty of water to flush out the toxins and keep the bowels moving.

Having lots of fiber with your meals will slow down the release of sugar into the bloodstream and minimise the blood sugar rollercoaster that can follow. This could be adding frozen berries to your porridge, beans or lentils to your lunchtime soup, or adding an extra portion of vegetables to your dinner. 

Gut Health and Rosacea

Rosacea is characterized by red or flushing facial skin. It can come out bumpy, feel burny or you may notice more veins on the surface of the skin.  Rosacea can often be triggered by eating food & drink high in histamine such as alcohol, cheese, yeast containing products and fermented foods, citrus fruits, vinegars, processed meats and fish. The high circulating histamine levels can cause the blood vessels of the skin to dilate and increase the red and flushing appearance on the skin.

Rosacea may also be triggered by a leaky gut. When the lining of the gut has become inflamed due to a poor diet, repeat antibiotic use, unresolved food poisoning or a travel bug, the tightly packed cells of the intestinal walls become ‘leaky’ and food and toxins can leak into the bloodstream. Specific cells in the body called mast cells, detect these toxins or chemicals in the bloodstream and then release histamine.  The histamine causes the blood vessels to dilate and can make the surrounding skin appear more red, itchy and swollen. 

Healing a leaky gut is not only vital to improve skin health, but also to prevent brain fog, headaches, achy joints and autoimmune conditions. 

Eczema and Psoriasis

Whilst these two conditions are not the same thing, they can both be characterized by inflammation of the skin and feel dry, rashy, itchy and scaly. Psoriasis will be formally diagnosed by your doctor as an autoimmune condition, but eczema on the other hand can be triggered and aggravated by having an overactive immune system.

Eczema tends to develop more in the folds of your skin (back of the knees, inside of your elbows, between your fingers) whereas psoriasis can be anywhere on the body and develops a more dry and scaly scab of skin.

Importantly these two skin disorders can both be triggered by your immune system and since up to 80% of your immune system is in your gut, there is a HUGE correlation between what you eat and how your skin reacts.

Some of the biggest food triggers for people with eczema and psoriasis can be dairy products, processed foods, wheat containing refined carbohydrates (bread, pasta), high sugar foods, soy and eggs.

It may be well worth trialing a temporary elimination diet (1-2 weeks) with the above foods to see if this has an impact on how your skin reacts. Then slowly reintroduce each food over a few days and see if you notice any change in your skin. If so, you may want to minimise eating those foods regularly.


What should you eat to improve your skin health?

A diet high in fiber, fresh fruits and vegetables and clean sources of protein will mean you are not overburdening your gut (and liver) and you will therefore have much more efficient detoxification pathways.

Never underestimate the power of stress on your skin (and gut health) too. Stress will increase inflammation in the body, it can cause an imbalance in the gut bacteria and microbiome and this can directly impact the detoxification and elimination pathways, resulting in a more reactive skin barrier.

Staying hydrated is also essential for good skin health. Since up to 70% of our body can consist of water, we clearly need a lot of it in our day to day lives. Ever noticed that your lips dry out when you're dehydrated or the dryness of your skin after a flight?

Aiming for 2 liters of water a day is really the goal. Herbal teas and juices can count towards this target but remember, caffeine is a diuretic so it will increase water loss in the body. If you do drink caffeine, you should always aim to have a glass of water with it. And no more than 2 cups per day is recommended.

Having previously been a lifelong sufferer of eczema, severe itchy skin and acne outbreaks, alongside a poor diet of fast food, ready meals and low vegetable intake, it wasn't until I eventually started to take my health seriously and eat a more clean, wholefoods diet, that I realised the total transformation that was happening to my skin. My eczema totally went away and my acne cleared!




Written by Kelly Mulhall Dip NT, mBANT

Nutritional Therapist - Gut Health Specialist

www.thenaturalbalance.net

 



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