Skin problems and gut issues have a long history of connection. The gut and the skin have much in common, which contributes to the gut-skin axis. Both the gut and the skin play key roles as defenders against pathogens invading from the outside environment. When you increase your fiber intake and have healthy poops your skin will start to become clearer. For clearer skin you HAVE TO INCREASE WATER INTAKE, INCREASE FIBER INTAKE, AND POOP AT LEAST ONCE PER DAY.
Every single day the average woman applies 168 unique chemicals directly to her body through the application of creams, lotions, and makeup. While men, on average, apply 85 individual chemicals to their bodies daily. This is a staggering number of chemicals most of us don’t give a second thought.
If you’ve struggled with acne, rosacea, eczema, psoriasis or any other skin condition, you know firsthand how frustrating, uncomfortable, and embarrassing they can be. Skin conditions are beyond irritating – they can make you feel depressed, socially anxious, and seriously affect your confidence and self esteem.
You deserve to look and feel great! The good news is that the key to improving your skin and overall health begins in the same place – your gut.
You’ve likely heard about your gut microbiome by now, but if not, you’re in for a real surprise. Why? Because the 100 trillion microorganisms living in your gut are turning out to be the most important medical discovery of our time.
Your gut microbiome communicates with your skin via the gut-skin axis, which directly influences your appearance.
How exactly do these microbes influence your skin?
Well, for starters, scientists have found that the line of communication between your immune system, skin, and brain is mediated through your microbes, ultimately influencing:
- Inflammation – The underlying cause of most disease.
- Oxidative stress – A major cause of inflammation.
- Tissue lipid levels – A factor important for a healthy metabolism.
- Glycemic control – Your ability to balance blood sugar.
- Neuropeptide levels – A factor linked to your mood, pain tolerance, and body’s homeostasis (balance).
- Pathogenic bacteria – Bad bacteria that makes you sick or cause conditions.
- Mood regulating neurotransmitters – For example, about 90% of your serotonin (your happy neurotransmitter) is made by your gut microbiome.
The last connection on this list is the reason why skin conditions are strongly associated with depression and anxiety. Not only are skin conditions bringing you down because of their embarrassing outward appearance, they are actually affecting how you feel from within – via your gut microbiome.
Because beauty literally begins from the inside out.
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When you stop and think about it, this actually makes a lot of sense – your gut and skin have a lot in common:
- They both protect you from the outside world.
- They each have microbiomes, which communicate directly with each other.
- They are both packed with mast cells (a type of white blood cell), which are the first responders of your immune system.
- They originate from the same cells during early development.
Your skin is the lining that interacts with the world around you, while your gastrointestinal tract deals with everything you eat, breathe, and swallow. The foods you eat are metabolized and by-products from food breakdown are directly available to your skin. This is why what you eat has so much influence over your skin’s appearance.
Think of your skin as a window into the health of your gut.
The Reason Your Skin Creams & Acne Probiotics Don’t Work
If you’ve struggled with a skin condition, chances are you’ve gone through a lot of different creams, lotions, and other topical remedies. If you’ve heard about the link between a healthy gut and healthy skin, you may have even tried acne probiotics. But you’ve probably found that even if these creams and acne probiotics offer you some relief, it is usually temporary.
It’s no wonder skin creams prescribed by your doctor don’t work. They are trying to tackle the problem from the outside in, when some skin conditions need to be treated from the inside out, starting at the gut level.
And the reason acne probiotics don’t work? They only contain a handful of microbial strains. Your gut microbiome is made up of over 8,000 strains of bacteria – not to mention all the other important microbes. So introducing just a few strains with a probiotic may not make much of an impact.
If you want to give your skin a fighting chance, it’s time you checked your gut.
11 Skin Conditions That Begin in the Gut
As we deepen our understanding of the gut microbiome it has become more clear that many skin conditions do not originate to the level of the skin, but stem from the gut. Here are 11 skin conditions that actually begin in the gut:
- Acne vulgaris
- Cystic acne
- Seborrhoeic dermatitis
- Dermatitis herpetiformis
- Oral mucosal lesions (mouth sores)
If you’ve been struggling with any of these, you may want to check your gut.
Unraveling The Gut-Skin Axis
When we begin to dig deeper into the science around the gut-skin axis, it becomes quite clear that healthy skin starts with a healthy gut.
The good news is that this connection opens up a world of possibilities for skin therapies. Some medications originally created to treat skin conditions have been found useful in treating gut issues. For example, a psoriasis medication has been found to be effective in those with severe Crohn’s disease – a condition of the gut. This is way it is important to poop so your system will be clean.
What Should Your Poop Look Like?
The chart lists seven different shapes and consistencies of bowel movements:
Type 1: Separate hard lumps, like nuts (hard to pass)
Type 2: Sausage-shaped but lumpy
Type 3: Like a sausage but with cracks on the surface
Type 4 Like a sausage or snake, smooth and soft
Type 5: Soft blobs with clear-cut edges
Type 6: Fluffy pieces with ragged edges, a mushy stool
Type 7: Watery, no solid pieces
Bowel movements that resemble types 3, 4, and 5 do not correlate with any typical bowel issues. Types 1 and 2 could be indicative of constipation; types 6 and 7 point to diarrhea.
Your poop should have a brown color and have a soft-to-firm consistency. Healthy poop is typically passed in a few smaller pieces or as one, longer piece.
What Should Your Poop Smell Like?
Your poop isn’t supposed to smell pleasant, which makes it difficult to use as a health indicator; however if patients are concerned about the smell, they are asked if the scent is “foul.”
Poop should smell like poop but if it smells worse than usual, you shouldn’t ignore it.” Some particularly smelly poop smells so bad because of high levels of fat.
Foul-smelling bowel movements could also be indicative of an infection such as C diff colitis or a small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIDO). C diff colitis is an inflammation of the colon that is caused by bacteria called Clostirium difficile, hence C diff. It can result in diarrhea and abdominal pain. SIDO, which can also cause abdominal pain and diarrhea, occurs when bacteria from other parts of the body make their way into your small intestine.
Neither of these infections should ever be self-diagnosed; consult a physician if you are experiencing symptoms. Another distinct smell from your bowel movements can be the result of blood in your stool, which appears as a black and tarry or maroon red color. This is likely the result of absorbing fat or problems with your pancreas.
Health issues such as irritable bowel syndrome typically do not coincide with a foul or alarming smell.
What Are Other Signs of a Pooping Issue?
If you have constipation, painful bowel movement, smelly poop, or blood, you have a pooping problem.
One of the most concerning signs that there may be an issue is blood in the stool, which could be caused by hemorrhoids. Just a drop or two or blood could result in the entire toilet bowl turning red.
What once was considered by doctors to be minor bleeding, blood in your toilet is now cause to be evaluated by your doctor, especially with the rise in colon cancer.
If you notice your stool is black, that is also a concern that bleeding is occurring somewhere. Black stool could be caused be an iron vitamin or if you are using Pepto-Bismol.
Stool that is fatty, oily, or greasy and leaves streaks of oil is a sign fat malabsorption. This can be caused by issues with the small intense absorbing fat, or the pancreas not working to make enzymes that digest fat. This can all lead to malnutrition.
Keep your Gut Healthy: the 5 R’s
Whether you have a skin disorder like rosacea or eczema or simply want to prevent skin cancer and maintain a youthful appearance, it is beneficial to look to your gut. Dysbiosis or other gut problems might be the cause of the issue–or it might simply exacerbate it.
In functional medicine, we have a standard gut protocol known as the 4 Rs: remove, replace, reinoculate, and repair. It sometimes also includes a fifth R: rebalance. Let’s look at each one a little closer.
As the word implies, remove means to take away anything that might be contributing to an unhealthy gut. This might include stress, pathogenic microbes, environmental toxins, or food allergens. One of the most common treatments for this stage of the 4 Rs is the elimination diet. This diet removes all of the most common foods that trigger inflammation and gut reactions for a period of time and then reintroduces them to determine what might be the cause of the issue. For some people, the remove stage might also include protocols to eradicate any pathogenic species residing in the colon or the small intestine contributing to dysbiosis or SIBO respectively.
Proper digestion and subsequent absorption require digestive enzymes, hydrochloric acid, and bile acids. In the replace step, these are supplemented, as needed, depending on the situation.
Reinoculate is the step when good bacteria are reintroduced into the gut, typically through taking a strong probiotic. It is beneficial to also consume a diet high in fiber, and you might choose to supplement with prebiotics, which are non-digestible fibers known to fuel the commensal bacteria in the gut and further mitigate the building of a healthy microbiome.
In the repair stage, vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients are introduced to assist in repairing any damage to the gut, including any inflammation or leaky gut. This typically includes zinc, antioxidants, fish oil, and glutamine, an amino acid that is the gut lining’s major fuel source.
The final stage, rebalance, goes beyond just diet; it looks at your overall lifestyle to determine if there are negative aspects affecting the gut, such as lack of sleep or excessive stress. Modifications are made to create a lifestyle pattern supportive of a healthy gut.
As discussed above, healing any inflammation or disorders of the gut can have a significant impact on the health of the skin. Removing triggers like allergenic food can also mitigate skin reactions. A healthy microbiome also provides metabolites and other benefits to alleviate skin problems. Therefore, following the 5 Rs is a great first step to balancing the gut-skin axis.
1. Get comprehensive labs.
Stool Test: The first step to finding out about your gut-skin axis and your microbiome health is running a comprehensive stool test. I recommend a two- or three-day collection to look at your good bacteria levels and rule out any bacterial, yeast or parasitic infections.
Immunological Blood Test: This blood test will be able to assess if there’s been a breach of your gut’s defense system, allowing undigested food particles and bacteria to make their away in the blood, causing an inflammatory response throughout the body. This condition is commonly referred to as a “leaky gut.”
2. Address any underlying gut issues.
SIBO: Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth happens when bacteria from the colon grows into the small intestines where it doesn’t belong.
Dysbiosis: Whereas SIBO is an overgrowth of normal bacteria, dysbiosis happens when there’s an imbalance of good to bad bacteria. An increase of harmful bacterial imbalances have been shown to be a factor in skin problems.
Hypochlorhydria: A decrease in stomach acid or hypochlorhydria has been shown to be higher in people suffering with skin problems such as acne.
Parasite or yeast infections: Chronic low-grade infections like these can be a source of continual inflammation of the gut-skin axis.
Leaky gut syndrome: All of the previous gut problems can lead to an increased permeability of your gut lining.
I use condition-specific natural medicine protocols to help the gut and skin heal from these underlying problems.
3. Avoid foods that will damage your gut-skin axis.
What will damage your gut will damage your skin, so it’s wise to avoid certain foods for a glowing, healthy complexion.
4. Use food medicine to heal your gut-skin axis.
Here are some of the foods that I use to repair the gut-skin connection:
Bone broth: Your grandma may have made this ancient healing food. Its beneficial collagen makes it great for healing the skin and gut.
Fermented vegetables: Sauerkraut and kimchee are great ways to provide your microbiome with beneficial probiotics.
Swedish bitters: I’ve found this herbal tonic to be very effective in healing chronic infections and balancing low stomach acid production.
Kefir: Fermented dairy drinks like kefir, rich in the beneficial probiotic Lactobacillus acidophilus, have been shown to improve complexion over a period of 3 months.
Fermented cod liver oil: Another ancient healing food, this nutrient-dense oil is a great source of skin-healing vitamins A, D and K2. It’s also a balanced and stable source omega fats.
Coconut oil: Fats are essential to heal the gut-skin axis. This oil also has natural antimicrobial benefits. Coconut oil is also great to use on your skin!
Liver: One of nature’s multivitamins, per ounce, liver is one of the most bioavailable nutrient-dense foods on the planet. If you eat meat, this is a great, whole food source for skin nutrients like zinc and pantothenic acid or vitamin B5.
Leaky Gut and Cystic Acne
Research has found that acne isn’t so much a condition of the skin as it is a condition of the gut. Lipopolysaccharide (LPS) endotoxins are part of harmful Gram-negative bacteria that have been shown to wreak havoc on the gut and skin.
Studies have found when you have high levels of lipopolysaccharide (LPS) endotoxins in your body, they can interfere with wound healing and make your scars worse. LPS is also associated with acne vulgaris and makes it more likely you’ll have a strong reaction to E. coli lipopolysaccharide endotoxin (E. coli LPS). Having a strong reactivity to E. coli LPS means you’re more likely to have fibrin microclots, which cause small, painful tissue scarring.
LPS and E. coli sure do cause a lot of trouble, don’t they? But it gets worse.
High levels of LPS and E. coli LPS contribute to leaky gut, which allows these pesky bacteria to enter the bloodstream, creating more problems. People with leaky gut are more likely to have acne, and when E. coli LPS is involved, it may also cause depression. LPS also makes it more likely you’ll develop irritable bowel syndrome and anxiety.
Shew! All of that makes you want to stay away from LPS endotoxins doesn’t it? Same here.
The massive influence the gut has on the skin means it’s extremely important to keep your gut happy and healthy.
Eczema and Gut Health
We know, without a doubt, that eczema starts in the gut.
While doctors and dermatologists were looking for solutions at the skin’s surface, they missed the fact that eczema is caused by an overactive immune system. This overactive immune system is usually a consequence of gut microbiota dysbiosis or imbalance. In fact, a drop in microbiome diversity is known to cause eczema flare ups.
To relieve eczema symptoms, taking steps to reduce inflammation and boost microbial diversity through your diet is critical. An eczema fighting diet needs to be specific to your microbiome and body.
The Rosacea and SIBO Connection
Doctors are uncovering a strong association between people who have small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) and rosacea. Some doctors are even reporting that when they treat their patients for SIBO, the rosacea they’ve had for years suddenly clears up.
That is seriously great news for rosacea sufferers!
Unfortunately, SIBO was only discovered in 2004 and many people suffered from rosacea with no knowledge that the source of their problem could be their gut. Many people still do not know about this important connection and haven’t had a chance to see if the cause of their rosacea is actually SIBO.
Celiac Disease and Skin Conditions
Celiac disease and skin conditions go hand in hand. People with celiac disease are more likely to have:
- Dermatitis herpetiformis
- Oral mucosal lesions
Because people with celiac disease are dealing with a condition of the gut, they have the advantage of being directed to look for gut-related solutions. This means they often inadvertently clear up their skin conditions when they go gluten free or take other steps to reduce the effects of their celiac disease. As for other skin conditions, realizing the gut is the source of the problem often takes much longer – if it happens at all.
Finding out the underlying factors to your skin condition and addressing them with a customized and comprehensive functional program can be the natural solution you have been searching for. Bottom line it’s important to eat fiber and to have healthy poops for healthy skin.