We all dream of having clear and glowing skin. The 21st century is the era of perfectionism, filters and selfies but is that the real beauty?
I fought my own battles with acne since I can remember and there was not a single day in school I tried to hide it and cover my hormonal acne with foundation.
Why did I say battles instead of one battle?
Getting pumped with antibiotics for my chronic urinary tract infections (UTI) during my teenage years left my gut and its microbiome in the worst shape possible. I trusted my doctors and took every batch as prescribed over and over again. But little did I know at the time, I was just making things worse as the bacteria were already so resistant to the antibiotics that all it has done was killed off my good flora over and over again.
It took years for me to realise the connection between the gut-skin-axis and how my acne wasn’t the result of inadequate washing, toning and exfoliating my skin, but of the completely imbalanced gut microbiome.
So let’s focus first on the skin as it is the largest organ in our body.
Our skin acts as a physical barrier that protects us from all the dangers our body has to face from the complex outside environment. While providing us with protection from foreign pathogens, our skin creates a safe home to the commensal microbiota. It is this microbiota and its diversity that contributes to healthy-looking, glowing skin.
To understand the skin-microbiome concept and all the new skincare claims, you need to know a little about the gut microbiome and the role it composes in your skin health. Both, the skin and our gut, host a microbial diverse crew known as the microbiome. The microbiome consists of an endless number of bacteria, fungi, viruses and mites.
All are crucial to our health, but if an imbalance occurs and some multiply and begin to dominate, issues such as acne, psoriasis and even eczema turn into the biggest nightmare of our life.
There are three essential forms of flora; beneficial, neutral and harmful. These three types of flora need to be perfectly balanced and synchronised for effective functioning. But before getting deeper into the hot topic of the gut microbiome and skin microbiome, you need to understand the basic concept of prebiotics and probiotics.
Prebiotics vs. probiotics
While these two terms sound very similar, their roles differ in the digestive system.
PREbiotic fibre is a non-digestible part of food that goes through the small intestine undigested and is eventually fermented when it reaches the large colon. Some of these include bananas, onions, garlic, Jerusalem artichokes, chicory root, beans and many others.
How is it fermented?
If you guessed by your microbes, you guessed right. This fermentation process helps in feeding beneficial bacteria, including PRObiotic bacteria in your gut.
The more PREbiotic fibre you consume the better, as you increase the number of beneficial bacteria in the digestive system. The more diverse the bacteria, the more healthy you become and the more your skin will glow!
On the other hand, PRObiotics are the actual live bacteria that your microbiome consists of. They include various strains of uniquely helpful bacteria that occur naturally in and on your body. These bacteria are naturally created by a fermentation process in certain foods, like yoghurt, sauerkraut, miso, kimchi and others.
PRObiotics can also be consumed in a pill form. Looking for the best PRObiotic supplement? the best clinically-proven probiotic supplement on the market.
PRObiotics and PREbiotics work synergistically together.
PREbiotics are a food source for your current living probiotic bacteria that optimally do their role in protecting and nurturing all the body systems.
So, if you’re asking yourself if taking a probiotic along with an unhealthy diet and lifestyle is enough, the answer is 100% NO!
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The three states of gut
The benefits of probiotics (good bacteria) go beyond keeping your gut healthy. They are the “second brain” in your body that controls everything, assuming that the bacteria are well balanced. There are three different stages your gut can be experiencing and only one is the optimal state for your health to thrive.
Now, let’s have a look at each state individually.
Probiotics and gut-skin homeostasis
Homeostasis is the perfect stable balance of bodily functions in your body. Simply put, everything is working as it should be. Your skin is performing all the essential tasks to absolute perfection– protection, temperature regulation, water retention, regeneration and much more!
Gut and skin have much in common. Though we know very little about the gut-skin-axis for now, there is already a clear relation between the two and its influence on each other and the overall systemic immunity in our bodies.
Forbes et al. 2015 discovered that certain gut microbes and their metabolites (fancy word for a small molecule) promote a build up certain white blood cells called lymphocytes which facilitate an anti-inflammatory response.
Great news! So the good bacteria fight the inflammation in and on our body.
Another effective mechanism is created by the production of short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), specifically butyrate that is produced from the fermentation of PREbiotics. This is why PRObiotics are not enough. To achieve optimal health and balanced microbiome its a must to follow a healthy, balanced, gut-friendly diet high in prebiotic fibre.
The overall mechanism of SCFAs not only influences the immune cell activation and apoptosis but promotes hair follicle stem cell differentiation and wound healing.
Suffering from a skin condition such as acne, psoriasis or acne? Maybe it is time to discover how to heal your gut microbiome!
Probiotics and gut-skin allostasis
Allostasis is the process of achieving stability and therefore the crucial homeostasis in our body after a disturbance or a stressor. This can be done physiologically or through a behavioural change. Once again, the gut microbiome contributes to this mechanism also.
Multiple studies have shown a great impact the gut bacteria have on a disturbed skin. Baba et at. (2010) decreased the severity of a type of dermatitis by administering Lactobacillus helveticus orally to mice in just 4 weeks.
Another interesting research was conducted by Poutahidis et al. (2013) who found a faster healing process after the consumption of Lactobacillus reuteri.
What does this mean?
The commensal gut flora can potentially promote skin allostasis (in other words, heal the skin). Most health conditions are the result of some form of inflammation, if it is acne or rosacea there is a lot of promising studies showing great potential in the treatment and prevention of these skin conditions.
Probiotics and gut-skin dyshomeostasis
Finally, skin dyshomeostasis.
Surely, you have already heard of intestinal dysbiosis and if you haven’t, no worries.
Dysbiosis, in a nutshell, is an imbalance between the good and bad bacteria living in your gut.
This imbalance can negatively impact your skin function. Yes, you read that right, NEGATIVELY! So if you eat garbage your skin will eventually look, well not so great. Every bite of fast food, processed products, sweets, snacks…will eventually bite you back, sooner or later.
An unhealthy diet can drastically affect your bacterial balance in the gut which affects your skin microbiome and the quality of your skin.
Q: What if I’ve been eating healthy for a while and my skin is still covered with pimples?
A: My best advice is to look back at your lifestyle, medication taken and environment, because all these and many more have an influence on your microbiome. Eating healthy is a good and necessary start but if you have been on an antibiotic rollercoaster in the past, it may take some time to get that balance back.
Skin is the largest organ of the body and is constantly exposed to physical, chemical, bacterial, and fungal challenges. This complex and dynamic ecosystem that is right in front of our eyes (yet we can’t see it with a naked eye) works synergistically with the gut microbiome.
If one is imbalanced so is the other, always remember that.
Even though further research is required for us to better understand the physiological mechanisms of these two ecosystems networking together, the information we already know is sufficient for you to take action today and convert the unhealthy dyshomeostasis to a healthy, well-balanced gut-skin homeostasis.
Ready to get your life back, become symptom-free and adopt a new, sustainable lifestyle that will make your microbiome feel thrilled and jubilant? Book a FREE 30-minute session with a qualified nutritionist to discuss the best strategy for you to heal once and for all!