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The Skin-Gut Connection | How is Skin and Gut Health Related?

As a teenager, did your parents ever tell you that if you kept drinking fizzy drinks and eating unhealthy snacks your pimples would never go away? You probably rebelled anyway, but if you’re still struggling with hormonal breakouts or other skin conditions, it may be time to finally take a look at your diet. The relationship between skin and gut health is fascinating and complex.

In recent years, there have been studies that prove inflammation is rooted in the strong connections between sugar and gut health, sugar and skin health, dairy and gut health, and dairy and skin health.

Now that you’re curious about skin health, let’s zero in on all the ways an unhealthy gut can cause breakouts and skin issues.

The Skin-Gut Connection

Did you know that the gut and skin play similar roles in our bodies? It might seem crazy to think about, but it’s true, these two very different looking organ systems work in our bodies collectively to do very similar and significant jobs. The skin is the body’s largest organ and, just like the gut, it’s made up of many tiny, living microorganisms. These microorganisms fight off harmful bacteria and keep our body’s bacteria balanced, maintain our immunity, and keep us in good overall health.

The skin’s trillions of microorganisms make up its very own microbiome too, just like the gut’s does. Microbiomes of the skin and gut work together within a direct connection which we call the gut-skin axis. The purpose of the gut-skin axis is to fight off any harmful pathogens that try to attack the body from the outside. But the only way our microbiomes can fight for our immunity and protect us from these bad guys is if they have a proper balance of bacteria and are healthy microbiomes themselves. 

Since the gut and the skin are so closely intertwined, the gut-skin axis communicates to influence:

  • Inflammation

  • Bad bacteria that can make us sick or cause irritation

  • Stress levels

  • Control over our blood sugar levels

  • Metabolism 

  • A balanced homeostasis

  • Mood regulation

As you can see, the gut-skin axis not only influences our gut and skin but also our overall body.

Skin Signs of an Unhealthy Gut 

We’ve all suffered from skin irritation or allergy rash at one point or another. Our skin is one of our body’s great messengers, it indicates when something may be off balance internally. Whether it's inflammation, allergies, hormones, or imbalanced gut flora causing the irritation, the skin will respond in a variety of ways: rash, hives, breakouts, discoloration.

While not every skin condition is directly associated with the gut, many unhealthy, extreme skin issues are connected to what we’re eating and the balance of bacteria in our body. 

Inflammatory bowel disease, for example, leads to a greater risk of inflammatory skin diseases like psoriasis. Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease that is directly related to the balance of bacteria in the gut and can worsen when the gut’s bacteria is off-balance. 

The list of gut-related skin conditions doesn’t stop there. Rosacea, acne, and dry skin are all skin conditions that have the same root cause, poor gut health and gut function.

  • Rosacea is a skin condition that causes a bumpy blush-like irritation on the face. The chronic condition is associated with a link between the skin and small intestine bacterial overgrowth.

  • Acne, a very common skin condition in young adults, clogs hair follicle pores with oil or dead skin. Acne can be associated with dysbiosis, a fancy word for an unbalanced and damaged gut.

  • Dry skin is an extremely common skin condition that is most commonly caused by environmental factors, although when chronic it can be directly linked with abnormal bowel movements.

How Does Inflammation Occur in the First Place?

Leaky gut is a condition in which toxins from the gut can leak from the small intestine into the bloodstream. This causes inflammation in the body … which certainly draws a link between leaky gut and unhealthy skin. Leaky gut is due to damage of the lining in the small intestine. The damage makes the lining thin and susceptible to letting leaky toxins into parts of the body where they don’t belong. 

Certain foods can cause and further trigger leaky gut, increasing inflammation and worsening symptoms. Most commonly, these foods include dairy products. Dai