People say that beauty is skin-deep, but research shows that actually, it goes much, much deeper than that––right down to your gut, in fact.¹
It makes sense, if you think about it. Your skin is the largest organ in your body, and how it looks can be an indicator of what’s going on internally, especially with the bacteria in your gut.
Now, to some extent, skin blemishes are just one of those things that we all have to deal with sometimes in life. And if you’re only getting them every so often, or as part of a regular change in your body (we’re looking at you, hormones), then chances are they’re nothing to worry about.
But if you’re finding that you’re often getting outbreaks, blotches, lines, or redness—or you’re suddenly getting loads of skin issues that you’ve never had before—it might be time to take a look at the health of your gut.
Healthy Gut, Happy Skin
You might be thinking, “How can the bacteria in my gut have anything to do with my skin?”
The truth is that your gut plays a bigger role in what happens with the rest of your body than you might realize. In fact, changes in your gut microbiome can cause changes in your immune system, the way your hormones are produced or used in your body, and how well you absorb nutrients from what you eat.2,3
If your intestinal microbiome is unbalanced (AKA there are more of certain types of bacteria than others), it can throw things off throughout your whole system.
We’re only just beginning to understand the role that bacteria may play in skin health, but recent studies have shown that having a good balance of bacteria in your gut can help ward off immune-related redness and may reduce oxidative stress (when there are more free radicals than your body can effectively deal with, which can show up in all kinds of ways, including changes in your skin).4 Not to mention that it can help promote better sleep, support a healthy glucose balance, and help you clear that feeling of being just a little bit out of it (also called “brain fog”).
A healthy microbiome is also one of the key elements to keeping your digestion working properly, including the incredibly important function of absorbing nutrients.
You see, your skin is just like any other part of your body: it needs a range of nutrients to function and look its best. But if your microbiome is off, then your intestines may be affected to the point that you’re not absorbing all the nutrients you need, including important ones for skin health like vitamins A - D, copper, and zinc.
How Does Your Microbiome Become Unbalanced in the First Place?
There are lots of different reasons this might happen, including everything from stress to the natural aging process to our modern Western lifestyle. Diet plays a big role here too: eating a diet that’s heavy on sugar, fried foods, or processed foods is rough on your bacteria. (Though this can be reversed more quickly and easily than you might think). Plus, we tend to have some overzealous habits in Western culture when it comes to hygiene and cleanliness that can get rid of all the bacteria we need, as well as the ones we don’t.
Of course, taking things like antibiotics can also have a significant impact on your microbiome. While antibiotics are incredibly valuable, they do need to be used responsibly, since they don’t distinguish between the different types of bacteria in your body.
Even if you haven’t been taking antibiotic medications, there are also many ways that you can be exposed to these types of substances without realizing it. For instance, some commercial farmers use antibiotics in large-scale doses to make their livestock grow bigger and stay well. Those substances can remain in the meat, dairy products, and eggs you eat, and get passed on to you.
How Can I Support My Skin?
If you’re struggling with problem-skin, it could be that these many factors are weighing on your good gut health and creating issues for your microbiome. But don’t worry––we’ve got some great tips to help you clear your complexion from the inside out!
1. Become more aware of what’s going into (and onto) your body.
Think about what you’re putting into your body, whether that’s medications that you’re taking or exposed to through food, substances in the water you drink, or even materials in the cleaning products you use. Studies show that the food we put into our body can influence our microbes in just hours. It all adds up, and it’s easy to get into a place where you’ve got more of these types of things in your body than you’d like.
The same goes for lotions, face creams, and cosmetics. You might not realize it but even the most expensive, luxurious beauty creams and facials might contain hidden chemicals and additives that are not only bad for your skin, but they're bad for your microbial health overall. Be sure to read the labels and skip products that contain antimicrobials like Triclosan and others that aren't so ideal for your body.
2. Consider adding some prebiotics to your diet.
Now that you know how your skin’s health is connected to your gut’s health, try making some easy changes to improve your microbial balance. One of the easiest things you can do is to add prebiotic foods (foods that feed the bacteria in your gut and help them thrive) to your diet. Onions, asparagus, bananas, garlic, and kiwifruit are especially great, but pretty much any veggie is good. The thing is, our ancestors had fantastically diverse microbiomes and consumed a hearty 50 to 100 grams of prebiotic fiber every day. That’s a big difference from the recommended 5 to 8 daily grams that most of us struggle to consume. You can make sure you get a good daily dose of nourishment for your good guys by adding an organic prebiotic powder supplement to your diet.
3. Get dirty.
This might sound counterintuitive––after all, we’re so surrounded by messages telling us that the key to great skin is to use name-brand cleansers––but being exposed to more types of bacteria can help your microbiome flourish. And, the healthier your microbiome, the better your skin is likely to be.
This doesn’t mean that you immediately have to scrap your cleansing routine though! Just try to spend some time outdoors, and whenever you’re cleaning, whether it’s your skin or your home, try to stick to natural soaps and cleansers.
4. See your skin for what it really is: an amazing organ with insights into your overall health.
It’s really easy to get down on yourself or particular parts of your body that don’t look like the magazines. But take a minute to appreciate all that your skin does for you. It not only acts as a barrier to keep out potentially harmful substances, it also gives you a sneak peek into how the rest of your body is doing. And that’s something we think is worth celebrating! If something seems to be up with your skin, take it as a sign that something could possibly be amiss with your microbial balance.
5. Give your gut a chance to start over with a probiotic.
If you think that you might have been putting your microbiome through the wringer (think: eating foods that aren’t great for you, being exposed to a lot of medication, or just generally not paying any attention to it for a while), then consider giving it a boost with an effective probiotic supplement.
For skin support, we really love PRO-15. It’s got 15 different types of great probiotic bacteria, including Bifidobacteria, which can help your body absorb nutrients and support your immune system, both of which can affect your skin.
Give these gut healthy tips a try to see just what happens to your skin once you get your gut back on board!
1. Bowe, W.P., Logan, A.C. (2011). Acne Vulgaris, Probiotics and the Gut-Brain-Skin Axis - Back to the Future? Gut Pathogens, 3(1). doi:10.1186/1757-4749-3-1
2. Cummings, J.H., Antoine, J.M., Azpiroz, F. et al. (2004). Gut Health and Immunity. European Journal of Nutrition 43(Suppl 2). doi:10.1007/s00394-004-1205-4
3. Flint, H.J., Scott, K.P., Louis, P., Duncan, S.H. (2012). The Role of the Gut Microbiota in Nutrition and Health. Nature Reviews Gastroenterology and Hepatology 9. doi:10.1038/nrgastro.2012.156.
4. Sharma, D., Kober, M.M., & Bowe, W.P. (2016). Anti-Aging Effects of Probiotics. Journal of Drugs in Dermatology, 15(1), 9-12.