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Skin/Gut Axis

What is the Skin/Gut Axis?

Your gut health affects your skin in many ways.

Beauty comes from the inside out and many patients describe difficulties with eczema or acne. Meanwhile they fail to mention long term stomach complaints, or food and environmental allergies. This oversight is part of not considering the skin/gut axis and chronic medical conditions. Dr. Cushing, as part of a new patient appointment, leads each patient through a detailed medical history. Often patients have never had the opportunity to put the puzzle pieces of their symptom picture together until led by a skilled provider.

What is the Skin/Gut Axis

The Skin/Gut Axis is the relationship of the skin and its microbiome, providing a protective barrier for the body. The microbiome of the intestinal tract has been much discussed. Less has been written about the microbiome (the healthy bacteria, microorganisms, and viruses) of the skin. Typically these microbiota work together to keep the skin healthy and the gut and internal microbiome protected. Unfortunately at times, the skin microbiome becomes unbalanced, leading to skin disruptions.

Skin Barrier Protection

The outer layer of the skin is a complex organ, it includes:

  • Proteins
  • Lipids
  • Skin Microbiome
  • Skin Immune System
  • Acid Mantle

Signs of a Damaged Skin Barrier

Typically, it’s easy to know when your skin barrier is working properly, signs of a damaged skin barrier include:

  • Unusual skin dryness or oiliness, including unusual breakouts
  • Burning and stinging
  • Redness, swelling and pain
  • dry, patchy, flaky and/or peeling spots on the skin

Conditions associated with a disrupted Skin/Gut Axis

These parts work together to form healthy skin function, when your skin/gut axis is compromised inflammation results, leading to chronic internal and external medical conditions. These may include:

These conditions are external skin conditions, however a damaged skin barrier may also lead to bacterial infections, impaired wound healing, impetigo, cellulitis and other conditions. Damage to the skin barrier also results in inflammation, dehydration and skin sensitivity.

Improving the Skin/Gut Axis

Changes in digestive enzymes, amount of bile and stomach acids disrupt digestion and skin health. These changes cause vital nutrients, including fat soluble vitamins to not be correctly absorbed by the body and interfere with the vitality and integrity of our skin.

Supporting GI functions with all natural, proven supplementation and a healthy protein rich and anti-inflammatory diet is important for the quality of our skin. Foods rich in zinc, like seafood and nuts, help with digestion and collagen production. Eating a diverse array of vegetables and fruits is beneficial, as they are great sources of antioxidants, prebiotics, fiber, vitamins and minerals. Pineapple specifically contains natural digestive enzymes, including pepsin and vitamin C which are important for skin health.

Adding fermented foods like yogurt, kimchi and sauerkraut, is a great idea. The beneficial effects of gut bacteria and skin health appearance are documented in a number of studies. Finally, refrain from foods and substances that are inflammatory and reactive in the body is strongly encouraged.

Healing the Skin Barrier

The key to healing your skin barrier is to treat your skin very gently.

  • Wash with lukewarm, not hot water
  • Use non-soap cleansers labeled fragrance free and for sensitive skin
  • Exfoliate gently, consider an organic facial
  • Keep skin moisturized, use products with ceramides, fatty acids and lipids
  • Use sunscreen every day
  • Do not pick or pop pimples

Healing the skin/gut axis includes proper nutrition, sleep hygeine, hydration, and gentle skin care. Your skin is a living organ and the first line defense against pathogens, bacteria, and viruses. Holistic medicine considers the whole body when treating chronic conditions.

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Author Info

Arthur Cushing