More and more studies are showing the stomach has as much influence as the brain on how we feel. A balanced gut flora works miracles for our physical as well as our mental health, and can even give us better skin. Just like the stomach, the skin also has a flora of good bacteria that are important to our health and are affected by our diet and lifestyle. The condition of our skin is simultaneously affected by the bacteria in the gut, and it can suffer if the gut flora is out of balance. In this article, we explain the connection between our skin and our gut flora and we give tips on how you can improve your skin by taking care of the good bacteria – both in your stomach and on your skin.
Just as our gut flora consists of a number of bacteria, viruses, and other microorganisms, the skin also has an ecosystem of microorganisms. At least one million bacteria live on every square centimetre of our skin, along with various fungi, viruses and mites. These microorganisms protect against infections, promote healing of sores, and at the same time act as a protective barrier to external stresses from our environment. The skin is also the body’s largest organ, and the micro-organisms on the skin also affect the rest of the body. In other words, we’re dependent on a balanced bacterial flora on our skin in order for the whole body to feel good.
Research shows that people with a lot of acne don’t have the same diversity of microorganisms on the skin as people without acne do. Studies have also shown that skin conditions such as rosacea, acne, and psoriasis can be caused by an imbalance of the skin’s bacterial flora, while a balanced bacterial skin flora can counteract certain types of skin cancer. Unfortunately, nowadays we use lots of hygiene products that upset the balance of the skin’s micro-organisms since they contain strong chemicals that can reduce the amount of good bacteria on our skin, which can lead to skin problems in the long run.
The gut flora helps to maintain the balance and equilibrium of the body and an imbalance in the gut flora can have a huge impact on the body’s other organs, especially our skin. More and more studies are connecting good skin with good digestive health, with a balanced gut flora being shown to counteract skin problems such as eczema, acne and rosacea. The stomach and the skin have a constant dialogue in which imbalances in the gut flora have a direct impact on the skin’s condition. The gut flora accounts for 70% of our immune system and affects the nutrients, hormones and enzymes that our body needs in order to feel good. If we have an imbalance in the gut flora, the skin will often be the first indicator that something is wrong.
Typical skin problems that can be signs that the gut flora is out of balance are pimples, rashes, redness, dryness, or that the skin just feels dull and less elastic. Research shows there’s a strong link between inflammation in the gut and inflammation in the skin, whereby people with acne and rosacea are ten times more likely to have stomach problems. It’s also been observed that 34% of people with IBS also suffer from skin problems linked to stomach disease. In other words, taking care of your gut and making sure your digestive health is good can give your skin a radiance and clarity that skin care treatments and creams could never manage.
Prebiotics are a type of difficult-to-digest fibre that nourishes the good bacteria, helps with the digestive process, inhibits the growth of dangerous bacteria, and strengthens the immune system. A diet that contains a lot of prebiotics stimulates the diversity of good bacteria and works wonders for your health. Some examples of foods you can choose to provide your body with much-needed prebiotics are walnuts, onions, asparagus, artichokes, garlic, oatmeal, red lentils, and soybeans.
To preserve the good bacteria on your skin, you should avoid using very strong soaps and face washes. It could be a good idea to take a look at the products in your bathroom cabinet and perhaps replace some of them with milder products. There are also some skincare products with added probiotics that can help to preserve the diversity of bacteria and other microorganisms that your skin needs in order to look and feel good.
It can be good to add some more healthy digestive bacteria as a complement to a nutritious, high-fibre diet with lots of fruits and vegetables – it gives the micro-organisms in the gut an extra boost. For example, try adding fermented foods that contain live bacteria to your daily diet, for example from a couple of tablespoons of sauerkraut or kimchi. Good bacteria (probiotics) and fibre (prebiotics) can also be taken in a concentrated form as a synbiotic supplement – find out more here!