Gut health has become a buzzword lately and for good reason. Healthy digestion and a healthy gut are central to optimal health. Problems in the digestive tract have far reaching effects throughout the body and can be involved in a wide array of health concerns such as diabetes, thyroid disorders, heart disease, mood disorders, neurologic disorders, obesity, gynecologic disorders, skin disorders etc. Our skin, the largest organ of our body, and our digestive tract are inextricably linked because they share common embryologic origin. This correlation is often referred to as the gut-skin axis.
Which skin conditions are related to gut health?
A better question is probably which skin conditions aren’t related to digestive health. Most chronic skin conditions are caused by multiple factors and digestive health is a contributing factor that cannot be ignored in many of them including: Acne, eczema, rosacea, melasma, psoriasis, hidradenitis suppurativa, seborrheic dermatitis, vitiligo and many others.
If my digestive system is off, won’t I have digestive symptoms?
Not necessarily. If you’re thinking you must digestive symptoms to have a digestive problem, think again. While symptoms like diarrhea, constipation, indigestion… can be indicators of gut health, they don’t always have to be present. Imbalances in digestive health are often present without any digestive symptoms. Another thing to keep in mind is that in our society, often times we have become accustomed to mediocre digestive function, so we may not realize that what we’re experiencing day-to-day is not optimal. The digestive system impacts many aspects of how the body functions directly and indirectly, which can impact skin health as a result.
Gut health impacts many factors that correlate with skin health:
Food sensitivities - suboptimal digestion can lead to food sensitivities if proteins that are normally broken down can enter the bloodstream and trigger an immune response
Hormone balance - sluggish digestion and elimination can interfere with liver function and hormone balance.
Nutrient absorption - nutritional status is the foundation of good health. When digestion is less than optimal it can interfere with our ability to assimilate macro and micronutrients. Learn more about micronutrients HERE.
Immune health - a healthy microbiome and nutrient absorption play a vital role in maintaining a strong immune system to fight off infections and a balanced immune response.
Blood sugar control - new research correlates both type 1 and type 2 diabetes with microbiome health
Detoxification - overgrowth of bugs can cause an accumulation of toxic byproducts that can circulate in the bloodstream causing inflammation
Leaky Gut - when the barrier between your digestive tract and your bloodstream is not intact it give way to systemic inflammation
Dysbiosis - any imbalance of the microbes in the digestive tract - overgrowth and/or undergrowth of normal flora OR presence of pathogens.
How can I improve my gut health? Can I just take a probiotic or bone broth?
Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. In order to effectively correct a problem, you have to first identify it. A number of supplements and natural remedies have been popularized as being beneficial for digestive health. However general recommendations for digestive health may or may not benefit you as an individual. As an example products like collagen and bone broth are generally recommended for healing leaky gut, but they may or may not benefit you if you don’t know YOUR cause. In fact they could make your digestive symptoms worse if you are not deficient in glutamine and are taking it in a more concentrated form. Similarly, a probiotic formula may or may not be helpful without having any information on the balance of bacteria in your digestive tract.
Which tests can assess my gut health?
There are a number of tests available in each category, so it’s important to discuss with your healthcare provider which test(s) will be most valuable based on your health concerns.
Digestive health can have profound effects throughout the body including affecting our skin. There are several aspects to optimizing gut health, which is why a personalized approach is needed. Identifying specific factors that are affecting your digestive health will help you enhance your digestive health with certainty and within a shorter period of time.
Written By: Shayna Peter NMD, CNS, LDN
Functional Medicine Naturopathic Doctor | Holistic Dermatology Expert
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