If you’ve tried everything under the sun to improve your skin, all to no avail, the problem might be…your gut. Gut-skin axis is a thing and refers to the constant exchange of signals between the skin and the gut. Simply put, it means that what you put in your body plays an important role in the health of your skin. Yes, the skin is like a barometer for what’s going on inside the gut, and it might try to tell you something. That’s why I wrote this post; to help you decipher whether your gut is out of whack or healthy by looking at your skin. You’ll also learn how to improve gut health and get that lit-from-within-glow you’ve been long after.
How does gut health affect the skin?
Called the “second brain,” the gut affects everything from the skin’s condition to energy levels and hormone balance and plays a crucial role in the body’s immune system. In fact, “Seventy percent of the immune system is located in the gut,” says David Heber, MD, Ph.D., professor emeritus of medicine at UCLA Health. When the gut is healthy, it can help reduce inflammation throughout the body, which is essential for overall health. On the other hand, when the gut is awry, it can cause swelling and a host of other issues that can negatively impact our skin’s appearance.
The gut and skin communicate through the gut-skin axis. When something’s wrong with the gut, the body responds with inflammation and oxidative stress, which triggers the skin to react. The most common skin problems that an unbalanced gut can cause include acne, eczema, rosacea, and premature aging. So, in case you’re struggling with any of these concerns, it’s worth exploring how to improve your gut health and support its microbiome.
How to improve gut health
Improving gut health involves making lifestyle changes that promote a healthy balance of gut bacteria and improve digestive function. Here are some tips to get you started on your gut health journey:
Eat a balanced and varied diet
Eating a diet that’s packed with whole, plant-based foods, healthy fats, antioxidants, and lean proteins is one great way to improve your gut health. Doing this can help nourish the gut’s good bacteria, which is essential for proper digestion and overall health. Equally important is to include prebiotic and probiotic-rich foods such as yogurt, kefir, kimchi, sauerkraut, and tempeh in your regular diet.
Drinking eight glasses of water and other hydrating fluids (like green tea) is key to supporting healthy digestion. “Our bodies need water for skin health, immunity, and energy, but also to push things along through digestion,” explains Keri Glassman, a registered dietitian.
Stress can disrupt the balance of good bacteria in your gut by releasing hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. Therefore, trying to quell anxiety and keep stress levels low through techniques like meditation, yoga, or deep breathing exercises are likely changes that yield major results.
Get enough sleep
Sleep deprivation can contribute to gut imbalance by increasing inflammation levels in the body. The rule of thumb is to sleep about 7-8 hours per night, but I know that it’s not always easy to achieve that. That’s why I suggest implementing a few simple changes, such as quitting screen time at least 30 minutes before bed, to help you ease into a more restful sleep. Gradually adjusting your sleep time by going to bed 15 minutes earlier each night can also be a helpful strategy to get to your goal bedtime and ensure you’re getting the right amount of shut-eye for optimal gut health and overall well-being.
I know you’ve been hearing it over and over again, but really, exercising is needed for skin health, immunity, and energy, and recently, it has been shown that it also enhances the good bacteria in the gut. It doesn’t matter whether you choose to hit the gym, take dancing classes, or go for a short walk; what really matters is consistency.
Limit processed foods, alcohol, and sugar
All these can disrupt the balance of good bacteria in your gut and lead to inflammation and digestive problems.
Consider taking a probiotic supplement
If you’re not getting enough probiotics through your diet, a supplement can help boost your levels of beneficial gut bacteria. However, before you start taking any new supplements, it’s always a good idea to talk to your doctor. They can advise you on the best supplements for your needs and help you avoid any potential interactions with other medications you might be taking.
Our body is a system, and the link between skin and gut health is undeniable. Our gut is home to trillions of bacteria that play a role in maintaining the health and balance of our bodies. By taking care of our gut through proper diet, sleep, exercise, and stress management, we can promote the growth of beneficial bacteria and reduce the risk of skin issues like acne, eczema, and rosacea. At the end of the day, by prioritizing our gut health, we can enjoy healthy skin that truly glows from the inside out.
Women’s Concepts uses reliable sources, including dermatologists’ insights, clinical trials, and scientific journals, to find accurate information and support all the facts shared in our articles. All statements and claims have clear and legit references. Read our editorial policy to learn more about our sources of information, our process of researching and fact-checking the content, and how our team strives to keep all articles updated, completed, and trustworthy.
- Shivani Sinha, Gloria Lin, Katalin Ferenczi, The skin microbiome and the gut-skin axis, Clinics in Dermatology, Volume 39, Issue 5, 2021, Pages 829-839, ISSN 0738-081X
- Ucla Health, Sandy Cohen, If you want to boost immunity, look to the gut, March 19, 2021
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