Millions of people around the world deal with skin blemishes like acne, eczema, and rosacea on a daily basis. You might blame your skin condition on a hormone imbalance—or maybe you can point to a specific trigger, like heat or drinking alcohol.
But according to Dr. Raj Kumar, a clinical professor of biochemistry at the University of Houston College of Medicine who specializes in the gastrointestinal system, there are a variety of skin conditions that are actually a sign of poor gut health. Apparently, there is a strong connection between your skin and your gut. Let’s explore this further.
Your Skin And Gut Have A Relationship
Dr. Kumar says that both your skin and your gut are “essential” when it comes to your body’s primary functions. They are both important to the maintenance of physiological homeostasis, which is the tendency of the body to maintain critical physiological parameters like blood pressure, blood glucose level, and core body temperature.
“Studies suggest an intimate, bidirectional connection between these two organs [skin and gut],” Dr. Kumar explained to MarthaStewart.com. “Human intestine hosts microbiomes, which provide important metabolic and immune benefits to the host. These gut microbiomes communicate with the skin as one of the main regulators in the ‘gut-skin axis.'”
In other words, what happens in your gut directly impacts your skin. That means a disrupted gut can result in a plethora of inflammatory skin disorders.
The Gut And Acne Flares
Microorganisms in the gut could be the reason many of us struggle with acne. Dr. Kumar explains that gut health has a major influence on “the pathophysiology of acne.” Which is a “skin condition that occurs when your hair follicles become plugged with oil and dead skin cells.”
Is Red, Itchy Skin A Sign?
The gastrointestinal specialist also noted that atopic dermatitis—aka eczema—could be another sign of poor gut health. If you’re struggling with inflamed skin and over the counter medications aren’t giving you any relief, Dr. Kumar says it could be the result of a disrupted gut.
“A link between intestinal dysbiosis (a persistent imbalance of gut microbiomes) and atopic dermatitis has been shown,” Dr. Kumar confirms.
Psoriasis And Rosacea
Dr. Kumar also points to the gut if your skin is more than red and itchy. He says the gut is to blame if you have scaly skin, and that symptom could indicate you are suffering from psoriasis.
The doc pointed out that psoriasis has been associated with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), which is a common gut disorder. If you’re suffering from rosacea, which often presents as red, swollen skin on the face, Dr. Kumar says that could be because of your gut too.
“Alterations in the gut microbiome have also been implicated in rosacea pathogenesis; this is a common skin condition that causes redness and visible blood vessels in the face,” he explains.
How To Determine If Your Gut Is To Blame
If you are dealing with chronic skin issues, there are ways to determine if your gut health is to blame. Dr. Kumar says the first step is to optimize your gut health. Since a healthy gut is so important to your overall health and wellness, this should be a priority even if you don’t have skin issues.
Identifying any underlying pathological gut conditions is a good place to start because Dr. Kumar says that “gut inflammation, irritable bowel syndrome, leaky gut, or related digestion problems can certainly affect skin health.”
Make an appointment with a dermatologist to find out for certain that your gut is impacting your skin health. They may recommend a lifestyle and/or diet change if your daily habits are causing inflammation in the gut.
However, it’s also possible your gut health is not the source of your skin issues. Consulting with a dermatologist will help you sort through the possibilities before you make any major changes.
Add Probiotics To Your Diet
Dr. Kumar notes there are some easy ways to improve your gut health, which will ultimately improve your skin’s appearance. He says the easiest thing to do is to add probiotics to your diet.
“They influence the skin by supporting the immune system and skin metabolism; they also regulate inflammation, thereby promoting balanced skin microbiomes to influence the ‘gut-skin axis,'” Dr. Kumar explained.
He says that probiotic supplements (we love this one from Garden of Life) can have a positive effect on cases of atopic dermatitis by lowering incidence and severity, and they also appear to be a promising acne treatment.
The Bottom Line
While the “gut-skin axis” cannot be ignored, a flawless complexion is possible with optimal gut health.
“This [a clear complexion] can be achieved by maintaining a healthy lifestyle, with exercise, healthy food habits, supplements (such as probiotics), stress reduction, and sound sleep,” Dr. Kumar says. “The bottom line—keep the gut healthy and it will in turn keep your skin healthy.”