Gut-Skin Connection: What to Know, According to Experts

The more we learn about the importance of gut health, the more we learn about its effects on other parts of our body. The connection between gut and brain health has received a lot of attention – but have you heard of the gut-skin connection?

Experts say ours gut microbiome also plays a role in our skin health, from influencing certain conditions to aiding in wound healing.

“We’ve learned over the last few years that the gut-skin connection is actually stronger than we ever thought in the past,” Renata Block, a physician assistant at Advanced Dermatology & Aesthetic Medicine in Chicago, told CBS News.

While the gut microbiome refers to the trillions of bacteria, viruses and fungi that live in our guts, our skin has its own microbiome that helps protect us.

“Skin is the largest organ in the human body and … is a first-line barrier from the external environment,” explains Block. “We have to have a balance between the two for them to regulate and connect.”

“The microbiome in the skin and the gut keeps us healthy. It keeps our immune system in check, and if the immune system is out of control, it’s kind of like a moment, if you will, and this inflammatory moment. reaction … it’s just a response from the body that is just out of balance.”

How can our gut affect our skin?

The microbiome plays an important role in “a wide range of skin conditions,” from acne to dandruff and even skin canceraccording to a 2021 examination.

“Not only is the skin microbiome altered, but also a surprising number of skin diseases are accompanied by an altered gut microbiome,” note the study’s authors. “The microbiome is a key regulator of the immune system as it aims to maintain homeostasis by communicating with tissues and organs.”

So when a healthy balance is disturbed in the skin or gut microbiome, an imbalance called dysbiosis occurs, which can alter the immune response and accelerate the development of skin diseases such as eczemathe most common of which is called atopic dermatitis.

“We are learning that eczema can worsen if we have gut dysbiosis or leaky gut“, Block says. “But we’re also learning because of the inflammation that this dysbiosis causes that there are other inflammatory diseases.”

These include:

  • Psoriasis, a disease that causes itchy, scaly patches on the skin
  • Seborrheic dermatitis, which Block describes as “a fancy word for scaly skin”
  • Rosacea
  • Vitiligo
  • Hidradenitis suppurativa or HS

“(HS) is a condition where you get these huge boils that are very, very painful … and they can be chronic and uncomfortable, but we’re learning that the microbiome can play a role in that as well,” says Block.

She emphasizes the importance of the microbiome in the skin and gut to keep us healthy.

“It keeps our immune system in check, and if the immune system is out of control, it wreaks havoc… (with) this inflammatory response, and it’s just a response from the body that’s out of balance.”

How to support your stomach-skin connection

Fortunately, there are things you can do to support your gut and skin health individually, which can lead to a positive gut-skin connection.

In addition to eating a healthy, balanced diet — like experts agree that it is crucial to support our gut microbiome – there are also ways to protect your skin’s microbiome.

“The skin is the barrier to the outside world, and keeping that barrier healthy is the most important thing,” says Block, explaining that when our skin barrier is broken down, there is an increased risk of infections or pathogens entering the body through the skin.

How can you maintain a healthy barrier? Blok suggests:

  • Toning down hot showers – Go easy on the skin.
  • Use of gentle cleaning agents — “Don’t remove the skin too much of the barrier we have on the outside,” she says, adding that you shouldn’t over-exfoliate or use harsh exfoliating agents either.
  • Refund after shower — After you get out of the shower, use a moisturizer rich in ceramides, a type of fat molecule naturally found in skin cells. “(It’s) going to replace all that moisture back in the body and keep the skin healthy,” she says.

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