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The Skin Series - Is a healthy gut the key to healthy skin?

Updated: Feb 19

Welcome back to another blog in the skin series, and final one for now in this series. I have personally enjoyed covering these subjects, and I hope you have enjoyed reading them!

I have so many more subjects I wish to cover. My main aim to educate and help others gain awareness in such a diverse subject that is nutrition, as it can impact so many aspects of our lives.

As I have said many times before, nutrition and our diet is not a miracle cure but it can certainly influence particular elements of our health and bodies. Very importantly it can make us feel great inside and out!

This week I am going to cover gut health and skin, which is one subject that fascinates me and I am eager to watch the research grow in this area.

Gut health is a trending topic right now, but with seemingly endless advice out there about what it means and how to maintain it, it can be hard to separate fact from myths. This blog should fill you in on the basic facts surrounding healthy gut bacteria, as well as offering some tips for your own gut health.

How often do you see advertising convincing you to shot that disgusting drink, or banish X, Y and Z from your diet and expect that healthy and glowing skin you have always wanted? Does it really work? Or is the information just too confusing?

So let's dive in...

First of all, What do we mean when we say gut health?

The gut or gastrointestinal tract (or the GI tract or GIT for short) also known as the digestive system (the lower part of the digestive system), or the bowel. Loads of names I know, but as always the research never keeps it simple for us. The bowel goes from the stomach to the anus.

This organ is so much more than just an insignificant organ for our waste products. We know that this complicated organ is responsible for digesting and absorbing energy and nutrients from our food, so pretty key.

Gut health in particular refers to the physical state and physiologic function of the many parts of the gastrointestinal tract or the gut. So how well it works, and how it is looked after.

Recent research has begun to show us the importance of the “good” and how “bad” bacteria within our gut can affect key elements to our health, from the immune system, to metabolism and even contributing to mental health issues and obesity.

The ‘gut microbiome’ is the term used to describe the combination of those bacteria, the yeasts and the fungi in our gut.

A ‘diverse microbiome’ (one with lots of these organisms) is thought to be a good indicator of a ‘healthy’ gut.

The skin microbiome is a bit different and research in this area is in its early stages. In skin conditions like eczema, sufferers have different amounts of certain bacteria, which can lead to flare ups in the skin.

Understanding this balance could lead to potential individualised treatments. Some people first experience psoriasis after streptococcus throat infections, suggesting that our immune system does have an effect on skin diseases. We are just beginning to explore this link more and more, but further in depth research is needed.

How can we keep the gut or the digestive system happy and healthy through our diet?

The gut microbiome is positively impacted by diet, mainly, the plant based foods.

What we do know, is it is the diversity of those plant based foods we eat that influence this. Research says, to aim for 30 different types per week, of fruit, vegetables, nuts, grains and legumes. This doesn't mean you have to go fully plant based, just getting a range in, whilst making it as colourful as you can. It doesn't have to be complimented. Many of these foods you already eat.

Prebiotics are the fertiliser for our gut bacteria and consist of fibre, found in potatoes, wholegrain bread and oats, as well as in fruits and vegetables. Mix in some probiotic foods too which contain live bacteria, like kimchi, sauerkraut and some yoghurts. No fancy supplements required, just a colourful, diverse plant based rich diet.

Can we improve our skin through a healthy gut diet?

Unfortunately, there is no one dedicated skin health diet that is supported by current reliable research.

And no singular food is a skin superfood, instead the overall diversity of what we eat is likely to be more important to increase the nutrients and antioxidants which prevent skin damage, appearance and overall health.

Additionally, particular processed foods can impact our gut diversity, so moderation is key. I usually dislike using the word processed, as it can be confusing, in theory most things are processed through the journey in the food chain.