Gut Microbiome and the Skin

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March 11th, 2019
by Kelley Viswanath, FNP-C

The intestinal tract hosts a variety of bacteria that constantly work to keep our immune system and homeostasis (normal internal regulatory systems) of our bodies in alignment. Changes in microbial composition and function of the gut have recently been linked to alterations in immune responses and to the development of skin conditions1. Our diverse gut bacteria play a role in many inflammatory disorders of the skin. The gut and skin defend our bodies against harmful agents, and both are covered in beneficial bacteria when in a healthy state2. When the “good” and “bad” bacteria are out of balance, gut lining can be can become compromised. This leads to the immune system over-reacting which can lead excess inflammation within the body and the skin.

Our gut is greatly influenced by what we eat. Incorporating prebiotics and probiotics to the diet have been proven beneficial in the prevention and treatment of inflammatory skin diseases including acne, psoriasis, and atopic dermatitis. Various probiotics have been shown to control the release of negative inflammatory markers that can cause and worsen negative skin conditions such as acne and dermatitis (inflammation of the skin)3.

Probiotics are microorganisms naturally present in the digestive tract that aid in digestion and reduce inflammation. There are many different classes of probiotics. Many fermented products contain probiotics, which means the bacteria in them are still living. Probiotic-rich foods include yogurt, aged cheeses, kefir, kombucha, miso, pickles, sauerkraut, and tempeh. Prebiotics are non-digestible compounds that probiotics grow and thrive. Eating a wide variety of nutrient dense whole foods will ensure you are getting enough prebiotics. Resistant starch, inulin, and non-digestible carbohydrates are primarily found in fruits and vegetables. Therefore, what we eat MATTERS! Eating a plant-based diet that limits added sugars and processed foods will support not only our immunity and health, but our skin as well.

References:

  1. Lee S, Lee E, Yoon M, Soo-Jong H. “Microbiome in the Gut-Skin Axis in Atopic Dermatitis.” Allergy Asthma Immunology Resp. 2018 July; 10(4): 354-362. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6021588
  2. Quigley E. “Gut Bacteria in Health and Disease.” Gastroenterology Hepatology. 2013 September; 9(9): 560-569.
  3. Salem I, Ramser A, Isham N, Ghannoum M. “The Gut Microbiome as a Major Regulator of the Gut-Skin Axis.” Front Microbiol. 2018; 9: 1459. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6048199