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Gut health and its relevance to skin disorders         

It is definitely not ‘new’ news that our gut plays a huge role in skin, mental and overall health. New exciting discoveries are being made every day and we now know that beneficial microbes can produce vitamins our bodies can’t, reduce toxicity, break down our food to extract nutrients, influence and help our immune systems and even produce anti-inflammatory compounds that fight off other disease causing microbes.  But when the gut is in out of balance it can cause inflammation, disease, skin and even mental health disorders.

What influences our gut health?


It is said the human body has two brains, one in our skull the other in the gut. During foetal development, neural cells divide, and one part turns into your central nervous system while the other develops into your enteric nervous system which controls your digestive system. These two systems are connected via the vagus nerve, a nerve that runs from your brain to your abdomen and is constantly ‘listening’ out to what is going on around the body.  If it hears your heart racing (even from a scary movie) it will send messages back to the brain that you are under stress.  It is not evolved enough to distinguish ‘excited stress’ and ‘real life and death’ stress. This “brain-gut axis” explains why you get butterflies in your stomach when you’re nervous. When stress activates the “flight or fight” response in the central nervous system, digestion can literally shut down as blood flow reduces and blood is shunted away from the midsection, going to extremities in preparation to flee. Our nutrition is immediately compromised. This leads to decreased metabolism and disruption of gut flora as the good bacteria needs the nutrients to survive, whereas bad bacteria are not so fussy about their environment, and so will flourish, leading to inflammation and leaky gut.


Poor diet choices such as high salt, alcohol, sugar, carbs, hormones in food, smoking and pollution can cause faulty digestion and toxicity in our system and an increase in pro inflammatory factors.  Dairy may also create inflammation in some people as it is from lactating cows and full of growth factors.  Tap water has chlorine which can disrupt endocrine system (hormones) so unfiltered water may also assist gut health.  Try and eat unprocessed whole foods as close to nature whenever possible. Prebiotic food (listed further) will also have massive benefits to feed good bacteria.

Consequences of Gut Dysbiosis

  • Bowels functions are compromised such as transporting and secreting, and absorbing nutrients and can cause irritable bowel, bloating, constipation or diarrhoea
  • Hydrochloric acid production is reduced and lactic bacteria is increased leading to ulcers, reflux and skin disorders such as acne, rosacea, eczema, psoriasis, allergies and histamine reactions.
  • Important hormones such as serotonin (our feel good hormone) and melatonin (sleep hormone) are reduced. 90% of our serotonin is produced in the gut.
  • Sleep is affected as 400 times melatonin is produced in the gut rather than brain
  • Inflammation increases joint pain, fibromyalgia, arthritis, and autoimmune disorders such as celiac.
  • Lack of serotonin and can lead to depression and anxiety
  • Hormone dysregulation as inflammation from leaky gut leads to higher cortisol and insulin resistance
  • Immune system is compromised as around 70% of the bodys immune system resides in the digestive system.

Skin Manifestations

Constipation has a huge relevance to the pathogenesis of acne as there are significantly lower levels of faecal concentrations of good bacteria as well as intestinal permeability.  Constant or chronic constipation alters the intestinal microflora causing inflammation, which will affect hormonal secretions and the immune system.

Rosacea studies have shown a link with celiac, gluten intolerance, chrohns, Helicobacter pylori infection and irritable bowel syndrome.   All these conditions are inflammatory which compromise the immune system and upset the endocrine system.

To maintain good bacteria living in the gut:

Probiotics– whilst there is research that shows the gut favour the lacto species there is little evidence that a few million bacterias in a bottle will make an outstanding difference.  Especially when you consider the number of bacteria in the human gut is in the trillions, such a small amount is unlikely to make a huge dent.  We also know that Probiotic bacteria do not colonise well and are eliminated quickly.  Most companies only have one or two strains of bacteria where there is no less than 1000 strains needed for a well balanced gut.  Having said this, the Lacto species is very important as it decreases gut permeability so entry of bacteria is harder. Unfortunately, Western diet is not a very conducive environment for the fussy good bacteria to thrive in, so creating this environment with PRE biotics is a better approach.

Prebiotics– will create a suitable environment for good bacteria to flourish. If we are exposed to harmful organisms the microbiome react by providing an inhospitable environment to the foreign matter or creating by products that stimulate our immune system. This good bacteria can provide defence mechanisms that our bodies have not even evolved yet to do for itself. Prebiotics have an insoluble fibre that feeds the digestive tract from entry to exit producing short chain fatty acids.  They will increase anti inflammatory cytokines and decrease proinflammatory ones. Food such as sugar and carbs break down too quickly in the digestive tract so the early parts are well fed, and the latter, such as bowels are starving. Natural sources of prebiotics include:  dandelion greens, chicory, raw onions, leeks, garlic, raw Jerusalem artichokes, bananas, avocados, peas, wholegrain, sprouted grain breads, fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kefir,apple cider, kombucha, miso, kimchi.  These are lacto fermented foods (unlike fermented alcohol which is a different process) which means the  lacto bacteria has already particially digested the food thus making digestion easier for us. Soak grains, oats, legumes, seeds and nuts as they contain phytic acid which binds to minerals in your gut and prevents them from being absorbed.  Soaking will reduce phytic acid levels. Eat a rainbow of colour, the darker and brighter the colour the higher in polyphenols and antioxidants.

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