Genetics, diet, hydration, exercise, sunscreen, and skincare all contribute to the health of our skin. However, as the saying goes, “true beauty lies within,” which may very well hold true with keeping our skin beautiful.
The Gut-Skin Axis
Similar to our gut, we have a skin microbiome that is home to billions of microorganisms that work to keep our skin healthy and in good condition. The health of the skin and the diversity of the skin microbiome is dependent on many factors, and one of them may be the gut microbiome. Emerging research shows there is a two-way communication between the microbiomes, known as the gut-skin axis, showing that the integrity of our gut may affect the health of our skin.
The connection between gut health and our immune system is well known, as 70-80 percent of the (immunoglobulin-producing) cells that make up the immune system are located in the gut. When our gut microbiome is in a state of imbalance or distress, an appropriate immune response may be affected, causing inflammation throughout the body, including to our skin. Clinical findings have shown this has held true with GI disorders such as Crohn’s, IBS and Celiac and skin disorders such as rosacea and psoriasis, and treatments for acne.
When in a state of balance and health, the gut microbiome and its substrates, such as short-chain fatty acids, help to reduce inflammation by decreasing the amount of pro-inflammatory cytokines (immune cells) and increasing the anti-inflammatory cytokines released into our body. This appropriate anti-inflammatory immune response may have a positive effect on skin health by reducing the severity of acne and other skin disorders. This same immune response also plays a role in maintaining a healthy balance of skin cell turnover and homeostasis, resulting in a strong skin barrier that limits evaporation, preserves moisture, and protects against invading pathogens. Finally, a strong and healthy gut doesn’t have to compete for nutrients with pathogens or overgrowth of the bad bacteria, ensuring vitamins and minerals important for skin health get absorbed.
Healthy Diet for Gut and Skin Health
Healthy skin starts with what we put in our body, which includes proper hydration, eating a rainbow of fruits and vegetables high in antioxidants, lean protein for essential amino acids, consuming healthy fats found in olive oils, nuts, seeds and fish, and feeding our gut microbiome with fiber and fermented foods, such as kefir. The probiotics found in kefir and other fermented foods balance the level of good bacteria in our microbiome and the fiber in our diet serve as prebiotics for which the probiotics feed off of to actively work. Together they play a role in maintaining our gut health and therefore, our skin health. In addition to probiotics, kefir is rich in nutrients important for our skin, such as vitamins A and D, as well as protein and essential fatty acids. Including kefir in your diet may be a smart addition to your skincare routine.