Problem skin? It’s time to look at your gut health

Linda Booth, founder of Just for Tummies

At least 50% of the patients who come to see me in my clinic with their digestive disorders also have an issue with their skin. They complain that their skin looks dull, grey and sallow, or they’re struggling with spots, dry patches, yeasty patches or itchiness.

What causes skin problems in adults?

It’s not easy in this day and age to look after our skin. There’s so much pollution in the air and we spend a great deal of our time indoors. And, that’s not to mention all the creams and make up we slap on our faces, blocking up our pores, leaving them unable to sweat properly. 

Sweat is not just the body’s way of cooling down, but also a pathway for toxins to exit the body. Block this pathway, and skin breakouts can happen.  However, there are more debilitating skin conditions that many people have to try and cope with.

What link is there with the digestive system?

Skin conditions like acne, rosacea, eczema, psoriasis and dermatitis can be typical symptoms of something else going on in the body, as are wrinkles. Wrinkles are not normal, lines are, but not wrinkles. Wrinkles can be a sign of weak digestion and poor absorption of nutrients.  Some of these skin conditions are auto-immune in nature and around 80% of our immune system cells are manufactured in our gut, which is why a healthy gut equals healthy skin.

If your immune system has been weakened by previous infections, viruses or by drugs like antibiotics, and your ‘Achilles heel’ is your skin, then the weakened immune system may be expressed as a skin problem. 

However, there is something else that is important to consider too, that of gut hyper-permeability syndrome to give it its Sunday name, but most commonly called ‘leaky’ gut.  Leaky gut is where the cells in the intestines separate; this allows ‘toxins’ to literally leak out of the gut and get into the bloodstream. Again, this can be expressed as a skin condition.

So, you can try any number of soaps, lotions, creams and pills, but are they getting to the root of your skin problems? Most times, the answer is no.

Face creams that people use to try and prevent ageing skin

Am I not too old for skin problems by now?

Ageing can affect the health of the skin too, and I don’t mean the normal effects of ageing on the skin. I’m talking about how ageing affects the digestive system and gut.  As we age, our body’s production of stomach acid, pancreatic enzymes and bile can slow down, not to mention a decrease in the number of beneficial bacteria in the gut. This can lead to incomplete digestion of food and impair the absorption of nutrients. 

It doesn’t matter how good your diet is if your stomach isn’t able to properly break down and digest your food, your small bowel isn’t able to absorb the nutrients from your food, and your large bowel isn’t able to eliminate solid wastes.

If you’re struggling with skin problems, you need to ask yourself if your food is being digested properly. Are the important nutrients which are vital for healthy skin being absorbed effectively, ensuring that there are no ‘endo-toxins’ leaking out of the gut into the bloodstream? That can be catastrophic for your general health, potentially causing auto-immune diseases, and detrimentally affecting the health of your skin.

Skin problems are often the result of chronic inflammation both in the digestive system and gut, and the tissues of the skin. It is therefore vital to ensure that your skincare programme incorporates dietary and lifestyle measures that help minimise chronic inflammation, as well as maintaining a healthy balance of gut bacteria to keep the immune system strong.

In my next blog post, I’ll be sharing the ways that you can heal your skin – by healing your gut.  This will include a more detailed look at the correct balance of foods to feed your skin the vital nutrients it needs to leave it clear, glowing and blemish-free. Sign up to my newsletter (by clicking here) if you’d like to be notified when it’s live.

In the meantime, if you’re stuck for ideas for nutritious food that will help you glow from the inside out, you can download my free gluten-free, dairy-free and refined sugar-free recipes here.