You’ve got your skincare routine sorted. You’re drinking plenty of water. You’ve done everything you can think of to get the skin of your dreams, but it just isn’t happening? Did you know that the health of your digestive system could be causing your skin issues?

What is a ‘healthy gut’?

Your gut is a complex system – bacteria, enzymes and digestive secretions all work together to create a finely balanced environment. Your gut extracts nutrients and energy from the food you eat. When the gut becomes unbalanced (e.g. not enough good bacteria), the gut’s ability to function is compromised. Scientists now believe that an imbalance in gut bacteria can have more of an impact on our health than we realised. When the levels of good bacteria are reduced, unwanted strains of bacteria, fungi or viruses are able to colonise the digestive tract instead, leading to inflammation and reduced nutrient absorption. This has an impact on the overall health of the gut, which in turn has an impact on other parts of our bodies too.

How does this affect the skin?

There are two main ways that the health of the gut affects the health of the skin. Firstly, the skin is reliant on the gut to extract many vital nutrients that it needs to function. Antioxidants, vitamins, essential fatty acids, and amino acids are all necessary for healthy skin. If your gut isn’t healthy, it won’t be able to extract these as effectively, which greatly reduces your skin’s access to them. However, there is another, newly discovered impact that an unhealthy gut can have on the skin, and that’s inflammation. When the gut microflora is unbalanced and becomes colonised by too many unwanted pathogens, inflammation can occur throughout the digestive tract. This impacts the rest of the body, and many people who suffer from inflammatory skin problems such as acne have been found to have problems with their gut microflora.

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How can gut health be improved?

One thing that can really negatively affect your gut health is something that we’ve all had to do at some point in our lives: take antibiotics. It’s estimated that the gut microflora takes three years to get back to normal after a course of oral antibiotics, so when you take them, make sure you start taking a probiotic supplement afterwards to help rebalance your gut. You can also eat probiotic foods such as yoghurt, kombucha or kimchi.

Fibre rich diet

Eating a diet rich in fibre is also important, as is balancing your red meat intake. This is because low-fibre, high-meat diets have been found to cause diverticulitis, which can also negatively affect the gut microflora. Avoid artificial additives in food, and make sure your diet is varied, fresh, and low in refined sugar too. Wholegrain foods are also excellent for reducing inflammation, and they support the growth of the good bacteria in your gut. Eat a healthy, wholesome diet, take probiotics when needed, and stay well hydrated (as this helps food move through the digestive tract), and you could see huge improvements in the health of your skin.

Image:istock.com/Wavebreakmedia

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