Gut Check

Woman's gut

Roughly 80 percent of the body’s components for immunity are located in the gut, so it’s no surprise that what’s living in there has a big impact on overall health, including skin health. For example, one 2008 study involving over 13,000 adolescents showed that those with acne were also more likely to experience gastrointestinal symptoms such as constipation, bloating, halitosis, and acid reflux. Essentially, science now points us inward to treat the outward. Heal the gut, heal the skin.

A healthy gut has two main factors: variety in bacterial strands and balance in favor of good bacteria to bad. When that ratio is flipped—when bad bacteria outweigh the good—there is likely to be an increase in gut permeability and overall inflammation. As we know, acne and other skin disorders are inflammatory conditions. Therefore, if you calm down the gastrointestinal tract, you’ll reduce inflammation.  

The state of your gut bacteria has a lot to do with diet—one heavy in processed foods and sugar and low in fiber doesn’t feed healthy gut flora and can tip the scales toward the bad. Additionally, overuse of antibiotics makes things worse, as they wipe out both good and bad bacteria, leaving a vacuum for bad pathogens to grow. By some accounts, a one-week course of antibiotics can remove two-thirds of gut bacteria, which can take months to replace.  

The good news is that changing the diet (and perhaps adding a probiotic supplement) has shown to be essential in healing the gut. Since good bacteria need food to grow, adding in plenty of fiber-rich and prebiotic-rich foods is one of the easiest changes to make. Think vegetables, potatoes, brown rice, and legumes. When gut bacteria feed on these staples, they produce short-chain fatty acids, which improve gut health and can play a part in decreasing inflammation. Fermented foods can also play a role; items such as raw sauerkraut, kombucha, yogurt, and kimchi can nourish the bacteria in your gut in the same way fiber-rich foods do.  

Of course, there are numerous factors that contribute to skin conditions, acne included, and many people need more than just a diet tune-up. However, the gut-skin connection is a significant piece of the puzzle. —Alex Caspero,

Try Alex's Collard Greens and BBQ Tempeh Bowl recipe, loaded with essentials for healthy skin!

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