Your Skin Is A Reflection of Your Gut
I used to have terrible skin when I was a teen, all the way up until my mid-late 20’s. It was so confusing and frustrating for me. I tried it all, the pill, antibiotics like tetracycline, minocycline, Retin A, chemical peels etc
Then I turned to functional medicine and started eliminating sugar, gluten and dairy, stabilized my blood sugar, and stopped smoking and drinking. I also incorporated acupuncture and stress reduction techniques. It took some time but eventually my skin completely cleared up. I also started drinking more water and taking magnesium supplements to make sure my digestion was working properly. My skin issues resolved finally.
Where had my skin issues come from? Probably leaky gut (a.k.a. intestinal permeability) caused by high stress, drinking too much alcohol, smoking, not sleeping and incorrect diet and congested liver. I also discovered through stool testing that I had a parasitic infection blastocystis hominis and Hpylori, which wreaks havoc on the digestive system and gut barrier.
If you are dealing with any skin issues, it may be your gut. So how can you heal your skin through your gut?
Here is my 7-step approach—the same approach I use with my patients.
Food is medicine and food allergies and sensitivities are often the root cause of skin problems. Specific elimination diets that remove common trigger foods like gluten, dairy, sugar, and nightshade vegetables can be helpful. This elimination phase can take six or more weeks to start seeing a difference, so sticking with it is critical. Then I work with you to slowly add back in these foods to determine what may be triggering your skin issues.
Going beyond the basic testing that a typical primary care doctor or even dermatologist will do to assess the drivers of skin inflammation can be critical. There are a few tests I recommend if you’re suffering from skin problems.
- SIBO testing: Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth—bacteria from the large intestine that gets trapped in the small intestine—can be a driver of rosacea, flushing, and even eczema and acne. One study showed that treating SIBO resolved rosacea in 85% of cases. A breath test prescribed by a doctor can assess if this is a problem for you.
- Stool Testing and Microbiome assessment for fungal overgrowth: This looks at different forms of yeast and imbalances in bacteria that studies show can drive conditions like acne and eczema.
- Intestinal permeability: Leaky gut, a condition in which the tight junctions in your intestinal lining break apart, can cause harmful substances to enter your bloodstream, leading to inflammation that can cause and aggravate skin conditions like rosacea and eczema.
- Hormone testing: Imbalances in hormones like cortisol, testosterone, DHEA-S, and estrogen are often ignored, but they could be a major contributor to skin conditions. Overproduction of testosterone, for instance, can trigger oil production on the skin which leads to acne.
- Metabolism and blood sugar: Fasting insulin and HgBA1C are useful tests for assessing if poor metabolic management is driving your skin problems.
- Food allergies and sensitivities: Allergies and sensitivities are not the same thing, so looking for both can often reveal triggers. In fact, people with celiac disease, or an intolerance to gluten, are three times more likely to have eczema.
Sometimes professional grade supplements are a core part of healing the gut. I like to recommend a unique gut healing protocol that includes probiotics, digestive enzymes, and herbal antimicrobials that help rebalance the gut. Research has found that probiotics in conjunction with antibiotics improved acne treatment while a combination of prebiotics and probiotics can prevent and treat eczema.
Sometimes medications can help combat conditions like acne alongside diet and supplements. I sometimes recommend patients go to their doctor and get antifungals to reduce yeast overgrowth and antibiotics to treat SIBO if my patients have long-standing, hard to treat GI imbalances.
Sweating is one of our primary detoxification mechanisms. Exercise also stimulates movement in the GI tract, aiding in digestion. If you’re not getting in activity or you’re constipated, it you could be contributing to your skin problems.
6. Mental health and relaxation
Chronic stress can lead to elevated cortisol and catecholamines (things like norepinephrine) from the adrenal glands, which can exacerbate and trigger skin conditions like psoriasis, acne, and eczema.
Making big changes to diet and lifestyle can be difficult to implement on your own, so having the help of a health coach or doctor is key. I see many patients at who have been through it all, seeing different types of practitioners and doctors who offered a quick fix that didn’t work. Truly healing the skin through the gut takes time. When it comes to sticking to any plan, people who have a support system and expert guidance do better.
Our bodies are an interconnected ecosystem. I recommend finding a provider who can look at the whole picture if you’re dealing with skin issues like I did.
Learn how you can achieve beautiful smooth skin again.
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