The Gut-Skin Axis: Understanding the Relationship Between the Gut and the Skin
“The relationship between gut health and skin health is fascinating. Often, those that suffer with skin conditions such as acne, eczema, psoriasis or rosacea will find that the root cause lies in their gut, and by taking steps to improve their digestive balance, they can reverse the effects on their skin” – Dr Jelena Vulevic, The Y Collection
The gut and the skin have many things in common.
The skin is the first line of defence against physical, chemical, and bacterial changes in the outside world. Similarly, the gut is the first line of defence against physical, chemical, and bacterial changes brought in with everything we consume.
Both are home to large ecosystems of bacteria, the balance of which is fundamental to our overall health. Gut health plays a crucial role in how our body functions, including our skin appearance and health.
There is an undeniable relationship between gut health, mental health and the skin and although this is not a new area of research, it has become an important topic in dermatology, psychology and gastroenterology alike.
The skin may just seem like a case for the body that protects us from the environment, but it's so much more than that.
It's a temperature regulator. It's part of our immune system. It's a control mechanism for fluids. And of course, it detects touch and pain.
The skin is often referred to as a signalling organ, meaning that if something goes wrong inside our body, the change appears on our skin as well. If our skin is dry for example, the solution is not to apply a moisturiser; our body can and should be doing that. The solution is in what is preventing our body from performing its natural function.
In most cases, skin problems are an indicator of gut inflammation caused by gut stress. The true causes of biological ageing in everything from energy, to immunity, cognitive function, and of course skin health, lie within the gut. An inflamed gut will negatively affect all of this.
The key takeaway is that if you experience skin problems, the cause may lie in your gut health.
With over 100 times the surface area of our skin, the gut is the largest exposed external surface in our body. Daily, it deals with the food we eat, the molecules we breathe, and, at times, the potential toxins that look to get in.
Structurally, the gut consists of a single layer of epithelial cells, the internal skin, laying down the basic architecture of the organ. This continuous layer of epithelial cells is an important site of defence barrier, physically and biochemically, against foreign substances. The gut barrier is more than a mechanical barricade; it also takes part in gut immune responses that can regulate the diversity of bacterial species, counteracting harmful bacteria and cooperating with beneficial ones. It plays a critical role in host homeostasis through its central innate function, regulation of antigen sensitization and bi-directional interplay with the commensal microbiota. So, it is not just a mechanical barrier but a functional entity that consists of: epithelial defence and metabolic function, mucosal immune system, enteric nervous system, muscle layers and the blood supply.
This is the area of sampling and communication between the human and its environment, including the microbiota. Any impairment leads to problems and increased risk of disease locally and systemically.
A fully functional gut barrier is the key to good gut health, barricading the body from microbes, toxins and allergenic proteins.
If our intestinal lining is damaged or compromised, substances that do not belong in our body can enter the bloodstream, triggering responses in the body such as infection, inflammation, allergies, irritable bowel, migraines, pain, fatigue, and more.
The two factors affecting gut health are the gut microbiota (bacteria that live inside us) and the gut barrier function.
What Exactly is the Gut-Skin Axis?
The skin’s trillions of microorganisms make up its own microbiome - just like the gut’s do. These microbiomes of the skin and the gut work together, and the relationship between them is referred to as the Gut-Skin axis.
Simply put, the Gut-Skin axis describes how our bacterial ecosystems communicate with our immune system.
The function of the Gut-Skin axis is to fight off any harmful pathogens that try to attack the body from the outside; in fact, the true cause of biological ageing, from energy to immunity, cognitive function, and of course skin health, lies within the gut, where 70% of our immune system is found.
Research on the Gut-Skin axis is still ongoing, and the full scope of this interaction is yet to be uncovered, however, there is no doubt that the health of the microbiome can have an impact on the appearance of skin. Furthermore, the Gut-Skin axis not only influences our gut and skin, but also our overall health.
Skin Signs of an Unhealthy Gut
The skin really is a reflection of what's happening within the body, namely within the gut.
Of course, not every skin condition is directly associated with the gut, however, numerous studies link gastrointestinal (GI) health to skin balance.
For example, rosacea, psoriasis, and acne can all be linked to GI inflammation and associated with GI conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and celiac disease.
Spots, inflammation, eczema and dry skin are signs of an impaired gut barrier function where bacteria and their metabolites have been able to enter the bloodstream, resulting in a big impact on our overall health and the appearance of the skin.
An imbalanced gut microbiota can generate compounds and toxins that lead to inflammation, hormonal imbalances, breakdown of collagen and elastin fibres, discolouration, dryness and the appearance of wrinkles.
A healthy gut influences the absorption of nutrients essential for the skin’s condition and complexion.
How to Support the Gut-Skin Axis
The gut is a very complex ecosystem with trillions of bacteria, millions of neurons, 70% of immune cells and a constant supply of nutrients that are further processed before being presented to the body. The dynamic interaction between microbiota and immune cells defines our health.
Within the gut, barrier and gut microbiota are two crucial factors affecting local and whole-body health. To achieve good gut health, it’s important to make sure they are balanced.
It starts with focusing on two key areas: diet and lifestyle.
1. Diet changes: the key to having good gut health and great skin is to watch what we put inside our body. Adopting a balanced diet, consuming high-fibre and prebiotic-rich food such as those in the allium family (garlic, onions, leeks) as well as bananas, nuts, whole grains and legumes. Ingesting foods with naturally occurring probiotic properties such as fermented foods and drinks like kefir, kimchi, kombucha, sauerkraut or miso. Moderation and balance are key, ensuring a healthy and balanced diet will go a long way to achieving good gut health and beautiful skin.
2. Lifestyle changes: adopting a regular fitness routine, a good sleep schedule, and taking steps to reduce the amount of stress is also important to good gut health, and thereby good skin.
Although diet and lifestyle play a major role in achieving optimal gut health, there are too many obstacles to looking and feeling good, from genetics, lifestyle choices and pollution to the ageing process. Eventually, looking healthy also involves smart, scientifically sound ways to care for and enhance our skin, hair, nails and body. Which brings us to the third area to focus on: ingestible and topical probiotics and supplements.
The Role of Biotics and Bifidobacteria
Over the last 20 years, the focus of biotics has been on the microbiota composition, aiming to achieve a healthy balance that will positively affect our body’s functions. Within this approach, a specific group of bacteria, bifidobacteria, have been playing a key role. They are effective when we are infants in training our immune function but reduce significantly as we age.
Interestingly enough, those bacteria have the ability to support our health through specific active ingredients (signalling molecules) that maintain our gut barrier function by preventing the accumulation of inflammation in our body.
Biotic is defined as anything relating to living organisms. It is often used to explain influencing factors or conditions in the environment of a living organism that are caused by another living organism or biological entity. There are five different consumable biotics that aid the body, some of which you may have already heard of: probiotics, prebiotics, postbiotics, antibiotics and synbiotics. Probiotics, prebiotics and synbiotics have been found to aid in the prevention and/or treatment of a variety of skin disorders from acne to atopic eczema and rosacea.
For a more detailed explanation of biotics and what they are, visit our Biotics 101 page.
What The Y Collection Can do for Your Gut and Skin Health
The Y Collection founders Dr Jelena Vulevic & Dr George Tzortzis have spent decades on the cutting edge of Gut research, uncovering the direct and undeniable relationship between Gut Health and Skin Health and more importantly a ubiquitous route to bring youthful, glowing, healthy skin to all.
The Y Collection range of revolutionary gut and skin supplements have been scientifically developed to help heal from within. Unlike topical remedies, our products don't mask symptoms; they support the body from within the gut in performing more functionally.
Y SKIN enhances immune fitness and supports gut health by mimicking a healthy microbiome and enhancing the body’s Gut-Skin barrier, manifesting in youthful, elastic, glowing skin on the whole body.
Using molecules from bifidobacteria, we set out to enhance gut function by reproducing the impact of a youthful beneficial microbiota. The Y SKIN (one capsule per day) supplement gets inside the gut and tricks the immune system to become more efficient in preventing health and skin-deteriorating conditions that prematurely age us, and naturally produce more growth hormones in order to promote healthier, younger-looking skin.
Good gut health is your missing link in a complete skincare regime.
Visit the Y SKIN page for more detail on what this product can do for you, or email us at help@theYcollection.com if you have questions or need more information.
Frequently Asked Questions About the Gut-Skin Axis:
Does gut health affect the skin?
It most certainly does. The Gut-Skin axis describes the relationship between gut health and the skin. Research has found that when gut health is off, this can manifest itself in the skin through irritation, acne, eczema, rosacea, psoriasis and more.
What stomach problems cause skin issues?
Inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis are known to cause skin issues such as rashes. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) patients are also likely to suffer from skin issues such as rosacea, atopic dermatitis and urticaria. Food sensitivities or intolerances are also well known to cause skin irritations such as dry, itchy and inflamed skin.
Is acne related to gut health?
It can be. Research has found that people suffering from acne often also suffer from gut imbalances. By addressing the problems in the gut, it’s possible to reduce acne.
How do I achieve healthy skin through my gut?
By adopting a healthy diet, consuming high-fibre and prebiotic-rich food, as well as a regular fitness routine, a good sleep schedule, taking steps to reduce the amount of stress in your life, and taking postbiotic supplements such as Y SKIN.