The health of our skin starts at the lining of our gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Whether we are talking about psoriasis, eczema or other skin conditions such as acne, a major cause of these concerns can almost always be traced back to imbalances in the digestive system. And it’s really no wonder. The gut interacts with our external environment through an estimated 4500 square meters of surface area, which is roughly the size of a football field and three thousand times the surface area of our skin. The digestive system also is the primary route of detoxification and elimination by our bodies. When this primary route becomes challenged in some way, the skin can play a back up role in detoxification contributing to unhealthy skin changes. It is also well known that our digestive system contains between sixty and eighty percent of the bodies immune system. In essence, this means that your primary immune defence against your environment, occurs at the lining of your guts. Add to the mix, an estimated 100 trillion microorganisms in the form of bacteria, fungi, viruses and parasites, and, well you get the picture …… it can be a dirty business.
Immunological skin conditions such as eczema or psoriasis are almost always caused by problems with the lining of our GI tract. Although these conditions are associated with very different types of immune cells, their triggers can manifest from a similar source: the breakdown in your gut lining. The gut barrier can start to breakdown for a number of reasons; food allergies, unhealthy microflora, poor nutrition or emotional stress, to name a few. This intestinal mucosal barrier dysfunction may have started from birth or can develop during ones life.
Regardless of your health concerns, most of us need a good gut overhaul, starting with the intestinal lining. Although, many essential nutrients are required for repairing the gut lining, there are certain nutrients that appear to be more important than others. For one, special fats called short chain fatty acids (SCFA’s) appear to play a very important role in repairing and maintaining the intestinal barrier. These SCFA’s are produced by healthy bacteria in the gut that ferment dietary sources of fibre. Essentially, we need to eat our vegetables and soluble fibre to maintain a healthy gut lining! Further, probiotic bacteria in the form of Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus species, among other microflora, play a major role in healing the intestinal lining and regulating our immune system. Sources of beneficial bacteria may come from fermented foods such as yogurt or natto, or through the use of dietary supplements. Finally, the amino acid glutamine appears to play an essential role in repairing a damaged gut.
As most of our immune system is concentrated in the gut, nutrients that appear to play a role in reducing inflammation in the gut can have an important role in repairing damaged skin. Curcumin, green tea, quercetin, and resveratrol all appear to play a role in reducing gut inflammation. Sources of these nutrients may vary greatly so it is advised to seek the support of a knowledgable healthcare provider when using therapeutic levels of these complex nutrients.
So, if healing your skin condition from the inside out sounds like the right thing to do well then your on your way to healthier skin! But first things first, it is essential to remove any potential irritants from your diet, starting with refined sugars, alcohol, spicy foods, and fried foods. It may also be very beneficial to get an IgG food allergy test done by your allergist, dermatologist or another knowledgable primary care provider. Also, during the initial stages of your intestinal repair work, I encourage all foods to be lightly cooked, as to avoid any mechanical damage to the intestinal lining. As stress can play a major role in worsening our skin conditions, stress reduction techniques such as exercise, yoga, meditation or simple diaphragmatic breathing are also encouraged. If you can follow these simple guidelines you’ll be well on your way to a healthier gut and better skin.