Our skin can often be one of the first signs that things are amiss in the gastrointestinal tract. If you are dealing with acid or bile reflux, and your stomach is keeping you up at night, poor gut health may be to blame. Skin health issues like acne, inflammation and even eczema can stem from gut health issues. However one can never entirely rule out hormones, stress, and external factors. In this article, we’ll cover what gut health is, common signs of poor gut health, and how food can help improve your gut.
The importance of gut health
Taking time to listen to your gut can tell you a lot of things about your digestive health, whether that is in regards to allergies, intolerances, or digestive issues. Bear in mind that the digestive system absorbs nutrients from food and beverages we consume, so if something isn’t working well in that pipeline, the body may be struggling to get its nutrition. The gut’s complexity has to do with its microbiome, home to the living bacteria known as flora which nestle themselves in the intestines. In recent years, researchers are beginning to connect the importance of overall health with the gut microbiota or “the forgotten organ”¹. Since gut health is directly connected to overall health, if skin can provide a clue to catching issues in time, it’s worth keeping a lookout.
Got a bad gut? Here’s what to look for!
As more research is conducted on the Gut-Skin axis, studies overwhelming point to the importance of the gut microbiome² in regulating skin. Skin conditions such as acne, rosacea, psoriasis, and even dermatitis have been linked to poor gut health. Here are some common indicators of damaged digestive flora:
- Upset stomach – Stomach issues will likely be the most noticeable and persistent symptom of poor gut health. This includes gas, bloating, heartburn, diarrhea, and constipation.
- Food allergies – Believe it or not, your food allergies may be a sign that gut flora is floundering. Gut microbiota has been shown to influence food intolerances³. Furthermore, allergies and intolerances can cause digestive issues leading to more pain and discomfort.
- Poor skin health – Beyond acne, more serious skin issues like eczema have been shown to occur in an altered gut microbiome⁴. It is vital to point out that the skin also has its own microbiome which influences the gut microbiome, and when there is an imbalance in the flora it is called dysbiosis.
- Difficulty sleeping – Poor gut health can affect sleep cycles, and lead to restless nights, chronic fatigue, and insomnia. Moreover, as the gut produced 95%⁵ of the body’s serotonin, gut issues can further affect sleep and mood.
How to make things right!
If you are looking to improve your gut health, making adjustments to your diet is essential. Below are some suggestions for how to support and strengthen your gut microbiome.
- Balance your plate – Food is a huge factor in our digestive health. That is why you should remember to fill your plate with plenty of fruits, veggies, and whole grains. While healthy fats are good as well, they should be consumed in smaller quantities.
- Get your pre and probiotics – We hear a lot about how fermented foods bring helpful bacteria to the gut. However, don’t forget that the bacteria in your gut also need food to feed on, which is prebiotics. So, be sure to add these fibrous foods to your diet.
- Minimize processed foods – Overly processed foods can be addictive, but even worse is that they lack many of the nutrients that whole foods can provide. Because they are often high in sugar and unhealthy fats, these foods can hurt gut microbiota.
- Stay active – Food and exercise go hand in hand. When it comes to the digestive system, staying active is crucial because it can stimulate the metabolism and encourage digestive system movement.
- Quigley, Eamonn M. “Gut Bacteria in Health and Disease.” Gastroenterology & Hepatology, Millennium Medical Publishing, Sept. 2013, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3983973/.
- Salem, Iman, et al. “The Gut Microbiome as a Major Regulator of the Gut-Skin Axis.” Frontiers in Microbiology, Frontiers Media S.A., 10 July 2018, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6048199/.
- Rachid, Rimaa,b; Chatila, Talal A.a,b The role of the gut microbiota in food allergy, Current Opinion in Pediatrics: December 2016 – Volume 28 – Issue 6 – p 748-753 doi: 10.1097/MOP.0000000000000427
- West, Mary. “Eczema, Gut Health, and the Microbiome: Is There a Link?” Medical News Today, MediLexicon International, 22 Mar. 2022, https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/eczema-gut-health.
- Carpenter, Dr. Siri. “That Gut Feeling.” Monitor on Psychology, American Psychological Association, Sept. 2012, https://www.apa.org/monitor/2012/09/gut-feeling.
Ashuni Pérez is a writer in the culinary, as well as health and wellness industries. With a background in teaching and digital media, she loves to learn and help others discover more about their food, where it comes from, and how best to prepare it. A foodie through and through, she is always searching for new recipes and the freshest ingredients.