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How a healthy gut microbiome can lead to healthy skin

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Diana Kelley Levey
Diana Kelly Levey May, 14, 2019

Runner, dancer, baker, adopted dog mom, wisecracker (or jokester)

"Beauty is only skin deep" is a nice sentiment, but when it comes to getting glowing, supple skin, beauty actually goes much deeper — and a lot of it comes down to what you eat! Specifically, having a healthy gut microbiome could be your ticket to beautiful, healthy skin.

That may sound a little strange, but your gut microbiome communicates with your skin in a number of ways, according to recent research published in Frontiers in Microbiology. For instance, the way your gut reacts to your diet can impact the body's inflammatory response, which may trigger psoriasis, eczema and acne. Here's what you should know about keeping your gut in great shape.

What does it mean to have a healthy gut?

Your gut is filled with bacteria that influence your body's digestive response and help your immune system function. Your gut microbiome is the entire system that's made up of a collection of bacteria, viruses, fungi and protozoa (single-celled organisms) colonizing your gastrointestinal system. In total, there are more than 100 trillion bacteria present in the human digestive system alone. While that might seem gross or scary, they play a really important role in the body.

Your gut microbiome is an integral part of your body's immune response, which is one of the reasons doctors say a balanced diet can help your body heal when you aren't feeling well. The bacteria in your gut also impact your digestive health, metabolic health and cardiovascular health, according to a study outlined in Circulation Research.

So, how does your gut impact your skin?

Ever notice that your skin isn't exactly at its best when you have the flu or haven't been eating well? When you're not healthy, every part of your body can feel the effects. That means that when you feel good, your whole body will reap the benefits!

Research published in the World Journal of Dermatology found that changes in the gut microbiome can impact patients with certain dermatological diseases. Studies suggest that probiotics may have a role in the treatment of eczema, particularly because they improve the diversity of the intestinal flora.

Other skin issues are also influenced by the microbiome. Reports indicate that the nervous, immune and endocrine systems all communicate with skin, and that connection is what allows prebiotics and probiotics to prevent — and treat — ailments like psoriasis and rosacea. If your dermatologist brings up your diet, it's probably a conversation worth having. They'll be able to give you a detailed explanation of why certain foods cause flareups and how to avoid inflammation.

It's worth noting that, while research around the connection between a healthy gut and healthy skin looks promising, it's still an emerging field, and researchers are continuing to gather evidence and looking for concrete explanations. So keep an eye out for new research — it'll all work toward helping you make better food choices that will support healthy, glowing skin!

Adding prebiotics (and probiotics) to your diet for healthier skin

If you want to build a healthy gut microbiome that can help maintain supple, beautiful skin, consider adding more probiotics and prebiotics to your diet. As mentioned above, they can help address a number of different skin conditions. Just remember, it's always wise to consult with your physician before making any changes to your diet.

Prebiotics are nondigestible carbohydrate compounds that stimulate the growth of certain bacteria in the gut. These occur naturally in foods like leeks, asparagus, garlic, onions, wheat, oats and soybeans. They're also in foods with carbohydrates, like psyllium, bananas, whole grain wheat and whole grain corn.

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