ACNE & GUT HEALTH- How your digestion can impact your skin
As a teenager I had terrible acne. The worst. I tried every skincare on the market...even the ones that bleached all of our bath towels (yikes!).
So when I see people in clinic that suffer with acne, I get it. Like any health condition, you need to have experienced it to fully be empathetic towards your clients.
So now when I get compliments about my skin, it means the world to me, because I am never taking my skin for granted.
And I know I am not perfect and I will still get the occasionally pimple here and there, but I am totally ok with that, as I can generally identify what has caused it. Its the week before my period or I have overindulged on some less than healthy foods. For me these are the things that influence my skin, but everyone will be different.
When we treat your skin, as Naturopathic practitioners we delve deep, we ask a million questions to try and get the very best understanding of what is going on within your body, what systems are impacting your skin, what environmental factors like diet and lifestyle are influencing your skin and what you're putting on your skin. All of these things can tell us a lot about how your skin came to be where it is today.
Gut health is an area that gets heavily focussed on when Naturopaths look at skin health. And you may be wondering why? I certainly did when I saw a Naturopath for my skin many moons ago. I couldn't figure out why I was being given herbs for my liver, when I had come to see them for my skin. But my oh my, do I see now!
Generally speaking, what presents on the skin can often be used as a blueprint as to what is going on inside the digestive tract. If there is a lot of redness, we know we need to reduce inflammation, if the skin is very congested, some internal cleansing needs to be addressed.
Gut health can be very complex, and as stated above, everyone is unique, so no 2 treatments will be a like. Below are some common 'issues' that present when acne is present. Identifying these issues can be through pathology testing or just comprehensive case history taking by our practitioners can establish a good case for assuming that these issues are at play.
Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO) is exactly as it sounds. There can sometimes be an overgrowth of 'bad' bacteria in the small intestine. This generates inflammation within the body, reduces the clearances of wastes from the body and reduces the bodies capacity for optimal digestion of nutrients. All of these factors can come out as skin issues, even when no digestive symptoms are being felt as such.
Also known as 'intestinal permeability' is something that is very common to see to many people in varying degrees. Gaps can become present in the intestinal border, meaning that food particles and wastes can be absorbed through the gut wall into the blood stream. Because this is not meant to happen the immune system mounts an immune response and inflammation gets generated.
Dysbiosis refers to an imbalance between the good and bad bacteria within the gut. Similar to SIBO but much milder, dysbiosis is often caused by poor diet, medications, alcohol, stress and antibiotics. When dysbiosis is present in makes leaky gut more pronounced, it influences the way that food is broken down and absorbed, how it is moved through the digestive tract, inflammation levels and acidity levels within the gut and how well the immune system is working.
LOW STOMACH ACID
When the body has lowered stomach acid (which can occur due to stress, low protein intake, low zinc status or an underlying food intolerance) this can have a flow on effect to the whole digestive tract. If your food isnt able to be broken down optimally in the stomach, it puts pressure on the rest of the digestive tract as it travels though. So supporting your stomach acid levels is a great place to start when looking at gut health in general.
So all of that being said...how can you ensure that you are supporting your gut health TODAY
1. Eat a wide variety of foods, but make sure they are the right ones. We want lots of fresh fruit and veggies, wholegrain such as oats and brown rice, lean meats and proteins such as eggs, chicken, turkey, and plenty of good fats such as olive oil, avocado, nuts and seeds.
2. Avoid processed and refined foods such as cakes, pastries, excess refined sugar, and fried foods. All of these foods have a negative impact on our bodies gut bacteria. Avoiding excess gluten and dairy as well can also be beneficial to managing good gut health, as these foods can be harder to digest and put extra strain on our bodies.
3. Include fermented foods through your diet. Yogurt, sauerkrauts, kimchi, kombucha, miso. The list goes on! These foods are packed with good bacteria, acting as a probiotic on the body.
4. Drink plenty of water. A basic one but so important for ensuing that your bowels are working well and that general gut health is kept optimal.
Karah is a degree qualified Naturopath with over 8 years experience in the health industry. She practices from Geelong, Ocean Grove and Bannockburn and specializes in digestive conditions.