The human body is teeming with microorganisms, and the skin is no exception. The skin microbiome consists of a diverse community of bacteria, fungi, viruses, and other microorganisms coexisting harmoniously on the skin surface working to support the immune system, protect against harmful pathogens and fight infection and inflammation. The skin barrier helps to protect the skin’s moisture levels and protects against environmental and external triggers.
Just like the gut microbiome, the skin microbiome plays a pivotal role in overall health and well-being. When the barrier is broken, pathogens accumulate on the skin causing an imbalance that can lead to moisture loss and skin sensitivity making is easier for bacteria to colonise on the skin.
An imbalance in the gut microbiome can lead to a disproportion of harmful bacteria and cause various skin conditions and infections such as acne, eczema, psoriasis, and dermatitis. Conversely, skin conditions can also affect gut health. Beneficial bacteria on the skin can outcompete harmful ones. Here we explore the relationship between the skin and gut microbiome and discuss strategies to improve a compromised skin barrier, encompassing dietary choices, lifestyle adjustments, environment, skincare practices, supplements, and in-clinic treatments designed to relax and nourish the skin.
What can have a negative effect on our microbiome and how can we address it?
- Medication: Antibiotics – the longer your antibiotic course the longer it will take for your microbiome to restore. To assist the process, take a daily prebiotic, but not at the same time as your antibiotic and once you have completed your antibiotic course, include a daily probiotic with food.
- Skincare: Research suggests that changes in the skin microbiome caused by inflammation as we age, may contribute to the development of wrinkles and other signs of ageing. Harsh chemicals, cleansers and overuse of granule exfoliants, constantly stripping oils from your skin causes harm and influences the types of microorganisms present on the skin. Skincare must be tailored to your skin type and concerns.
- Stress: The gut is highly sensitive to emotions, when you are under stress, you have possible experienced indigestion or want to eat more? When you are nervous or tense, do you get the runs? How we feel has a direct impact on the health of our gut, and it seems at though the rise of inflammatory skin conditions can be linked in a big part to an increase in stress. Prolonged chronic stress and mental health has the most damaging affect on the health of our entire body, including our skin.
- Diet: Don’t underestimate the connection between diet, overall physical health, and skin microbiome. Reduce inflammation and oxidative stress by consuming foods loaded with nutrient rich vitamins, antioxidants, minerals, omega 3 fatty acids, flavonoids, and polyphenols found in a diverse range of fruit and vegetables, and good sources of protein that your body thrives on. So dump the sugar, processed foods, and excess alcohol as you will feel better for it.
- Lifestyle: So, when the mind perceives stress, it sends a message to the gut to slow down digestion, and this affects the bacteria in your gut and our overall health, including influencing choices such as smoking, alcohol and insufficient sleep can cause various factors that compromise your skin. Alcohol is not digested so passes quickly into your blood stream and travels to every part of you body. It affects your brain, kidneys, lungs and liver and significantly affects your quality of sleep. Please prioritise self-care and seek support when needed.
- Environment: Pollution levels, UV exposure and extreme temperatures are stressors that can alter the skin PH and composition, and diversity of the microbial community on the skin’s surface. Beneficial bacteria on the skin can outcompete harmful ones.
- Genetics: We also inherit microbes from our family and housemates tend to have the same microbes colonizing their bodies too.
How can we support our skin and gut health to improve our skin barrier function?
- Influence of diet when incorporating probiotic-rich foods:
- Probiotics: yogurt, kefir, kimchi, kombucha, miso, tempeh, and sauerkraut should be included in your diet to support both gut and skin health.
- Prebiotics: consume prebiotic foods such as garlic, onions, leeks, asparagus, and unripe bananas to fuel our beneficial bacteria to thrive.
- Antioxidants: blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, leafy greens, artichokes, avocado, sweet potato, and nuts provide antioxidants that combat inflammation and oxidative stress, benefiting the skin barrier. Eat a variety of healthy foods to encourage microbiome diversity.
- Lifestyle Adjustments:
- Stress Management: Chronic stress can disrupt the skin-gut axis. Incorporate stress reduction techniques such as adequate nutrition, practice mindfulness, yoga, meditation, exercise and walking in nature into your routine.
- Adequate Sleep: Ensure you get enough quality sleep as it is crucial for skin regeneration and overall wellbeing. Try reading a book in bed with a cup of camomile tea before going to sleep and ensuring the is room cool, and all devices and electronics are switched off. Poor sleep affects your concentration and encourages you to make poor food choices when you need an energy boost.
- Skincare Practices:
- Healthy skin releases substances that help regulate the PH Balance but if this has been disrupted, extra help is required to retain homeostasis. Proper hydration, antioxidants supports skin health by maintaining the skin’s natural moisture balance.
If you have any specific questions or would like more detail on any aspect of the skin, please feel free to reach out and I will provide a response tailored to your needs.