Exactly how your gut is affecting your skin, and the power of the gut-skin connection

Did you know your skin is a reflection of what’s going on inside your gut? Yep, the gut-skin connection is a powerful indicator of what’s going on inside and outside of your body. In the latest Healthy-ish Podcast, beauty editor Kelsey Ferencak and host Felicity Harley get deep into the link.

In this week’s beauty-themed Healthy-ish Podcast our host Felicity Harley quizzes Beauty Editor (and gut-advocate) Kelsey Ferencak on gut health and how it affects our complexions (hint: it’s a lot).

In fact, there’s so many ways it affects our skin – hence the ‘gut-skin axis’, not to get too techy but the skin and gut communicate via our microbiome (the community of bacteria living on our skin) and are in constant conversation.

It’s interesting to note many skin conditions have similar symptoms to gut conditions and the two are closely linked and influenced by each other. Particularly when you look at inflammatory gut conditions like IBS, or even the state of our emotions, moods and hormonal imbalances – when these are off balance it can show up on our skin.

Research shows that up to 34 per cent of people suffering from IBS have skin manifestations, which is super interesting and speaks volumes.

The global beauty-supplements market is expected to be worth more than $9.7 billion by 2024. So it really goes to show that the way we look after our complexion is no longer just limited to topical serums, lotions and creams – ingestible beauty is the new skincare.

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What sort of skin issues can be directly related to an unhealthy gut?

The skin is a reflection of what’s going on inside the gut and if our gut is out of balance the skin is one of the first places to show signs of that.

Inflammatory skin conditions such as eczema, rosacea, general redness, breakouts or stressed-out, irritated skin – or make these pre-existing conditions worse. Dehydration and dryness are other issues. Premature ageing is another concern – which can be linked to inflammation and dryness.

It can also impact the skin’s protective and antimicrobial barrier which can exacerbate all of these concerns, too.

Studies also show if you have rosacea or acne, you’re more likely to also have SIBO (Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth) and ten times more likely to have some kind of gut issue.

What influences our gut health?

Our gut microbiome has up to 500 species of bacteria living in it and right now it’s a hot area of research, so it’s safe to say almost everything influences our gut health. The more research we have the better we’re going to be – it’s so interesting and there’s so much more to learn.

I’m no gut expert, but obviously what you consume is a major factor. But so is your mood, stress levels, even hormonal health – I’ve noticed a correlation of bloating and IBS when my hormones are off balance. Exercise, alcohol, sleep all play a factor.

What foods help to maintain a healthy gut?

For me, I’ve found acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine to work for my own bloating, constipation and IBS dealings. I live by Traditional Chinese Medicine philosophies when it comes to my diet, so things like only drinking warm or room temp water (no sparkling), not drinking water while you’re eating or 30 minutes before and after eating, I steer clear of ‘damp’ foods e.g. dairy, sugar, starch, raw vegetables, peanut butter etc and instead consume warming, digestible foods like slow cooked meals, roast vegetables, I swear by bone broth – for good gut health and skin.

I take loads of gut-loving supplements and a good probiotic, and eat a tonne of fermented foods and pre-and probiotic rich foods, too. Kefir, sauerkraut, kim chi etc.

This isn’t going to work for everyone. Get your blood work done, find out if you’re gluten or dairy intolerant. Keep a food and poo diary, too.

What about food for healthy skin?

Green leafy vegetables, fatty fish, nuts and berries -antioxidants, good fats, vitamins, minerals, fibre and bone broth.