Not to freak you out, but we have a LOT of tiny organisms living in our bodies. Bacteria and microbes live in our skin, nose, mouth, and especially our gut and constitute what is known as the human microbiota. Did you know we have more bacteria in our body than cells? Remember that the next time you’re feeling alone!
Most of these bacteria are good for us and help maintain our overall health by keeping the ‘bad’ bacteria in our bodies under check. Most of the good bacteria live in a pocket in our intestine constituting what is called the ‘gut microbiome’. This gut microbiome is responsible for maintaining the health of our entire body – from brain function, digestion, immunity and skin health!
Wait a minute – what does our gut have to do with our skin? Let’s unpack!
Gut Feelings Are Like Guardian Angels
The gut is where 70% of our immune system is. We break down food into nutrients, neutralise pathogens, and metabolise hormones in our gut. So, if our gut isn’t at its healthiest, the entire system takes a hit.
If our hormones are out of whack, or we’re not getting enough or the RIGHT nutrients, or we’re not digesting food properly, our entire body won’t receive the nutrition it needs to support itself. Our skin is the last part of our body to receive these nutrients, so if there is a disbalance in the system, our skin is the first to report it.
Think of our body as a garden, and the gut as the soil. If the soil doesn’t have the right nutrients, pH and bacterial balance, the plants won’t grow and the leaves won’t be robust and the flowers won’t blossom. So, for our skin to be strong, robust, and radiant, our gut microbiome needs to have the right balance.
The Gut-Skin Axis
The gut and skin have a lot more in common than you might think. First, both play a major role in protecting our bodies from external pathogens. Both also have the ability to receive signals from the brain and transmit it to other parts of the body, being key players in the neuroendocrine messaging system – which is basically a large group chat between our nervous system and our endocrine system.
Additionally, the skin also has its own microbiome of bacteria and microbes, similar to the one in our guts. The skin microbiome helps maintain our pH balance and protects our skin from infections and pollution. “The skin microbiome is the healthy bacteria of your skin and it prefers a pH of about 5. It increases the production of ceramides, which plays an important role in keeping your skin barrier healthy.” explains certified aesthetician and cosmetologist Sreeja Shreshtha.
“The skin barrier is the outermost layer of your skin’s surface and it is responsible for making sure that essential water and electrolytes don’t evaporate from the skin. It also serves as a protective shield against harmful microorganisms by producing antimicrobial peptides and proteins. On top of that, the skin barrier helps sustain the skin’s immunity and regulates inflammation. So any damage to your skin barrier immediately results in reactive and inflamed skin.”
All these similarities contribute to what has come to be known as the gut-skin axis. The gut and the skin are in constant communication through this gut-skin axis – each affecting the other and influencing the other’s health leading to a very deeply researched connection between disorders of the gut and disorders of the skin.
Protecting The Gut-Skin Connection
Unfortunately, healthy guts are not friends with factors that have come to be commonplace in our lifestyle these days – stress, pollution, and processed foods can all lead to inflammation in the gut, thereby inflaming our whole system!
We can always TRY to eat healthily, and go by the book to ensure our system is running smoothly, but realistically that’s not always possible, and we don’t have to beat ourselves up over one night of drinking, or one brunch out at a fast-food joint with friends.
Sreeja’s tip? “Luckily it is very easy to balance the microbiome of our skin by eating probiotics like yoghurt or by taking probiotic supplements. Working out regularly and ditching your harsh cleansers can also significantly improve the health of your skin microbiome.”
The best way to support our microbiota is to give them good treats in the form of probiotics, prebiotics and superfoods. Probiotics are the good bacteria that reside in our gut and prebiotics are the fuel essential for the probiotics. So, if we were to go back to the garden analogy, prebiotics are like the fertilizer. ‘Super-food’ is a marketing term for nutrient-rich naturally occurring foods that can have a positive impact on our health – like leafy greens, turmeric, and berries.
One of the main functions of these microbiome protectors is to increase the level of antioxidants in our bodies. Antioxidants help fight free radicals and in turn protect our cells from inflammation. They are very helpful for proper skin health as they protect the skin barrier, and fight damage caused by environmental stressors like pollution and UV rays.
One of the strongest antioxidants in this regard is natural astaxanthin. It has been scientifically proven to be 500x stronger than Vitamin E and 6000x stronger than Vitamin C. It helps restore and increase skin elasticity, reduce hyperpigmentation and also promote the production of collagen.
On the future of gut-related skincare, Sreeja says “I do believe that ingestible skincare has a good potential as we are moving towards an inside out approach to skincare. I feel antioxidants and gut health-related products could see a boom.”
Check out Immunity Boost with Natural Astaxanthin and start protecting your body here!