How treating an unhealthy gut can improve skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis
How treating an unhealthy gut can improve skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis
There is much research that links our gut health with a variety of skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis and acne. Most of us experience troublesome skin conditions at some point in our lives but there are people who deal with chronic skin conditions that seriously impact the quality of their lives.
If you have tried several skincare treatment options with little success, you will know that suffering from a long-term skin condition can be debilitating, affecting your confidence and causing you pain and discomfort.
Much conventional treatment of skin conditions involves topical creams, ointments, and antihistamines but recent research demonstrates a strong link between our gut health and the occurrence and severity of skin disorders.
One of the fundamental tenets of Functional Medicine is to address the underlying cause of a condition, rather than just treating the symptoms, so at Advanced Functional Medicine, we assess the health of your gut, hormones and other underlying pathology to successfully treat skin conditions.
Gut Health affects skin conditions such as eczema, acne and psoriasis
Types of common skin conditions
Eczema and dermatitis
There are different types and causes of dermatitis with the most chronic being Eczema. People may also suffer contact dermatitis, a skin irritation resulting directly from contact with an allergenic substance.
Eczema, also known as atopic eczema, atopic dermatitis, and allergic eczema, is a recurring, non-infectious, inflammatory skin condition affecting one in three Australians at some stage in their lives. The condition is most common in people with a family history of an atopic disorder, including asthma or hay fever. 1
It affects both children and adults. People with eczema find it hard to keep the moisture in their skin, so it becomes dry and easily irritated. The skin becomes red, dry, itchy and scaly, and in severe cases, may weep, bleed and crust over, causing the sufferer much discomfort.
Acne is a skin condition caused by increased sebum production. It usually affects large sebaceous gland areas such as the face, chest, upper back and shoulders, and back. Hair follicles become plugged with oil and dead skin cells, causing whiteheads, blackheads or pimples. Acne is most common among teenagers, though it affects people of all ages.
Depending on its severity, acne can cause emotional distress and scar the skin. The earlier you start treatment, the lower your risk of such problems. 2
Psoriasis is an inflammatory, autoimmune condition that triggers an overproduction of skin cells causing a scaly appearance, most commonly on the elbows, knees, and scalp, although it can occur anywhere on the body. It is not contagious. Symptoms include red scaly patches on skin, itchiness, and flaking of the skin.
Rosacea, or acne rosacea, is a non-contagious skin inflammation that only affects the face. The small surface blood vessels (capillaries) of the skin enlarge, giving the appearance of a permanent flush. The forehead, cheeks, and chin may develop yellow-headed pimples. Unlike acne, rosacea does not scar.
How skin reflects your gut health
Our gut microbiome is a vast collection of bacteria, viruses, fungi, and protozoa colonizing our GI system. 3
“The role of the gut microbiome as an important determinant of human health and disease has emerged as an exciting niche of research in many areas of medicine.” 4
Furthermore, we now know that there is a “clear association between gut problems and skin disorders.” 5
This relationship is referred to as the gut-skin axis.
Intestinal dysbiosis, a state of microbial imbalance, has the potential to negatively impact skin function. Skin conditions can often be the first sign of an unhealthy gut, caused by the following:
- Bacterial infections
- Low beneficial bacteria
- Mineral and fatty acid imbalances
- Poor digestion
- Intestinal permeability, also known as ‘leaky gut’
- A lowered immune system
- Food intolerances
- Undigested foods
These imbalances need investigating and correcting to truly recover from long term chronic skin conditions.
Natural skin treatment with probiotics
When you visit our Perth clinic at Advanced Functional Medicine, we will perform a comprehensive assessment of multiple systems of the body to assess the root cause of your skin condition. Many conventional medicines can have severe side effects, so by investigating your gut health status and other health markers, we can avoid the use of these and work to understand the underlying pathological changes in your gut function and body chemistry.
A Functional Medicine approach addresses the underlying root causes of your skin condition to make appropriate dietary and lifestyle changes. Depending on your skin condition, comprehensive investigative testing will identify pathogens and other imbalances and enable effective skin treatment.
There is substantial evidence to show that probiotics improve skin conditions. Oral probiotics have been shown to decrease lipopolysaccharide, improve intestinal barrier function and reduce inflammation. 7
“With intentional modulation of the microbiome, probiotics, prebiotics, and synbiotics have proven beneficial in the prevention this up-and-coming field, future research should improve our understanding of the complex mechanisms underlying the gut-skin axis, investigate the therapeutic potential of long-term modulation of the gut microbiome, and potentially expand therapeutic manipulation to include commensal gut fungi and viruses in order to fully harness the gut microbiome’s influence in the treatment of skin disease.” 8
We prescribe tailored spore-forming probiotics for skin care along with L. plantarum, L. rhamnosus GG, Bifidobacterium longum BL999, L. reuteri and S. boulardii. We also recommend introducing probiotic foods such as sauerkraut, tempeh, kimchi, miso, kombucha and pickles to support healthy immune response and reduce intestinal permeability.
Probiotics and fermented foods can cause side effects in some individuals with high levels of gut bacterial overgrowth. Specific probiotic strands are required in these cases and often other gut treatment is required before introducing any probiotics.
Fermented foods may also increase negative symptoms as they feed and encourage both the good and bad bacteria to grow in your microbiome. A healthy gut thrives with fermented foods however where there is a high level of gut dysbiosis, fermented foods may increase symptoms such as bloating, gas, altered stool movements etc.
Eczema has a particularly strong affiliation with the gut. When treating eczema, Functional Medicine health practitioners will look for the presence of gut microbiome imbalances, gut dysbiosis, intestinal permeability and parasites. Balancing the gut microbiome and resolving dysbiosis is always the first step in managing eczema.
As well as prescribing probiotics and introducing probiotic foods, gut health can be improved to treat eczema in the following ways:
- Conducting allergy testing and eliminating common allergens such dairy, wheat, soy, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, seafood, citrus, tomatoes, corn, strawberries
- Minimising pro-inflammatory foods such as sugar, refined carbohydrates, trans fats, omega-6 fatty acids, caffeine and alcohol
- Introducing a high fibre diet to support bowel function and growth of beneficial gut flora
- Including bitter foods, lemon juice and/or apple cider vinegar to support digestion of food
- Introducing supplements such as Omega 3 fatty acids, evening primrose oil, vitamin C and A, zinc, selenium and Biotin 3 mg
Treatment of psoriasis and rosacea
Skin conditions like rosacea and psoriasis are often a sign that something else going on in your body, so if you want to clear up your complexion or other areas of the body, it makes sense to look for the cause of the problem, rather than focusing on the skin itself.
Epidemiologic studies suggest that people with “rosacea have a higher prevalence of gastrointestinal disease, and one study reported improvement in rosacea following successful treatment of small intestinal bacterial overgrowth.” 9
Psoriasis and rosacea can be treated similarly by addressing key causes such as gut infections and bacterial overgrowth.
A Functional Medicine health practitioner will work with you to heal your gut by identifying food triggers, introducing probiotics for skin, probiotic foods, as well as tailored supplements and dietary advice.
We recommend avoiding allergenic foods with a gluten-free, casein-free diet to be trialed.
- Pro-inflammatory foods such as sugar, refined carbohydrates, trans fats, excessive commercial red meat, omega-6 fatty acids, caffeine and alcohol
- Spicy foods, alcohol, coffee, hot beverages, and sugar
- Anti-inflammatory foods such as cold-water oily fish, berries, nuts and seeds, turmeric, ginger, green tea, and olive oil
- Antioxidant-rich foods to promote tissue repair such as turmeric, fruits and vegetables
- A high fibre diet to support bowel function and growth of beneficial gut flora and promote clearance of estrogen metabolites
- Bitter foods, lemon juice and/or apple cider vinegar to support digestion of food
- Garlic as a broad-spectrum antimicrobial
- Omega-3 fatty acids, evening primrose oil, Vitamin D, folinic acid or methylfolate, vitamin B6, zinc, vitamin C, selenium, vitamin E, vitamin A, and glutamine. Cod liver oil is a good source of omega-3s, vitamin A and vitamin D
- Digestive enzymes/betaine hydrochloride to support digestive function
- Vitamin C and bioflavonoids, glutamine and curcumin
- Digestive stimulants such as gentian, ginger, goldenseal, andrographis and dandelion
In conjunction with prescribing probiotics for acne and other treatment options pending testing results, gut health can be improved to ensure the best acne treatment in the following ways:
- Addressing underlying gut issues and improve digestion and gastric function
- Ensuring methylation is optimised
- Reducing bacterial proliferation
- Supporting channels of elimination introduce a high fibre diet to improve bowel eliminations, support healthy gut flora, stabilise blood sugar levels
- Introducing a low glycaemic load diet to avoid sugar and refined carbohydrates
- Including zinc-rich foods
- Avoiding/reducing dairy foods
- Introducing omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin A, vitamin E, vitamin D, chromium, selenium and vitamin B6
Learn how to treat your gut health to resolve skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis and acne
At our Perth clinic of Advanced Functional Medicine, we have extensive experience with chronic skin conditions. Give us a call or fill out the form below to find out more.