Chances are you've tripped over a product or two touting the importance of a healthy gut for radiant skin. There's no shortage of probiotic supplements and beverages that promise dewy, clear skin, but what you may not know is that probiotics aren't the only nutrients that can support your skin through your gut.
Here, we break down exactly how that whole gut-skin connection thing works and what foods you can eat to boost your glow, from the inside-out.
First, the basics. The gut, or intestinal tract, is home to a microbiome or "ecosystem" of trillions of strains of bacteria, both good and bad. When all is well, the good bacteria keeps the bad in check. But when all is not well, like when we eat processed foods, eat sugary snacks or take a course of antibiotics, our gut microbiome can be thrown out of whack, allowing the bad bacteria (otherwise known as pathogens) to flourish and break down the lining of the intestinal wall.
The result? A "leaky" gut that allows molecules that aren’t meant to be in our blood to pass through our intestinal lining, triggering systemic inflammation and problems like acne, brown spots, psoriasis and more.
"There is no denying that a skin-gut connection exists as more and more studies are proving that dysbiosis (bad bacteria growing in the gut) causes leaky bowel syndrome which causes inflammation throughout the body affecting all organs including the skin," explains New York dermatologist Ariel Ostad, MD.
Taking a probiotic (a good bacteria) in supplement form or eating foods rich in probiotics, such as Greek yogurt, miso, sauerkraut, kimchi, definitely helps. Plus scientists have identified specific strains of bacteria that can help with certain skin conditions. It's also important to eat prebiotic foods, or foods that 'feed' the beneficial bacteria. Good sources of prebiotics are sunchokes (Jerusalem artichokes), garlic, onions, and old fashioned rolled oats.
But your overall diet matters, too. Reducing consumption of processed foods and refined sugars and "eating a varied diet filled with a variety of vegetables will provide antioxidants and encourage a healthier microbiome," says Ostad. Antioxidants, minerals and l-glutamine (an amino acid found in seafood, poultry and beef, as well as soybeans, eggs and red cabbage) help repair damage to the gut lining.
One last, lesser-known lifestyle choice that impacts gut health is alcohol consumption. Heavy drinking can strip away the mucus that lines and protects the gut, also making it more vulnerable to leaky gut syndrome, says Gail Cresci, PhD, RD, a researcher and clinical nutritionist with the Cleveland Clinic. Yet another reason to keep moderation in mind during happy hour.
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