by Erin Giberson | November 10, 2020
We all want clear skin. From beauty products to magazines, the goal is to achieve a healthy, radiant complexion.
Yet for all the interest in having glowing skin, most discussions about skin health miss talking about the root cause because skin regimens tend to focus on treating skin from the outside, targeting a blemish or irritation as just an external event.
However, skin issues may be about more than what is visible on the surface. Current studies suggest that our internal health, specifically of our digestive system, where most of our immunity is stored, says the most about skin health (Caspero, 2017). When it comes down to it, the root of breakouts and occurrences of dermatitis is more than skin deep.
What is revealing about this finding is that linking digestive health to skin health means that dietary changes (including supplement use), which improve the balance of the microbiome in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, can benefit the appearance of skin. And, essentially, that means that “science now points us inward to treat the outward. Heal the gut, heal the skin” (Caspero, 2017).
Probiotics can’t override the effects of poor diet (which the gut reflects), yet probiotics can significantly improve the bacterial balance in favor of good microorganisms, and gut health influences skin health, which can be good for your skin. Interestingly, contemporary studies have affirmed connections and treatments previously hypothesized in dermatological research, long before the term probiotics became mainstream (Bowe and Logan 2011).
Increasing evidence points to the importance of gut health and the treatment potential of acne through probiotics supplementation.
As Bowe and Logan note, “the theoretical value of oral probiotics as adjuvant care in acne vulgaris seems sound. Recent studies have shown that orally consumed pre and probiotics can reduce system markers of inflammation and oxidative stress”(2011). That is,probiotics can help clear acne and benefit acne occurrence, including helping reduce cystnic acne.
Research also indicates that probiotics are good for your skin by improving leaky gut symptoms which contribute to skin disorders and skin problems.
In a recent clinical study, "54 female university students who experience dry skin [took] 'K -1 lactic acid bacteria,' 100 mg (100 billion bacteria), or a simulated food (placebo) for 6 weeks during winter. During this time, amount of transdermal moisture transpiration, skin texture, and acne, which are all an indicator for skin barrier function were investigated." The group receiving the probiotic dosage experienced skin improvement, as indicated by the following results (Kameda Seika):
I. Improved Skin Barrier Function
II. Improved Skin Texture
III. Decreased Occurrence of Acne
Similar to acne, dermatitis conditions like eczema and rosacea are related to gut disorders (Minich 2017).
With eczema little patch of rough, red, itchy skin can become an entire area of redness and irritation in less than a day. Common among many people, and occurring from wrists to faces to arms and legs and the torso - basically, anywhere and everywhere - eczema is an uncomfortable and unsightly skin affliction. Many adults with eczema symptoms also experienced it as a child.
While eczema, also called atopic dermatitis, was previously routinely treated as a skin sensitivity issue, recent studies reveal that eczema is related to diet and specifically to gut health (Nall, 2018). Thus, the flare up of eczema rashes and outbreaks is reflective of the health or imbalance of an individual’s microbiome. This discovery is important because of how eczema is treated and because of what it tells us about internal wellness, which is relevant to the skin conditions apparent in toddler eczema, kids' eczema, and adult eczema. And this gut-skin connection is now recognized: “emerging research is finding that the benefits of probiotics may extend beyond the digestive tract to the skin. In fact, skin prone to acne or rosacea has shown improvement with daily probiotic use, giving dermatologists reason to consider supplementing traditional acne therapy with a dose of this beneficial bacteria” (AAD, 2014).
What it means, then, is that probiotics might play a significant role when included in treatment approaches fo a variety of skin disorders, including incorporating probiotics use for psoriasis and rashes and preventative probiotics for skin infections.
By contributing to bacterial balance in the digestive track, regular use of probiotics supplements benefit general skin health, which is a vital component of an individual's immunity, especially for anyone with hormonal fluctuations, such as during puberty, menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause (Griffin+Row, 2018).
The trouble with typical treatment approaches for eczema is that steroid creams are often prescribed (Kim, 2017), and while corticosteroids may be necessary in certain situations, routine use or even frequent use can further weaken skin and miss the root cause. Ongoing use of corticosteroids can cause thinning of skin (atrophy), especially already delicate skin, such as near eyes and on hands; skin thickening (lichenification); stretch marks (striae); and darkening of skin (NEA, 2018). While these side effects are rare with correct use, the risk remains that topical steroids can negatively disrupt skin health, and that risk increases when they are used to managed frequent flare-ups.
A more holistic approach to treating skin issues like eczema and rosacea lie in identifying the triggers that cause flare-ups to occur and in employing preventative management of irritants. Since eczema reflects internal inflammation, topical treatment alone “cannot fully heal and reverse eczema” because “conventional medicine is only trying to superficially suppress the outside symptoms” (Myers, 2016).
Essentially eczema is the “external symptom of an internal problem” (a “malfunctioning immune system”) (Myers, 2016). The immune system, kicked into overdrive by perceived threats, ends ups attacking the skin.
Many of these perceived threats are from unrecognized dietary allergies, yet autoimmune disruptions like eczema are often strong indicators of a “poorly functioning intestinal tract” and weakened gut health (Myers, 2016). Eczema and gut health are invariably connected.
The same is true for rosacea: “Recent studies in the United Kingdom, South Korea and Denmark have found significant associations between rosacea and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), lending further evidence to a possible connection between the two inflammatory disorders” (National Rosacea Society, 2016). Again, the link between internal, imbalanced gut health and external skin issues is connected.
That’s why dietary probiotics supplements, along with dietary changes, can be helpful: because eczema is a “gut disorder that shows up in the skin” (Body Ecology). By contributing to restoring the balance of good and bad bacteria in the gut, probiotics can help heal the underlying triggers: “In a 2011 study, researchers concluded that probiotics can influence the ecosystem of the skin” (Body Ecology). And if we can improve the microbiome, we might heal the skin ailment.
So what now? It’s evident that many skin issues, from break-outs to eczema and rosacea are more than superficial irritations and instead indicate deeper rooted gut health and autoimmunity weakness. That might initially feel discouraging to hear, yet it’s actually positive: by communicating internal inflammation through skin irritation, our bodies visibly convey messages about our gut health. These indicators give us the opportunity to look deeper at our microbiome and at the lifestyle changes we might have been wanting. Since it’s more than skin deep, these skin struggles might be the very motivation that inspires us to change our habits and heal our guts.
Since the digestive tract contains good and bad bacteria, probiotics, which are the good bacteria - that is, beneficial living microorganisms, help tilt the scale in favor of the good bacteria. Having sufficient levels of helpful bacterias creates the digestive balance that contributes to healthy skin functioning.
While other factors, such as healthy diets, reduced environmental allergens, and gentle cleansers, can also help skin, probiotics are fundamental: “The GI tract and skin are both organs of detoxification. We need a healthy microbiome in the gut to break down food, absorb nutrients, and eliminate toxins. When our gut flora is not healthy, and there are more bad bacteria than good bacteria, a lot of problems can arise — including chronic inflammation, which is a cause of acne and other skin problems. Some bad bacteria, fungus, and yeast can even cause inflammation in and of themselves. So, if you are looking to clear up your skin, you have to start with your gut” (Hou, 2014).
Improving microbiome imbalance requires taking a quality probiotics supplement with a high enough CFU (colony forming units) count as well as supporting research on the selected strain.
sho Balance vegan probiotics, with 100 Billion CFU of Lactobacillus Casei K-1, specifically selected for its clinically tested efficacy, additionally contains a prebiotic FOS, spirulina, flaxseed and olive oil for antioxidant benefit.
The link is evident: a balanced gut environment, supported by regular probiotics use, is the starting point for clearer, healthier skin.