Self Care

The Gut & Skin Connection: How to Optimize Both For Glowing Skin

The health of our skin is often a direct reflection of what’s going on inside our gut.

By: Lexy Parsons

While our skin and gut may seem like unrelated systems, the truth is, they’re actually intricately connected. In fact, the health of our skin is often a direct reflection of what’s going on inside our body, particularly, in our gut. Connected by the gut-skin axis, a bidirectional communication pathway, research has shed light on this vital relationship, offering insights on how to optimize both organs for better health. From improved digestion to glowing skin, all you need to know about the gut and skin connection, ahead!

The Gut-Skin Relationship: What You Need to Know

Is there truly a link between poor digestion and breakouts? Can redness and skin aging relate to gut disorders? Hint: they are directly connected!

While seemingly unrelated, research shows an intricate connection between gut health and skin health. This connection is facilitated by various pathways, including the immune system, endocrine system, and the nervous system. Known as the gut-skin axis, this bidirectional communication explains how the health of our gut influences the condition and appearance of our skin. Ahead, what the research says on the gut-skin relationship.

The Gut, Skin, & Inflammation 

From acne and redness to flaky skin and itchiness, inflammation is a sneaky culprit that can contribute to many skin conditions. When our gut health is imbalanced (whether due to an overgrowth of harmful bacteria or a reduction in beneficial microbes) systemic inflammation and immune dysfunction can occur as a result. Triggering the release of pro-inflammatory cytokines and other mediators that contribute to increased oil production, clogged pores, and bacteria, this inflammation can exacerbate existing skin issues and lead to the development of new ones.

Leaky Gut & Skin Health

Disruptions in gut barrier function, often referred to as “leaky gut,” may also contribute to the development of skin issues by allowing harmful substances to enter the bloodstream. Once in the bloodstream, these substances can trigger systemic inflammation and immune responses, which may manifest as skin inflammation, irritation, and other dermatological issues.

Skin Aging & Gut Health

Additionally, emerging research suggests a connection between gut health and skin aging. In addition to increasing oxidative stress — which can contribute to collagen degradation, elastin breakdown, and impaired wound healing — gut dysbiosis can impair the absorption of essential vitamins and antioxidants (such as vitamin C, vitamin E, and polyphenols) that are crucial for skin health.

While poor gut health may negatively impact skin health, there’s good news: by optimizing gut health, we can significantly support the health of our skin, leading to improved appearance, vitality, and aging!

Simple Strategies to Optimize Gut Health for Better Skin

Eat the Rainbow

Filling your plate with a wide variety of colorful fruits and vegetables is one of the best ways to nourish both your gut and skin. Aside from contributing to a more diverse gut microbiota, these vibrant foods also provide an array of essential vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytonutrients that reduce inflammation, support healthy aging, and protect the skin from oxidative damage. 

Here are some colorful gut and skin-healthy foods to consider:

  • Sweet potatoes (including various varieties such as purple and Japanese sweet potatoes)
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower (including purple and orange varieties)
  • Berries (such as strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries)
  • Dark leafy greens
  • Beets
  • Citrus fruits

RELATED: The Best 15 Foods For Glowing Skin

Load Up On Fiber-Rich Foods

Increasing our intake of fiber-rich foods can help to nourish and feed our beneficial gut bacteria, helping to slow skin aging and improve skin health in the process. A study published in the journal Nutrition Reviews found that higher fiber intake was correlated with reduced levels of inflammatory markers in the body, which may help alleviate skin conditions such as acne, eczema, and psoriasis. Additionally, fiber helps promote regularity and detoxification, potentially minimizing skin issues related to toxin buildup.

Prebiotic and fiber-rich foods include:

  • Jerusalem artichokes
  • Whole grains, such as oats, barley, and quinoa
  • Apples
  • Avocados
  • Bananas
  • Seeds, such as chia, flax, and hemp
  • Nuts, such as almonds, pistachios, and walnuts

RELATED: Is Your Diet Lacking Fiber? Here are 11 Fiber-Rich Foods for a Healthy Gut

Stay Hydrated

Ever notice how our skin can look dull and irritated when it lacks moisture? That’s because hydration isn’t just important for our skin — it’s also crucial for our gut health. Adequate hydration supports the mucosal lining of the intestines, aiding in digestion and maintaining a healthy gut barrier. This barrier prevents harmful substances from leaking into the bloodstream and causing inflammation, which can lead to skin issues and signs of aging. To support skin hydration, elasticity, and a youthful appearance, aim to drink at least eight glasses of water per day and limit dehydrating beverages like alcohol and caffeine.

RELATED: 9 Hacks to Motivate Yourself to Stay Hydrated

Avoid Inflammatory Triggers

Speaking of foods like alcohol, you’ll also want to be mindful of other inflammatory triggers in your diet. Foods high in refined sugars, processed oils, and artificial additives can contribute to inflammation in the body, which may manifest as skin issues such as acne, eczema, or redness. Additionally, certain food sensitivities or allergies can exacerbate gut inflammation, further impacting skin health. To promote both gut and skin health, focus on consuming a balanced diet rich in whole, nutrient-dense foods like fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy fats. 

A simple trick is to shop the perimeter of the grocery store — it’s here you’ll find the most wholesome options. And remember to always read the ingredient label — sneaky ingredients can be hiding in plain sight!

RELATED: 8 Inflammatory Foods That May be Secretly Harming Your Gut Health

Manage Stress

Stress management is one of those things that helps with just about everything — gut and skin health included! When stressed, our body produces higher levels of cortisol, a hormone that can increase inflammation and compromise gut barrier function. If chronic, this can lead to digestive issues like bloating and poor nutrient absorption, as well as exacerbate skin conditions such as acne, eczema, and redness. By incorporating stress management techniques into our routine — such as meditation, deep breathing exercises, or spending time in nature — we can optimize digestion, support nutrient absorption, and support healthy aging and glowing skin.

Get Adequate Sleep

Similar to stress management, sleep plays a vital role in nourishing our gut microbiome and skin health. During sleep, the body undergoes essential repair and regeneration processes, including the repair of damaged tissues and the removal of toxins. As sleep becomes compromised, signs of skin aging (like dark circles, wrinkles, and facial swelling) may become more pronounced. Additionally, increased sugar cravings and a slowed metabolism can adversely affect gut health, contributing to digestive issues and hormone dysfunction. Aim for 7-9 hours of quality sleep per night, and consider creating a relaxing bedtime routine!

Prioritize Probiotics

If you want to glow from the inside out, you’ll want to prioritize your intake of probiotics, whether from supplements or food-based sources! According to research, incorporating fermented and probiotic-rich foods such as yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, and kimchi can introduce beneficial bacteria to the gut, helping to aid nutrient absorption, reduce inflammation, and support skin barrier function. If you’re considering supplementation, probiotic strains such as Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, and Bifidobacterium bifidum have been shown to help reduce inflammation, support immune function, and improve skin health.

Radiant Skin Starts From Within

As the body’s largest organ, our skin serves as a direct reflection of our internal health. And now that we understand the intricate connection between our gut microbiome and skin health, we can see that radiant skin starts from within! By prioritizing gut health through a balanced diet, hydration, stress management, and probiotic supplementation, we can address not only surface-level concerns, but also support the deep-rooted causes for long-term skin health, gut health, and overall vitality.