According to the paper, as reported by Green Med Info:
“The ability of the gut microbiota and oral probiotics to influence systemic inflammation, oxidative stress, glycemic control, tissue lipid content and even mood itself, may have important implications in acne. The intestinal microflora may also provide a twist to the developing diet and acne research.”
What could your gut possibly have to do with your skin, and specifically acne? Far more than you might think, and it makes perfect sense that your skin would be impacted by your intestinal microflora and also your brain once you get a bit of background into how they are all intricately interconnected.
You've probably already experienced your "brain-skin" connection; for instance, when your face flushes because you feel embarrassed, or you get an acne breakout due to stress. Well, there's also a "gut-brain" connection, and therein lies the key to unraveling how the simple action of optimizing your gut bacteria could pave your way to clearer, acne-free skin.
What is the Gut-Brain Connection?
The study in Gut Pathogens explains that research by dermatologists John Stokes and Donald Pillsbury conducted more than 70 years ago may have recently been validated. They posited that your emotions could alter the microflora in your intestines, which could therefore contribute to systemic inflammation that could exacerbate acne and other skin conditions.
"Experimental studies show that psychological stress stagnates normal small intestinal transit time, encourages overgrowth of bacteria, and compromises the intestinal barrier. SIBO [small intestinal bacterial over growth] is strongly associated with depression and anxiety, while eradication of SIBO improves emotional symptoms.
Although the frequency of SIBO in acne vulgaris has not yet been investigated, a recent report indicates that SIBO is 10 times more prevalent in those with acne rosacea vs. healthy controls. Correction of SIBO leads to marked clinical improvement in patients with rosacea."
Indeed, most people fail to realize that your gut is quite literally your second brain, and in addition to digesting your food actually has the ability to significantly influence your:
It's not a widely understood or emphasized fact, but studies have repeatedly shown that a healthy gut reinforces a positive outlook and behavior, while depression and a variety of behavioral problems have been linked to an imbalance or lack of gut bacteria.
For example, a recent animal study published in the journal Neurogastroenterology & Motility found that mice lacking gut bacteria behave differently from normal mice, engaging in what would be referred to as "high-risk behavior." This altered behavior was accompanied by neurochemical changes in the mouse brain. According to the authors, your gut flora plays a role in the communication between your gut and your brain.
This is supported by research by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, who explains that in children with Gut and Psychology Syndrome (GAPS), the toxicity flowing from their gut throughout their bodies and into their brains, clogs the brain with toxicity, preventing it from performing its normal function and processing sensory information. You can also view the riveting interview I recently did with her that reviewed the connection between autism and gut flora.
GAPS may manifest as a conglomerate of symptoms that can fit the diagnosis of autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and other neurological issues, including depression.
The intrinsic connection between your gut and your brain becomes easier to understand once you know that your brain and gut are actually created out of the same type of tissue. During fetal development, one part turns into your central nervous system while the other develops into your enteric nervous system. These two systems are connected via the vagus nerve -- the tenth cranial nerve that runs from your brain stem down to your abdomen. This is what connects your two brains together. Your gut and brain actually work in tandem, each influencing the other as well as numerous other aspects of your health, including your skin.
Your Gut and Your Brain Also Influence Your Skin
Your skin may seem like an entirely separate organ from your brain or your intestines, but they are intricately intertwined. Emotional stress is proven to exacerbate acne, and your gut bacteria are proven to impact your emotions.
Further, your gut microflora may also influence your skin more directly, as signals from these gut microorganisms are sent throughout your body and interact with organisms in your skin and gut mucosa. Researchers are now looking into how these interactions can help with skin conditions like dryness, improve collagen, or stabilize the microflora on your skin to help with irritations.
This is why there are already a handful of functional probiotic products for the skin on the market. The popular cosmetic company Clinique released a "redness solutions makeup" last year that touts probiotic technology that "helps strengthen skin's barrier." Probiotic soaps, lotions and other personal care products are also available at many health food stores. Research is still emerging as to precisely how probiotics interact with your skin, as well as which strains are most beneficial and whether topical or oral applications work best, but the promise is definitely there.
As the researchers noted in Gut Pathogens:
"The lines of communication, as mediated by gut microbes, may be direct and indirect -- ultimately influencing the degree of acne by a systemic effect on inflammation, oxidative stress, glycemic control, tissue lipid levels, pathogenic bacteria, as well as levels of neuropeptides and mood-regulating neurotransmitters.
It was not the contention of Stokes and Pillsbury, nor is it ours, that acne is a disease of the gastrointestinal tract. Yet, there appears to be more than enough supportive evidence to suggest that gut microbes, and the integrity of the gastrointestinal tract itself, are contributing factors in the acne process."
Dietary Considerations to be Aware Of
I've long stated that poor diet is a major factor in the cause of acne, and this also ties in with the gut connection. When you eat grain carbohydrates and sugar, it causes a surge of insulin and an insulin-like growth factor called IGF-1 in your body. This can lead to an excess of male hormones, which cause your pores to secrete sebum, a greasy substance that attracts acne-promoting bacteria. Additionally, IGF-1 causes skin cells known as keratinocytes to multiply, a process that is also associated with acne.
Additionally, these very same foods -- refined carbs, such as fructose, sugar and grains -- will also increase inflammation in your body, which may trigger acne, and at the same time they will also wreak havoc on the makeup of your intestinal bacteria.
In fact, avoiding sugar, including fructose, and processed foods (which virtually all contain added sugar and fructose) is one of my top recommendations to optimize your gut bacteria, as the sugars serve as fuel for the growth of pathogenic anaerobic bacteria, fungi and yeast, and competitively inhibit your good bacteria, tending to crowd them out of their appropriate niche.
So this is yet another way that your gut bacteria, via your diet, can influence your skin. When you eat a healthy diet like my comprehensive nutrition plan, which is low in sugars and processed foods, it automatically helps enable the beneficial bacteria in your gut to flourish.
How to Best Optimize Your Gut Bacteria for Acne Prevention
If you eat many processed foods your gut bacteria are going to be compromised because processed foods in general will destroy healthy microflora and feed bad bacteria and yeast. But your gut bacteria are also very sensitive to:
- Chlorinated water
- Antibacterial soap
- Agricultural chemicals
Because virtually all of us are exposed to these at least occasionally, ensuring your gut bacteria remain balanced should be considered an ongoing process. Cultured foods like raw milk yogurt and kefir, some cheeses, and sauerkraut are good sources of natural, healthy bacteria, provided they are made from raw milk and not pasteurized.
If you do not eat fermented foods on a regular basis, taking a high-quality probiotic supplement is definitely recommended to help optimize your body's good bacteria, with potential secondary benefits to your skin as well.