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Gut Health and Skin: The Surprising Reason Your Skin Creams Don’t Work

Gut Health and Skin: The Surprising Reason Your Skin Creams Don’t Work

skin cream in a bowl with lavender and flowers around it

If you’ve struggled with any unrelenting skin conditions such as acne, eczema, rosacea, or psoriasis, you’ve probably realized that skin creams and lotions don’t really help. This is because nearly every skin condition isn’t originating in the skin itself, but instead in the gut. Gut health and skin go hand-in-hand.

Almost daily, new research is uncovering how the gut microbiome impacts nearly every aspect of our health. The gut microbiome has been linked to a number of conditions including heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and autoimmune disease.¹ Similarly, the gut also impacts the health of your skin in a very integral way.

The gut microbiome affects your skin to such a degree, that sometimes my patients who come in for gut issues such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) or small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) are shocked that their apparent lifelong skin conditions clear up after we heal their gut.

Gut and skin health have a strong connection through what’s called the gut-skin axis.² These two systems impact one another and have several similarities, including:

  • They both act as barriers, protecting you from the outside world.
  • They both have microbiomes.
  • They are both part of the neuroendocrine system. Meaning, they communicate with the brain about your body, which has led some people to refer to this as the gut-brain-skin axis.

In addition to these similarities, your gut and skin interact through the metabolic capacity of the gut microbiome, which is largely dependent on your diet. Also, the metabolites your microbiome produces are accessible by the skin. Though we are still learning about how these metabolites are sensed by the skin, we have identified clear associations between certain gut and skin conditions.

Image of a person suffering from sever acne demonstrating the association between gut health and skin.

Specific Gut & Skin Associations

There are several skin issues that have been linked to conditions of the gut, though I suspect there are still many more to uncover. Here are a few gut conditions alongside skin issues that have been observed, documented, and studied.

1. Dysbiosis + Acne

Dysbiosis is when the harmful bacteria overtake the beneficial bacteria in the gut and create an imbalance. Studies have found that people with acne usually have some sort of gut imbalance.

One 2017 study found that taking action to correct dysbiosis of the gut microbiome through eating more plant-based foods and taking appropriate supplements should be the first line in defense against persistent acne.³

2. Hypochlorhydria + Acne

Studies have found that hypochlorhydria or low stomach acid can cause skin problems, such as acne.⁴ Furthermore, hypochlorhydria puts you at a much higher risk of developing SIBO, which has been associated with other skin conditions.

3. SIBO + Rosacea

Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth or SIBO occurs when harmful, methane-producing bacteria migrate down into the small intestine where they shouldn’t be. Studies have found that SIBO is common in patients with rosacea. One study found that patients, where SIBO was eradicated, had a near-complete reversal of their rosacea symptoms.⁵

4. Inflammatory Bowel Disease + Psoriasis, Eczema, Rosacea, and More

IBD, which includes both Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, is characterized by the inflammation of the gastrointestinal lining. IBD has been linked to a number of skin conditions including lesions and rashes.

One 2012 study found that skin conditions were such a reliable indicator in people with IBD, it called on dermatologists to recommend patients have their gut checked when they came in with skin symptoms indicating underlying IBD.⁶

6. Celiac Disease + Acne, Dermatitis Herpetiformis, Oral Mucosal Lesions, Alopecia, Vitiligo, and Eczema

As you can see, celiac disease has been associated with many skin conditions.⁷ Because of this, I always recommend patients remove gluten from their diet immediately when they have an issue with their skin.

7. Leaky Gut + Acne, Psoriasis, and Eczema

Leaky gut is a condition where the tight junctions connecting the cells in the lining of your intestines become ‘loose’ and allow toxins to pass through unchecked into the bloodstream – this triggers your immune system and can lead to a number of skin conditions.

There are a number of factors that can lead to leaky gut including poor diet, alcohol, infections, inflammation, certain medications, nutrient deficiencies, and more. Emotional/mental stress can be a major cause of leaky gut, so you’ll need to examine and deal with areas of high stress in your life if you want to clear up your skin.

8. Candida + Psoriasis, Eczema, and Rashes

Candida is a yeast, a type of fungus, that can become a problem when it overgrows within your gut. While some Candida is normal within the GI tract, if you’re eating a diet high in sugar or refined carbs or take antibiotics frequently – Candida can run amok.

This is by no means a definitive list because we are regularly uncovering new gut-skin connections. However, this is a good starting point for finding the root cause if you do struggle with a skin condition.

salmon, avocado, and salad on a plate

Repairing the Gut for Better Skin

To repair your skin, you should start by healing your gut, here are some tips on how to improve the gut microbiome. When a patient comes to see us for skin problems, we start to IDENTIFY underlying root issues and contributing factors, which is one of the Five Pillars in our Fully Functional® process.

While we are pinning down the root cause of your skin condition, we often recommend we get started on the other pillars, especially REDUCE and OPTIMIZE. To start reducing the harm caused to your gut, you should:

  • Eliminate sugar
  • Remove processed foods
  • Eliminate gluten
  • Decrease inflammation
  • Reduce stress

Also, you will likely begin taking probiotics and possibly digestive enzymes to help your gut heal. These are steps you can take right away to start your journey towards becoming Fully Functional®.

Skin conditions can be frustrating, even embarrassing. Gone are the days where we ignore the microbiomes of the gut and skin and simply prescribe a cream. It is my hope that you find the root cause of your issue so you can take the necessary steps towards repairing your skin so you can look and feel your best!

Want more information? You can book an appointment at our functional medicine practice by clicking here. We are also happy to speak with you at (317) 989-8463, Monday-Thursday, from 8AM – 5PM Eastern time.


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