Pretty much since birth, I’ve been on a mission to rid myself of the itchy painful patches of psoriasis plaguing my skin. From various creams and moisturizers to medicated shampoos and prescription pills that promised a cure, I’ve tried it all (my girls and guys with sensitive skin, IKYK). After years of trial and error, and testing countless creams and ointments that never worked, the one thing that helped me resolve my lifelong psoriasis was healing my gut.
It all started when a doctor-recommended stool test showed my gut had yeast overgrowth, which was keeping my body from absorbing vitamins and nutrients and increasing inflammation levels. I spent many months sipping on pre and probiotic concoctions and cutting out gluten and dairy. In an effort to heal my gut, something amazing and unexpected happened: my psoriasis completely cleared up. Years later, I am still living psoriasis-free and prioritizing gut health to prevent any flair-ups. If you deal with rosacea, acne, or sensitivity, and you feel like you’ve tried every cream and prescription to no avail, you may be missing out on the root cause: the gut. Ahead, I break down why the gut impacts the skin and how improving gut health can also clear up skin woes.
The Gut-Skin Connection
Doctors, researchers, and healers alike are looking at the connection between the gut and well… everything (peep the gut-brain connection, for example). As more and more research on the gut microbiome is done, experts are also looking to the gut’s connection to the skin, and as a potential root cause (and solution) to skin symptoms such as acne, rosacea, and any other inflammation. “The gut influences our systemic immune response,” explained Dr. Blake Butler, a functional medical doctor and remote care provider at Aligned Modern Health. “If the gut is compromised, we tend to see inflammation run amok. This can contribute to the expression of immune system dysfunction that influences the health of our skin. A compromised or unhealthy gut can also contribute to increased food sensitivities that may promote further irritation to our skin.”
The gut microbiome is made up of trillions of microorganisms that live in your intestinal tract. These microorganisms are key to your health and overall well-being. When your gut microbiome is out of whack, it causes an alteration in your immune system, which can cause increased inflammation and, in turn, the presence of a variety of skin disorders, including acne, dandruff, and psoriasis. “An unhealthy gut can contribute to systemic inflammation, skin changes, and autoimmunity,” Dr. Butler said. “Therefore, improving the health of the gut can drastically improve the health of the skin.”
How to Heal the Gut to Heal the Skin
While there are general gut-healthy tips such as eating certain foods or taking certain supplements that can help improve the health and diversity of the gut microbiome, when attempting to identify and heal any imbalances or issues in the gut (and therefore clear the inflammation that’s showing up on the skin), you should seek out an individual treatment plan for you instead of opting for what worked for someone else.
Just like we all have different hair colors, personalities, and interests, the gut microbiome is unique to each person. Because of this, no two people will have the same course of action when it comes to healing their gut. It will likely require a lot of trial and error to figure out what works for you, and the best course of action is always testing to figure out exactly what is going on in the gut. “We are all different and require personalized support based on genetics, environment, health history, diet, and lifestyle,” Dr. Butler suggested. While some need to increase the diversity of probiotic species in order to improve the gut-immune response, others may need to remove bad bacteria, parasites, or yeast in order to remove inflammation that’s driving skin issues.
Dr. Butler also explained that your exact skin condition or symptom may change a course of action as well. For example, while someone with inflammatory acne may benefit from eating lower levels of refined carbohydrates and sugars to reduce their levels of inflammation, someone with psoriasis may benefit from limiting gluten or dairy for a period of time to avoid potential triggers. So while the root cause of skin issues may be the gut, the exact way to heal the gut will look different to everyone. Dr. Butler recommended working with a functional doctor and opting for bloodwork and stool tests to help find a solution that works best for your individual anatomy.