The gut, which is otherwise known as the digestive or gastrointestinal (GI) tract, is essentially a long, hollow tube from the mouth to the anus. It has two main parts: the upper GI, which consist of the oral cavity, esophagus, and stomach; and the lower, which consist of the small and large intestines or colon. The gut is the primary interface between the body and the outside world and is exposed to a potentially harmful cast of characters, including numerous toxic chemicals, allergens, bacteria, viruses, and even food. A healthy person's gut is home to at least 100 million microorganisms made of about 1,000 species and 700 strains. People are actually more bacteria than they are human! This vast ecologic system is known as the microbiome and the beneficial bacteria that exist in the microbiome help people digest their food, synthesize key vitamins, fight pathogens, and make up approximately 70 percent of the immune system.
Microbial imbalance, or dysbiosis, can negatively impact how the skin looks and behaves. The underlying cause of virtually every skin disorder is inflammation. What fuels the inflammation is an infection usually brought on by some impairment in the digestive lining itself. The compromised digestive lining allows undigested foods, proteins, and bacteria to enter the bloodstream, triggering an immune response.
When beneficial bacteria are low, toxins increase, causing inflammatory conditions that can promote acne and wrinkling, among other undesirable skin conditions. The microbial balance in the GI tract influences how effective the immune system is. Just imagine what would happen if someone had an infection that their body was not able to fight. When harmful bacteria outnumber beneficial bacteria, this scenario is precisely what happens. When lifestyle and certain dietary factors are added to the mix, increased skin challenges occur. It is not just the skin that can be affected by this negative imbalance, however. Other areas of a person's health can be greatly impacted: energy levels can plummet; joints can become inflamed; autoimmunity increases; and certain metabolic disorders, like obesity and diabetes, can also increase. According to Donna Gates, author of "The Body Ecology Diet," eliminating toxins in the bowel will even keep hair from graying. Apparently, these toxins can keep minerals from getting to the hair, leading to the loss of pigment.
The reasons behind gut health issues can be multifactorial, but one common culprit is low stomach acid, which can cause nutrient malabsorption when food is not completely digested. Low stomach acid can also create a favorable environment for harmful bacteria to grow and thrive. Constipation can be brought on by low stomach acid and lead to toxin buildup as undigested food in the colon putrefies.
Even lack of sleep or inadequate sleep can affect the body's metabolic and digestive processes. As part of the body's detoxification process, the skin can release these toxins, resulting in the symptoms we commonly see like increased breakouts, wrinkles, uneven skin tone, and hyperpigmented skin, which is usually due to sugar imbalances; too much dietary sugar feeds yeast and harmful bacteria.
First, eating a plant-based diet and a variety of plants in general increases the biodiversity of the gut bacteria. Consuming probiotic-rich foods and supplements provides the beneficial bacteria needed to maintain the integrity of the microbiome and the intestines' cellular integrity.
Prebiotics provide the food for good bacteria and is found primarily in fruits, vegetables, and fiber. Avoid the use of antibacterial products, including antibiotic medicines. They disrupt the skin's ecosystem and actually allow the bad bacteria to thrive, namely by killing off the good bacteria. It should be noted that antibiotics are designed to kill all bacteria, which will still leave the body susceptible to foreign invaders, such as more harmful bacteria. Finally, it is a good idea to eliminate aggravators, like grains (especially gluten grains); dairy; and GMO foods, including corn and soy for an extended period of time until symptoms subside. This list can differ from person to person, so an elimination diet can be extremely helpful in identifying clients' specific triggers. Following a planned food reintroduction schedule will help further identify offending foods and make the reintroduction process less stressful.