Many people struggle with skin conditions such as acne, eczema, athlete's foot, hives, psoriasis, etc. without knowing the cause or underlying imbalance and without knowing that it goes beyond just a topical problem. A large percentage of skin issues can be traced back to gut health. For the majority of people, the biggest window into their GI tract is through their skin. The connection occurs through the health of the microbiome. The microbiome is an ecosystem in the GI tract made up of trillions of bacteria, viruses, fungi, and even parasites. This ecosystem has a very delicate balance and any disruption can lead to all sorts of chronic issues ranging from hormonal imbalances, auto-immunities, anxiety/depression, and yes - skin issues.
Disruption in the microbiome is multi-faceted. The standard American diet (SAD), antibiotics, PPIs/ant-acids, NSAIDs, toxins, and stress all lead to an unhealthy balance of the microbiome. This is termed “dysbiosis.” In order to optimize skin health, we have to look inside.
Working with a functional medicine provider is recommended to discover if the GI tract and microbiome may be at the root of your skin issues. Patient history as well as markers on blood panels and stool tests can reveal if there is a GI imbalance. Functional medicine providers can then tailor a treatment plan specifically to the patient that involves nutritional eating, lifestyle changes, and supplementation. Healing the skin almost always involves healing from within - starting with the gut.
Probiotic supplements have gotten a lot of attention lately for improving GI health and in turn clearing up skin. They can be helpful but an even better way to get probiotics is through fermented food. Fermented food naturally grows and contains probiotics that are anti-inflammatory and gut healing. 1-2 servings a day can have a large impact. Here are some fermented food favorites that can help improve the skin:
Kefir: 100% grass-fed from cows or goats. Most people who are sensitive to cow dairy products have no issue with kefir because the fermentation process has broken down the majority of the lactose. Goats milk also decreases sensitivity symptoms. A great addition to smoothies or granola.
Sauerkraut: Goes well with anything pork: pork chops, sausage, bratwursts, or ham.
Kombucha: GT’s Synergy seems to be the lowest in sugar addition. Great substitute for pop and energy drinks.
Kimchi: Great in Asian dishes because it adds a semi-spicy, umami flavor to the dish.
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