Healthy Gut = Healthy Skin: The K-Glow Insider Scoop on Pro and Prebiotics
Hippocrates was an ancient Greek physician known to be the “Father of Medicine”. Way back in 400 B.C., he talked a lot about how all diseases begin in the gut and the importance of the food we eat in maintaining wellness. However, all these years later, we still don’t talk enough about how our diet and gastrointestinal health is affecting other body systems – like our skin.
I’ve done a lot of research on the gut-skin axis and believe strongly that a healthy gut is the key to healthy skin for many of my patients. Imbalances in the gut can not only make you appear dull, have thinning hair, and trigger acne but also trigger chronic skin conditions common to India such as Rosacea and Seborrheic Dermatitis (aka: dandruff of the skin). So, the question is: how do you maintain a healthy gut to ward off unwanted skin issues? My favorite solution I find to be most effective is integration of pro and pre biotics into your diet.
Before delving into pro and pre biotics, let’s do a quick review of the gut skin axis. Many of you, I’m sure, are familiar with the common swelling, redness, or hives one can suffer through after eating something they are allergic to. This is the most well known and easy to understand example of the interaction between the gastrointestinal tract and the skin.
The theory goes much further than allergies though. Within our intestines, we have both good bacteria and bad bacteria that live in balance with each other. However, sometimes the bad bacteria multiplies and outnumbers the good bacteria. Overgrowth of bad bacteria often causes no overt gastrointestinal symptoms but may be responsible for that unexplained redness you have been experiencing, acne, patchy skin, or inconvenient flare-ups of skin conditions like dermatitis or rosacea.
“So why are the gut and the skin related? They have nothing in common!” you might be thinking. But, the gut and skin actually do have a lot in common. For one, both of them play a huge role in protecting our bodies from outside invaders such as bacteria and toxins. They also both possess their very own, unique balance of good and bad bacteria to keep you healthy. Therefore, the inflammation in the intestines caused by irritable bowel syndrome – for example – can easily migrate to the skin to cause other inflammatory processes like rosacea. If you still aren’t convinced about their correlation, you can read numerous studies online about incidence of skin issues being significantly higher in those with irritable bowel disease, intestinal bacterial overgrowth, and many other GI conditions.
Now let’s talk about how to fix it with the addition of pro and prebiotics to your diet. First, we will start with probiotics because most of you have probably heard of those. Probiotics are actually living organisms that you consume. Although this might sound gross, you probably already eat them everyday in your yogurt. They promote production of gut “friendly” bacteria such as B.bifidum, L. casei, and L. thermophilus (yes the bacteria have names!). They do this by being living microbes themselves that help fight off harmful bacteria to keep you balanced.
The most commonly known food to contain probiotics is yogurt. However, yogurt – as will all dairy – can trigger acne and should not be eaten daily or in excess. There are many more lesser known probiotic containing foods to consider adding into your diet instead. Some of my favorites are kimchi, miso, coconut kefir (a non-dairy version of dairy kefir), kombucha, pickles, and even some types of cheese! You can also add a good quality apple cider vinegar into your diet by taking a shot of it each morning.
While probiotics sound great – and they truly are – they are fragile. They can easily be destroyed in heat and are sensitive to their environment. Many of them don’t even make it to your intestines because they are destroyed in your stomach.
That’s where “prebiotics” come in. While probiotics introduce good bacteria to the gut, prebiotics nourish that good bacteria allowing it to grow and multiply. Many refer to prebiotics as a “fertilizer” for the gut that helps good things grow and keeps bad things to a healthy minimum. Prebiotics are more durable than probiotics and not destroyed by heat or stomach acid. This allows them to effectively make their way to the intestines so the fertilizing can begin and you can get on your way to a healthier balance in all bodily systems, including your skin.
Luckily, for those of us living in India, prebiotics are found in many of our staple foods. Of these include raw garlic, raw chicory root, under-ripened bananas (yes the green ones!), onions and leeks. Another prebiotic containing food I love is jicama which tastes great in a fruit salad drizzled with some honey, chia, and flax seeds.
I know – despite the convenient availability of of pro and pre biotics – changing your diet is a big commitment. By the reactions I receive when I ask my patients to give up milk, you would think I was asking them to imprison their first born child. However, with the right motivation, the addition of pro and pre biotics has really made a visible impact for many of my patients. So, if you aren’t already incorporating these friendly bacteria into your routine with some fertilizer to go with them, I hope this post gives you the motivation you need to take the first step toward a happier, healthier, more vibrant you. Stay beautiful everyone! XOXO – Dr. Kiran Lohia