A Balanced Belly & Happy Skin
A guide to healing your gut & skin through gut lovin' foods with the right skincare advice I personally gave myself.
"Increasing microbial diversity in the gut and skin is likely a novel approach to treat acne."
I want to start by sharing my personal SKIN-GUT journey. Often we read up a lot about gut health, what it is, why we should look after our good gut microbes and we've also probably heard about the cross linking of the gut & skin often... But have you ever really seen results or progress? Well the proof is in the pudding...
I used to cry myself to sleep and hate looking at my skin in the mirror. I used to pull, squeeze, scrub and wash until I felt every bit of possible oil, dirt or bacteria was off my skin.
I had to have that squeaky clean feeling! For some reason all that I had learnt in my course about dermatology, acne and skincare went out the window. I now felt and knew how oily or acne skins felt like & why they use the most stripping products just to feel "clean".
After weeks of puzzling and trying to put the puzzle pieces together as to why I suddenly started getting big lumps and pimples, I narrowed it down to two things. Stress and dairy!
It was around September last year, preparing for my end of year exams that I just got so overwhelmed with Uni work, social life, long distance, being away from home that it all just bottled right up and became one big stress bomb or actually an anxiety attack. I had been eating badly from ordering takeouts to not really budgeting which resulted in me buying foods I usually didn't really eat... I started eating dairy more than I usually did (out of choice and not really thinking about my skin or had never thought there was a link.) So for me having full cream milk became the norm after usually opting for Soy milk. I ate more gluten, saturated fatty foods and to be honest all the good stuff but also the naughty stuff.
After this challenging period or episode my friend invited me away for the weekend out in Swellendam. Which was something I needed. To get away to some fresh air, mountains and country living. Of course I was slightly still anxious about exams but I tried to forget about it. So I ended up eating again all these delicious home cooked meals that any student would want. But again a lot more yoghurt, cheese and cream then ever before!
I came home that weekend and my skin was so inflamed! It was red, sore and uncomfortable. I decided that week that I was going off dairy and that I had to be a little bit more disciplined in my eating and try my best to manage my stress. Within 1 week, my skin totally calmed now, there was a lot less inflammation and I could finally see some sort of change. (See the 1 weeks difference below)
From here I continued to watch what I ate closely and I brought my skincare routine right back to basics. Sticking to a barrier repairing cleanser, Serra Cleansing Gel by Lamelle which honestly healed my skins barrier and calmed it completely. The Esse Probiotic Skincare Sensitive Hydro Moisturiser and kept away from granular exfoliators and used the Nimue skincare International exfoliating enzyme. These three products drastically changed my skin. From the cleanser being gentle and hydrating which it really needed after all the "soapy" face washes I went with. Esse's Sensitive Hydro moisturiser settled the sensitivity and with the prebiotic formulation it improved my rough, red, inflammed skin while protecting my beneficial microbes. #essesuperfan
I returned home after an eventful end of year and during the holidays my mom decided she wanted to have one of those DNA testings done. So I said I'd come along with her as the doctor, Dr Donna Dippenaar had a big passion for gut health & I had slowly become aware of it and wanted to find out more. After sitting in on the consultation trying to find the cause of many stomach issues myself and my mum have, we discovered that due to adrenal stress, certain foods that we eat daily (from oats, bananas, dairy & lots of greens ) had caused a decrease in stomach acidity causing our micro-organisms to migrate to other regions of our gastrointestinal tract (GI). Now what does that really mean or what is that? Some skin conditions have been associated with gut problems for quite some time. Such as Rosacea (redness, visible blood vessels and little pus-filled bumps) along with dermatitis and eczema. These conditions are commonly linked to SIBO (small intestine bacterial overgrowth) or other gut dysbiosis. So due to the altering of guts acidity levels it resulted to the micro-organisms migrating and shifting to a more suitable home. This causes me to not digest food correctly and certain foods such as gluten and dairy are much harder to breakdown and trigger bloating, chronic stomach ache & for me... skin inflammatory conditions.
A growing body of evidence suggests that persons with acne can have an imbalance of bacteria in their guts (gut dysbiosis). For example, one study showed that microbial diversity is significantly different between those with and without acne. Yet another study found that certain types of bacteria were lowered in persons with moderate to severe acne. These included – Bifidobacterium, Lactobacillus, Allobaculum and lots more. Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) is a prime example of gut dysbiosis. Interestingly, SIBO is 10 times more prevalent in those with acne rosacea vs. healthy skins. SIBO occurs when you have excessive bacteria in the small intestine,all these findings point towards the beneficial role of increased microbial biodiversity in acne. #whatamouthfull
So how do you know if your gut is unhappy or unhealthy? Here are 6 signs...
1. Upset stomach
Stomach disturbances like gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, and heartburn can all be signs of an unhealthy gut. A balanced gut will have less difficulty processing food and eliminating waste.
2. A high-sugar diet
A diet high in processed foods and added sugars can decrease the amount of good bacteria in your gut. Resulting in increased inflammation in the body.
3. Skin irritation
Skin conditions like eczema and acne may be related to a damaged gut. Inflammation in the gut caused by a poor diet or food allergies may cause increased “leaking” of certain proteins out into the body, which can in turn irritate the skin and cause conditions such as eczema.
4. Sleep disturbances or constant fatigue
An unhealthy gut may contribute to sleep disturbances such as insomnia or poor sleep, and therefore lead to chronic fatigue. The majority of the body’s serotonin, a hormone that affects mood and sleep, is produced in the gut.
5. Unintentional weight changes
Gaining or losing weight without making changes to your diet or exercise habits may be a sign of an unhealthy gut. An imbalanced gut can impair your body’s ability to absorb nutrients, regulate blood sugar, and store fat. Weight loss may be caused by small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), while weight gain may be caused by insulin resistance or the urge to overeat due to decreased nutrient absorption.
6. Food intolerances
Food intolerances are the result of difficulty digesting certain foods (this is different than a food allergy, which is caused by an immune system reaction to certain foods). It’s thought that food intolerances may be caused by poor quality of bacteria in the gut. This can lead to difficulty digesting the trigger foods and unpleasant symptoms such as bloating, gas, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and nausea.
So what am I doing to keep my gut healthy?
An average daily lunch: Fresh garden salad with tomato, feta, cucumber and peas. Dressed with apple cider vinegar, honey, olive oil, salt & pepper. With a side of sweet potato chips.
1. Apple Cider Vinegar
So the first step in getting my gut healthy and bringing it acidity up, I start every morning or most mornings with 2 TBSP of a good quality natural apple cider vinegar in about 30 ml of water. This is probably the best natural way on increasing ones acidity instead of taking hydrochloric acid pills. I then gradual increased it to two times a day one in the morning and the second one before my heaviest meal of the day. I saw an immediate improvement in my skins healing rate and I finally didn't have any uncomfortable bloating after meals.
(This is my personal fav- Bragg's Apple Cider vinegar with organic honey, cayenne and organic lemon juice. It's delicious!)
2. Avoided high lactose foods
I moved away from having full cream milk in my tea and coffee and went with having almond milk. It can be a great plant-based option for those avoiding cow's milk. Unsweetened varieties are naturally low in calories and sugar while providing plenty of vitamin E. I still try limit yoghurt and cheese (so hard!) but often try go for the lower lactose cheese options such as feta.
3. Fermented Foods
Growing up in a German community there certainly is no shortage of sauerkraut! As well as Kimchi and miso are great dietary sources of probiotics. Fermented foods are rich in probiotic bacteria so by consuming fermented foods you are adding beneficial bacteria and enzymes to your overall intestinal flora, increasing the health of your gut microbiome and digestive system and enhancing the immune system.
Part of my daily routine is taking my vitamin C, E, Zinc and Selenium along with an Omega 3.
These are vital when it comes to maintaining skin health along with many others (Vit A&D). So what are these offering me and why should I be taking them?
Vit C, E, A & D are brilliant antioxidants, prevent skin ageing and take part in keeping the skin hydrated. Minerals such as Zinc, Copper and Selenium can help improve skin health tremendously by aiding in detoxification, maturing collagen as well as immune protection. Omega-3 fatty acids, colourful red and orange fruit & veg (carotenoids) help fight against a week immune and ensure gut continuum.
But overall a basic rule of thumb is the 5 R's: #Remove, #Replace , #Reinoculate, #Repair and #Rebalance.
In short we need to remove any contributing stress, toxins, food allergens out of the picture. We then need to replace with supplementation such as your digestive enzymes, gastric acid and bile acids to help with digestion and absorption. Reinoculate with 'good' bacteria (probiotics), fibre, prebiotics to attain a healthy microbiome. Repair with vitamins & minerals to assist with gut inflammation and finally rebalance through personalised lifestyle changes to pro long that health gut & skin!
I hope this gave you a bit of an insight on my skin journey, SIBO and how I manage my skin and gut health. If you are unsure of if you might be suffering from SIBO, contact me and I can assist you in a simple way of testing for it.
Lots of Love,
P.s Remember we in this together! I'm always open for a chat if you have skin concerns & it gets you down.