Here at Elemental Herbology, we're strong believers that what we put into our bodies affects how we look and feel on the outside. With gut health and the power of probiotics a hot topic in both the skincare and wellness world, we caught up with Clinical Nutritionist, Health Coach and Author, Stephanie Moore, to delve deep into the topic and learn how we can best support our gut and skin health.
Why is looking after our gut health important?
"The incredible world of the gut microbiome, the trillions of beneficial bacteria and other microorganisms that live in our gut, has been a hot topic for a few years now. With so many probiotic supplements on the market promising to contain billions of gut-friendly microorganisms, along with live foods like yogurt, kefir and sauerkraut, supporting this hidden internal world is all the rage.
Despite the human gut microbiome being the most intensively researched subject in human health over the last 10 years, there is still much to learn. From what was once thought to simply be part of our ability to digest certain foods, the gut microbiome has since been shown to play a huge role in our immune system, our metabolic (energy) regulation, control of inflammation around the body and even our mental health."
One of the most recent findings and maybe most fascinating aspects of the gut microbiome is how it communicates with other microbiomes around the body. Not only have microbial colonies been found to exist in the mouth, nose, lungs, vagina and brain, so too there is a complex and unique range of beneficial microbes that live on your skin. These microbes are as distinct and different to those that live in your gut as the desert is to the bottom of the ocean and yet, the gut and skin microbes communicate with each other. This is known as the gut-skin axis."
How does the gut affect our skin?
"Much research now exists to show that people who have skin issues as wide ranging as eczema, psoriasis, dermatitis, rosacea and acne, all see improvement in symptoms and in many cases complete remission, when gut health is addressed. For those of you who don’t have a skin condition and simply want the healthiest skin possible, looking after your gut health is just as important as what you are using on your skin.
As example of this is acne. One big clinical finding showed that people with acne have 2 negative health markers in common. Firstly, leaky gut, where poor gut health over time leads to a breaking down of the gut barrier allowing toxins to leak in to the blood. This inflammation has been shown to be strongly associated with excess sebum blocking pores allowing bacteria to build up, leading to acne. Another commonality in acne sufferers is a lack of something very beneficial that comes from good gut bugs. If we have lots of healthy, thriving gut microbes, they produce compounds known as short chain fatty acids (SCFAs) also known as post-biotics. These provide the body with many benefits, from healing cells, calming inflammation and communicating with the skin to regulate function and keep acne-producing bacterium at bay.
If your gut microbiome is in poor shape, you’ll make fewer healing SCFAs, inhibiting the gut-skin axis from calming inflammation, sending nourishment up to the skin and generally keeping things on and in your skin in check."
What can we do to improve our gut health?
"For our healthy gut microbes to thrive, there are a few simple things you need to be doing on a regular, ideally daily basis. These are the 3Fs:
Fibre: our gut microbes feed on fibre. Every meal you eat should contain a range of fibre-rich food. We get fibre from plant foods so aim to get in to your regular diet lots of different vegetables (onions, garlic, rocket, broccoli and cabbage are especially good gut foods), a little fruit, a range of raw nuts & seeds and lots of different beans and lentils.
Fermented Foods: these contain living beneficial bacteria that support our own gut microbes. From live natural yogurt, dairy and water kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut, kimchi and live apple cider vinegar, have a go and try and include some form of fermented food or drink every day. Again variety is key. Little amounts regularly can make a big difference.
Fasting: nothing extreme, just give your gut a rest from having a constant stream of food going through it, to help freshen up your gut microbes. Aim for 12 hours every night. This is safe for everyone, and for some of you, see if now and again you can extend that to 14 – 16 hours a couple of days a week. Keep well hydrated, that’s really key for energy and skin health, but nothing with calories during the fasting window."
How can we support out skin from the outside?
"Watch what you put on your skin. Harsh chemicals, perfumes, parabens and more are everywhere in our environment and especially in women’s personal care products and makeup. It is estimated that a woman is exposed to a staggering 168 chemicals before she leaves her home following a standard morning routine of showering, hair washing, lotions, potions and makeup, many of which will be disrupting the skin microbiome and potentially the gut microbiome too.
Thankfully there are now skin care products that not only do not strip the skin of the good stuff, they actually put back what is needed. Elemental Herbology's Perfect Balance Probiotic Serum is packed full of oat-derived lactobacilli to accelerate skin recovery, and fermented kombucha to restore radiant, glowing skin."
What other lifestyle changes can we make to help restore gut health?
"Good sleep hygiene is essential – get your 8 hours, no screens in bed with you, and keep your bedroom nice and cool to help you get good quality sleep; take some time every day to stop and be instead of do, do do; ensure you watch your breathing – mouth breathing triggers stress hormones and dehydrates us, breathing in through the nose calms the nervous system and increases oxygen in the blood.
All of these things are going to help restore a healthy gut, which can then open up the lines of communication to the skin to check in with what’s going on there, and elsewhere, and make sure all is healthy, happy and gorgeously glowy."