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The Role of Digestion in Skin Health

iStock-1138747364Is compromised digestion playing a role in the health and vitality of your skin? A growing body of research would suggest yes. Our skin is the largest organ and therefore indicative of our internal state. Digestion is significant for absorption of vital nutrients and detoxification of harmful toxins that can otherwise impede cellular and skin health, among other regulatory factors.

Intricate processes of the body and mind are involved in digestion, while also influencing the phenotype of our skin. A 2022 review published in the International Journal of Molecular Science demonstrates crosstalk between the enteric nervous, endocrine and immune systems in influencing these processes. GI functions play a clear role in modulating skin health. Impeded digestion and microbiome balance disrupts processes related to regulating these functions. When digestion is efficient, and the microbiome is in balance, it helps our skin to be as well. This demonstrates the gut–skin axis at play.

Stress has been shown to play a novel role in impeding skin health, in part by compromising efficient digestion. Chronic stress places the body in a constant state of sympathetic nervous (SNS) arousal, counteracting parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) dominance, which is needed for the body to rest, digest and restore. Findings indicate that stress induces microbial shifts in the collective microbiome and inflammatory processes in the body, including the release of immunological and hormonal mediators, that in turn impede digestion and affect our skin.

Compromised digestion can result in altered integrity of the gut epithelial barrier— important for nutrient absorption—allowing toxins to enter the bloodstream, wreaking havoc on our skin. Food sensitivities and toxins can induce intestinal permeability, in addition to chronic stress.

Stress has been shown to cause alterations in GI secretion and motility, while compromising regenerative capacity of GI mucosa and blood flow. The brain-skin axis illustrates the effects of stress on the complex network of systems involved in digestion. The skin actively responds to psychological stress, with involvement of skin immune cells, hormones and neurotransmitters.

Psychoneuroimmunology (PNI) is another recognized theory further highlighting the role stress has in impeding processes related to digestion and overall skin health. PNI illustrates the interconnectedness of the nervous, endocrine and immune systems in relation to stress. This is significant, as immune activity has also been shown to play an integral role in the etiology of skin conditions and is compromised from impeded GI health. Findings of a 2023 review demonstrating the impact of immune processes in the initiation and progression of acne are in support of this.

Skin immune cells regulate tissue inflammation via pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory effects. Stress induces increased cytokine secretion— including interleukin-6 (IL-6), interleukin-1 (IL-1), interferon-γ (IL-γ) and activation of skin peripheral corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH), among other others. This demonstrates the neuroendocrine system of this living, breathing organ.

GI functions including digestion and microbiome balance play a key role in modulating immune health and the quality of our skin. Nearly 80% of the immune system is housed in the gut—responsible for regulating immunity, as well as the production of neurotransmitters, hormones and short chain fatty acids (SCFA)— all important for skin health.

Imbalances in the microbiome, such as dysbiosis, induce a number of inflammatory mechanisms that can compromise our skin. Similar to our gut, our skin comprises a microbiome of various organisms. Diversity in this ecosystem supports skin health by protecting against pathogens, modulating inflammation, and producing essential vitamins and fatty acids.

Environmental factors of the skin, including host immunity, help in determining which organisms it harbors. Commensal bacteria have been shown to play a strong role in modulating various factors related to the health of our skin and immune system, whereas pathogenic bacteria can impede skin health.

Insufficient bile, digestive enzymes and stomach acid can also cause disruption in digestion and skin health. This can cause malabsorption of vital nutrients, including fat soluble vitamins necessary for the vitality and integrity of our skin.

The body and mind play a key role in influencing digestion, and thereby skin health through gut-immune-neuroendocrine signaling pathways. Supporting GI functions from this perspective, therefore, is important for the quality of our skin.

A healthy diet adequate protein and anti-inflammatory fats–like salmon– is significant in promoting skin health. Foods rich in zinc, including oysters, seafood and nuts, are noteworthy due to their properties in helping with digestion and collagen production. Consuming a diverse array of vegetables and fruits is also beneficial, as they are great sources of antioxidants, prebiotics, fiber, vitamins and minerals. Notably, pineapple contains natural sources of digestive enzymes including pepsin and vitamin C—conducive to skin health.

Incorporating cultured foods into the diet, such as kimchi, yogurt and sauerkraut, is also recommended. The beneficial effects of gut bacteria and skin health appearance have been well documented in a number of studies. A recent 2023 review showed supplementation with probiotics improved markers of dermal thickness and hydration in skin due to their immunomodulatory and anti-inflammatory effects. Finally, refraining from foods and substances that are inflammatory and reactive in the body is strongly encouraged.

Glutamine, the most abundant amino acid in the body, has been shown to have roles in modulating the intestinal and skin barrier, as well as serving antioxidant, immune and detoxifying properties. While the body produces glutamine, it can be depleted during chronic stress.

Along with sufficient nutrition, sleep and hydration are also integral to digestion and skin health. Minimizing stress with mindful eating and breathing can support these processes by shifting our body into PNS dominance mode. Movement—such as yoga—-promotes blood flow and circulation while reducing stress. Finally, circadian rhythm balance may further support these processes.

As emphasized, our skin is a living and breathing organ. Similar to GI health, it is malleable and it can be supported by holistic ways of taking care of ourselves— body and mind.

Related Biotics Research Products:


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