The mysterious link between skin and gut

Fruit and vegetables contain powerful antioxidants that help protect the skin from cellular damage caused by free radicals, and we are all encouraged to try to eat five portions every day. With this, we need to drink plenty of water, yet far too many of us ignore this fact as we get older (35 is old in skin-age), with the result that lots of us have skin like parchment. (read our article at: So, what can we do about it?

There are pieces of writing everywhere on the internet telling us about the good things to be found in virgin olive oil, flaxseeds, pomegranates (the oil is in our Persian Silk Moisturiser), dark chocolate, avocado’s and many other ‘rainbow foods’ that can help us have better skin. But today, I thought that we would focus on something that’s not so obvious – the mysterious link between the skin and the gut and how the gut microbiome (army of microbes) in many ways, influences the skin. There are a number of parts to this:

Bacteria: There are more bacteria living inside us than we have human cells; so, it’s encouraging to see in recent times, research that is focussed on examining the complex civilisation of living microbes in our gut, and how this science could change the cause of skin-disease and avoid the use of antibiotics by simply adjusting the bacterial populations within us. We are, after all, a reflection of what we eat. If you eat rubbish, your gut will be full of it and react badly. If we eat well, our micro-organisms will profusely thank us with good health – and good skin.

Yogurt: Elie Metchnikoff, was awarded the Nobel prize more than a century ago. A man before his time, a Russian zoologist, he believed that ‘eventually’, it may become possible to restore depleted microbiome simply by swallowing a capsule crammed with billions of bacterial cells – or by eating yogurt. And here we are today 100 years later, doing just what he had suggested decades before ingesting probiotics became fashionable, or indeed acceptable to science.

Personally speaking, I don’t take probiotics on a daily basis, but now and again if I have overindulged and feel that my gut-flora needs a tune-up I will take them for a day or two. On the other hand, I am a total believer in yogurt – not the stuff that’s full of sugar, but simple, unadulterated Greek yogurt (as an example) that is part of my daily diet.

Pregnancy and Children: Most recently, children with eczema have been shown to have a reduced gut microbe diversity and low levels of good gut bacteria. However, some large-scale studies are suggesting that probiotics containing a mixture of Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria do improve eczema in children. At the same time, it’s interesting to note that if a mother takes probiotics during pregnancy, it can reduce the risk of her child developing atopic eczema between the age of two and seven. However, please note that while I always strive to write the truth from well-researched opinion; before accepting anything written here, you should always speak with your doctor for expert opinion on subjects such as this. I write merely to draw your attention to possibilities for further research of your own.

Skin and arthritis: The ripples made by billions of bacteria in the gut wash over the shores of the skin, but via a number of different routes. And so, while an aberrant (defecting from the accepted standard) gut microbiome can negatively affect the skins immune system, there is mounting evidence that skewing the immune system causes dysbiosis (microbial imbalance) and inflammation in the skin-gut-joint relationship, potentially worsening inflammatory arthritis that occurs in those affected with psoriasis.

School and skin and brain: While the intricate channels back and forth between the skin and the gut may irritate psoriasis (that we use as an example) it may not stop there. Some years ago, when I was studying for an HNC in Anatomy & Physiology, I was in the class simply because I wanted to learn more about how the human body works, while my fellow classmates who were nursing students, at all costs, had to pass the exam prior to acceptance into nursing college. The mental and emotional stress caused several of them to simultaneously break out in a rash similar to eczema. The students were aware that I had my back-pain clinic in Glasgow at that time, and in a way, as a sort of confidant, it was interesting to note in private conversation with them that several also suffered with a form of irritable bowel syndrome.

Between us all, none could understand the reason why they had been afflicted thus, but between classes I studied the problem and came up with the hypothesis that all three organs – skin, gut and brain were undergoing mutual distress. Thankfully for me, some weeks later, I discovered the dermatologists John H Stokes and Donald M Pilsbury who had managed eighty years prior to discover the link between emotion and cutaneous (relating to the skin) outbreaks that in today’s busy world seem to be completely overlooked.

The link between gut and skin is a complex subject and difficult to explain in a short newsletter such as this, but by writing as I have done, I hope that I will have piqued your interest to at least have a think about what you eat and to accept that it has a major say on how you appear to others in your own skin. Indeed, my old Latin teacher, were he still alive, would now be reminding me of the phrase – mens sana in corpore sano (a healthy mind in a healthy body), which indeed will be the focus for my next newsletter.

With kind regards and best wishes.

Jim and the team at SkinLikes.

Freephone: 0800 023 6252