The Diet Therapist


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CAN YOUR Gut health

affect your

Increasing research has highlighted a link between

GI Health & Skin Conditions...


Posted by The Diet Therapist, 18th March 2017



The human body is host to over a trillion microbes, over 8 million microbial genes, and harbours over 10,000 microbial species.[1]  In fact, microbial cells far outnumber human cells in your body and are microorganisms are found on (or within) a number of different tissues and bodily fluids, including the skin, saliva, and the gastrointestinal tract.


The gut microflora, in particularly, have been the subject of a huge amount of research interest in recent years, as scientists have begun to uncover the complex links between the balance of bacterial strains in the gut and a range of health conditions. Many might consider a link between gut function and bacterial balance and overall digestive health – but did you know that gut problems are also associated with skin disorders?



Both the gut and skin are colonised with distinct microbial communities and act as important contact organs by which your body communicates with its environment, and also as part of the immune defence system.  Both diet, and gastrointestinal disorders may have an impact on the skin, and there are a range of dermatological conditions which have been associated with gut health, including acne vulgaris2, rosacea, psoriasis and atopic dermatitis (eczema)3. 


Several conditions that primarily affect the gut can also have an impact on skin, (e.g. Crohn’s Disease and ulcterative colitis 5, 6) and so as our understanding of the interplay between the GI tract and the skin (the “gut-skin axis”) grows, this may provide an avenue for new therapeutic treatments for skin conditions in the future. The prevalence of Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO) is thought to be higher in rosacea patients, and a study in 2013 showed that some sufferers’ skin symptoms improved when their gut condition was treated with the antibiotic rifaximin.6 Multiple studies have shown that eczema symptoms may be affected by probiotic supplementation and this condition has also been linked to the integrity of the gut lining (intestinal permeability).  This is an important aspect of the gut immune system (gut mucosa barrier function) and research in children with eczema has demonstrated a link between the permeability of the gut lining and skin symptoms.6  It is thought that gastrointestinal symptoms are present in about 28% of patients with psoriasis and studies have linked this skin condition with gut bacterial balance and overall intestinal health.


The science behind our bodies’ communication systems between the gut and the skin is still in its infancy; but we know that our intestinal health and our gut bacteria are not only important for digestion and absorption but also influence inflammation and plays a huge role in regulating our immune responses – both of which have an impact on skin health.


*Different types of bacteria have been studied in relation to different skin conditions – so if you suffer with a specific skin issue, it is best to see a trained practitioner (Dietician, Nutritionist, Nutritional Therapist) who help with diet advice relevant for that particular problem and perhaps suggest specific probiotic supplements with strains of bacteria that have been studied for their ability to help with that specific condition – though data from human studies is limited.





“The 3 P’s” – Probiotics, Prebiotics, Polyphenols


  • Incorporate Probiotic foods into your Daily Diet: Unsweetened natural yoghurt, kefir, kombucha, olives and fermented foods like miso, tempeh, kimchi and sauerkraut are helpful sources.


  • Add some Prebiotic foods to your plate to help support microflora balance: garlic, leeks, onions, Jerusalem artichoke, wheat bran and bananas are great sources of undigestible plant fibres called “prebiotics” which feed the “good” gut bacteria. Including these foods in your diet can help to support a healthy gut.


Most of you reading this will already familiar with the potential for probiotics and prebiotic foods to support gut health, but did you know that polyphenol antioxidants are also gut-supportive foods7 .  Polyphenols are compounds found in plants which are associated with the taste and colour of fruit and vegetables, as well as their ability to support health – and in many cases, their antioxidant capacity.  Gut bacteria play an important role in transforming dietary polyphenols into absorbable biologically active compounds in our guts.  Some studies have shown that consuming foods rich in polyphenols helps to promote the growth of beneficial bacteria such as bifidobacteria and lactobacilli7.


  • Look for colourful foods, get your 5-a-day, and spice up your life to boost your intake of gut friendly Polyphenols: Fruits and vegetables, herbs and spices, dark chocolate, coffee, nuts and seeds and wholegrains are all just a some of the many food sources of polyphenols. 





  1. D, B. Allison et al. (2015) “Goals in Nutrition Science 2015-2020” Front. Nutr,

  2. Fabbrocini G., et al (2017) “Supplementation with lactobacillus rhamnosus SP1 normalises skin expression of genes implicated in insulin signalling and improves adult acne” Benef. Microbes 16(1): 1-10 doi: 10.3920/BM2016.0121. [Epub ahead of print]

  3. Nibali, L. & Henderson B. (2016) “The Human Microbiota & Chronic Disease: Dysbiosis as a cause of Human Pathology.” Published by Wiley, Blackwell.

  4. Matsui et al. (2000) “Comparative Study of Saphylococcus aureus isolated from lesional and non-lesional skin of atopic dermatitis patients.” Microbiol. Immunol. 44(11): 945-947

  5. O’Neill et al. (2016) “The gut-skin axis in health and disease: a paradigm with therapeutic implications.” Bioessays 38: 1167-1176

  6. Ali, IA, Follad N, & Sivamani RK. (2014) “Considering the Gut-Skin Axis for Dermatological Diseases.” Austin Journal of Dermatology 1(5): 1024-1025

  7. Marchesi JR, Adams DH, Fava F, et al. “The gut microbiota and host health: a new clinical frontier Gut 2016;65:330-339.