Our gut or digestive system is often described in Naturopathic philosophy, as the root of the health of the organs and systems of the entire body. If you can’t extract the macro and micronutrients or antioxidants needed for restoration, detoxification and general smooth functioning of your organs and tissues, they simply won’t be functioning to optimal physiology.
Our skin being the largest organ in our body requires this ongoing sustenance to
flourish. Furthermore, we see time and time again presentations of skin disease and dysfunction coupled with digestive complaints in research, case studies and pathology results. The concomitance of disease in these two organs has become a relatively accepted idea for anyone comfortable to look at the body through a holistic lens. However, the gut terrain can vastly differ from one individual to the next, and it can at times be difficult to pinpoint an exact application for gut health optimisation. A good initial approach can be to look at common focus areas for digestive balance, that can be applied at home. These first line approaches can also be implemented for those who are wanting to take a preventative approach to wellness.
An important factor to consider in the gut health sphere is that the intestinal tract is not just the site from which nourishment can come from but also a great source of inflammation and toxin production, when things are out of balance. This inflammation and toxin production, burdens our whole system and encourages dysfunction in the immune and lymphatic cells of the skin. Where there is a more ongoing advanced presentation of digestive disturbance, it is often best to work with a practitioner who can facilitate a targeted gut cleansing process that does not generate additional inflammation for your system to deal with. Medications can also be a factor to consider when dealing with digestive issues. Some that you may have been taking in the past or be on currently, that negatively affect gut health include, antacids or proton pump inhibitors, antibiotics, NSAID pain medications and some forms of laxatives. Consult your GP or other health practitioner before changing prescribed medications.
Low stomach acid and enzyme production is an issue for many individuals with indigestion or bloating symptoms. It’s not always the full picture of digestive dysfunction but an easy place to start if you experience bloating and digestive discomforted after meals. Acne, rosacea and dermatitis are all connected to lowered digestive sufficiency from lowered secretions, including stomach acid and pancreatic enzyme output. Without a robust digestive response, nutrients are not extracted from our diet as thoroughly as they could be.
Lowered stomach acid production is very common, even if you have been told you have too much stomach acid you may conversely be lacking in it, this can lead to increased susceptivity to bacterial imbalances in the microbiome of our intestines.
A lack in digestive enzyme production can lead to the immune system being negatively stimulated by large unchanged proteins in the digestive tract. Broad spectrum digestive enzymes are widely accessible and stomach acid can be taken as apple cider vinegar or betaine hydrochloride supplements with main meals.
Deficiency of beneficial intestinal flora is also a very common issue, it can occur from antibiotic use, artificial sweeteners, pesticides on food, stress, alcohol over consumption, highly processed diets or just diets very low in prebiotic food sources which come from fibres in some whole foods. Fermented foods can help with building variation in the microbiome but are generally not strong enough to rebuild deficiency on their own.
A lack in beneficial flora allows for more opportunistic negative microbes to thrive and release toxins in the intestines, while the lack of friendly bacteria and the beneficial byproducts they produce can lead to negative changes in the gut and immune system, that can run over into
Probiotics are also a great place to start if you have digestive symptoms and have had a history of antibiotic use or an underwhelming diet. For most individuals a broad-spectrum Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium probiotic is suitable. If your symptoms are aggravated by probiotics, I would recommend working with a naturopath to resolve digestive symptoms and or skin concerns. Spore based probiotics are also a nice option, however, can be quite expensive, formulations including bacillus coagulants are preferential.
Prebiotic are the food source that allows our beneficial gut flora to thrive. The beneficial bacteria ferment the prebiotic fibres then produce short chain fatty acids in the process. Short chain fatty acids are of huge benefit to our colonic cells feeding cells to support regeneration, intestinal healing and decreasing inflammation. There are lots of other ways to support gut healing, but prebiotics cover some solid bases. The best one to go for if you aren’t sure of what’s going on with your gut health, is partially hydrolysed guar gum (PHGG).
Dietary sources of probiotics include plantain, chickpeas, lentils and all beans, artichokes, asparagus, chicory, leeks, garlic, onion, apple oats, seaweeds and nuts. If you suspect, your bloating or digestive symptoms are aggravated from some of these foods or general prebiotic supplements, it’s more likely you could have an issue with imbalanced gut flora and should consult a practitioner to facilitate resolving this. PHGG will still be ok for you regardless, just not the final answer to all your digestive or skin concerns.
Naturopathic Skin, Digestive and Hormone Specialist
Master of Applied Sciences (Traditional Chinese Medicine) -currently undertaking