The Link Between Chronic Inflammation & Our Skin

Inflammation is part of the body’s immune response. It is our body’s attempt at self-protection to remove harmful stimuli (such as bacteria) and begin the healing process. Inflammation can be beneficial in the short-term. For instance -let’s say we get a cut or a graze to our skin. Immediately, our immune cells step in to protect against pathogens and heal the wound. This is called acute inflammation. Your white blood cells step in to do their job and then go away.

However there’s another type of inflammation that sticks around way longer than it’s meant to. This is called Chronic inflammation and can cause harm to our bodies in many ways.

Chronic inflammation can be the root cause of common skin disorders such as acne, eczema, psoriasis & rosacea. It can also contribute to premature aging, some mood disorders, hormonal imbalances, certain autoimmune disorders and disease. 

Our skin is our body’s largest organ, and when inflammation is out of control, it can manifest in multiple skin problems.

Skin Inflammation

Numerous things may fuel chronic inflammation. This includes inflammatory foods we eat, certain medications, environmental factors and stress.  This then leads to systemic inflammation affecting the entire body. See gut blog for more information.

Triggers of inflammation

  • Stress
  • Viruses, bacteria, yeasts or parasites
  • Food allergies
  • Long term use of certain medications
  • Toxins such as mercury and pesticides
  • Lack of exercise
  • Mold
  • Lack of sleep
  • Environment allergies
  • Inflammatory foods

What FOODS cause inflammation and should be Limited?

  • Refined Sugar
  • Too much Omega-6 fatty acids – as mentioned above.
  • High-fructose corn syrup – not only increases inflammation but can also inhibit the anti-inflammatory effect of omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Processed meat
  • Gluten
  • Too much caffeine
  • Dairy (ie non-fermented dairy)
  • Processed foods, especially those that are high in high-fructose-corn-syrup, sugar and sodium.
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • See more on inflammation/ gut health here

Omega-3 Vs Omega-6 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids are essential fatty acids that the body needs for normal growth and development. However these two fatty acids compete for absorption. Our bodies need a healthy balance of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. It is Omega-3’s that help reduce inflammation in our bodies. So …an excess consumption of omega-6s (and not enough Omega-3) can trigger inflammation.

Omega-6 fats are derived from linoleic acid and are found in certain oils like peanut, corn, sesame, sunflower, soy, and safflower. These oils need to be limited in our diets. 

A recent study showed a significant reduction in psoriasis flare ups (ie reduced area of rash, and improved thickness and redness of psoriasis) – after supplementing with a high quality omega-3 fish oil supplement (containing EPA & DHA). The study authors suggested doses of 0.45 to 13.5 grams of EPA and up to 9 grams of DHA daily.

Foods which help reduce inflammation 

  • Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids – such as extra virgin olive oil, oily wild caught fish such as salmon, sardines, t rout, anchovies and mackerel. Flaxseeds, sea buckthorn walnuts. A good quality Omega-3 supplement can also help ease inflammatory skin issues. 
  • Green leafy vegetables, such as spinach and kale. Also other colourful fruit and vegetables (the deeper or brighter the colour the richer it is in nutrients and antioxidants).
  • Fruit esp berries – berries (such as blueberries, strawberries, raspberries etc) contain antioxidants called anthocyanins which have anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Note:- Grass fed meat is better than grain fed meat.
  • Foods high in antioxidants help reduce damage caused by inflammation.
  • Probiotic rich foods (or supplements).
  • Turmeric root & ginger
  • See more anti inflammatory super foods here.

Victoria Isherwood (Registered Nurse)

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Gut Health & Your Mood

A slight deviation from dermatology. HOWEVER   ……not only is our gut linked to our SKIN, it can also influence our MOODS (and vica versa).

YES studies have identified that there is a strong link between our gut health and our emotions.

Our brain and our gut share much of the same tissue. Sometimes referred to as our ‘second brain’ our digestive system and our nervous system are link in many ways.

Our gut’s microbiome produces more ‘serotonin’ (our feel good hormone) than our brain. In fact approximately 85 per cent of our serotonin is found in our gut. In addition to this, there are a multitude of other neurotransmitters located in our gut. A clinical study involving (a large sample size of) patients with gut issues,  showed that anxiety and depression correlate strongly with their gut issues. Another study showed that when gut issues improved, so did depression and emotional problems.

Evidence also suggests that the gut microbiome can influence sleep quality and our circadian rhythm. Our mental health is closely linked to the quality and timing of our sleep.

So there is no wonder that…..

Improving gut health can not only boost our immune system and overall health (including our skin), it can also improve mood. For good gut health we need good gut flora. The bacteria should be varied and well balanced. Meaning  …more of the good guys than the bad! Read more about this in my previous Gut Article.

Easy steps to improve your gut health

  • Eat foods high in probiotics – eg Kombucha, Kefir, natural yogurt, saurkraut & kimchi or other fermented foods.
  • Avoid (or limit) inflammatory foods – Such as gluten, unfermented dairy, excessive alcohol, refined sugar & artificial sweeteners.
  • Eat fresh unprocessed foods – Include lots of vegetables & fruits that are high in fibre (lots have the additional benefit of being prebiotics – which are like fertilisers for our good bacteria).
  • Avoid unnecessary antibiotics – Which can wipe out our beneficial, protective gut bacteria.
  • Limit stress
  • If required supplement with high quality probiotic supplements  – taking a probiotic supplement can also naturally boost the good probiotics in your system. Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium are particularly good strains for improving mood. Supplementation can also be beneficial for sufferers of inflammatory skin problems like acne, psoriasis, rosacea and dermatitis.
  • Regular Moderate Exercise – has been shown to increase our guts (good) bacterial diversity and particularly increase Lactobacillus. Exercise also increases circulation, blood Flow, endorphins levels and reduced Stress.
  • See Gut-Skin Connection

SO…..

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The answer is YES

Is your GUT effecting your Skin??

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More and more studies are linking our GUT health to our SKIN.

Our GUT does much more than purely absorbing nutrients and energy from our food. It also:-

  • Plays an important role in our immune system (about two thirds of our immune system lives in the gut).
  • Produces more than twenty four hormones that influence everything from our appetite to our mood and even our Skin.
  • Produces detoxifying enzymes (which also destroy harmful bacteria).

Probiotics are ‘goodbacteria that strengthen the lining of our gut, support our body’s ability to absorb nutrients and fight infection. Strengthening our gut lining is important, as this can help protect us from invaders such as bad bacteria, fungi and viruses. Having low levels of good bacteria allows these bad pathogens and toxins to leak out into the body (aka “leaky gut syndrome”). When our immune system detects these invaders, it overreacts by causing inflammation. This can then lead to inflammatory skin issues such as acne, psoriasis, eczema, dermatitis and rosacea.

Gut Skin Connection

Nutrients need to be absorbed correctly in the gut in order for growth, repair, and normal functioning to occur. When our gut is restricted (with the absorption of nutrients), it begins to prioritise which organs will get the few nutrients that are available. When nutrients are in short supply, the body priorities the essential organs like the heart, brain and liver. This results in our skin, hair and nails missing out.

SO for good gut health we need good gut flora. The bacteria should be varied and well balanced. Meaning …more of the good guys than the bad!

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So what can we do to help?

Probiotics

The best way to increase your levels of good bacteria is through food. Some good options include:-

  • Yoghurt – good old fashioned full fat natural yoghurt.
  • Feta – is rich in Lactobacillus & plantarum which have anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Fermented Foods – such as Saurkraut & Kimchi.
  • Apple Cider Vinegar.
  • Kefir – a fermented dairy drink rich in the beneficial probiotic Lactobacillus Acidophilus.
  • Miso – made from fermented soybeans, rice or barley.
  • Kombucha – an effervescent fermentation of black tea.

Supplementing with additional high quality probiotic supplements can be a great way to get more probiotics into your body. Taking a probiotic supplement can also naturally boost the good probiotics that are already in your system. Supplementation can be especially beneficial for sufferers of inflammatory skin problems like acne, eczema, psoriasis, rosacea and dermatitis.

Prebiotics

Prebiotics are like fertilisers for your good gut flora. Examples include:-

  • Inulin found in onions, garlic, leeks, witlof, endive, Jerusalem artichokes, asparagus & bananas.
  • Fibre – such as flaxseeds, apples, oats.

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To avoid / limit

  • Sugar – bad bacteria feeds on sugar.
  • Artificial sweeteners – are now thought to harm the good bacteria in your gut.
  • Processed foods – are often loaded with sugar and gluten. They also often contain emulsifiers, which are added to a lot of processed foods to extend their shelf life ….and dramatically increase gut inflammation.
  • Unnecessary oral antibiotics – which can wipe out your beneficial, protective gut bacteria.
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) – such as aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen, which can cause intestinal and gut inflammation, damaging the lining and causing intestinal and gut permeability.
  • Stress – this connection is referred to as the gut-brain axis.
  • Alcohol – can irritate the stomach and intestines, cause inflammation and suppress certain vital hormone production.
  • Gluten – causes inflammation of the gut in most people.
  • Unfermented Dairy – can cause inflammation similar to gluten and sugar.

What else can help?

  • Exercise – researchers believe that exercise increases particular types of bacteria in the gut.
  • Sleep
  • Limiting stress (which decreases cortisol levels).
  • Bone broth – collagen is great for the gut and skin.

The importance of keeping things regular 

Our skin (which is our largest organ) is a major form of elimination for the body. If bowel motions aren’t regular, then toxins will need to be excreted elsewhere. 

As our face is covered in pores, it becomes the perfect back-up plan for excreting toxins. This can results in acne! SO, it’s really important to have regular bowel motions to ensure your body does not either store toxins or eliminate them via the skin. 

Good reads

  1. The Clever Guts Diet
    – Dr Michael Mosley
  2. GUT – The inside story of our body’s most under-rated organ. – Giulia Enders.

Victoria Isherwood (Registered Nurse / Dermatology)

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