Skin Health and Probiotics

Skin Health and Probiotics

Probiotics help maintain the balanced and healthy nature of the gut microbiome. The microbiome (or community of microbes) of the gut plays a very important role in the health of our skin. In short, what we eat becomes us. The food we eat helps in the process of creating new skin cells. If the gut is unhealthy, our skin becomes unhealthy as well and probiotics are just one of the tools we can use to make sure that both our gut and our skin is healthy.

Believe it or not, there are actually many similarities between our skin and our gut. Some of the similarities between the skin and the gut include: The outer surface of the skin and the inner surface of the gut are both covered in epithelial cells, and they are both crucial for immune function. They both have a high cell turnover rate, meaning they frequently produce new cells which prevents the surfaces from being taken over by the many microorganisms that reside there. Another similarity is that they are both extremely sensitive to stress and anxiety. 

The gut and the skin both help to maintain homeostasis (or a balanced environment) within the body, helping to regulate immune function. Thus, if the environment of either the gut or the skin is in disarray, the function of the immune system is compromised. This can lead to the development of skin diseases such as atopic dermatitis, psoriasis, acne vulgaris, dandruff, and even skin cancer. 

The Skin

The skin is the body’s largest organ. It has three different layers: the epidermis (top layer), the dermis (middle layer), and the hypodermis (bottom, fatty layer). The skin epidermis, along with the sebaceous and sweat glands, has a total surface area of about 25 m2. It is one of the largest epithelial* surfaces, and it is often the first to come into contact with microbes. The microorganisms on the skin keep us healthy by regulating the skin immune homeostasis.

*Epithelial = outer layer of the skin

The Skin and Acne

It has been found that the presence of acne vulgaris is very much connected to the gut. A study found that people that suffer from acne vulgaris have a decreased amount of diversity in their gut microbiome than others that do not suffer from acne vulgaris. Particularly, they have lower numbers of a bacteria called Firmicutes (formerly called Bacillota). Firmicutes maintain the health of the colon. They break down carbohydrates in the gut that can’t be digested by the body’s enzymes. Firmicutes can be nourished by taking prebiotics (which we will discuss further down) and following a Mediterranean diet. Western diets, which are high in animal fat. Protein and sugar have a negative effect on the beneficial gut bacteria. People suffering from acne vulgaris have also been found to have lower levels of Clostridium, Clostridiales, Lachnospiraceae and Ruminococcaceae but have higher levels of Bacteroides than others.

Atopic dermatitis (AD) is another skin issue in which the problem is related to low bacterial diversity in the gut. The levels of pathogenic Staphylococcus aureus and Streptococcus epidermidis are increased. The gut microbiome for people suffering from this condition had high levels of Faecalibacterium prausnitzii, which had more genes encoding for the release of molecules that can damage the gut epithelium and had lower levels of butyrate and propionate, which possess anti-inflammatory properties. Lower levels of Akkermansia, Bacteroidetes, and Bifidobacterium were found in AD patients than those without AD. A diet with a low amount of fruit, vegetables and omega-3 fatty acids (fish oil, flaxseeds, edamame, avocado) has been linked to atopic dermatitis, as well as higher intake of omega-6 fatty acids (sunflower oil, safflower oil, soybean oil, tofu, walnuts, and also avocado).

Similar to atopic dermatitis,  the relative levels of pathogenic Staphylococcus and Streptococcus species are increased in psoriasis as well. Sufferers from psoriasis have a reduced presence of firmicutes as well, and an increased risk of forming gut-related diseases such as irritable bowel disease (IBD), ulcerative colitis (UC), and celiac disease, though the mechanism by which this may happen is not currently well understood. 

The gut can even influence some conditions such as alopecia. 

The Gut

The gastrointestinal tract (GI) is about 30 m2. It is estimated that a total of 60 tons of food passes through the GI tract in a lifetime. There are many microorganisms already in the gut such as bacteria, archaea, viruses, fungi, and protozoa. In optimal numbers, these microorganisms help to break down the food we eat, releasing the energy and vitamins to deliver to the body. They are a healthy, normal part of our gut microbiome. It's when these microorganisms multiply unchecked and out of control is when we see complications and infections due to their overgrowth. As the old saying goes, everything in moderation. 

So, what causes the microorganisms in the gut to multiply out of control? There are a few factors that can cause their overgrowth such as: eating processed foods, eating too much sugar, using antibiotics, stress, infections, cancer, and other organisms from the external environment (exogenous organisms). In short, our modern lifestyle of processed snacks from the grocery store, junk food, stress from work/school/etc is not great for having healthy, glowing, problem-free skin… and that’s not very fetch. So what can we do about it?

Gut Health?

Get it? GUT Health? Like GOT Healt- nevermind…

The microorganisms in the gut regulate the immune system. The gut also produces about thirty different hormone-like compounds. As we know, the skin is very sensitive to things like hormonal changes, as well as stress, and anxiety. When the hormones are unbalanced, are skin tends to be unbalanced as well.

What are a few things we can do to get our guts and in turn, our skin in tip top shape?? Check this list out:

1. Prebiotics

Prebiotics are a nondigestible group of nutrients that are broken down by the microorganisms in the gut. The breakdown of these nutrients provide us with two prebiotics that exist in naturally low quantities in the foods that we eat, but are quite beneficial to our health. These nutrients include Fructo-oligosaccharides and galacto-oligosaccharides. 

 An important step of food digestion in the gut is the fermentation process in which beneficial intestinal microbes ferment the prebiotics and obtain their survival energy, in this process, the prebiotics act as a primary source of carbon. This process can stimulate the innate immune system against microorganisms that can cause disease. 

Taking prebiotics was shown to decrease the development of allergic skin diseases such as atopic dermatitis, increase absorption of calcium, improve the skin barrier, and retain moisture in the skin. 

Examples of foods that include prebiotics include: asparagus, sugar beets, garlic, chicory, onions, Jerusalem artichoke, wheat, honey, bananas, barley, tomatoes, rye, soybeans, seaweed, microalgae, and more. Prebiotics are a great way to nourish the firmicutes mentioned previously when discussing skin and acne.

Fun fact: The gut is connected to the central nervous system through the gut-brain-axis. Example: Different types of prebiotics were administered to individuals of various ages (19 to 64 years old), some of the effects seen were improved memory (short-term), concentration learning, recognition, and mood. 

2. Probiotics

Probiotics are live, beneficial bacteria. They are taken to replace the beneficial bacteria in the gut that is often wiped out by antibiotics, stress, and inflammation. Some probiotic foods include: yogurt, sauerkraut, kefir, kombucha, fermented vegetables such as pickles, sourdough bread (like injera) and miso. There are millions of strains of probiotics, and it’s important to know what strain is best for the condition you are trying to treat. The most commonly found probiotic strains include Lactobacillus (which is a type of firmicute) and Bifidobacterium, but if you’re trying to treat acne for example, you would opt for a strain such as Lactobacillus Rhamnosus SP1. The other common types of probiotics include Saccharomyces, Streptococcus, Enterococcus, Escherichia, and Bacillus. They have been shown to prevent allergies in children and atopic dermatitis. 

What is the difference between prebiotics and probiotics, you might be asking? Probiotics contain live bacteria, whereas prebiotics do not. 

Taking both prebiotics and probiotics help maintain a balanced microorganism environment, and taking them together offers far more benefit than taking either alone. They are a great way to maintain both gut and skin health!

3. De-stress

Find ways to “get away from it all”, taking your mind off of all the stressful things that happened in the day (or that you think will happen in the future). Try music therapy, going for walks, yoga, meditation, dancing, or anything you like to do that’s not detrimental to your health. Get into float tanks for floatation therapy (look it up if you’ve never heard of it and decide if it’s a good idea for you to try it).

4. Lean towards organic foods

They are typically richer in nutrients. Pesticides and other chemicals from non-organic foods may lead to disruption of the natural flora (microorganisms) in the gut as well. 

5. Know your body

Gluten and dairy sensitivities can lead to skin outbreaks and other problems. Many people do not know they are gluten or dairy sensitive. Do some experimentation and evaluation. If you have frequent outbreaks, identify what you were eating before these outbreaks occurred, reduce it or eliminate it from your diet and see if you continue to have these breakouts.

6. Increase green foods

Foods rich in chlorophyll such as leafy greens, celery, alfalfa, sea vegetables and even green tea (assuming you have no issues with caffeine) are very beneficial for the gut.

Fun fact: I buy liquid chlorophyll and add it to my water daily to make sure I’m getting the amount of chlorophyll I need per day.

7. Avoid refined foods and sugar

Refined foods are not natural and can wreak havoc on the environment of your gut, wiping out the helpful bacteria that reside there that are working to keep everything in check. Similarly, foods that are too sugary can do the same thing. Whole, natural foods are always the best way to go for your overall health and wellbeing. 

 To answer the question I've seen on whether probiotics and skin health are related: yes, they are. Probiotics are an important tool for building great skin health, but it's important to take all of the tools from the list above, including prebiotics, and factor those into your life for optimal skin health. 

Special Mention: Electrolytes

Often, water alone is not enough to hydrate the skin as it only contains a small amount of the electrolytes needed. The body eliminates about 2 liters of water per day through perspiration and urination, and important electrolytes are eliminated through these processes as well. Drinking electrolytes plays a special role in hydrating the skin as it acts as a redistributive system, helping water get to many different parts of the skin including the face. Electrolytes are also able to help improve the skin barrier, helping the skin to deal with environmental changes.

What Are Electrolytes?

Electrolytes are minerals like calcium, magnesium, potassium and sodium; conducts electricity when mixed with water. They enable cells to generate energy, balance pH, and help regulate water composition in the body, from the intracellular environment to the extracellular circulation. They are able to be suppled through foods, and more commonly, sports drinks. But, if you are looking to cut down on sugar and unnecessary intake of food colorings that are known to wreak havoc on health, try out these LMNT electrolyte packs that you can mix in your water! They have no sugar, no gluten and no artificial ingredients. They are also keto & paleo friendly:

LMNT even offers electrolyte packs you can add to your coffee and/or hot chocolate! Like these chocolate salt flavors :

Side note: If you have any sodium restrictions (are on a low-sodium diet), or have restrictions to other electrolytes such as magnesium or potassium, these LMNT electrolyte hydration powders are likely not ideal for you to consume. There are other electrolyte options that contain less sodium. Before making extreme changes to your diet, please check with your healthcare practitioner to see if these changes are right for you and your condition.


So there you have it folks, a happy gut is one of the things you need to keep in order to have healthy skin. Prioritize this, as well as other aspects of a healthy lifestyle, and watch your skin transform.

Thanks for reading! Did you know that skin health and gut health were so closely linked? Drop us a comment and let us know!

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