Could bacteria be the secret key to beautiful skin? Current scientific research suggests this may be the case! Many of us are familiar with the concept that we need to have a hearty population of beneficial bacteria in our intestines in order to promote optimal digestive health. Beneficial bacteria perform numerous important functions in the gut; they assist with the breakdown of food, the metabolism of toxins, and maintain the integrity of the walls of the digestive tract.
In order to support beneficial bacteria in the gut, many of us eat probiotic foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, yoghurt, and kefir. There are also a wide variety of encapsulated probiotic supplements available for us to choose from at grocery stores and health food stores. While a great deal of emphasis has been placed on the digestive benefits of probiotics, it turns out that the importance of the bacteria living in our bodies – collectively referred to as our “microbiome” – extends far beyond the digestive tract, all the way to our skin!
Amazingly, the population of beneficial bacteria in our guts has the ability to influence the health and appearance of our skin! Eating probiotic foods and taking probiotic supplements can help support those beneficial bacteria, and start us on the path towards achieving radiant skin. I first learned about the connection between probiotics and skin health several years ago, when I decided that I was tired of living with acne and wanted to find a natural solution to my skin troubles. My own experience in replenishing the beneficial bacteria in my body with probiotics has not only healed my acne but has given me skin that I am proud to live in!
There is a fascinating body of scientific research demonstrating the interaction between probiotics and skin health. 1 Amongst scientists, the connection between the skin and digestive tract has been termed the “gut-skin axis.” In regards to the gut-skin axis, scientists have found that the beneficial bacteria living in our intestines first affect the local environment of the gut, and then proceed to influence systemic bodily processes, which in turn affects skin health. Beneficial bacteria in the gut form a strong foundation for overall health by strengthening the walls of the intestine, which are often referred to as the “intestinal barrier.” When the intestinal barrier is weak, substances such as undigested food proteins and toxins are able to escape between cells of the intestine into the rest of the body. This undesirable process is referred to as “leaky gut.” Leaky gut creates inflammation throughout the body, including in the skin. An intestinal barrier that has been strengthened by probiotics prevents leaky gut from occurring, and can, therefore, prevent inflammation from developing throughout the body and in the skin. Inflammation is a major cause of skin woes, so anything we can do to prevent inflammation will help improve skin health!
In addition, when the intestinal barrier is strong thanks to beneficial bacteria and regular probiotic consumption, absorption of nutrients from food is also improved. These nutrients keep hormones balanced, including hormones that regulate blood sugar levels. Blood sugar regulation has a great impact on skin health, especially in the case of acne. Optimal nutrient absorption also provides cells with the fuel they need to thrive, including the cells composing your skin. As you can see, a healthy gut really is essential for creating healthy skin! An imbalance in beneficial bacteria in the gut, along with an inadequate intake of probiotics, can, therefore, have major impacts on the health of your skin. The beneficial bacteria residing in your gut, in fermented foods, and in probiotic supplements may be tiny, but don’t underestimate their amazing power to affect your body’s largest organ, your skin!
Probiotics and skin health research
Within the past few years, a number of scientific studies have examined the effects of probiotics on skin health. Probiotics taken internally and applied topically may improve signs of skin ageing, eczema, acne, and rosacea. Here is some of the most recent research on probiotics for skin health:
The human microbiomes both in the digestive tract and on the skin are intrinsically linked with dermatological health. A healthy gut serves as a strong foundation for health and can influence a variety of bodily processes including systemic inflammation, oxidative stress, blood sugar control, and cellular lipid production. These processes, in turn, affect the health of the skin. Probiotics taken both internally through foods and supplements and applied externally as topical probiotics, appear to be a promising and safe therapeutic modality for various skin conditions. A strong body of scientific research indicates that probiotics may improve signs of skin ageing, eczema, acne, and rosacea. By restoring the microbiomes of the skin and intestines with probiotics, it may be possible to reverse skin disorders and achieve healthy, beautiful skin!
References and Sources:
- Bowe, W.P. and Logan, A.C. (2011). Acne vulgaris, probiotics and the gut-brain-skin axis – back to the future? Gut Pathogens, 3:1. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3038963/.
- Lee, D.E., Huh, C.S., Ra, J., Choi, I.D., Jeong, J.W., Kim, S.H., Ryu, J.H., Seo, Y.K., Koh, J.S., Lee, J.H., Sim, J.H., Ahn, Y.T. (2015). Clinical evidence of effects of Lactobacillus plantarum HY7714 on skin ageing: A randomized, double blind, placebo-controlled study. Journal of Microbiology and Biotechnology, 25(12), 2160-2168. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26428734.
- Kober, M.M. and Bowe, W.P. (2015). The effect of probiotics on immune regulation, acne, and photoageing. International Journal of Women’s Dermatology, 1(2): 85-89. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2352647515000155.
- Inoue, Y., Kambara, T., Murata, N., Komori-Yamaguchi, J., Matsukura, S., Takahashi, Y., Ikezawa, Z., Aihara, M. (2014). Effects of oral administration of lactobacillus acidophilus L-92 on the symptoms and serum of atopic dermatitis in Japanese adults: A double-blind, randomized, clinical trial. International Archives of Allergy and Immunology, 165, 247-254. Retrieved from http://www.karger.com/Article/Abstract/369806.
- Drago, L., Toscano, M., De Vecchi, E., Piconi, S., Iemoli, E. (2012). Changing of fecal flora and clinical effect of L. salivarius LS01 in adults with atopic dermatitis. Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology, 46 Suppl, S56-S63. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22955359.
- Kim, J.Y., Kwon, J.H., Ahn, S.H., Lee, S.I., Han, Y.S., Choi, Y.O., Lee, S.Y., Ahn, K.M., Ji, G.E. (2010). Effect of probiotic mix (Bifidobacterium bifidum, Bifidobacterium lactis, Lactobacillus acidophilus) in the primary prevention of eczema: a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial. Pediatric Allergy and Immunology, 21(2 Pt 2), e386-393. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19840300.
- Panduru, M., Panduru, N.M., Salavastru, C.M., Tiplica, G.S. (2015). Probiotics and primary prevention of atopic dermatitis: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled studies. Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology, 29 (2015), 232–242. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24698503.
- Fabbrocini, G., Bertona, M., Picazo, Ó., Pareja-Galeano, H., Monfrecola, G., Emanuele, E. (2016). Supplementation with Lactobacillus rhamnosus SP1 normalises skin expression of genes implicated in insulin signalling and improves adult acne. Beneficial Microbes, 6, 1-6. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27596801.
- Jung, G.W., Tse, J.E., Guiha, I., Rao, J. (2013). Prospective, randomized, open-label trial comparing the safety, efficacy, and tolerability of an acne treatment regimen with and without a probiotic supplement and minocycline in subjects with mild to moderate acne. Journal of Cutaneous Medicine and Surgery, 17, 114-122. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23582165.
- Vemuri, R.C., Gundamaraju, R., Sekaran, S.D., and Manikam, R. (2015). Major pathophysiological correlations of rosacea: A complete clinical appraisal. International Journal of Medical Sciences, 12(5), 387-396. Retrieved from http://www.medsci.org/v12p0387.pdf.
- Parodi, A., Paolino, S., Greco, A., Drago, F., Mansi, C., Rebora, A., Parodi, A., Savarino, V. (2008). Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth in rosacea: clinical effectiveness of its eradication. Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology, 6(7), 759-764. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18456568.
- Di Marzio, L., Cinque, B., De Simone, C., Cifone, M.G. (1999). Effect of the lactic acid bacterium Streptococcus thermophilus on ceramide levels in human keratinocytes in vitro and stratum corneum in vivo. Journal of Investigative Dermatology, 113(1), 98-106. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10417626.
- Lee, W.J., Jung, H.D., Lee, H.J., Kim, B.S., Lee, S.J., Kim, D.W. (2008). Influence of substance-P on cultured sebocytes. Archives of Dermatological Research, 300(6), 311-316. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18427822.