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The Gut/Skin Connection

Guest Blog Written By: Dr. Jen Cisternino Naturopathic Doctor


Recently, there has been a lot of  “buzz” around the connection between digestive health and skin health. More research is being conducted showing a promising link between the two. I am sure we have all experienced this relationship at some point in our life, if not at the current moment. For example, you overindulge in some fatty, greasy foods and to your surprise you break out in pimples OR you start eating more dairy and gluten and notice bloating and a skin rash. These are two occurrences of how food, digestion and skin can interrelate.

Let’s take a closer look at our skin.

Recently, there has been a lot of  “buzz” around the connection between digestive health and skin health. More research is being conducted showing a promising link between the two. I am sure we have all experienced this relationship at some point in our life, if not at the current moment. For example, you overindulge in some fatty, greasy foods and to your surprise you break out in pimples OR you start eating more dairy and gluten and notice bloating and a skin rash. These are two occurrences of how food, digestion and skin can interrelate.

Let’s take a closer look at our skin.

Functions of the Skin:

  • The body’s largest ORGAN
  • Seen as the “third” kidney
  • Responsible for eliminating a portion of the body’s toxic waste through sweating
  • Acts as a barrier
  • Responsible for absorption of sunlight which we use to manufacture Vitamin D
  • Helps prevent dehydration
  • Regulates our temperature

Besides the skin, there are other organs that help promote elimination of toxins and also the absorption of minerals.

Organs of elimination/absorption: 

  • Liver: Detoxification (phase 1 and 2)
  • Kidneys: Filter waste through urine
  • Colon: Waste through feces
  • Stomach/Intestines: Allows for digestion/absorption of minerals, vitamins, proteins, fats and sugars.

If any of these organs are malfunctioning, the skin will become affected. You may start to notice rashes, hives, ezcema, psoriasis, vitilitgo, rosacea etc.

So what is healthy digestion anyway?

  • 1-3 bowel movements daily
  • Absence of bloating and pain
  • Stool appears light brown, is “S” shaped, sinks, contains no blood or mucous
  • Good energy throughout the day
  • Absence of SKIN CONDITIONS

Some of the more common digestive issues I see in my office are:

  • GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disorder)
  • Hypochlorhydria
  • Ulcers
  • Celiac Disease
  • Intestinal Hyperpermeability “Leaky Gut Syndrome”
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

Could you be suffering from any of these conditions? Let’s take a look at each condition in detail.

GERD Symptoms:

  • Heartburn post meal
  • Regurgitation
  • Feeling that food is stuck in the throat
  • Coughing, wheezing, hoarseness, chest pain

GERD can be worsened by certain foods: Alcohol, chocolate, coffee, fats, food allergies, mints (chewing gum), onions, sugar, spicy foods, tomatoes, citrus fruits, carbonated drinks

Drugs that can be the cause:

  • Beta blockers
  • Bronchodilators
  • NSAIDS
  • Cigarettes
  • Aspirin

TREATMENT OF GERD:

  • Get rid of possible food allergens
    • Gluten and dairy are the most common ones.
  • Try to eliminate known triggers
  • Weight loss and lifestyle changes
    • Don’t eat three hours before bed. Give yourself a chance to digest your food.
  • Deal with stress before you eat
    • Try a very simple technique that I call “Take Five.” Take five breaths before each meal.
  • Try specific supplements to help
    • Digestive enzymes, zinc carnosine, Magnesium, DGL.
  • Get tested for Food Sensitivities. It is easy and I do this in my office.
  • Test for H. Pylori• Check for abnormal bugs in your gut, bacterial overgrowth, yeast overgrowth, and parasites

ULCERS:  Signs and Symptoms:

  • Stomach Pain
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Belching, bloating, distension
  • Intolerance to fatty foods.
  • Heartburn
  • Chest discomfort
  • Anorexia
  • Weight loss
  • Dark blood in the stool (bleeding ulcer)

HYPOCHLORHYDRIA:

  • Definition: Deficiency or Absence of Stomach acid (HCL)

HCL is necessary to:

  • Protect the stomach against pathogens
  • Prevent fungal, bacterial overgrowth of intestine
  • Facilitate flow of bile and pancreatic enzymes
  • Enables proper absorption of protein and nutrients

Signs and Symptoms

  • A sense of fullness after eating
  • Bloating, belching, burning or flatulence immediately after meals
  • Indigestion, diarrhea or constipation
  • Dilated blood vessels in the cheeks and nose
  • Iron deficiency
  • Multiple mineral deficiencies
  • Itching around the rectum
  • Multiple food allergies
  • Nausea after taking supplements
  • Weak, peeling and cracked fingernails

SKIN CONDITIONS associated with Hypochlorhydria:

  • Eczema, psoriasis, rosacea, urticaria, vitiligo, acne

The only test available that can accurately determine if you have low minerals due to poor digestive function is HAIR MINERAL ANALYSIS. I conduct this test in my office.

CELIAC DISEASE:                

Gluten intolerance whereby ingestion of gluten causes chronic inflammation in the intestinal mucosa leading to flattening of intestinal villi

Signs and Symptoms:

  • Chronic Diarrhea
  • Flatulence, abdominal pain, bloating
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Anemia
  • Osteopenia
  • Neurological symptoms
  • Stunted growth
  • Seizures
  • Bleeding disorders (due to lack of Vit K)

INTESTINAL HYPERPERMEABILITY:

  • Definition: Also known as “Leaky Gut Syndrome”. Holes in the intestine which result in unwanted proteins and other molecules into the bloodstream.
  • Common causes are: NSAIDS, antibiotics, viral and bacterial infections of the stomach, chemotherapy, alcoholism, radiation, trauma, surgery

Signs and Symptoms

  • Abdominal pain
  • Chronic joint pain
  • Chronic muscle pain
  • Confusion
  • Fuzzy/foggy thinking
  • Gas
  • Indigestion
  • Mood swings
  • Nervousness
  • Poor immunity
  • Diarrhea
  • Poor memory
  • Constipation

IRRITABLE BOWEL DISEASE:

  • Altered stool frequency (more than 3 bowel movements each day or less than 3 bowel movements each week)
  • Altered stool form (lumpy/hard/loose/watery)
  • Altered stool passage (straining, urgency, fecal incontinence or incomplete evacuation)
  • Passing of mucous

Causes:

  • Dysbiosis: altered intestinal microflora
  • High sulphate diet (preservatives, dried fruits, shellfish, baked goods, white bread, alcoholic beverages, cows milk, cheese, eggs, meat, high protein diet (animal protein), high simple sugar/refined carbohydrate diet
  • Food allergies (IGG)
  • Antibiotic use
  • Psychological problems: sexual, physical, verbal abus

A note about FOOD ALLERGIES: 

  •  IgG food reactions are food sensitivities, rather than true anaphylactic (IgE mediated) food allergies.
  • IgG food reactions are delayed. They can occur hours to days after the food is consumed, which can make it hard to pin point the exact food.
  • Testing is the best way to determine your sensitivities.

Undetected Food Allergies can cause skin conditions such as:

  • Eczema
  • Acne
  • Psoriasis
  • Hives
  • Rash
  • Rosacea    

In summary, if you believe you have any of the above conditions, seek help from a health care practitioner. Naturopathic Doctors do a great job at treating the “root” cause of skin issues and optimizing digestive health. If you have any skin issues and you have not addressed your digestive function,  it is worth exploring. If you are interested in getting testing done, I offer both tests in my office. If you know someone that may be suffering and can benefit from this information, please share.

Feel free to reach out with any questions.

AVOCADO MASK
Healthy Mask For Glowing Skin: 

1 ½ avocado
½ cup plain organic yogurt
½ cup rolled oats
1 (400 iu) Vit E gel cap
½ squeezed lemon juice
¼ cucumber

BLEND TOGETHER
If skin is dry add 1/4 cup olive oil
Apply 3-4 times a week for 20 minutes

ENJOY!

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