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The Gut-Skin Axis & Eczema: Exploring The Vital Connection

By Dr. Diane Angela Fong, ND



For those of us battling the relentless itch and irritation of eczema, finding relief often feels like an endless quest. We invest countless hours and resources in external skincare solutions, desperately seeking a remedy for our inflamed and sensitive skin. But what if the key to soothing eczema symptoms lies not in medicinal creams or elaborate routines, but within our own gut?


Recent scientific breakthroughs have unveiled a remarkable connection between our gut health and the state of our skin, paving the way for a new approach to eczema treatment – addressing the gut-skin axis. This groundbreaking concept highlights the intricate interplay between the gut microbiome and skin health, offering hope for those seeking lasting relief from eczema flare-ups.


Understanding the Gut-Skin Axis



The gut-skin axis represents a bidirectional communication system between the gut microbiome and the skin. This fascinating interconnection highlights the profound influence of gut health on skin conditions and vice versa. Emerging research has unveiled the intricate mechanisms underlying this symbiotic relationship, revealing how changes in the gut microbiome can significantly impact skin health and contribute to the development of various dermatological conditions.


The Role of Beneficial Bacteria:


At the core of the gut-skin axis are the trillions of microorganisms that inhabit our gastrointestinal tract, collectively known as the gut microbiome. Among these microbial inhabitants are beneficial bacteria, including Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli, which play pivotal roles in maintaining gut homeostasis and modulating immune function. These beneficial bacteria help protect against pathogenic invaders, regulate inflammation, and contribute to overall gut health.


Mounting evidence suggests that imbalances in the gut microbiome, termed dysbiosis, are associated with an array of skin disorders, including acne, eczema, psoriasis, and rosacea. Dysbiosis can disrupt the delicate equilibrium of the gut ecosystem, leading to increased intestinal permeability, systemic inflammation, and compromised skin barrier function.


The Power of Postbiotics:


Amidst the diverse community of gut microbes, certain beneficial bacteria, such as Bifidobacterium, Lactobacillus, and Faecalibacterium prausnitzii, produce bioactive metabolites known as postbiotics. Among these postbiotics, short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) have garnered considerable attention for their remarkable health-promoting properties.


Short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) 


SCFAs, including acetate, propionate, and butyrate, are produced through the fermentation of dietary fibers by beneficial gut bacteria. Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus species are particularly efficient at producing SCFAs, contributing to their abundance in the gut ecosystem.


These bioactive molecules act as signaling molecules in the gut-skin axis, and exert their beneficial effects on skin health through various mechanisms. Firstly, SCFAs help regulate immune responses in the gut and skin, promoting immune tolerance and dampening excessive inflammation. Additionally, SCFAs enhance the integrity of the skin barrier by promoting epidermal differentiation, stimulating ceramide synthesis, and modulating skin lipid composition. Moreover, SCFAs exhibit antimicrobial properties, inhibiting the growth of pathogenic bacteria and fungi on the skin's surface. By maintaining microbial balance and preventing dysbiosis, SCFAs contribute to overall skin health and resilience.


Other Postbiotics


In addition to short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), there are other important postbiotics that play significant roles in gut health and the gut-skin axis. Here are a few noteworthy ones:


1. Branched-Chain Fatty Acids (BCFAs): BCFAs are another type of fatty acid produced by gut bacteria during the fermentation of dietary fibers. While not as extensively studied as SCFAs, BCFAs have been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties and may contribute to gut and skin health.


2. Bacteriocins: Bacteriocins are antimicrobial peptides produced by certain beneficial bacteria. These peptides can inhibit the growth of pathogenic bacteria, helping to maintain a healthy microbial balance in the gut and on the skin. By preserving microbial diversity, bacteriocins contribute to overall gut and skin health.


3. Polyphenols: Polyphenols are bioactive compounds found in various plant-based foods, such as fruits, vegetables, and herbs. When metabolized by gut bacteria, polyphenols can produce metabolites with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. These metabolites help support gut barrier function, modulate immune responses, and promote skin health.


4. Vitamins and Short Peptides: Certain gut bacteria produce vitamins, such as vitamin K and various B vitamins, as well as short peptides with bioactive properties. These compounds play essential roles in immune regulation, collagen synthesis, and wound healing, all of which are important for maintaining healthy skin.


5. Lactic Acid: Lactic acid is a byproduct of lactate fermentation by lactic acid bacteria, such as Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium species. Lactic acid contributes to maintaining an acidic pH in the gut, which is crucial for inhibiting the growth of pathogenic bacteria and promoting the growth of beneficial microbes. This acidic environment also supports skin health by preserving the skin's natural barrier function.


Eczema, Staph Infections, & the Gut-Skin Axis



If you're living with eczema, you're likely all too familiar with the significant impact that staph infections can have on your health journey. Staphylococcus aureus is a common bacterium found on the skin. The problem with this bacteria is that it exhibits a dual nature, transitioning from a benign inhabitant, to a formidable pathogen under certain circumstances. In individuals with eczema, disruptions in skin barrier function and immune dysregulation create a hospitable environment for Staphylococcus aureus proliferation. This bacterium's virulence factors, including toxins and enzymes, exacerbate inflammation, compromise the skin barrier, and perpetuate the cycle of eczema flare-ups and skin infections.


Research indicates a strong link between dysbiosis or imbalances in the gut microbiome and the prevalence of staph infections on the skin. Dysregulation of gut microbial balance can trigger systemic inflammation, compromising immune responses and skin barrier function. Consequently, individuals with imbalanced gut microbiota may be more susceptible to staph colonization on the skin, exacerbating skin conditions like eczema. By prioritizing gut health and fostering a balanced gut microbiome, individuals can mitigate the risk of staph colonization on the skin, promoting overall skin health and resilience.


How We Disrupt the Gut-Skin Axis



While the gut-skin axis holds immense potential for promoting skin health, various factors can disrupt this delicate balance, exacerbating skin conditions like eczema. Understanding these disruptors is crucial for mitigating their effects and restoring harmony to the gut-skin axis.


1. Poor Diet: A diet high in processed foods, sugar, and unhealthy fats can wreak havoc on the gut microbiome, promoting the growth of harmful bacteria while depleting beneficial microbes. This imbalance can trigger inflammation, compromise gut barrier function, and exacerbate skin conditions like eczema.


2. Antibiotics and Medications: Antibiotics, while essential for treating bacterial infections, can also indiscriminately wipe out beneficial gut bacteria, disrupting the delicate balance of the microbiome. Similarly, certain medications like nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) can alter gut flora composition, compromising gut health and contributing to skin issues.


3. Stress and Lifestyle Factors: Chronic stress, lack of sleep, and sedentary lifestyles can all impact gut health and exacerbate skin conditions. Stress triggers the release of cortisol, a hormone that can disrupt gut barrier function and promote inflammation. Additionally, poor sleep quality and lack of physical activity can further compromise gut integrity, exacerbating skin inflammation and aggravating eczema symptoms.


4. Environmental Toxins: Exposure to environmental toxins like pollutants, pesticides, and heavy metals can disrupt the gut microbiome and impair skin barrier function. These toxins can directly damage gut epithelial cells, leading to increased intestinal permeability and systemic inflammation, which can manifest as skin issues like eczema.


5. Overuse of Skincare Products: While skincare products play a vital role in maintaining skin health, overuse or reliance on harsh, chemical-laden products can disrupt the skin microbiome and exacerbate inflammation. Ingredients like alcohol, fragrances, and preservatives can strip the skin of its natural oils, disrupting the microbiome and compromising the skin barrier.


By identifying and addressing these disruptors, individuals can take proactive steps to restore balance to the gut-skin axis and promote skin health from within.


The Cleanbody Method to Restore Gut-Skin Axis Health



Embarking on the journey to restore gut-skin axis harmony requires a comprehensive approach that addresses the underlying factors influencing gut and skin health. The Cleanbody Method offers a structured framework designed to optimize gut microbiome balance and promote skin wellness.


Step 1: Evaluate:


The first crucial step in the Cleanbody Method involves thorough evaluation and assessment. This begins with obtaining a comprehensive stool analysis to analyze the composition and health of your gut microbiome. By examining factors such as microbial diversity, beneficial bacteria levels, and markers of inflammation, you and the Cleanbody team can gain valuable insights into your gut health status.


Additionally, the evaluation process extends beyond laboratory tests to encompass a holistic assessment of your diet, lifestyle, and gastrointestinal symptoms. From analyzing dietary patterns to assessing stress levels and sleep quality, every aspect of your lifestyle is scrutinized to identify potential triggers and imbalances affecting the gut-skin axis.


Step 2: Optimize the Pillars of Health:


The next phase of the Cleanbody Method revolves around optimizing the foundational pillars of health essential for gut-skin axis harmony. These pillars encompass CleanFOOD, CleanFIT, CleanENVIRO, CleanROUTINE, and CleanMIND, each playing a crucial role in supporting overall well-being.


  • CleanFOOD: Adopting a clean and nutrient-rich diet forms the cornerstone of gut health. Emphasizing whole foods, fiber-rich fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy fats fosters microbial diversity and promotes gut barrier integrity.

  • CleanFIT: Regular physical activity is essential for maintaining gut motility, promoting circulation, and modulating immune function. Incorporating exercise routines tailored to individual needs enhances gut health and complements skin wellness.

  • CleanENVIRO: Minimizing exposure to environmental toxins and pollutants is imperative for preserving gut and skin health. Implementing strategies to reduce toxin exposure, such as using natural household cleaning products and opting for organic skincare, safeguards the gut-skin axis.

  • CleanROUTINE: Establishing consistent lifestyle habits, including adequate sleep, stress management techniques, and mindful relaxation practices, nurtures gut microbiome equilibrium and supports skin resilience.

  • CleanMIND: Cultivating a positive mindset and prioritizing mental well-being contribute to gut-brain axis harmony. Stress reduction strategies, mindfulness practices, and social connections promote emotional balance and foster gut-skin axis health.


Step 3: Support the Gut-Skin Axis:


In the final stage of the Cleanbody Method, targeted interventions are employed to support and optimize the gut-skin axis. This may include supplementing with probiotics, prebiotics, and postbiotics to enhance gut microbial diversity and bolster immune function.


Additionally, implementing the 4 R protocol - Remove, Replace, Repair, and Restore - targets underlying gut imbalances and promotes gut healing. Personalized treatments, such as antimicrobial therapy, gut-healing nutrients, and lifestyle modifications, are tailored to address individual needs and restore gut-skin axis equilibrium.


By following the Cleanbody Method and prioritizing gut health, individuals can embark on a transformative journey towards restoring harmony within the gut-skin axis and achieving lasting skin wellness. If you're interested in exploring personalized strategies to restore the health of your Gut-Skin Axis and support overall health, we're here to help. Learn more about working with us!


If you would like to start the evaluation process as soon as possible, click here to book a consultation with me. During the consultation, we can discuss the evaluation and treatment process in detail and determine the best course of action for your specific needs. Alternatively, if you prefer to start with testing, you can order a test directly through our platform here. Our comprehensive stool test kit include with a Discovery Consultation, ensuring that you receive personalized guidance and support every step of the way.



About the Author:



Dr. Diane Angela Fong, ND, is the CEO and founder of Cleanbody, a wellness company dedicated to treating and preventing chronic disease. She is the creator of the Cleanbody Method, which follows a three-step process: Evaluate (digging into the root causes of chronic disease using lab testing and other evaluation tools), Optimize (enhancing health foundations by addressing nutrition, lifestyle, and toxic exposures), and Support (optimizing organ functions through healing protocols).




References:

  1. Xiao X, Hu X, Yao J, et al. The role of short-chain fatty acids in inflammatory skin diseases. Frontiers in Microbiology. 2022;13:1083432. doi:10.3389/fmicb.2022.1083432

  2. Lee SY, Lee E, Park YM, Hong SJ. Microbiome in the Gut-Skin Axis in Atopic Dermatitis. Allergy, Asthma & Immunology Research. 2018;10(4):354-362. doi:10.4168/aair.2018.10.4.354

  3. Zheng H, Liang H, Wang Y, et al. Altered Gut Microbiota Composition Associated with Eczema in Infants. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 2021;18(4):2096. doi:10.3390/ijerph18042096

  4. Sangaphunchai P, Kritsanaviparkporn C, Treesirichod A. Association BetweenStaphylococcus Aureus Colonization and Pediatric Atopic Dermatitis: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Indian J Dermatol. 2023 Nov-Dec;68(6):619-627. doi: 10.4103/ijd.ijd_453_22. Epub 2024 Jan 9. PMID: 38371569; PMCID: PMC10868995.

  5. De Pessemier B, Grine L, Debaere M, Maes A, Paetzold B, Callewaert C. Gut-Skin Axis: Current Knowledge of the Interrelationship between Microbial Dysbiosis and Skin Conditions. Microorganisms. 2021 Feb 11;9(2):353. doi: 10.3390/microorganisms9020353. PMID: 33670115; PMCID: PMC7916842.

  6. Gao T, Wang X, Li Y, Ren F. The Role of Probiotics in Skin Health and Related Gut–Skin Axis: A Review. Nutrients. 2023; 15(14):3123. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu15143123


Medical Disclaimer: The information provided in this blog post is for educational and informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.


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