Our skin, the largest organ in the body, plays a major functional role in keeping us healthy and safe. It provides us with protection, allows us to feel and sense things, synthesises and stores nutrients (I’m looking at you vitamin D and fat soluble vitamins!) and keeps our body in a happy state of homeostasis. Our skin well, it’s pretty incredible.
Disturbances in our inner health are very commonly seen on our skin. Acne, psoriasis, eczema, rashes, even a dull lacklustre complexion – these are all signposts from the body, sending us a message. Clever beauty marketing has us thinking that if we just invest in that particular cleanser, team it with the very expensive moisturiser, oh and don’t forget the magical serum and hello perfect skin! Whilst these products will make you feel special and fancy, they won’t actually get to the root of what’s triggering your skin issue. For that, you will need to look inside.
The gut connection
A healthy functioning digestive system is imperative when it comes to good skin health. By now it is no secret – ALL health begins in the gut. When our gut function is compromised we notice it and depending on our individual constitution and predispositions, symptoms will manifest differently for everybody. When it comes to symptoms of the skin, systemic inflammation, stressors and intestinal dysbiosis (otherwise known as imbalanced gut bacteria) can lead to epithelial permeability (also known as “leaky gut”). This “leakiness” allows antigens and toxins to break through the intestines, stimulating the immune system and activating an inflammatory response. Skin conditions like acne or eczema, and to some degree psoriasis, can often be the first sign that there is something wrong internally and whilst we tend to fixate on what we can see, resolving gut dysfunction is the best way to get on top of your skin health.
When our digestive system is happy it’s like a well-oiled machine, everything flows, including our elimination pathways, however, when there’s a kink the whole ecosystem is disrupted. Poor digestive function adds extra pressure to our liver and kidneys, the precious organs that filter out toxins and hormones. These elimination organs are then unable to perform their job efficiently meaning that those toxins and hormones that were meant to be excreted are now re-circulating the body, triggering a whole host of symptoms and more than likely causing skin to react!
Did you know acne is the most common skin condition treated by health practitioners? And in many cases the development of acne is due in part to hormones, particularly androgens.
Androgens are conventionally labelled as male sex hormones, however, all bodies, regardless of sex produce androgens. You’re probably familiar with the most common one, testosterone? When there is an excess of testosterone circulating the body our sebaceous glands (our pores) are stimulated to produce more sebum (our natural oil). This excess of oil then begins to clog pores, increasing the risk of bacteria causing acne. And whilst a fancy oil free cleanser may make your skin feel lighter and a little less shiny for about 30 minutes, unless you address what is driving this excess oil production the acne will persist.
So what causes an androgen surge? Events such as puberty or stopping hormonal contraceptives (particularly the pill) and conditions such as polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) and hypothyroidism all create an imbalance in hormones which can lead to acne.
Nutrient deficiencies are so prevalent in today’s society it can be mind boggling to determine what and if this is the cause of your health concern. Nutrient deficiencies can be caused by so many factors – age, gender, lifestyle, genetics, metabolic or absorption defects, the list is endless! When it comes to skin health there are nutrients that are essential for maintaining skin and mucous membrane integrity. They include vitamins A, E and C, amino acids arginine, glycine, leucine, lysine, as well as pantothenic acid (vitamin B5), protein, silicon, and minerals copper and zinc. Determining the cause of a nutrient deficiency is imperative when it comes to resolving skin issues. There is no point in supplementing with zinc during a zinc deficiency, if there is gastrointestinal distress that is causing absorption issues. The same goes for any deficiency. It’s also important to consider medications that may cause nutrient deficiencies, for example the oral contraceptive pill depletes the body of folate, B2, B6, B12, vitamin C and E, and minerals magnesium selenium and zinc. So remember, to first correct a deficiency we need to find out what is causing it in the first place!
Environment and genetics
Emotional stress, personal care products, cleaning products, perfumes, food, dust, mold – all of these external elements can be triggering and exacerbating to skin conditions. When I see patients in clinic I always ensure our discussion includes a thorough case history of their lifestyle, personal and family history. Whilst there are specific pathological elements to each case (gut health, hormone imbalance, immunological conditions) how a person lives, their daily stresses, what they put on their skin, what they clean the bathroom with and even their genetic predisposition are all important pieces of the puzzle and these pieces are key to effective treatment.
How to heal?
Whether it’s acne, psoriasis, dermatitis, ambiguous rashes or even a dull complexion, to really get to the root of what is causing your skin issue, it’s important you dive deep with an experienced health professional. A holistic health assessment that looks at you as an individual is so important for long term effective treatment and at Mullen Natural Health Centre, our Naturopaths love treating skin conditions. Why? Because if you’ve ever suffered with a skin issue, you understand how it can affect the way you feel about yourself and your mood. So, when our experienced Naturopaths can help resolve a skin condition and see not only an improvement in symptoms but also in quality of life, you’ve made our day! We thrive on helping you become well, naturally.
Eager to get started now? We’ve written some articles to get the ball rolling so you can optimise your skin health today!
To book an appointment with one of our experienced practitioners or chat to the Herb Bar for a free mini consult to discover how we can help, phone 02 4961 4075.