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What does my gut have to do with my face?

Weird question, I know. I might have some answers for you; but first I need you to understand that I’ve tried to simplify some very complex concepts to make them easier to convey without a giant wall of text! Let’s get some basics down first- 

What is a microbiome? Microbiome refers to the microorganisms inside a particular environment ( ie. the gut ) as well as the combined genetic material within a particular environment.

What are microbiota?Microbiota are the microorganisms found in a particular site, habitat, or environment. Microbiota can refer to all the organisms is a microbiome including bacteria, fungi, viruses and protozoa. 

What are metabolites? Metabolites are the chemical signatures left behind by different substances as they enter and circulate through the body.

What is an innate immune response? What is an adaptive one? 

Innate immunity refers to non specific defense mechanisms that come into play immediately or within hours of an antigens appearance in the body. The innate immune system is activated by chemical properties of the antigen. Once the innate immune system is triggered the adaptive immune system triggers an antigen specific response.*

Research has long indicated a complex relationship between the state of the gut microbiome and the overall health and immune function of the skin; this is referred to as the Gut-Skin Axis. Both the gastrointestinal system and the epidermis are richly innervated and deeply vascularized organs that play vital roles in immunity and neuroendocrine functions. The skin and the gut also appear to have a specific relationship to each other, our understanding of which is currently very limited but growing everyday. 

In the gut microbiome, microbes ( viruses, bacteria, protozoa and fungi ) out number host cells by ten fold and contain 150x the genetic information that is contained within the host cells. The gut microbiome influences immunity by providing essential vitamins and nutrients through the breakdown of indigestible starches and influencing the tolerance of dietary and environmental antigens. The gut microbiome also directly protects the body from invasive pathogens by competitively binding to receptors and indirectly by triggering innate and adaptive immunoprotective responses.


Toll-like receptors are protein receptors that are typically found on cells like macrophages or dendritic cells that are found throughout the body. TLRs play a vital role in activating the innate immune system. TLRs found on cells in the gut act as the communication pathways to your immune system, triggering a response when the TLRs recognize antigens in the body. Certain microbes and metabolites in the gut influence anti-inflammatory responses ( through T-cells and lymphocytes ), while other bacteria can contribute to the build up of inflammatory cells ( like Th17 which is often connected to psoriasis ). 

When the skin functions properly it is consistently regenerating and creating an effective protective barrier made up of keratin based cells held together by a cellular matrix “glue” that is a mix of ceramides, essential fatty acids, cholesterol and cholesterol esters. Picture the keratin cells as bricks and the cellular “glue” as mortar holding them together – this is what the first 15 layers of your skin are made up of and is called the stratum corneum. This protective barrier helps to limit water loss through evaporation and protects your body against invasion by foreign pathogens ( dangerous viruses, bacteria, fungi and protozoa ) . 

New evidence appears to support that the gut has a more direct influence on skin health and epidermal immune responses through the metastasis of gut microbiota and their metabolites to the skin. Short chain fatty acids resulting from fiber fermentation in the gut are also believed to directly influence parts of the skin’s microbiome that have a direct influence on the skin’s immune response. In patients with disrupted intestinal barriers, intestinal bacteria has been known to access the blood stream and accumulate in the skin and disrupt healthy function, often inciting inflammatory responses like psoriasis or acne. 

Double blind, controlled studies done in humans and animals appear to indicate that supplementing with certain probiotics can play a role in enhancing epidermal health. Recorded results of regular supplementation include; thicker, shinier hair growth, increased circulation, faster wound healing, reduced trans-epidermal water loss ( TEWL ), reduced wrinkle development and depth, reduced inflammation, reduced acne and reduced symptoms from immune related skin disorders like psoriasis. **

There seems to be hope that treating common skin ailments will become easier as research and our understanding of the Gut-Skin Axis develops but I believe it is safe to say that investing in a good probiotic should be part of every serious skincare regimen.

So what does your gut have to do with your face? Sounds like close to everything.



I am neither a medical physician or STEM PhD – if you have the authority to speak on what is written here and you notice incorrect information or analogy I ask & encourage you to please leave me a comment or send an email to

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