What Is the Gut-skin Axis Anyway?

By Ashley Cameron

It’s no secret that our gut is now commonly referred to as our second brain. In fact, our gut and brain communicate closely with one another via the vagus nerve – essentially an information ‘super-highway’.

But what you may not realise, is that our gut and skin also enjoy a constant dialogue via the gut-skin axis – an incredible pathway which allows the two to converse and interact, mainly through the microbiome.



Have you ever noticed that when your gut appears to be ticking along nicely, you don’t pay much attention to it? For most of us, until symptoms manifest, we don’t give our gut health as much TLC as we should. And for many of us, our skin (as our body’s largest organ) is one of the first places to alert us that something within our microbiome may be a little off-kilter.

There are many common skin conditions – such as acne, eczema and rosacea – which exhibit similar symptoms to gut conditions, illustrating just how closely the two are linked. It makes sense then that if your gut is feeling irritated, inflamed or a little out of balance, your skin can be one of the first places where symptoms manifest.

At The Beauty Chef, we often describe our gut as being like a garden – so when the soil is healthy and well-balanced nutritionally, plants are able to thrive and flourish. In terms of our gut, this analogy rings true as when our gut is in balance – with the ideal numbers and diversity of beneficial microbes – we experience optimal health and wellbeing, and glowing skin!



What’s important then, is to learn how to tune into your body and understand your gut’s signals, as determining whether your skin condition is directly caused by your gut can sometimes be problematic. Unless your symptoms are overt – such as breaking out in a rash if you consume dairy or gluten – the connection between our gut health and skin health can be subtle.

While there are a myriad of digestive issues that may contribute to skin complaints, studies show, for example, that up to 40 per cent of people who have IBD (Irritable Bowel Disease) also experience skin complaints. And, if you have rosacea and/or acne, you’re more inclined to also have SIBO (Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth).

Leaky gut (or intestinal permeability), in particular, is believed by many to be one of the leading causes of both gut and skin issues. Essentially this condition means that the delicate gut lining has been irritated and its integrity compromised allowing endotoxins – which would ordinarily be processed and eliminated – to enter the bloodstream. The effects of leaky gut on the skin are also double-pronged as it can mean that fewer of the essential nutrients that are needed for optimal skin health are absorbed, and, as the liver can become overburdened due to having to deal with the escaped endotoxins, our skin is required to ‘pick up the slack’ and help to eliminate any extra toxins and wastes that need to be expelled.



The good news is, we can take steps to improve our skin’s health and radiance by turning our attention to our gut-skin axis and nourishing our relationship with our microbiome. Although there are a number of ways to do this – including de-stressing, sleeping well and avoiding environmental toxins – food, undoubtedly, has the most profound impact.

Eat unadulterated wholefoods.

Food is medicine so fill your plate with organic, seasonal produce which is often fresher and more nutrient-dense. Focus on including foods that are rich in skin-loving nutrients such as zinc (pumpkin seeds, red meat and chicken), vitamin D (mushrooms and salmon), vitamin A (eggs and liver) and amino acids such as L-glutamine (present in bone broth) which help to protect and strengthen the gut wall. Fibre-rich fruits, vegetables, seeds and nuts are also nutritional powerhouses and incredible for skin health as aside from the vitamins and minerals they contain, the fibre they possess helps to produce short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) such as butyrate. These SCFAs harbour anti-inflammatory benefits and help to improve the integrity of the gut lining and by consequence, contribute to less inflamed, more radiant skin. Add artichokes, asparagus, apples and carrots to your diet to boost SCFA production.

Include lacto-fermented foods and supplements.

Fermented foods are at the core of The Beauty Chef philosophy and are incredible for gut health, increasing the bioavailability of nutrients in food, providing the gut with a generous dose of probiotic bacteria and helping to encourage microbial diversity. Serve a little kimchi or sauerkraut with your meals or try incorporating one of our bio-fermented inner beauty products to your daily routine. GLOW Inner Beauty Powder is our go-to and is rich in Certified Organic, bio-fermented superfoods to nourish your microbiome and rejuvenate your skin.

Avoid foods that compromise gut health.

Equally important as what you consume, is what you choose to avoid. Ditch any foods you are allergic to – gluten, dairy, soy and corn are common allergens – as well as sugar, alcohol, processed foods and meats, refined carbohydrates, vegetable oils and unfermented dairy.