You may have noticed that there's been a lot of talk about gut health lately – and how what's going on in your gut may affect your overall health and wellbeing, including the health of your skin.
So what is the link between gut health and skin health? Is there a link between gut health and psoriasis? And most importantly, what does all this mean for you?
What is the human microbiome?
First up, it's helpful to understand a bit more about the human microbiome: what it is and how it might influence our health.
The human body is host to about 100 trillion microorganisms – a combination of bacteria, viruses, fungi and even skin mites. In fact, these microorganisms outnumber our body's own cells by 10:1! Altogether, these microorganisms are called the human microbiome.
There are different communities of microorganisms all over our bodies. The two areas that you've probably heard about and that we are most interested in here are the gut microbiome and the skin microbiome.
In recent years there's been a huge amount of research done on the human microbiome. There is growing evidence showing that the microbiome may play an important role in maintaining health and preventing disease. Different patterns of microorganisms in both the skin and gut microbiomes have been linked to different types of health conditions. Researchers are hopeful that, eventually, we may be able to manage certain health problems by manipulating people's microbiomes.
What are probiotics?
Probiotics are living microorganisms that occur in foods such as yoghurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kim chi or kombucha, or can be taken as supplements. They are also referred to as “good” bacteria. They may help the body to control inflammation, but we don't yet know which specific probiotics might help psoriasis.
What do we know about the microbiome and skin health?
Our microbiome affects how our bodies fight germs, how we digest food and some studies even say it can affect our mood. These microorganisms also give our immune system instructions, including turning inflammatory responses off and on. This has made researchers very interested in learning how the microbiome might play a role in psoriasis and other inflammatory diseases. There have been some interesting research findings in this area.
It has been observed in some studies that people with psoriasis have:
- a different range of gut bacteria when compared to healthy people
- lower numbers of many intestinal bacteria which are thought to be beneficial to health
- reduced signs of inflammation when given a specific probiotic
Before you stock up on probiotics or eat your weight in yoghurt, you need to know that it is still early days in the research game.
What do we still need to learn about the microbiome and skin health?
What we don't yet know, is how this information can be used to help people with psoriasis or develop new treatments for psoriasis.
While probiotics generally cause few or no side effects in healthy people, they can cause problems in people with weakened immune systems. We still need more research to confirm the benefits and risks of taking probiotics. And because psoriasis is a skin condition that involves the immune system, it's an area where you need to tread carefully until those research results are available.
Researchers believe that we will eventually have very targeted antibiotics that kill only the microorganisms involved in psoriasis as well as specific probiotics that encourage the growth of microorganisms that help to reduce inflammation.
What steps can you take towards better skin health now?
Until there is more research into the link between gut health and psoriasis and this is translated into new treatments, there are some sensible steps you can take towards better skin health.
- Talk with your doctor about the role of probiotics in managing psoriasis – ask them about any new research in this area and what it might mean for you. If you're interested in taking a probiotic, always chat to your doctor about it first.
- Stay at a healthy weight or lose weight if you need to. Fat cells make proteins that trigger inflammation. Studies show that people who are overweight are at greater risk of developing psoriasis and may have worse symptoms. People who lose weight may experience an improvement in symptoms.
- Eat a healthy, Mediterranean-style diet that includes plenty of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory foods including:
- lots of fresh fruit and veggies
- fish that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids – salmon, sardines, flathead and tuna
- olive oil, raw seeds and nuts
- dried beans and lentils
This is a healthy, enjoyable way of eating that's good for just about everyone – and there is some research that suggests it may be especially helpful for people with psoriasis.
You'll also find lots of helpful tips on leading a healthier lifestyle and avoiding psoriasis triggers here. And keep watching Get Healthy Stay Healthy for updates on new research in this exciting area.
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- 2. Medical News Today. Can probiotics help with psoriasis? Accessed 20 November 2018.
- 3. Balato, A., et al . Human Microbiome: Composition and Role in Inflammatory Skin Diseases. Archivum Immunologiae et Therapiae Experimentalis. 2018;.
- 4. Groeger, D., et al. Bifidobacterium infantis35624 modulates host inflammatory processes beyond the gut. Gut Microbes 2013;4(4), pp.325-339.
- 5. Scher, J., et al. Decreased Bacterial Diversity Characterizes the Altered Gut Microbiota in Patients With Psoriatic Arthritis, Resembling Dysbiosis in Inflammatory Bowel Disease. Arthritis & Rheumatology, 2014; 67(1), pp.128-139.
- 6. Codoñer, F., et al. (2018). Gut microbial composition in patients with psoriasis. Nature: Scientific Reports, 2018;8(1).
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