Our skin has a surface area of 2m2 and a thickness of around 1.5-4mm. It offers protection from pathogens and chemicals, it regulates our body temperature and water balance, and it plays a role in our immune system as well as having a sensory function. We know from when we blush that the skin is also a communication organ. Harmful substances are normally excreted by the kidneys or the bowel. But if these organs are overburdened or sick, skin conditions can develop.
70 years ago dermatologists John H. Stokes and Donald M.Pillsbury first suspected that there was a link between gastrointestinal problems and acne. Emotional stress leads to a change in the gut microbiota, resulting in increased permeability of the intestine and inflammation. An unhealthy diet also plays a key role. Foods containing a high level of fat, processed foods and a lack of fibre also contribute to changes in the bacterial colonisation of the gut and bowel function.
In 1955, it was discovered that patients with acne had low levels of lactobacilli and bifidobacteria. At the Union Memorial Hospital in Baltimore, Robert H. Siver treated 300 of his acne patients with probiotic bacteria (lactobacillus acidophilus and lactobacillus bulgaricus). 80% of the patients saw an improvement in their acne symptoms and inflammatory messengers were reduced.
A clinical study in Spain found that probiotic bacteria (bifidobacterium lactis, bifidobacterium longum and lactobacillus casei) had a positive effect on children with neurodermatitis. Within the space of 12 weeks, the severity of symptoms improved in 96% of the children taking probiotics. In addition, fewer corticosteroids were required to control recurrent eczema in the children taking probiotics.
Everyone's had an unpleasant encounter with stinging nettles. Welts start to form on the skin, swelling up, intensely itchy. This type of rash often appears as a result of allergies, medications, food supplements or contact urticaria. Clinical studies show that allergies and food intolerances are associated with an impaired intestinal barrier. These conditions often develop gradually over time, after a stomach bug or after taking antibiotics, for example. The foundation for a child's health begins in infancy with vaginal delivery or breastfeeding of the child.
Every sufferer recognises the symptoms: flaky, scaly, inflamed red skin in clearly demarcated patches, usually found on the outer side of the elbows and knees, the scalp or the area around the coccyx. In a study on bacteria-free mice (mice without any bacterial colonisation), scientists found that they developed fewer psoriasis symptoms. They concluded that the gut microbiota stimulates the immune system. In comparison to mice with psoriasis, the bacteria-free mice had a lower immune system response (Th17 cells) and milder skin inflammation. The mice with psoriasis also displayed an impaired intestinal barrier and a change in the gut microbiota.
A growing number of clinical studies point to a close link between skin conditions and poor bacterial colonisation of the gut. Restoring healthy levels of gut bacteria, along with a balanced diet and exercise, can constitute a promising treatment.
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