Gut Health

Gut health has become an increasingly popular area in health and scientific research over the past few years, and for good reason. We are discovering more and more each day about how our gut health influences our overall health, including our skin! But what exactly is ‘gut health’, what are its benefits, and how can we optimise our diet to promote optimum gut health?

What is gut health?

When we talk about gut health, we are referring to our gut microbiome or microbiota. These terms are often used interchangeably.

The microbiota is the community of microorganisms (bacteria, fungi, and viruses) that are found in our gut and skin. The microbiome refers to the microorganisms, their genes and the products they produce.

The microbiome plays a number of important roles. It  produces important vitamins and hormones, influences the digestion and absorption of nutrients, communicates with the rest of our body through various systems, and produces important molecules that strengthen the gut barrier and help balance blood sugar, regulate appetite and prevent against diseases. As we learn more about our gut microbiome, it is becoming increasingly apparent that a healthy microbiome is integral to good health.

How is gut health linked to skin health?

When our microbiota has optimum diversity (a wide variety of organisms) and a harmonious balance of microorganisms, we say it is in a state of ‘symbiosis’. When diversity is reduced and the balance of bacteria is disrupted, we call this ‘dysbiosis’.

Research suggests that dysbiosis of the skin and gut microbiota can lead to skin sensitivity and inflammation. This is thought to play a role in inflammatory skin conditions such as rosacea, acne and eczema. This may be why gastrointestinal conditions that are linked to dysbiosis, such as IBS, are more common in those with certain skin conditions such as rosacea.For skincare to complement dietary treatment for rosacea and acne, visit our Qr8 MediSkin service HERE.

To promote symbiosis and good gut health, you need to ensure adequate intake of plant foods, particularly those rich in prebiotics.

Tips to promote good gut health

There are a range of factors which influence gut health, but research has shown that focusing on some can reap big health rewards. These include:

  • Prebiotics: a type of fibre that act as fuel for your gut bacteria, resulting in production of Short Chain Fatty Acids such as butyrate, which have strong anti-inflammatory properties. All plant foods contain some prebiotics, but particularly rich sources include wholegrains (barley, wheat, oats and rye), garlic and onion, legumes and lentils, artichoke, chicory root and asparagus.
  • Probiotics: Probiotics are live bacteria that are found in the gut, but can also be found in certain foods and in supplement form. They are thought to to improve the balance of bacteria in the gut.  Supplements may be useful in certain health conditions, but for most people intake of probiotic rich foods is more than adequate.  Foods which naturally contain probiotics include fermented foods such as miso, sauerkraut, kimchi, tempeh, yoghurt, and kefir.
  • Variety of plant foods: research have found that consuming 30+ plant foods per week is ideal for an optimal gut microbiome. Plant foods include vegetables, fruits, wholegrains, legumes, nuts and seeds, herbs and spices, and extra virgin olive oil. Aim for a variety of colour too, as different coloured plant foods contain different nutrients.
  • Adequate sleep: aim for 7-8 hours good quality sleep per night.
  • Fluid intake: adequate hydration is important for a healthy gut. Most individuals should aim for 2-3L water per day, but this is quite individualised. Use the colour of your urine as a guide (it should be pale straw – clear in colour when well-hydrated).
  • Exercise: regular exercise helps to promote a healthy gut microbiome. Aim to include some sort of enjoyable movement on most days.
  • Stress management: stress can often lead to gastrointestinal issues and disrupt the balance of the gut microbiome. Find strategies which work for you and reach out for support when required.

Optimum gut health influences our overall health, including our skin health.

If you experience gut issues or frequent symptoms such as bloating, abdominal pain, excessive wind, cramping, altered bowel motions (diarrhoea and/or constipation) and/or nausea then it is recommended to seek guidance of an Accredited Practising Dietitian who specialises in this area.


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