Have you heard of the gut-brain connection?
The health of the gut can influence your physiological health but also your emotional health and in turn, the brain, which is linked to the health of our gut.
The gut and the brain are intrinsically linked – the gastrointestinal tract consists of millions of nerves, from the oesophagus all the way to the anus, it is known as the Enteric Nervous System.
The gut is often referred to as the second brain for this very reason. The gut is highly sensitive to emotions – when you’re under stress, have you not experienced indigestion or want to eat more? When you’re nervous or tense, do you get the runs? How we feel has a direct impact on the health of our gut, and in turn, it impacts the health of our entire bodies.
The skin is the largest organ of the human body, and so it comes as no surprise that if our gut is out of balance then so too is our skin.
It would seem the rise of inflammatory skin conditions can be linked in a big part to an increase in stress. Life is never without its ups and downs, but this year has seen an unprecedented rise in stressful situations that seems to be having a significant impact on the health of our skin.
Stress that is prolonged or chronic is the most damaging to the body. The skin can show signs of stress in a number of ways, from psoriasis and eczema flare-ups to dermatitis and even acne.
Stress and the Skin
So how can stress actually play so much havoc on the skin?
Well, as we have touched on in previous blogs, there is a powerful connection between the skin, mind and gut. (See article; “The Skin Microbiome in Beauty Therapy”)
So, when the mind perceives stress, it sends a message to the gut to slow down digestion – if you were a caveman being chased by a sabre tooth tiger, the body would need to put all its energy into your muscles! But the stress of the modern world is much more insidious – it can last for long periods of time, and this can have a significant impact on your digestion. When digestion is slowed, it affects the bacteria in your gut. The natural balance of the gut microbiome is disturbed, unhealthy bacteria begin to overgrow, and now you have dysbiosis. This leads to the intestines becoming “leaky” which triggers a flood of inflammation throughout the body. As a result of this internal inflammation, the skin can begin to flare up.
On top of this, when our body is getting ready to face a stressful environment, it stimulates the brain to secrete certain hormones. Cortisol is a major one that actually weakens the immune system over time and can cause an inflammatory response in the skin. These stress-related hormones also stimulate the sebaceous glands in the skin, leading to abnormally high levels of oil and hence blocked pores and acne breakouts.
The role of serotonin on our mood and sleep is also extremely important. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter produced by the brain and the gastrointestinal tract – did you know that the gut actually products 80-90% of our serotonin? People with depression have been found to have low levels of serotonin, and the brain uses serotonin to make melatonin, which is a vital hormone for sleep. Low levels of serotonin, therefore, can affect mood and sleep and in turn, the skin is likely to be affected.
During stress, the body sweats more; therefore, dehydration to the body and skin can make it dry and flaky.
Another fascinating area is how our gut bacteria impacts emotional and mental health. An overpopulation of harmful bacteria in the gut is caused by such things as overeating processed food or taking antibiotics too regularly. As mentioned earlier, this unbalance in the gut leads to inflammation through the body and the skin can flare-up.
Keeping your skincare routine simple is vital for healthy skin. Choosing scientifically-based products that are right for your skin type, and using gentle cleansers and moisturisers is critical.
Dealing with and managing stress or negative emotions takes a multi-pronged approach. What works best depends on every individual; however, things to consider are sleep, exercise, nutrition, meditation and deep breathing.
It’s not always easy, but finding ways to minimise stress levels can have a significant impact on skin health as well as overall health.
Understanding the link between emotions, gut health and skin health can help you as a therapist or salon owner to better treat your clients’ skin needs.
We were lucky enough to welcome Pia Kynoch, Holistic Educator, who gave a presentation to Vital Plus clients on this very topic. If you missed it, just click on this link to watch it now!
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Supporting you in running a successful beauty business is our purpose.
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