Digestion and skin
Poor digestion can have a knock-on effect on many bodily processes, and one slightly less obvious aspect of poor digestion can be skin issues. In this blog, I’ll explain how IBS and poor digestion can contribute to:
- Spots and blemishes
- Dry skin
- Inflammation and hives
- Acne rosacea.
Read on for my diet and lifestyle tips to help tackle poor digestion and stop nasty skin issues from cropping up.
1. IBS can cause spots and blemishes
Spots and blemishes can be caused or worsened by IBS, particularly if constipation is one of your main symptoms. If your body is not removing waste efficiently via your bowels and things are all backed up, those toxins and waste products will have to leave your body via an alternative route. Alternative escape routes include mucous membranes, menstrual blood and the skin, and this can be one of the causes of spots and blemishes erupting.
Now, you might think the first thing to do is have a drastic detox to clear your body of toxins. However, it is vital that, before you do this, you first clear your main exit routes. If your bowel is still blocked up and constipated then encouraging your body to excrete more toxins will only make matters worse for spotty skin, as all of those extra waste products you've stirred up still have no effective route out!
To relieve occasional constipation, Linoforce granules 12 years plus (for the short-term relief of occasional constipation) is a good place to start, alongside plenty of plain water. Then, once you have got things moving, you can look at your diet to keep your digestion working well. Plenty of whole-grains and fruit and veg will give you the necessary fibre to bulk up stools to make them easier to pass. Having your food warm and cooked has a beneficial effect on a sluggish gut; and drinking your water warm where possible is helpful too.
Your diet can also play a role in the development of spots and blemishes, so it's a good idea to avoid certain foods which could be making the problem worse, like:
- Refined sugar
- Salty foods.
2. IBS can leave your skin feeling dry
Another potential symptom of IBS, as I'm sure you are aware, is diarrhoea. If this is one of your main symptoms, it could affect how well your body absorbs nutrients which are vital for healthy skin, such as:
- Beta carotene – promotes production of skin cells and can unclog pores. Found in sweet potatoes and carrots.
- Vitamin B2 – encourages healthy skin to grow and wards off oxidative stress. Found in broccoli and spinach.
- Omega-3 – keeps the outer layer of your skin strong. Found in oily fish (salmon/sardines) and flax seeds.
Find out which other foods can help dry skin here.
You should also bear in mind that, if you suffer from diarrhoea, you are losing vital fluids and depleting your body of water. If your body becomes dehydrated, your skin will lose moisture and become dry and dull. Make sure you're drinking at least 2 litres of water every day, and even more than this if you are losing water through loose, prolific stools.
It's important to note that a supplement probably won't help in this situation! If your digestion is poor and you are struggling to absorb vitamins and nutrients from food sources then it won't do you much good to take a supplement. You should first work on getting your digestion back on track before bombarding your struggling gut with supplements that won't be absorbed.
3. IBS can exacerbate inflammation and cause hives
As I touched on in a previous blog on IBS and allergies, there is a link between poor digestion and allergic reactions that can cause inflammation of the skin. Allergic reactions to food and other allergens trigger the release of histamine, which can cause itching, inflammation and hives (nasty red bumps on the skin which can be itchy or cause a burning sensation).
If you suffer from IBS, your poor digestive function can actually make the situation worse as you may struggle to break down histamine in your gut. What's more, if the lining of your gut becomes inflamed and damaged, histamine gets easier access to your bloodstream and can cause even more discomfort.
You might benefit from a course of prebiotics alongside a specific strain of probiotic (found in Optibac Everyday) if this is the case. A good prebiotic such as Molkosan can help to make your gut environment more hospitable to good bacteria so, when you add a probiotic on top, it can thrive and improve the strength of your gut wall and immune system.
4. IBS can cause a flare-up of acne rosacea
The exact cause of rosacea isn’t known but there are issues which are thought to make a flare-up more likely to occur, such as poor circulation. People with rosacea tend to get flushed, red skin on their face and tiny capillaries can become damaged and visible.
Rosacea can flare up if inflammation and histamine levels are high in the body and, as we know, both of these scenarios can crop up in people who suffer from IBS. What's more, if there are insufficient nutrients feeding the skin then this can exacerbate symptoms of rosacea – again, we know that those with IBS also often struggle to absorb nutrients efficiently.
If rosacea is troubling you then you could try Viola tricolour, a herb which has traditionally been used to improve circulation to the skin; both removing waste products from the skin and delivering nutrients to the skin. This can be taken alongside efforts to improve your digestive function, such as:
- Taking time to carefully chew your food
- Avoiding drinks 30 minutes before and after eating
- Sitting up straight to eat
- Taking a break from work to eat lunch calmly.
Bonus tip: Stress and IBS can make your skin a mess!
Stress is another issue which can affect the skin, whether it’s causing blemishes to erupt or leaving you looking pale and washed out. As we know, chronic stress and IBS often exist in a vicious cycle. However, the good news is that this means you can often make a positive difference, no matter where in this cycle you intervene.
Stress is often at the root of IBS symptoms as, when you are under pressure, certain 'unimportant' processes temporarily switch off until the problem is resolved, including digestion. When this continues for a while, of course there must be consequences.
A gentle herbal remedy like Stress Relief Daytime can be of help when experiencing stress and mild anxiety. It contains a blend of valerian and hops which can help to soothe stress and, as a result, could be beneficial for your IBS symptoms.
If you'd like to read more about the link between IBS and stress, you can read my blog.