Episode 071: Connecting Leaky Gut and Skin Health
When it comes to your chronic skin problem have you ever been advised to focus on repairing your gut health?
But what does that even mean? What does your gut health have to do with what’s going on with your skin? How are these things related?
In this episode, Part 3 of this 4-part mini-series on taking a Functional Nutrition approach towards skin health, we’ll explore something called a “Leaky Gut” and in doing so, hopefully, make the skin + gut connection.
What is a Leaky Gut
How does a gut become "leaky" with a mini anatomy lesson
The problems a leaky gut can cause
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Welcome back to The Live FAB Life Podcast! I’m your host, Naomi Nakamura.
And in today’s episode, we are continuing with Part 3 of our four-part series on taking a Functional Nutrition approach towards skin health!
If you missed Parts 1 and 2, then you’ll want to go back and listen to Episode 069 - Clear Skin from Within and Episode 070 - Four Crucial Skincare Mistakes to Avoid to Clear Up Your Skin.
Now when it comes to breakouts, cystic acne or really any skin problem is, some things that you might have been told that, “You need to heal your gut”, or something like it.
I’ve been told this, and I’ve told this to clients and I know many of my other colleagues advise this too.
But what does that even mean? What does your gut and the health of your gut health have to do with what’s going on with your skin? How are these things related?
So today, we’re going to explore something called Leaky Gut Syndrome. And in doing so, I hope to be able to make the connections for you on how your gut and your skin are connected.
So what exactly is Leaky Gut Syndrome?
Well, Leaky Gut Syndrome, also known as intestinal permeability is a condition where your gut or your gut microbiome, actually its really focused on your small intestines, has been damaged so it no longer can do the things that it’s supposed to.
Hmmm, what do your small intestines have to do with this? Well, first, let’s start with a mini anatomy lesson on your small intestines.
Now I tend to nerd out on stuff like and I know the conversation can get very deep and complicated quickly, so I’m going to do my very best to keep our conversation today at a high-level that’s easy to understand because while you may think that you don’t care about this stuff and you just want to know what to do, or this is “above your head,” it’s important to know how your body functions because I think in knowing these things, first of all, you feel less information overwhelm and you can make better, more informed choices.
So your small intestines are about a 20-foot long tube. It’s where a lot of critical things happen when it comes to digestion. Its where your body breaks down and digests fats and where it absorbs carbs and protein.
It’s where your food goes through its final breakdown - where protein is broken down into amino acids, carbohydrates into glucose and other simple sugars, and fats into fatty acids.
It’s where nutrients from your food are absorbed into your bloodstream and transported to the cells in your body to be used as nutrients, in other words, the food for your cells. Surrounding your small intestines is a very thin protective barrier. This barrier protects the small intestines by blocking harmful things from entering into it.
But when that barrier is broken, then bad bacteria, pathogens, excess hormones, toxins, undigested foods, and other junk is able to enter into your small intestines, i.e., your gut or what some call your gut microbiome.
So that broken barrier is what makes your gut “leaky.”
To help explain this, I’m going to use an analogy that was used in one of my trainings which made this a lot easier to understand and hopefully it will for you too.
I want you to imagine that you live in a large, peaceful castle that’s surrounded by a protective wall.
On top of the wall are knights, who protector your castle.
These knights stand shoulder-to-shoulder and their main job is to make sure that anybody that comes into the castle isn’t going to disrupt the peace and harmony of it.
And that anybody going out of the castle knows where to go, they know how to get there, and they know how to conduct themselves if they encounter any problems.
So these knights, they maintain law and order.
But there are constantly having to fend off invaders who try to get into the castle.
And if the knights aren’t properly fed and supported, and given the tools that they need to defend the castle, then the constant invaders will wear them down, break through the protective wall and wreak havoc and cause chaos inside, disrupting the peace and harmony of your castle.
Your castle - that’s your small intestines, and the protective wall surrounding it are the villi that’s in your intestines.
And the knights? They’re the good bacteria that each one of us needs in our gut, our small intestines, to protect the castle, the ecosystem, and keep functioning in the way it’s supposed to.
The invaders are the bad bacteria, toxins from processed foods, pesticides, things in your immediate environment (most commonly in your home!), excess hormones, pathogens, and even undigested foods. And when they outnumber the knights, the good bacteria, and break through your security system, then you have a leaky gut.
When the invaders move into the castle and cause havoc, order is disrupted and chaos and confusion ensues. Things don’t go where they’re supposed to do. Those bad things, the invaders, they move into your bloodstream, which not only causes havoc in your gut but also with your immune system because upwards of 70% of your immune system resides in your digestive system. So if you’re immune system is compromised in any way, you always want to look to your gut health and provide extra support because your immune system and your digestive system are intricately connected.
As a side note, your brain is equally connected too! Your gut and brain are connected through the vagus nerve - the largest nerve in your body and the gut is commonly referred to as the “second brain” in the body.
So, what happens when you have a leaky gut?
Well, a Leaky Gut causes a number of health challenges. And this where you can start to connect the dots.
It tied to things like Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO), seasonal allergies, poor liver function, food sensitivities, chemical sensitivities, mental health challenges like anxiety and depression, autoimmune symptoms, and yes, chronic skin conditions like acne, eczema, psoriasis, rosacea.
And this is because when the foreign invaders enter your gut microbiome, disrupting that delicate ecosystem, inflammation sets in. And when there’s inflammation, your body will identify it as an attack on your castle and it will respond accordingly.
And one way that it manifests is on your skin in the form of cystic acne, eczema, psoriasis, rosacea, and other skin problems.
So, back to leaky gut - you might be wondering, how does one get a leaky gut?
Well, there’s a number of things that can cause it. Among them are:
Frequent use of antibiotics - something that I did for decades, ironically to try and clear up my skin!
- A poor diet full of processed foods, sugar and not a lot of nutrient-dense, nourishing foods
- Eating grains
- Taking NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin, ibuprofen,
- Birth control pills
- Being exposed to endocrine disruptors (something I talked about extensively in Episode 003 and one of the main reasons to switch to safe beauty)
- Excessive stress or trauma
And these are just a few of the things.
For about the first 35, almost 40 years of my life, I did all of these things. This list? This was me. These are the things I exposed my body, my gut, to and in next week’s episode, I’m going to take you through my health history timeline so you can see how all of these things are intricately tied together.
You’ll get to hear how I connected the dots to uncover what the root causes of my health problems were. Because when I started this journey, the health of my skin wasn’t my primary concern. It wasn’t a concern at all, because I thought that’s just how my skin was. I didn’t know what I didn’t know and had no idea that it was even remotely connected to all these other problems I was searching for answers to.
But as I backed things up to look at what are my health issues rooted in, it all made so much sense.
And this is Functional Nutrition - to peel back the layers and uncover why things are happening. Why certain symptoms are presenting themselves and then reverse engineer, or work backward to uncover the root of them.
Instead of focusing on taking NSAIDS for the terrible pain I had in my legs when I ran - which really was the catalyst for my journey into functional nutrition and holistic health, which you can hear all about back in Episode 002 when I had my very first functional medicine doctor on the show, I should have asked why did I have leg pains?
Instead of focusing on taking Immodium for my terrible chronic digestive issues, I needed to take a hard, HONEST look at what was causing it.
And instead of focusing on taking antibiotics, birth control and prescriptive topical creams for my acne and breakouts, a better approach would have been to determine what these things were showing up.
So instead of focusing only on the presenting problem, focus on uncovering at the root, why these things are happening.
In Functional Nutrition, it’s not just “WHAT”, but it’s also, “Why?”
And the vast majority of the time they can be traced back to the four pillars that I focus on:
- Your diet
- Your lifestyle habits
- The toxins that you’re exposed to especially daily in your immediate environment
- And stress - in all the different ways that your body experiences it. Stress is the root cause of all root causes!
So I hope I’ve given you a high-level view of your gut and skin connection.
And like I mentioned, in next week’s episode, I’m going to walk you through my health history, my own personal timeline of how all these things happened to me.
Now if you want to learn how to address these things from a functional nutrition perspective, I’m holding a beta round of my new program, Beautiful Skin for Life. It’s a six-week program where we will systematically and comprehensively address each of the four pillars I focus on:
- Gut Health
If you’re not sure what a beta round is, its essentially the first time I’m running this program with a group. I’ve taken 1x1 clients through it and now I’m going to see how the material flows in a group coaching setting.
The beta round will start on Monday, February 4th and will run for six weeks. You can learn more about this program at https://www.livefablife.com/bootcamp and if you have any questions about whether this is a right fit for you, you can book a call with me to chat.
As always, thank you so much for listening. I appreciate your time and attention and I’ll see you right back here again next week!
Naomi Nakamura is a Functional Nutrition Health Coach. Through her weekly show, The Live FAB Live Podcast, programs, coaching services and safer skincare solutions, she helps people with chronic skin issues clear up their skin by teaching them where food meets physiology and how food, gut health, stress, and toxins are intricately connected to the health and appearance of our skin. Naomi resides in the San Francisco Bay Area and can often be found romping around the city with her puppy girl, Coco Pop!
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