Can Your Gut Health Affect Your Skin? | healthylife

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Can gut health affect your skin?

Updated 22 March 2023

Key Points

  • Gut and skin health are linked through the gut-skin axis.
  • When the balance of your gut microbiome is off, it can trigger dysbiosis.
  • Evidence suggests taking certain probiotics can help you balance your gut microbiome and tackle skin concerns.

Like a game of connect the dots, gut health and skin health are intricately connected through the gut-skin axis. So it makes sense that when your gut is balanced and working well, it may be reflected in your skin. 

On the flip side, when your gut health is out of whack, you may see symptoms such as itchy skin. Skin conditions like acne, psoriasis or dermatitis may also arise.

Fortunately, there are steps you can take to support your gut health and manage concerning skin symptoms. 

So, how does gut health affect skin?

The gut is home to trillions of micro-organisms, mainly bacteria. Known as the microbiome, these bacteria can be both helpful and harmful. Good bacteria play a crucial role in maintaining balance, absorbing nutrients and supporting the immune system, which may help protect your skin from irritation and strengthen links between your gut and skin health.

When your gut flora is disturbed – due to illnesses, diet, lifestyle choices, antibiotics or other medications – it can trigger dysbiosis. Since your gut microbiome and skin health are interrelated, that’s when you may see signs of imbalance in your skin.

And it’s not just physical symptoms that may appear. Emerging evidence also suggests that gut and mental health are linked.


Itchy skin is a symptom of eczema, which can be impacted by an imbalance in gut health 

Common gut health and skin conditions

With dysbiosis at play, inflammation and immune dysregulation can affect your gut bacteria and skin health, manifesting in a number of skin conditions. These conditions may include:

  • Acne
    If your gut microbiome is geared towards unfavourable gut bacteria, this can increase the formation of acne.
  • Psoriasis
    One study showed 7 to 11% of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) patients are diagnosed with psoriasis, driven by the inflammation of the gastrointestinal system.
  • Dermatitis
    Studies show changes in the gut often occur before the development of atopical dermatitis, which is caused by a disruption in the gut lining followed by an inflammatory response in the immune system..
  • Eczema
    The composition of the gut microbiome (good vs bad bacteria) and a breakdown in barrier function are also associated with a predisposition to eczema (atopic dermatitis). Itchy skin is one of the symptoms of eczema.
  • Rosacea
    Typically appearing as a flushed, inflamed skin on the face, rosacea is another common skin condition fed by an imbalance of the gut-skin axis.

Dealing with a pesky itch? Gut health and itchy skin can go hand-in-hand, thanks again to inflammation and both skin and gut barrier dysfunction, made worse by repeated scratching.

Naturopath Gabbie Watt says, “It’s important to remember that skin conditions, including itching, are a symptom of something deeper going on as the skin can act as a mirror for what’s going on inside the body.”


Consuming probiotics may help balance the gut microbiome

Taking probiotics for gut health and skin issues

A growing body of evidence suggests that taking certain probiotics can help to balance your gut microbiome and tackle skin concerns in several ways:

  • by accelerating immune system recovery and reducing the inflammatory response
  • by decreasing skin sensitivity and improving barrier function (thanks to the Lactobacillus paracasei probiotic strain)
  • by reducing the frequency of acne eruptions and lesions (e.g. the many different types of spots and bumps that are categorised as acne).
  • by reducing the extent and severity of atopic dermatitis, or eczema

In good news, topical probiotics have also been shown to benefit certain inflammatory skin diseases and aid wound healing. Keep in mind that it’s important to seek advice from a healthcare professional before applying topical gels and creams to your skin.


Washing your hands with harsh chemicals or too much hand washing may disrupt the pH balance of your skin

Wash your hands and lather on products with caution

The skin is the largest organ in the body and it deserves our love and protection. Using harsh chemicals (without gloves) and frequently washing your hands may disrupt the pH balance of your skin, leading to dryness, itching and irritations.

“Like the microbiome of your gut, the skin plays host to microbes designed to protect it. If you strip away that protection, unfavourable microbes can get into the skin, potentially causing inflammation, acne, eczema, dermatitis and other skin conditions,” says Gabbie.

So, next time you reach for the hand soap or embark on a new skincare routine, consider choosing gentle and non-irritating products when it comes to hand washing.

Gut health tests for skin problems

Certain gut health tests may help to unravel the mystery of what’s happening with your skin, most of which are accessible via your healthcare professional. For instance:

  • A simple skin swab can identify the type of bacteria or yeast on your skin to determine the best course of treatment.
  • SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth), linked to rosacea, can be diagnosed through non-invasive laboratory tests.
  • Celiac disease may link your dermatitis with gluten intolerance through a blood test.
  • Testing for a H. pylori infection might explain the cause of your rosacea.

“The other thing to consider is your diet,” says Gabbie. “If your body is not reacting well to something like dairy, a common aggravator of skin conditions, continuing to consume dairy can compound your skin issues.

“If you remove dairy for a while and your skin resolves, that’s a good indication that something is inflaming your gut to cause that skin outbreak.

“Likewise, eating foods high in histamine may produce more histamine inside the gut, which is an immune reaction that can cause a host of skin symptoms.”

The takeaway…

Can gut health affect your skin? The science says yes, through the complex and fascinating gut-skin axis. If you’re concerned about your gut health, it pays to listen to your gut, consider certain probiotics and visit a healthcare professional who can help you follow the best course of treatment.


Gabbie Watt is a Naturopath and is passionate about blending evidence-based practice and traditional natural medicine into her approach. With experience previously working as a Radiation Therapist, Gabbie’s professional background in conventional medicine has been instrumental in shaping her holistic approach to health.

Reviewed by healthylife health experts February 2023.