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Is Analyzing Your Gut Health the Secret to Clear Skin?

Your microbiome can have a direct connection to the status of your skin
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It doesn't matter what age you are, struggling with clear skin is rough. In fact, it's even linked with depression. There are countless over-the-counter acne products, prescription options and treatments, but for those that feel like they've tried everything, optimizing gut health may be just what your skin needs.

"While the connection isn't obvious, your gastrointestinal (GI) system could be the root cause of skin disorders such as acne and eczema and many other chronic conditions, such as joint pain, headaches, brain fog, chronic sinus issues and fatigue," says naturopathic physician and founder of Cutler Integrative Medicine, Dr. Doug Cutler. "Food sensitivities originate in the gut and create chronic inflammation, which can impact every part of the body — including the face." The difficult part is figuring out what foods you're sensitive to, though dairy and sugar have been confirmed culprits for many.

"There's a huge amount of variation from person to person," says dermatologist Dr. Anna Guanche. "For example, some people can eat peanut butter all they want and nothing happens and then in other people, they will break out from those rich foods."

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How to analyze your gut health
Before you start randomly cutting out food groups, Cutler recommends a food sensitivity panel (IgE, IgG, IgA) and a comprehensive stool analysis to give you an idea of where you are.

You can also consider at-home gut health analysis kits like Viome, which entail sending in a stool sample (yes you can send poop in the mail!), drinking a shake included in the kit and recording your heart rate four times over a few hours to see how quickly your body processes the glucose. You also measure saliva and urine pH levels before and after drinking the shake. After mailing in your sample and information, you get a report listing the types and levels of bacteria in your microbiome and any viruses associated with poor health that are present, along with advice on balancing your diet.

"I'm fascinated by all the businesses in the at-home microbiome sector," says holistic nutritionist and founder of modelFIT, Vanessa Packer. "I think it's incredible that these companies can give us insights that used to not only be cost-prohibitive for most people, but would also take a long time to perform and receive results."

After receiving your results, you can start addressing food sensitivities with an elimination diet for a few months to help heal the gut, increase elimination and reduce inflammation. "Remember, 80 percent of our immune system is found in the gut, so we want to make sure there is no chronic inflammation, which can imbalance the hormones and lead to cystic acne," says Cutler.

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Monitor your diet
As important as it is to monitor what you're eliminating and how your body is reacting, it's just as important to make sure you're getting enough water, especially if you're consuming high fiber foods, which are key to gut health and regular elimination. RealSelf Contributor Dr. Lara Devgan also recommends eating probiotic-rich foods like yogurt and to make sure you're consuming sufficient fat-soluble vitamins, such as vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin E and vitamin K.

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Be cautiously optimistic
While there are people who focus on gut health and don't see improvements, Guanche notes that there are many people who do see their skin clear up. "I see this in my office on a daily basis. Overall, your skin tells a story as to what's going on inside and whatever is going on in the gut, whether you're not being hydrated enough or you're not getting enough nutrients or you're imbalanced in some ways, it will definitely show on the skin."

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