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gut health & healthy skin: is there a link?


Skin Gut Brain Axis


“Over 70 years have passed since dermatologists John H. Stokes and Donald M. Pillsbury first proposed a gastrointestinal mechanism for the overlap between depression, anxiety and skin conditions such as acne. Stokes and Pillsbury hypothesized that emotional states might alter the normal intestinal microflora, increase intestinal permeability and contribute to systemic inflammation.”  Drs. Whitney Bowe and Alan Logan from a 2011 study published in the medical journal Gut Pathogens (Acne Vulgaris, Probiotics and the Gut-Brain-Skin Axis – Back to the Future?)

Upon graduating from Logan College of Chiropractic back in 1991, I went to Superior, Nebraska to work with the father of a classmate for six weeks.  Although Dr. Jim Teachworth lived in Superior, he had planted his office on a hill in a cow pasture four miles north of town (that practice is now run by another son, Dr. Lance).  This put his office in Kansas where the laws for practicing CHIROPRACTIC were better.  Dr. Jim was an ardent student of natural healing, and had a library in his house that contained thousands of books on a large number of topics other than chiropractic.  I remember one evening going through the books and finding one on Colonic Irrigation.

COLONIC IRRIGATION (also commonly referred to as “Colonics”) is the process of using water pressure to clean the buildup from the walls of the colon (large intestine).  It is different than an enema in that the tube is inserted the entire five feet of the colon, and water pressure is used as opposed to gravity.  Mess is kept in check by the fact that the tube is really a tube within a tube.  The outer tube is pumping in water, while the inner tube is suctioning the water (and other “stuff”) back into the machine.  All of the ‘recovered’ material is filtered as it is drawn back into the machine, and once finished, the practitioner can look at the filtrate and often be able to make a diagnosis.  I know a person who had lifetime MIGRAINE HEADACHES that was taken to a practitioner of Colonic Irrigation. 
After undergoing three or four Colonics, this person does not have any more headaches.  FYI, the ‘stuff’ that came out of this person’s colon was described as “orange and fuzzy” (an overgrowth of CANDIDA).   Anyway………

I was looking at a book that Dr. Teachworth had on Colonics that was published in the 1930’s.   Although I cannot remember the name of the book, the thing that sticks out in my mind was the large numbers of before and after pictures that had to do with skin conditions.  There were pictures of folks with Acne, rashes, and a whole host of other skin problems; some of which covered the entire body and make the picture at the top of the page look like no big deal.  After a series of Colonics, the “after” photograph would show the patient with healthy skin.  It was amazing!  But knowing what we know about GUT HEALTH and it’s link to virtually all aspects of health, we should not be surprised.  As the old saying goes, “Heal the Gut, Heal the Body“. 

Truthfully folks; if you have been following my site for any length of time, you already know.  It’s INFLAMMATION.  Inflammation is one of those words that we have heard about a million and one times.  Unfortunately, I don’t find 1 in 1,000 people who have any real idea WHAT IT MEANS or how to go about solving it.  Two years ago this month (HERE), I asked a question pertaining to this entire matter……

“Why would a Psoriasis drug possibly help people with Inflammatory Bowel Disease?  In other words, what is the common denominator between Psoriasis (a skin condition) and Crohn’s Disease (an Inflammatory Bowel Condition)?  I see a couple of things right off the get go.  First, they are both INFLAMMATORY DISEASES, and if you have been paying attention to my blog, you already know that Inflammation is the common factor in practically all disease processes faced by modern Americans (HERE)Secondly, they are both AUTOIMMUNE DISEASESFor reasons that are each day becoming better understood (HERE), Inflammation from various sources is what ultimately drives Autoimmunity.”

Bear in mind that statements like these are not coming from thin air.  There is empirical evidence leading researchers to similar conclusions —- that there is a link between Gut Health and the skin.  But honestly, this is nothing new.  I want to show you just how far we have fallen off track as a profession when it comes to the way we are treating people who have Skin / Brain / Gut problems.  Almost a century ago (1916) the Journal of Cutaneous Disease published a study called Complement Fixation in Acne Vulgaris.  In this study, patients with Acne were more far more prone to reacting to bacterial strains isolated from their stool (we’ll get to why in a moment, but suffice it to say that Leaky Gut is a large component).  This, coupled with a study done a year earlier showing that deficits of the gut bacteria Lactobacillus Acidophilus were related to DEPRESSION and other mental disorders (I wrote about this recently HERE), led a team of two dermatologists (Dr.s Pillsbury and Stokes) to formulate a theory they called “Emotional Linkage” (the ‘link’ between the Gut, the brain, and the skin).  Listen to what the authors mentioned at the top of the page wrote about them.

“They provided, as they wrote, ‘an important linkage of emotion with cutaneous outbreaks of erythema, urticaria and dermatitis by way of the physiology and bacteriology of the gastrointestinal tract’. Citing research showing that as many as 40% of those with acne have hypochlorhydria, Stokes and Pillsbury hypothesized that less than adequate stomach acid would set the stage for migration of bacteria from the colon towards the distal portions of the small intestine, as well as an alteration of normal intestinal microflora. Furthermore, Stokes and Pillsbury suggested that stress-induced alterations to microbial flora could increase the likelihood of intestinal permeability, which in turn sets the stage for systemic and local skin inflammation. The remedies these authors discussed as a means to cut off the stress-induced cycle included the ‘direct introduction of acidophil organisms in cultures such as those of Bacillus acidophilus‘. They also advocated for an acidophilus milk preparation and cod liver oil, long before they would be referred to as probiotics and a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids respectively. Stokes and Pillsbury may well have been aware that some physicians had previously reported mental health benefits with the oral administration of lactic acid bacilli tablets and Lactobacillus-fermented drinks.”

Look how much meat is packed into this paragraph.  Natural doctors of all kinds have been telling anyone who would listen that people’s digestive problems are not typically related to too much stomach acid, but instead to not having enough (HERE).  This is related to what the authors above “Increased Intestinal Permeability”.  This one is truly intriguing because while doctors decry terms like “LEAKY GUT SYNDROME” (most physicians will actually deny its very existence), there are over 10,000 peer-reviewed studies talking about the same thing, but using their own terminology — Increased Intestinal Permeability.  Furthermore, the physicians from the paragraph above were treating (successfully, I might add) their patients with, “an acidophilus milk preparation and cod liver oil“.   This was PROBIOTICS long before anyone had heard of such a thing!

A good starting point for study is the post I did on the relationship between ACNE AND GLUTEN.  I get it, the majority of the symptoms of GLUTEN SENSITIVITY are NEUROLOGICAL.  However, whatever the symptom of Gluten Sensitivity a person might be having, most of these problems start with and are intimately related to a “LEAKY GUT“.  We know how ANTIBIOTICS destroy overall health by destroying Gut Health, yet this is the treatment of choice used by our medical community to treat people with severe Acne.  How much sense does that make?  I am going to leave you with some cherry-picked quotes from Bowe and Logan’s paper.  If you or a loved one is struggling with Acne or some other skin condition, I would strongly suggest you read it in its entirety (HERE).

  • The co-morbidity of chronic skin conditions and mental health disorders has long been recognized.
  • Acne vulgaris is a common dermatological disorder frequently associated with depression, anxiety and other psychological sequelae.
  • The mental health impairment scores among acne patients are higher vs. a number of other chronic, non-psychiatric medical conditions, including epilepsy and diabetes.
  • There have also been indications that acne patients are at a higher risk for gastrointestinal distress
  • The notion that intestinal microflora, inflammatory skin conditions such as acne, and psychological symptoms such as depression, are all physiologically intertwined is not a new one.
  • In recent years it has been confirmed that hypochlorhydria is a significant risk factor for small intestinal bacterial over growth (SIBO).
  • SIBO is strongly associated with depression and anxiety.
  • A recent report indicates that SIBO is 10 times more prevalent in those with acne rosacea vs. healthy controls.
  • Not only does an omega-3 deficient diet increase SIBO, it has also been linked multiple times to an increased risk of depressive symptoms.
  • The inference of these results is that circulating endotoxins derived from gut microbes is not an uncommon feature of acne vulgaris, and one indicating that intestinal permeability is a potential issue for a sizable group of acne patients.
  • Constipation is more prevalent in those with acne.
  • New findings indicating increased gut permeability in those with depression.
  • 54% of acne patients have marked alterations to the intestinal microflora.
  • Patients with seborrheic dermatitis also noted disruptions of the normal gastrointestinal microflora.
  • Indeed, other physicians writing in the 1930s made reference to the popularity of L. acidophilus cultures among the general public as an internal means to treat acne.
  • Interactions of skin manifestations of acne vulgaris and of metabolic processes of the intestinal tract are suggestive [of a link].

Truthfully, I only scratched the surface of this paper.  But allow me to leave you with one more valuable tidbit — a couple sentences from the abstract.  “Many aspects of this gut-brain-skin unifying theory have recently been validated. The ability of the gut microbiota and oral probiotics to influence systemic inflammation, oxidative stress, glycemic control, tissue lipid content and even mood itself, may have important implications in acne. The intestinal microflora may also provide a twist to the developing diet and acne research.”  This is why controlling BLOOD SUGAR is so critical to your health, and why STOOL TRANSPLANTS are one of the hottest new treatments you’ve never heard of — for almost every disease process imaginable.  By the way, if you think this is valuable information that needs to be shared, please help us reach more people by taking two seconds to like us on FACEBOOK.


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