Keys to a Healthy Gut
In my previous post, Why Eczema is Not Just a Skin Issue, I simplified the science about how improving gut health can largely contribute to healing eczema long-term. In this post, I'll highlight some key ways to obtain optimal gut health for a path toward eczema-free skin.
Here are 3 major ways you can strengthen your gut and the specific things you can do to achieve this goal.
1. TIGHT JUNCTION FUNCTION
The cells in our intestine are held together by specialized connections called tight junctions. Tight junctions help filter what our body absorbs (and does not absorb) from the food we eat.
In my previous post, I discussed how certain things we consume (like gluten, alcohol, and NSAID medications like ibuprofen to name a few) can alter the function of the tight junctions between our intestinal cells that are supposed to act like our filter, leaving us at risk for absorbing the bad stuff along with the good.
Vitamin A, vitamin D, and zinc can all strengthen those tight junctions to ensure they work properly and guard against a leaky gut. Here's how…
Vitamin D (aka the sunshine vitamin):
2. Increase MOTILITY
Motility refers to food passing through your digestive system. We want food to pass through and be excreted in a timely manner so that we're not holding on to our waste any longer than we need to be (makes sense, right?). The best ways to increase motility are to consume enough dietary fiber and to physically move yo' body!
Fiber promotes the movement of material through your digestive tract, as well as increases the bulk of your stool (aka poop) which makes it easier for you to pass.
Many people don't realize this, but moving your body actually helps physically move the food along in your digestive tract as well—this is why regular exercise is so important. (In the hospital, we even prioritize getting post-surgical patients out of bed and walking ASAP so that they regain functioning of a healthy digestive system in order to recover.)
3. Decrease INTESTINAL PERMEABILITY
Permeability is the intestine's ability to absorb stuff—both the good and the bad. If permeability is high (like in a leaky gut), then more bad stuff can get through. Therefore, we want to decrease permeability so that our intestine is more regulated and our body is absorbing only the good stuff that we actually want. How do we do this?
Cortisol (aka the stress hormone) increases when our mind or bodies are under stress. Cortisol actually increases intestinal permeability—this is why minimizing stress is an important factor of healing.
And get enough rest...
Melatonin (aka the hormone that regulates our sleep-wake cycle) actually decreases intestinal permeability. This means that getting enough rest during dark hours + waking during light hours = more regulated gut absorption!
...Bet you didn't know stress and sleep played such a direct role in gut health now, did ya?!
Clearly, a healthy gut is multifaceted, combining elements from diet to exercise to sleep (oh my!). While there are still many other lifestyle components to address in order to heal eczema (like what we put on our skin topically), repairing gut health is an undoubtedly vital component to seeing long-term results.
Hope you learned something new, and happy healing!