Does My Immune System Affect my Skin?
Good Morning my health champions! It is a Monday as I write this, so let's start the week off oh so right by talking about the link between your immune system and your soon to be glowing skin.
Before I get properly down to business, let's chat briefly about the immune system. Over time this powerful system has become renowned for its virus/infection/cold & flu fighting ability, and rightly so. But did you know that the immune system is needed for SO much more than just helping you beat that cold off faster? It is actually vital for a ton of processes in the body, and if it is out of wack, we are going to see some problems, like skin issues.
Firstly, on a practical level on how the skin helps the immune system, the skin is part of our bodies first line of defence along with our mucous membranes (which line our entire bodies), tears and stomach acid.
It works in a number of ways:
1. The skin acts as a physical barrier that nasty invaders need to get around in order to enter the body.
2. The skin also naturally produces proteins that help us fight and destroy those germs.
3. The acidity of our skin is closely monitored to stop bacteria from growing on it.
So basically, our skin works constantly and tirelessly for us to keep us protected to the best of its abilities.
On another note, our skin (due to it being our bodies largest organ) has it's own microbiome, which means that it is the home to millions, yes millions or bacteria, fungi and viruses. It also means that there are immune cells living within our skin. Scientific research shows that our immune system on multiple different levels is able to alter our skin microbiome, as well as our skin being able to educate and strengthen our immune system - now isn't that just a match made in heaven?!
Side note - this will help explain the vicious cycle of eczema/atopic dermatitis. When we itch our skin and it breaks open, we leave ourselves susceptible to bacteria living on our skin making its way into those sores. Staphylococcus Aureus (staph aureus) bacteria (can live on everyones skin but doesn't bother the majority) gets into the cut, activating the immune system which results in the redness, inflammation and itch, and so the cycle continues.
Let's flip it for a second....we now known how the skin affects the Immune System, but how does it work the other way round and why is it so important?
For starters, over 70% of your immune system is housed in your gut. Therefore, if you don't have a happy gut (like the majority of us, unfortunately) you are going to see some Immune issues. What us fancy people are calling the gut-skin axis (which is basically the connection between your gut and your skin) is gaining a lot of traction and research. Brand new studies are saying things like 'the microbiome plays a vital role in a wide variety of skin disorders' and 'many skin diseases are accompanied by an altered gut microbiome as well as a skin microbiome.'
What they are simply saying is, your gut has a whole lot to do with the health of your skin, and I, as a Nutritional Therapist think this is ground breaking for skin issues.
Sort out your gut - see incredible changes in your skin, and a lot of this is to do with all of those Immune cells that are living in your gut.
Secondly, all skin issues have a trigger, what that trigger is is individual to the person and can be anything from different foods to environmental agents to what you're putting on your skin or how healthy your gut is, and that's for me to find out.
What I mean by trigger is these substances cause an inflammatory reaction in your body, activating what we call the inflammatory cascade which involves waking up the immune system. Your immune system then reacts to the substance as if it were a foreign invader resulting in the reaction on our skin, whether that is an itch, rash, sore, spots or inflammation
There's that immune system again!
A recent study took blood samples and skin biopsies of those with skin issues and found 'an incredible amount of immune dysfunction.' They also noted that although we are used to throwing antihistamines, lotions and ointments at skin issues, there is much more going on under the surface when it comes to immune dysfunction and gut health and if we refuse to address those imbalances, the likelihood is that we won't see changes in the skin.
Thirdly to sum this up, I have listed briefly how the immune system is directly related to specific skin issues for example:
Acne - acne is the disease of the Pilosebaceous Unit. This unit contains immune cells that are thought to trigger an immune response to bacteria that results in the chronic inflammation and spots that is so associated with Acne.
Rosacea - More and more research is supporting the thought that the gut-skin axis and immune dysfunction is heavily involved with Rosacea. This is a classic case of what we have previously chatted about, triggers (usually in the gut) trigger the immune system resulting in a rash and inflammation. If we remove these triggers and heal the gut we should see an incredible reduction in a rosacea flares.
Eczema/Dermatitis - skin inflammation that is so debilitating to those who experience eczema is directly related to a misdirected immune response against normally harmless bacteria paired with skin barrier dysfunction. There is also a huge link between eczema and the gut microbiome no doubt heavily involving the immune system.
Ichthyosis Vulgaris - apart from Ichthyosis being a genetically inherited illness, testing has showed a very similar immune response to that experienced in atopic dermatitis or psoriasis. With those who inherited ichthyosis being up to 79% likely to develop eczema.
Psoriasis - psoriasis is slightly different as it is an autoimmune disease, meaning your immune system attacks your own cells thinking they are invaders. With psoriasis it an uncontrollable production of skin cells called keratinocyte's as well as other factors that result in the scaling and discolouring that we associate with it. The immune system is a key player in psoriasis and any illness that is classed as an autoimmune condition. Immune is vital for our health regardless, but it is especially important in autoimmunity because if we can get the immune system back into balance, we will see incredible and life changing differences.
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Looking to learn more about your Immune System? Join us for the Boost Your Immune System in 30 Days online course, from September 13th - October 13th! Get over 30% off with code JOYFN50, spaces are limited so don't miss out!