In the past few years, so many of our conversations around health have turned in one direction in particular: towards the gut. It almost feels like the missing piece of the puzzle; the key to unlocking an incredible number of issues with our bodies. Gut flora-promoting probiotics and prebiotics are not just a part of our vocabularies and pantries, but also our skincare and wellness routines. Recently, scientists have uncovered the existence of the gut-brain axis—physical and chemical channels that directly link our moods and emotions to what’s going on in our gut.
In her training and practice as a naturopathic doctor, Dr Nigma Talib has always known the gut to be the seat of health in our bodies. Her work combines this knowledge with skincare, and has Hollywood’s most famous residents lining up treatments at her LA clinic. “Research has shown that a healthy gut can promote healthy skin, while an unhealthy gut can contribute to skin problems such as acne, rosacea, psoriasis, and eczema,” says Dr Talib. “This is because the gut plays an important role in the body's immune response, and when the gut is not functioning properly, it can lead to inflammation and other immune-related issues that can affect the skin.”
Return To Roots
In her book, Younger Skin Starts In The Gut, Dr Talib emphasises that skin troubles don’t occur in isolation—they’re a manifestation of deeper imbalances or disturbances in the body, mostly originating in our digestive tracts. This is not a new revelation; ancient medical sciences from around the world have known the importance of this system for centuries. So why has gut health come into the spotlight only recently?
“There seems to be an awakening in this area. We have seen over the past decade a growth in people complaining of bloating, gas, constipation, and diarrhoea,” she says. “This has always been present in my 20 years of practice, but no one talked about it as [the topic] was considered taboo. A survey published in 2021 of over 73,000 adults from 33 countries found that more than 40 percent of respondents had gastrointestinal disorders, like irritable bowel syndrome or constipation, and in my opinion that’s a conservative number. It’s more like 70 percent of people who don’t have optimal digestion.”
It’s also the approach Western medicine takes with diseases—ailments are usually looked at in isolation, depending on the organ affected. You go to a dermat for your dull, lifeless skin and a GP for your frequent tummy upsets, not knowing that these could be two parts of the same issue. Dr Talib explains, “Western medicine focuses on a top-down approach versus a root-cause approach. In naturopathy, we look at the root cause of why the gut isn’t functioning optimally by utilising gut microbiome studies, stool analysis and treatments that support gut function, versus suppressing it with meds like antacids and antibiotics, which only worsen gut issues over time.”
The Gut-Skin Connection
Dr Talib uses the face as a tool to get to the bottom of digestive issues—something she mentions in her book is inspired by the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practice of face reading. In the book she describes the “four faces of ageing”, or four common ways food intolerances show up on our faces. Intolerance to food like sugar, gluten, alcohol and dairy shows up in your body as bloating, indigestion, headaches or migraines, brain fog and moodiness, and on your face as lines, discolouration, acne and sallow skin.
“The skin and gut are connected through a number of pathways, including the immune system, the nervous system, and the endocrine system. Research has shown that a healthy gut can promote healthy skin, while an unhealthy gut can contribute to skin problems such as acne, rosacea, psoriasis, and eczema,” says Dr Talib. “Additionally, the gut is responsible for the absorption of nutrients that are important for skin health, such as vitamins A, C, and E, as well as essential fatty acids. When the gut is not absorbing these nutrients properly, it can lead to skin problems.”
The fix is not easy, but it’s important not just for your skin, but your overall well-being. It involves finding out and eliminating food that stresses the body through inflammation, and making healthy lifestyle changes. “Taking care of your gut health by eating a balanced diet, staying hydrated, getting regular exercise, and managing stress can all help to improve your skin health. Additionally, some probiotics and other supplements may be helpful for improving gut health and therefore improving skin health,” she says.
Dr Nigma Talib is visiting Le Mill between March 20-25 and will be offering customised skin consultations and treatments to select clients. Reach out to us for more details.