At Gutbliss we consider the gut to be the innermost lining of your skin. Research supports the strong association between gut health and skin health, so it’s only natural that something we know to be unhealthy for the gut, most likely also negatively impacts the skin. Sugar, one of the most beloved food groups of the Western diet, is no exception. Many of us struggle with excessive sugar consumption, or even sugar addiction. When trying to give up a vice, it can be helpful to know exactly why it’s so bad for us. With that in mind, let’s dive into sugar’s impact on the gut and other biological functions in the body… and in turn, the skin.
(The USDA recommends that no more than 10% of your daily calories should come from added sugar. Based on a 2,000-calorie diet, this would be anything over 200 calories, or about 50 grams (or 12 teaspoons) of sugar daily. According to us at Gutbliss, this amount of sugar is excessive. Instead, we recommend consuming no more than approximately 20 calories of your daily calories from added sugar, which is about 5 grams or 1 teaspoon of sugar.)
Sugar & Dysbiosis
Processed sugar, also referred to as added sugar, negatively impacts the gut in one really big way – it decreases the number of beneficial bacteria. And the way it does this is three-fold:
1). Sugar feeds pathogenic bacteria in the gut, allowing for their proliferation, crowding out beneficial bacteria.
2). Scientists recently discovered that sugars can act as signaling molecules that negatively impact the gut microbiome. In the case of processed sugars, sugar molecules can literally prevent beneficial gut bacteria from growing – they silence a protein called Roc, which is necessary for the colonization of beneficial gut bacteria strains associated with breaking down and processing fiber from plant-based foods like vegetables.
3). Sugar consumption increases sugar cravings. It’s a vicious cycle! The more sugar you consume, the more sugar craving signals get sent to your brain by your gut bacteria. The sugar-loving bacteria are those that pose a threat to our health, and they release by-products in our bloodstream that travel along the gut-brain axis and create cravings for sweet foods.
Link Between Dysbiosis & Skin Health
Why does your skin care if sugar increases pathogenic gut bacteria? Because it leads to imbalanced gut bacteria, or dysbiosis, where the ratio of beneficial and pathogenic bacteria is out of whack, causing inflammation in the gut. Gut inflammation is associated with an increased risk of an entire host of health conditions, one of them being poor skin. The scientific evidence linking dysbiosis and other gut conditions to skin health is broad. In fact, studies have found that more than half of all acne sufferers have alterations in gut flora, and rosacea – one of the most common skin conditions seen in patients with digestive disorders – has been linked to inflammation and bacterial imbalance in the gut.
A 2018 review study highlights the role of the gut in disrupting skin homeostasis, which leads to skin conditions, specifically acne, atopic dermatitis, and psoriasis. And while scientists are still figuring out the exact mechanisms, they target dysbiosis and gut inflammation at its root.
Keep in mind, the primary way to keep dysbiosis at bay is through diet – one high in indigestible plant fiber and very low in processed and added sugar.
Sugar’s Effect on Collagen & Skin Elasticity
As dysbiosis causes inflammation in the gut and in turn, whole body inflammation, enzymes are produced that break down collagen and elastin. In addition, digested sugar molecules attach to skin collagen during a process called glycation. Both of these processes accelerate ageing, causing wrinkles and fine lines and also break down elasticity resulting in sagging skin. Glycation can also make skin conditions like rosacea and acne worse.
Sugar & Blood Glucose Levels
Lastly, eating lots of processed sugar increases blood glucose levels. High blood sugar is strongly linked to declining skin health. Here’s why: increased blood sugar levels signal your body to produce a spike in insulin in order to absorb the sugar. Insulin activates the hormone, androgen, and increases insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1), making skin cells grow more quickly and upping the production of sebum (oily secretion released by the sebaceous glands), contributing to the development of acne. In fact, a 2012 study found that those who ate added sugar more frequently had a 30% greater chance of developing acne than those who didn’t.
Conclusion If you suffer from a skin condition, or are in the business of looking as young as you can for as long as you can, then decreasing your processed and added sugar intake is one of the best things you can do. For more on what to eat to promote ageless skin, check out more Gutbliss tips here!