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Your skin bacteria are important: let’s feed them!

You may think that your skin never changes. You may think that you were born with a skin which will remain the same throughout your life – apart from suffering the effects of ageing, the sun’s UV rays, etc. of course!!

The truth is that the skin is the largest organ of the body; it is highly complex and is a dynamic and constantly changing thing. New skin cells are continuously generated and dead cells continuously lost.

Interestingly, the skin is covered in a thin blanket of nutrients and salts which retain moisture and which bacteria find irresistible. At skin temperature, 34 – 36 degrees celsius, and with the availability of moisture and nutrients, these bacterial populations explode to give teeming billions.

In the past, we had thought these bacteria unimportant; we now know them to have great importance to your health in a similar way to the behaviour of bacteria found in the gut.

We have long suspected that gut bacteria impact on your overall body health. This was once thought to be due to improved digestion, breakdown and elimination of food toxins, etc. Now, we are increasingly understanding that healthy gut bacteria improve your mood, eliminate depression and give a whole host of other benefits.

Imbalances in the skin ‘biome’ – the name given to bacteria found on the skin - we now know to have profound effects on skin health. Certain dermatitis conditions, in particular, are linked to imbalances in populations of different skin bacteria. Recent clinical studies suggest that even skin fungus and virus population imbalances cause disease.

Bacteria found on your skin repel harmful microorganisms. They interact with your immune system and contribute to your skin's barrier function. Acne has been shown to respond positively to treatment with mixed probiotic bacteria.

Bacteria live in skin-pores, hair follicles, sweat-glands, etc. They help your skin to remain healthy. Just as in the gut, they secrete important molecules, such as antimicrobial peptides - which kill harmful bacteria - and short-chain fatty acids. These are important for retaining moisture and reducing the likelihood of dry-skin conditions.

These bacteria are natural anti-inflammatories and they maintain skin pH.

In the gut, probiotic cultures give good bacteria which maintain overall physical and mental health. On the skin, pre-biotic nutrients promote healthy bacteria whereas post-biotics generate bioactive compounds – such as enzymes and peptides – which maintain a healthy biosome. The general term ‘probiotic’ is an ingredient - ideally bacterial or nutritional - which introduces or feeds the biosome.

Your skin bacteria are important: let’s feed them!!!

 Dr Brian O Rourke