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  • Writer's pictureImogen Tingay

From Your Gut to Your Skin: The Surprising Connection Between SIBO and Skin Health

Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO) is a condition that occurs when there is an overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine. While this condition is primarily associated with digestive problems, it can also affect skin health. In this blog post, we will explore six factors that connect SIBO to skin health and the impact it can have on your overall wellbeing!


1. Nutrient Malabsorption

SIBO can lead to nutrient malabsorption, which can affect skin health. Specifically, the malabsorption of vitamins A, D, E, and K can lead to various skin problems such as acne, eczema, and rosacea. Vitamin A is essential for skin health as it promotes cell turnover, preventing the buildup of dead skin cells that can clog pores and lead to breakouts. Vitamin D plays a crucial role in maintaining healthy skin by promoting skin cell growth and reducing inflammation. Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that helps to protect the skin from damage caused by free radicals. Finally, vitamin K is essential for maintaining healthy blood flow, which is necessary for the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the skin.

2. Inflammation

SIBO can cause inflammation in the gut, leading to the release of inflammatory cytokines that can affect skin health. These cytokines can trigger a cascade of events that lead to skin inflammation and various skin disorders. Inflammation can cause redness, swelling, and itching, leading to conditions such as psoriasis, eczema, and rosacea.

3. Histamine Intolerance

SIBO can lead to histamine intolerance, which can cause skin flushing, hives, itching, and other skin problems. Histamine is a chemical that is released by the immune system in response to allergens, stress, and other triggers. In individuals with histamine intolerance, the body is unable to break down histamine efficiently, leading to an accumulation of histamine in the body. This can cause various symptoms, including skin problems.

4. Leaky Gut Syndrome

SIBO can cause leaky gut syndrome, a condition in which the lining of the intestines becomes permeable, allowing toxins and undigested food particles to enter the bloodstream. This can trigger an immune response and lead to skin issues like acne, psoriasis, and eczema. Leaky gut syndrome can also cause systemic inflammation, which can affect skin health.

5. Bacterial Toxins

SIBO can result in the production of toxins by bacteria in the small intestine, which can affect skin health. These toxins can cause skin irritation, rashes, and other skin problems. Additionally, bacterial overgrowth can lead to the production of excess sebum, which can clog pores and lead to acne.

6. Autoimmune Responses

SIBO can also trigger autoimmune responses, where the immune system attacks healthy skin cells. This can lead to various skin conditions like vitiligo and alopecia areata. Autoimmune responses can also cause inflammation, leading to other skin problems.


How to Address SIBO and Improve Skin Health

If you have been diagnosed with small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), dietary changes can be an important part of your treatment plan. Here are some dietary changes that can help manage SIBO symptoms and promote gut health:

1. Low FODMAP diet

FODMAP stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, and Polyols. These are types of carbohydrates that can be difficult to digest for some people, particularly those with SIBO. A low FODMAP diet involves restricting high FODMAP foods, such as onions, garlic, wheat, dairy, and some fruits and vegetables. This diet can reduce gas, bloating, and other digestive symptoms.

2. Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD)

The SCD is a diet that eliminates complex carbohydrates such as grains, starches, and most dairy products, while promoting the consumption of nutrient-dense foods such as meats, vegetables, and fruits. The SCD diet can help starve the overgrowth of bacteria and heal the gut lining. The diet is a bit more restrictive than a low FODMAP diet, so it is important to work with a healthcare provider or registered dietitian to ensure proper nutrient intake.

3. Elemental Diet

An elemental diet involves consuming only liquid nutrition for a period of time, typically two to three weeks. This diet can be effective in reducing SIBO symptoms by removing the food sources for bacteria to grow. Elemental diets are often used in conjunction with antibiotics or herbal supplements to treat SIBO. They should be used with extreme caution and only recommended by a professional.

4. Probiotic and Prebiotic Foods

Probiotic and prebiotic foods can help promote a healthy balance of gut bacteria. Probiotic foods include fermented foods such as kimchi, kefir, and sauerkraut, while prebiotic foods include garlic, onions, bananas, and asparagus.

5. Low carbohydrate diet

Some people with SIBO may benefit from a low carbohydrate diet, which can reduce the food sources for bacteria to grow. This diet involves restricting or eliminating high carbohydrate foods such as bread, pasta, rice, and potatoes. However, it is important to ensure adequate nutrient intake and work with a healthcare provider or registered dietitian to ensure the diet is safe and effective for your individual needs.

6. Gluten-free diet

There is some evidence that gluten may contribute to SIBO symptoms in some people. A gluten-free diet involves avoiding foods that contain gluten, such as wheat, barley, and rye. It is important to ensure adequate nutrient intake and work with a healthcare provider or registered dietitian to ensure the diet is safe and effective for your individual needs.

Some holistic lifestyle factors to concentrate on are to reduce stress, get enough sleep, stay hydrated and exercise regularly. Whilst antibiotics can be effective in treating SIBO, it is important to take a probiotic alongside them (probiotic in the morning, antibiotic in the evening) in order to maintain the balance of your gut flora.


I hope this blog post was helpful to you! If you suspect you may have SIBO, I urge you to go to your GP to have appropriate testing and then get in touch with a dietitian of your choice to help you make some changes to suit you. Remember, my waiting list is open for appointment bookings, if you'd like to get in contact, click the button below!

Happy Tuesday Everyone!

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Cowden JM, Yu F, Banie H, Farahani M, Ling P, Nguyen S, Riley JP, Zhang M, Zhu J, Dunford PJ, Thurmond RL. The histamine H4 receptor mediates inflammation and Th17 responses in preclinical models of arthritis. Ann Rheum Dis. 2014 Mar;73(3):600-8. doi: 10.1136/annrheumdis-2013-203832. Epub 2013 Oct 14. PMID: 24126456; PMCID: PMC4151522.

Ilchmann-Diounou H, Menard S. Psychological Stress, Intestinal Barrier Dysfunctions, and Autoimmune Disorders: An Overview. Front Immunol. 2020 Aug 25;11:1823. doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2020.01823. PMID: 32983091; PMCID: PMC7477358.

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