“The skin is a self-renewing organ called an immunological organ where the epidermis can function as a primary lymphoid organ, forming part of our immune system.” There are an estimated 20 billion T cells in human skin suggesting that immune defense in the skin’s dermis can prevent the skin from suffering a premature breakdown.
Additionally, the skin is an independent steroidogenic organ which means skin can produce cortisol, influence whole-body states, and emotions. Stress can disrupt cortisol levels within our systems and organs, including our skin. A fact unrecognized by the general public is that stress, hormonal imbalances, and gut inflammation can impair the integrity and protective function of the epidermal barrier (our skin). Why is this important? Skin barrier structure and function is crucial for human health while toxic environments negatively affect skin ecosystems and our overall health!
The skin is a neuroendocrine organ which means there is crosstalk between skin, brain, endocrine, and the immune system. There are multiple neuro-immuno-endocrine functions, including tryptophan hydroxylase, that occurs within our skin.
Because the skin protects us from injury and environmental toxins, it’s health depends on intercommunication with our gut microbiome, skin microbiome, skin immunity, and surprisingly enough, our brain.
The Skin-Brain Connection
The skin sends feedback to the brain regarding stress and inflammation and can communicate with the central nervous system through hormones. When inflamed, the skin-brain crosstalk may be implicated in psoriasis, acne, pruritus, and more. At first, you may suffer from what seems to be symptoms of allergies. Then pruritus (severe itching) for instance, may escalate into a full blown skin disorder.
Not only does stress stand in the way of the skin’s ability to repair itself, but studies also show high cortisol levels were found to increase DNA damage, and interfere with DNA repair. Stress can hide in every fiber of our being. Warning signals include lupus, fibromyalgia, (where collagen structure changes) and acne rosacea, where stress eventually weakens immunity.
After years of poor habits, stress goes the extra mile damaging the skins immune system increasing our risk for premature aging. Holistically, I believe we may be able repair DNA damage by balancing food choices, sunshine exposure, exercise routines, and serotonin levels.
The Department of Dermatology in Sweden studied melanocytes, which produce serotonin. Paradoxically, the skin can produce serotonin and transform it into melatonin. As humans, a balance in these neurotransmitters can improve cognitive function, metabolic function, and gastrointestinal function.
Researchers found skin cells can provide insight into the aging brain.
Stress and anxiety interfere with immunity, digestion, and brain function. What’s truly amazing is, researchers are using the skin to show when stress holds our thoughts hostage. It’s called emotional blunting (blocking emotions) and the way to measure this emotion is to use skin conductance on the hands or feet-known as Galvanic Skin Response. Surprisingly enough, this test can measure levels of dementia.
Another study shows individuals aged 64 with dementia have a significantly higher number of comorbidities at the same time, such as chronic skin ulcers.
The University of Copenhagen and others found numerous people who have dementia are also suffering from Rosacea!
As we age, if we experience a mental breakdown found with dementia, Alzheimer’s, or Schizophrenia, it seems we’ll experience skin integrity breakdown many years before.
Toxic products alter the conditions of the skin barrier and contribute to the variation of skin microbiota. These include poor choices of makeup, cleansers, moisturizers, and antibacterial hand gels. The layers of the epidermis and dermis work in concert to execute immune responses in the skin while disruptions and imbalances can result in skin disorders and/or infections.
“The skin’s microbiome consists of all the bacteria, archaea, fungi, and viruses that reside in and on human skin.”
Hypothetically, premature aging and low skin immunity can be job-related. I’ll include housekeepers in this equation. Housekeepers, for instance, are exposed to harsh chemicals and detergents scrubbing kitchens, parasites and fungus from changing dirty sheets, and harmful bacteria from disinfecting restrooms. All insult the epidermal barrier.
Our immune systemin our gut can influence the composition of skin microorganisms. When our gut is stressed and sick, our skin is also stressed and sick. Understanding the role of the gut microbiome and skin’s immune systemis key to understanding skin disorders such as psoriasis, rosacea, and dermatitis that can be linked to inflammation and imbalances ingutmicrobiome. A 2008 report from the Department of Internal Medicine indicated that “small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), a condition involving the inappropriate growth of bacteria in the small intestine, is ten times more prevalent in people with acne rosacea.”
Increase your awareness
- “In women, psychological stress is associated with accelerated cellular and oxidative stress, shorter telomere length, and telomerase activity.”
- Sugar and alcohol addictions create imbalances in hormones, gut immunity, and disrupt skin immunity. Consuming processed foods are linked to free radical damage and diminished oxygen levels, which in turn harms all cellular activity.
- Energy drinks disrupt the lining of the gastrointestinal organs, increases psychopathology symptoms, ADHD, and ages the skin.
- Air pollution can significantly change hormones and skin immunity. Vote with your pocketbook and avoid purchasing spray air-fresheners, scented trashcan liners, dryer sheets, plugins, and perfumes. Sadly, teens are exposed to over 30 hormone-altering chemicals a day.
- Factors found causal in lowering skin immunity include smoking and EMFs pollution. Toxic exposures change DNA, hormones, brain function, metabolism, and the integrity of our skin.
- Lack of sleep can decrease immune, skin, and brain health.
WHAT CAN YOU DO NOW?
Growing older doesn’t mean we need to be sick, depressed, or demented.
The body needs at lease 7-8 hours of sleep. Our skin and brain thrive on proper rest and oxygen levels, blood flow and lymph flow in order to build immunity, slow inflammation, reduce depression, transport waste, and prevent dementia.
Avoid toxic topical ingredients found in soaps, lotions, and potions. Protect your skin microbiome and skin immunity by purchasing organic.
DISCOURAGE A SEDENTARY LIFESTYLE
Encourage a daily workout. Sweating releases toxins and found beneficial for all organs of the body including skin microbiome and skin immunity. In fact, skin aging is related to a decrease in overall sweat!
INTRODUCE A HEALTHY LIFESTYLE
Integrate holistic measures to promote healthy relationships with your environment and food choices. Increase optimal delivery system of nutrients to skin cells by consuming superfoods such as turmeric, containing anti-inflammatory properties. One thing for sure is inflammation can be controlled by nutrients reaching our cells.
Connie Rogers is a Certified Health Coach & Brain Health Coach.
Connie believes health and wellness are established with proper nutrition, fitness, and mindfulness. Connie takes a natural and holistic, common sense approach to rebuilding wellbeing from the ground up.