How what you eat can impact skin conditions like acne and eczema

In recent years, there has been a growing awareness of the role that the gut plays in our overall health and the importance of the microorganisms that reside there. Known as the microbiome, this collection of bacteria, viruses and fungi all work together to help us to stay healthy. However, the microbiome is not only found in the intestines but also on our largest organ — the skin. It serves as a shield against all kinds of external factors, including sun damage and pollution, and any imbalance can result in inflammation.

Dr Julie O’Sullivan is a post-doctoral researcher at APC Microbiome Ireland, an SFI-funded research centre based at UCC and Teagasc, Moorepark, which has been at the forefront of research on the gut microbiome. She is exploring the link between the skin microbiome and its connection with the gut, known as the gut-skin axis, and its effects on skin conditions such as eczema and acne. Her work centres on antimicrobial-producing proteins, also known as bacteriocins, which are found within the human skin microbiome.

“Our skin is our first line of defence against the outside world and it is covered in millions of micro-organisms, some of which naturally produce these anti-microbial peptides which act like protein missiles, killing off bad bacteria,” says O’Sullivan.

These peptides could be a viable alternative to antibiotics in treating common but often distressing skin conditions.

“Diversity and balance of bacterial communities are vital for skin health. Many skin conditions are a result of imbalances occurring within the microbiota.” 

Alternative to antibiotics

O’Sullivan’s current research is focused on eczema and acne.  “Atopic dermatitis (eczema) is a common chronic inflammatory disease — one in five children and one in ten adults in Ireland will get it. The condition is often associated with an overabundance of staphylococcus aureus. Acne can also be caused by an overabundance of cutibacterium acnes, a skin pathogenic bacteria. More…

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