The growing obsession with our gut microbes shows no signs of peaking: study after study looks at the impact this community of bacteria, viruses and fungi has on our physical and mental health.
More recently, research has shown that they could reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes and even affect your desire to exercise.
But behind the scenes, scientists have also been looking at another group of microbes that we all harbor: those on our skin.
Your skin is the largest organ in your body, with a surface area of around 22 square feet. And every square centimeter is covered in microbes, with at least 1.5 trillion of them in this small space.
I’ve written before about the importance of taking care of your gut microbiome, but your skin microbiome is equally important to your well-being.
Among other things, the bacteria that live on your skin protect you against the invasion of other, more dangerous microbes by making your skin more acidic, which prevents pathogens from growing there.
So how can you help these microbes keep you and your skin in excellent condition? Here are some suggestions, based on the latest science.
Scientists have also been looking at another group of microbes that we all harbor: those on our skin (file image)
Take prebiotics and probiotics
Although prebiotics (fiber-rich foods, e.g., onions and leeks) and probiotics (foods rich in “good” bacteria, e.g., yogurt and sauerkraut) will primarily help improve the health of your gut microbiome, the microbes in your Skin are closely related (mainly through the influence your gut microbes have on your immune system).
Additionally, several large-scale studies have found that those who eat more vegetables have fewer wrinkles and smoother skin, mainly thanks to the fact that plants contain a variety of anti-aging compounds, particularly carotenoids.
Eating foods rich in carotenoids helps protect the skin and the insects that live on it from the harmful effects of ultraviolet light.
As the name suggests, you can find them in carrots, but they are also found in other yellow, orange, and red fruits and vegetables, such as tomato, pumpkin, melon, and mango.
A fascinating study published in Nature Medicine in July revealed the impact that a healthy gut microbiome can have on the skin.
Researchers at the University of Montreal Health Center showed that stimulating a patient’s gut microbiome through a fecal transplant could improve their chances of surviving skin cancer.
When patients with malignant melanoma received a fecal transplant before immunotherapy, the likelihood that they would have a positive response to this cancer treatment improved.
Several large-scale studies have found that those who eat more vegetables have fewer wrinkles and smoother skin (file image)
Wash behind your ears and between your toes.
It’s the kind of thing you were probably told as a kid, and it turns out it’s actually really good advice. That, at least, was the conclusion of a study published last week in the journal Frontiers in Microbiology.
Lead researcher Keith Crandall, a professor of biostatistics and bioinformatics at George Washington University in the United States, said he was inspired to conduct the study by his grandmother, who always instructed the children in his family to “rub behind the ears, between the toes.” and in the navel’.
For the study, 129 students were asked to take samples from different areas of their body, including their forearms, calves, behind their ears, between their toes, and at their navel.
This revealed that the skin on her forearm, calves and belly button (areas we normally clean thoroughly in a bath or shower) contained a high diversity of microbes, which is a sign of healthy skin. However, samples from behind the ears and between the toes were more likely to contain fewer species, and among them were more problematic pro-inflammatory microbes, which can lead to skin diseases such as eczema or atopic dermatitis (which causes skin diseases). serious). itching).
In fact, a previous review, in the journal Frontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiology, found that people with conditions such as dermatitis, acne and a common form of hair loss (alopecia areata) have a different mix of microbes than those with healthy skin.
Fortunately, our skin microbiome also contains viruses called bacteriophages (meaning “bacteria eaters”), which new research suggests help us wage war against problem bacteria.
Scientists at the Medical University of Vienna recently isolated bacteriophages from the skin of people with atopic dermatitis that specifically attack the bacteria that trigger the disease, although they were clearly not enough to have a big impact.
But now that these “phages” have been identified, the team hopes to grow them and use them as a novel way to treat this and similar skin ailments.
…But don’t cleanse your skin too much.
While washing is important, avoid using harsh skin cleansers or vigorous scrubbing, as these can damage the skin’s natural defenses, including the “good” bacteria that live there.
And remember, especially during the winter months, when skin becomes drier and flakier, to moisturize immediately after washing your face, when your skin is low on natural oils.
A study published last year in the journal Scientific Reports found that using a moisturizer for five weeks reduced dryness and increased levels of good bacteria on the skin.
Choose a partner with healthy skin bugs
People who live together tend to have similar microbial communities on their skin, according to a 2017 study from the University of Waterloo in Canada. In fact, their skin microbiomes were so similar that it was possible to guess, with 86 percent accuracy, who lived together just by looking at their skin microbiome.
If you spend a lot of time sharing intimate spaces with another human being, you end up sharing a lot of skin microbes. So try to choose a partner with a good skin microbiome: if not, encourage them to follow my other three steps!
High blood pressure is a “silent killer”: most people don’t know they have it until something goes wrong; They have a heart attack, for example.
While research shows that exercises like the plank or wall sit can lower blood pressure, the routine (four two-minute wall squats, with two minutes of rest in between, three times a week) may be too much for you. many.
There’s an easier route: A new study in sedentary older adults found that simply increasing the number of daily steps, from 4,000 to 7,000, lowered blood pressure as much as medication. Since 3,000 steps equals less than 30 minutes of additional walking, it seems like a good investment for your future health.
Benefits of a gingerbread cookie
Ginger is one of my favorite spices, whether in ginger cookies, tea, or stir-fry. It is also a traditional remedy for a variety of health conditions.
But in modern terms, the best evidence for this is the treatment of nausea.
One study, published in 2018 in the Journal of Maternal-Fetal & Neonatal Medicine, showed that ginger was more effective than a placebo for nausea and vomiting during pregnancy (possibly because it has been shown to speed up stomach emptying).
Now, researchers at the Colorado School of Medicine in the US have discovered that it can reduce inflammation and could potentially help people with autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis.
When healthy volunteers took 20 mg of gingerol (the active ingredient in ginger) a day, equivalent to 25 g of fresh ginger, for seven days, the activity of white blood cells called neutrophils, which become overactive in autoimmune diseases, was reduced.
More research is needed, but I think I’m justified in continuing my tea and gingerbread cookie habit.
Ginger is one of my favorite spices, whether in ginger cookies, tea, or stir-fry.
Harness Your Brain to Relieve Back Pain
If you are one of the 5.5 million Britons who take painkillers regularly, you probably know that they are rarely effective, especially in the long term. But could harnessing the power of your mind be helpful?
This was the suggestion of a study, published last week in JAMA Network Open, which showed that helping people with chronic back pain without an obvious cause (80 percent of cases) think differently could significantly reduce their symptoms.
The researchers used an approach called pain reprocessing therapy (PRT), where patients are taught that pain signals can be “turned off.”
Therapists encourage them to use gentle movements, while assuring them that the pain is not a danger sign and will eventually go away if they continue working. Another important part of PRT is training in managing emotions, such as anger or despair, that may be making the pain worse.
In the study, 151 people with chronic back pain were assigned four weeks of PRT, a placebo injection into the spine, or usual care. The results showed that 60 percent of the PRT group reported being pain-free or almost pain-free afterwards, compared with 20 percent in the placebo group and 10 percent of those receiving usual care. And the pain reduction in the PRT group was largely maintained one year later.
If you have chronic pain, your GP may refer you to a pain clinic. However, to get PRT you may have to go private.
Could harnessing the power of your mind help you with back pain? (archive image)