LANCÔME AND THE GUT HEALTH DOCTOR PUT MICROBIOME SCIENCE UNDER THE MICROSCOPE
Meet Dr Megan Rossi (PhD, RD), also known as The Gut Health Doctor (aka your tummy’s new BFF). Lancôme has teamed up with Dr Rossi to spread the word about microbiome science, the study of how communities of microorganisms in our bodies function to optimise our health and wellbeing, as well as support our skin. Lancôme is at the forefront of applying microbiome science to skincare with our trailblazing Advanced Génifique Serum. Meanwhile, Dr Rossi is the founder of The Gut Health Clinic in London and is an expert on the digestive tract’s microbiome. We like to think of our partnership as a meeting of microbiome-obsessed minds!
Dr Rossi studied dietetics at the University of Queensland, Australia, and completed a PhD in gut health before moving to the UK in 2015 to pursue a research fellowship at King’s College London. She founded The Gut Health Clinic in 2019. Her book on the subject of gut health, Eat Yourself Healthy, guides readers through improving health and happiness from the inside out.
GET TO KNOW THE GUT HEALTH DOCTOR
Dr Megan Rossi answers our questions on gut health, microbiome science and what we can do to boost our health and wellbeing, while also supporting our skin.
“It’s not so much you are what you eat, it’s more you are what you digest”
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you become so passionate about gut health?
I grew up on a farm in Australia, so good gut health was inherent to my lifestyle, with lots of playing in dirt and eating fresh produce. In my final year of dietetics studies I lost my grandmother to bowel cancer, which was my first encounter with gut health. As I continued my studies - a PhD looking at the impact the gut has on other organs in the body - and later as a research fellow at King’s College London, I came to understand that a lot of our health and happiness is based on how we treat our inner universe. This completely switched my relationship with the gut. I realised it was an organ that was misunderstood and that I could help others understand their gut better.
Why is good gut health so important?
Gut health is the functioning of our entire nine-metre-long digestive tract. It’s important to note that even if we are putting healthy food into our bodies, if we don’t have a good gut lining, we won’t be able to extract those nutrients efficiently. So, it’s not so much you are what you eat, it’s more you are what you digest. Secondly, 70% of the immune system lives along that nine metres of digestive tract, so our immune system works hand in hand with our gut health. Thirdly, each one of us has trillions of microbes, mostly bacteria, in our gut called gut microbiota - or what I like to call our GM - which play a vital role in our survival as humans, as our GM communicate with our other organs, including the brain and heart. We have the ability to shape our GM - by how we feed and nourish them, which is very empowering.
Would you consider skin appearance as a good indicator of what is going on within our gut?
There’s no single measure to assess gut health. However, a two-way conversation occurs between the trillions of microbes that live in our gut and the billions of microbes that live on our skin. We know that what we eat plays out on our skin. Like every organ in the human body, skin relies on what we feed it.
Lancôme is at the forefront of adapting microbiome science to skincare. Please share your take on the importance of supporting the skin’s microbiome.
The skin’s microbiome, which is made up of billions of microorganisms, including bacteria, acts as a second skin. Those microorganisms do so much for us, like protecting us from environmental aggressions. A stable skin microbiome is thought to be key to the skin barrier function and overall skin health. We are in the early days of understanding the skin microbiome and skin ageing, and there is a lot of research in this field to come.
Lancôme’s Advanced Génifique Serum’s formulation includes prebiotic - and probiotic-derived extracts. Please talk us through how these ingredients differ.
Prebiotics and probiotics are very different. Prebiotics are essentially the foods that feed “good” bacteria. Probiotics are live microbes, mostly bacteria, which have a specific health benefit. We’re at the early stages of understanding how we can manipulate the skin’s microbiome. I take my hat off to Lancôme for doing the hard science and putting their products to the test with independently run clinical trials.
Lifestyle has an impact on our health and wellbeing. Are there simple dietary or lifestyle changes we can make to improve our gut health and boost our skin’s microbiome?
One of the key recommendations I give to people is to try to include as many different plant-based foods in their diet as they can, ideally 30 a week, not just fruits and vegetables, but also wholegrains, nuts, seeds, beans, pulses, herbs and spices. Our gut microbes like to eat lots of different kinds of plant-based foods and fibre. Aside from diet, sleep, relaxation and reducing stress, are also very important to maintain a healthy microbiome.
Are there any particular ingredients you would recommend including in a balanced diet to improve skin appearance?
Looking at nutrition for the skin in particular, we know that a diet with lots of plant-based foods is best for optimal skin health, as the skin is getting Vitamins A, C, E and K, zinc and polyphenols. If I had to pick out top research-backed foods, I’d suggest green tea, at least 70% dark chocolate, cabbage, sweet potato, avocado, walnuts, tomatoes, soy, oily fish and citrus fruits.
The Covid-19 pandemic has turned our lifestyles on their heads. Could this have an impact on gut health?
Stress, a lack of exercise and less sleep can impact the gut microbiome. The best way to address that is to identify the impact the pandemic has had on you. Has it increased your stress levels? Maybe try 15 minutes of mindfulness every day. Maybe it’s lack of exercise. If you’re not moving your body as much, you might think about starting your morning with yoga flow or prioritise going for a walk in a forest to charge up the microbes on your skin. If it is diet, think about writing a rough meal plan, which prioritises adding plant-based foods to your diet.
What is the most comprehensive approach to improving overall skin health and appearance?
Diet, exercise, sleep and relaxation are all important. There is really good science-based research showing that upping your intake of beneficial chemicals found in plant-based foods can play out on skin.
Please talk us through your gut-health routine.
When I wake up in the morning, I take my puppy for a walk in the park. He gets dirty so I come into contact with new microbes. I make some kefir, which is fermented milk that nourishes by GM. I do 10 minutes of gut-directed yoga flow or if I need more chill, I do some mindfulness using an app.
Beyond a comprehensive skincare routine and an adapted diet, are there habits you’d recommend to ensure optimal gut and skin microbiome health?
I think it would be looking after the gut-skin-brain connection. What goes on in our heads can play out in our skin. Our gut, our brain and our skin are all connected. People don't tend to think about that. Mindfulness and yoga may sound a bit hippy-dippy, but taking 15 minutes out every day to practice mindfulness or yoga can have a measurable impact on your health and wellbeing.