An interview with Dr. Kavita Beri
The microbiome is a hot topic of research, and we are beginning to see new studies exploring how commensal organisms may have a positive impact when it comes to skin disease and cosmetics. Dr. Kavita Beri, a physician focusing on aesthetics, has written several interesting review articles highlighting the role of harnessing the microbiome in anti-aging cosmetics while working in the role that natural botanical ingredients might play in achieving this goal. I interviewed her to get a more in-depth take on how these ideas might be harnessed in the clinical setting. She also shared some of her expertise when it comes to connecting eastern and western medical concepts.
Dr. Angelo Landriscina: Hi Dr. Beri! Thank you so much for agreeing to speak with me!You’ve done a lot of writing about the microbiome and the complex interplay betweencommensal microorganisms and the immune system. How did you first become interested in this line of research?
Dr. Kavita Beri: Hi Angelo! The Microbiome is one of the most fascinating topics in current biomedical science, and I believe we are at a turning point in the history of medicine where a missing piece that we as physicians have ignored in previous decades in our understanding of the human body has been brought to light. The body, previously thought of as made up of only eukaryotic cells, is now recognized to be only 40% Human and 60% microbial organisms. The hypothesis that human organs are made of cells in a complex network of intercellular tissue is incomplete without an understanding or consideration of the gut and skin microbial colonies that communicate via host immune pathways and alter homeostatic states in these organs. These microbes that are commensals of the skin and gut from birth to death have existed as long as we have, and they have to be considered as an organ themselves, controlling physiological functions within the host. In my paper inFuture Science, I discuss the influence of the microbiome on the host immune system and how these pathways influence the various physiological functions. There is much more research needed to understand the relationship between host physiology and the functioning of the microbiome.
With current day research we are on a path to unlock many physiological processes that influence this relationship, and we are only at the tip of the iceberg. For decades, western science has been oblivious to the presence of trillions of microorganisms that harness the ability to influence and change the basic functioning and health of its host, their new discovery is an exciting turn of events for the medical field.
You’ve also done a lot of writing about the gut-skin-brain axis. Can you describe for us what this axis entails?
KB: Yes. The Skin-Gut-Brain axis fascinates me. Several articles on the microbiome discussthe role of the host’s environment on the overall state of the microbiome and its symbiosis(healthy state) or dysbiosis (pathological state) with its host. The research I discuss in my last few publications deals with this topic; in Euro Cosmetics magazine, discussing the scalp microbiome, and in the Cosmetics open access journal, talking about effects of natural ingredients. I discuss the influence of the microbiome through the host immune system, connecting neurohumoral pathways as well as innate and adaptive immunity of the host. This axis is complex and needs to be unraveled further. An example of this can be seen in patients with psoriasis and the evidence that an altered gut microbial state can have a strong effect on the mental health of the individual. Several papers I have cited have looked at specific conditions like acne, psoriasis and eczema and the changes in skin and gut microbiome that also have neuro-hormonal effects that alter mental wellbeing.
These papers also bring to light the similarity of an ancient eastern science, a practice of medicine called Ayurveda (The Study of Life) that has always taken a skin-gut- brain approach in treating disease states. Based on their concept of body constitution,“Dosha”, which suggest that the balance of the Dosha is a harmony of the five elements: Earth, Water, Fire, Air and Ether, that make up a living organism and form the fabric of existence. Their balance is important to maintaining a disease-free state. I have connected the balance of the Dosha theory to the symbiotic and dysbiotic relationship in health and a disease state that is shared between the host and the microbiome. This ancient philosophy and science has for decades used concepts of vibrational healing through plants and other methods to harmonize the elements of the body. Many of these remedies include altering diets, use of herbal preparations and lifestyle changes as well techniques like meditation, and sound vibration. I can say this: we are now proving through science what an ancient practice of medicine has been saying all along, that connecting and healing the mind is essential to healing the skin or the gut and vice versa. This is also evident in the skin-gut brain axis, which the microbiome influences. It brings to light the importance of having an integrative outlook when approaching a disease state in clinical practice. I see this being quintessential in my aesthetic practice. The philosophy is simple, aging is a disintegration of the elements and we are looking to find balance between ourselves and the environment we live in, and therefore and integrative mind-body-skin approach is the only way to achieve true graceful aging and rejuvenation.
What do you think are the key principles about the microbiome that dermatologists should keep in mind when it comes to caring for the skin and hair?
I think our understanding of the presence of resident and transient microbes based on environmental factors is essential when considering treatments for scalp-related conditions. Just as we are concerned about balancing the gut microbes for better gut health, recent studies point to the importance of the topicals used on the skin and how their actions and properties can influence the flora of the skin. One can consider the influence of modern cosmetic hair procedures such as coloring or chemical-based treatments, which play a crucial role in altering scalp microbial colonies. The scalp represents a unique environment compared to the rest of the skin, and more research in understanding the influence of cosmetic shampoos and treatments on the overall microbial health is essential in order to guide strategies in treating scalp diseases. In my article on the scalp microbiome, I emphasize the importance and possible role of using plant-based ingredients to maintain balance and symbiosis of the skin microbiome and to reduce the extreme changes that chemicals and anti-microbial shampoos can have on the scalp.
While harnessing the power of the microbiome is a hot topic right now, you take it a step further by suggesting that plant-based ingredients could be helpful in cultivating a healthier profile of commensal organisms. Can you elaborate on this?
KB: Yes, and to me this becomes obvious when we look back by only a decade. As the gut microbiome became an interesting topic for scientist and practitioners, several vegetarian and plant-based diets where looked at which helped in balancing the gut commensal to maintain healthy states. A recent article also discussed the effect of a meat-based diet on mental health conditions like mania, that altered the gut microbiome. It is plausible, given our very recent understanding of the skin microbiome, that it could be positively influenced by plant-based, and minimally processed ingredients in our skin topicals and cosmetics in a similar manner as the gut microbiome.
In the last publication I also discuss and introduce a concept of “vibrational cosmetics,” a new concept that considers the importance of using plants closer to their “’source” in order to have higher vibrational potency. Our recent understanding of an axis skin-gut- brain calls for a new dimension in innovation of cosmetics and beauty treatments.
Vibrational cosmetics stems from the concepts of vibrational medicine that I discuss in a previous publication in the Future Science journal as a new frontier in regenerative medicine. It is a concept that takes into account many healing energies and properties found in nature and which can influence the healing pathways of the body. We come to the conclusion that everything– everything–is connected with the nature we live in.
In your Cosmetics article, you bring up several studies that have shown various botanicals to be helpful in treating inflammation, speeding wound healing, and for other purposes. How can a young dermatologist like myself learn more about the use of these ingredients and start implementing them into patient care?
KB: I do believe there should be a separate section in our basic course material for medical school and residency that focuses on botanical herbs and their effects and influences on skin and gut health. It should form the foundation of our study in pharmacology and clinical applications, not only in dermatology but also internal medicine and almost all clinical specialties. I am a strong proponent of integrative health regardless of your specialty. I also propose the topic of vibrational medicine in basic medical courses and clinical practice. It is a vast topic that includes various philosophies as well as their approaches to heal the bodywith the fundamental concept of “life energy” also known as prana or qi energy.
In your writing, you also note that botanicals should be of a certain quality when used medically. What tips do you have for ensuring that patients can find high quality ingredients?
KB: This is a complex topic, and I have very strong views on the source and presentation of the botanicals used in cosmetics. I believe in open label, simplicity, no preservatives and simple presentation of the ingredients. It does take us back to the old age medicines formulated at the bedside mixing some herbs…but there is a component of healing which is lacking in complex, over-processed formulations in attractive packaging. I do think it is a“lifestyle” approach we must now consider when the microbiome comes into picture…we see their influence on the skin-gut-brain axis. Our approach towards any condition must also be mind-body and skin.
What do you think the next step is in investigating the possible benefits of the use of these botanical ingredients in dermatology?
KB: I believe there should be a strong communication and collaboration between plant biotechnology in biomedical engineering and clinical science. I believe we should go back to the older ancient texts to seek information that has been left out over the decades but is slowly coming to light through medical discoveries and research. I do believe the ancient texts of Ayurveda and Siddha science should be understood in western medicine to help approach a disease-free state in an integrative way.
My future topics focus on the integration of Ayurveda in a modern application with western aesthetics. My next publication, which will be released shortly, is a more thorough look onthe concept of “Vibrational cosmetics”: how microbiome symbiosis can be achieved by harnessing nature’s energy. We currently use Ayurvedic concepts in my spa BE MIND BODY SKIN, where we integrate vibrational medicine with modern day aesthetics and natural plant botanicals. These topics are revolutionary and off the beaten path for most conventional practitioners. However, I believe we must expand our insight and understanding of human existence with its connectivity to the environment in order to“heal” and not just “treat.”
About Dr. Beri: https://nextstepsinderm.com/expert/dr-kavita-beri/
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