Acne and gut health- The link explained
Acne is a skin condition that occurs when the hair follicle becomes clogged with sebum (the skin’s
oil) and dead skin cells. The skin organ itself creates sebum and sheds old skin cells (desquamation)
and it’s the internal factors like gut health and hormones, as well as what we use topically that
determine our sebum quality and rate of desquamation that ultimately result in how our skin looks
Acne most commonly presents on the face, neck, back and shoulders. Skin conditions like acne can
be tricky to treat and should involve a holistic approach. Our skin is a very complex organ that needs
to be nourished from the inside, starting with the gut.
Acne is often associated with hormone imbalances and although our hormones play a very
significant role in acne, it is sometimes your gut health that can be the true underlying influence of
your acne presentation.
So, what does ‘gut health’ mean?
Gut health refers to the health state of your gut, comprising mainly the stomach, small intestine,
large intestine, and colon. Throughout the gut we have billions of tiny microorganisms such as
bacteria, yeasts, fungi, and viruses in widely varying amounts. This community of microorganisms is
commonly referred to as the gut microbiome. These microorganisms should live harmoniously
without symptoms, in fact, a healthy gut microbiome should improve your overall health and help
keep your skin clear. For our gut microbiome to work optimally it needs the right nutrients and
environment to be able to carry out its many important jobs.
Research has shown that people with acne tend to have a different gut microbiome compared to
those with no acne. Specifically, they tend to have more harmful bacteria and altered amounts of
other microbes and often have gut symptoms such as bloating, constipation, gas, diarrhoea, pain,
and skin conditions like acne.
How does gut health affect skin?
Foods you eat and how you feel has the capacity to influence your gut microbes in a positive or
negative way. The following are some examples of how the gut microbiome affects skin health:
- A diet high in sugar and processed foods negatively affects the gut microbiome by reducing good bacteria and increasing inflammation that can worsen acne symptoms.
- A low fibre diet has been associated with constipation and decreased beneficial bacteria.
Constipation leads to increased circulating toxins and excess hormones that can exacerbate
acne symptoms. Also, a low fibre diet means fewer short chain fatty acids that are important
for gut health.
- When there is an overgrowth of bad bacteria in the gut (such as SIBO) this can lead to
nutrient deficiencies and essential fatty acid (EFA) malabsorption. Our skin needs EFAs for best sebum quality. Also, if we are not absorbing EFAs efficiently then we are also not absorbing the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K that all play a large role in skin health.
- Chronic stress can change our gut microbiome, in fact, it has been shown that it takes as little as 21 days of stress to negatively change the gut microbiome.
What can you do to help improve your gut health?
While the link between acne and gut health is still growing, there is evidence to suggest that
improving your gut health through dietary changes and specific dietary pre and probiotics may help
improve acne symptoms.
Some helpful dietary changes you can make today to help improve your gut and skin health include:
- Eating a wide variety of plant based foods such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and
seeds. These foods help feed the good bacteria in our gut and helps create an environment
for optimal gut function and improved skin.
- Eat more prebiotic foods like onion, garlic, banana, artichokes, legumes, leek, and asparagus.
These foods help feed and nourish the good bacteria.
- Optimise stomach acid (HCL) production by eating slowly and chewing your food properly.
HCL is essential for the breakdown and absorption of nutrients needed for skin health.
- Reduce stress by doing things you love, that bring you happiness and help you feel calm.
Even if its for 15 minutes a day, try and do something that clears your mind from the
busyness of everyday life such as listening to music, dancing, reading, journaling, walking,
sitting in the sand, gardening, yoga or meditation.
How a naturopath can help
A naturopathic consultation can help get to the root cause of your acne by getting a deep
understanding of your overall health what may be the main internal driver of your acne.
A Complete Digestive Stool Analysis may be recommended by your naturopath if gut health is
suspected as the root cause of your acne. This thorough analysis shows us an in-depth picture of
what is happening inside your gut, what is out of balance and what may need some assistance.
It is important to note that acne is a complex condition with many contributing factors and not all
cases of acne may be related to gut health.
Abby is available for consultation in the clinic or online Wednesdays and Fridays, she has a passion for treating skin conditions and is a wealth of knowledge in all things acne, eczema, psoriasis and perineal dermatitis.
To book your appointment with Abby click HERE