How many creams and cleansers do you use daily to keep your skin clean? How many do you use to manage or clear up skin conditions like acne, eczema, rosacea, or psoriasis? If you’re anything like the average person, the answer is probably a lot. But what if you could cut down on or stop using these topical products altogether by merely improving your gut health?
Everyone knows you are what you eat, but the relationship between gut health and acne has recently become something a lot more people are wondering about. Dealing with adult acne or other skin conditions is embarrassing, frustrating, and can tank your self-confidence, and topical treatments can only help so much.
The secret to glowing, clear skin may lie in what we eat along with other lifestyle choices that contribute to helping good gut flora thrive.
Let’s take a look at the connection between gut health and skin problems.
You already know that the foods we eat play a critical role in helping us maintain our overall health. The gastrointestinal tract, or GI tract, is responsible for taking in, digesting, and expelling all that we eat, breathe, and swallow. It extracts and absorbs energy and nutrients that fuel our body.
Just like other organs in our body, the skin uses by-products from food for nutrients, vitamins, and amino acids to keep it healthy. It’s also the only organ we can actually see, so it’s easy to get an indication of how our diet, which significantly influences the skin’s appearance, is affecting our gut health.
Anyone who’s had problems with their skin has likely turned to a dermatologist, who in turn prescribes some topical treatment as a plan of attack. While some of these topical solutions may provide relief, very often relief is temporary, or you have to keep using the creams to keep seeing results as they are packed with chemicals.
The issue with topical creams is that they deal with the condition from the outside in. In other words, they attack the problem but fail to address the underlying issue. Healthy skin comes from within, which means that skin treatments should treat what’s going on inside our bodies--specifically our gut.
To understand the relationship between gut problems and digestive acne, we have to take a look at the gut microbiome first.
Think of the gut microbiome as everything that lives in your intestinal tract. It’s like its own little world, made up of billions of microbes that all carry out different roles. Two-thirds of the gut microbiome is unique to each person, which is dependent on the food we eat and the air we breathe, as well as other environmental factors.
The more diverse this two-thirds of gut bacteria is, the better for our overall health. When gut bacteria become destabilized, either by being under or overpopulated, it can negatively impact our health. For example, obesity, cancer, and mental health issues are all problems associated with destabilized gut bacteria.
You guessed it--acne is another issue associated with gut bacteria. It’s specifically linked to a condition called leaky gut syndrome.
Leaky gut syndrome is increased intestinal permeability, which happens when the junctions between the cells of the GI tract, which decrease the permeability of its lining, become loose. This process allows bacteria, as well as other harmful substances, to leak from the small intestine to the bloodstream, resulting in an undesirable inflammatory reaction.
And an increase in inflammation can lead to excess oil and breakouts--which is not such good news for our skin.
Acne vulgaris—regular acne—isn’t the only condition with roots in gut health. Several skin conditions stem from gut health, including severe leaky gut cystic acne and rosacea. Cystic acne is another name for intense breakouts that include pimples, bumps, blackheads, and lots of inflammation. Gut problems and acne can be painful, inconvenient, and embarrassing.
Rosacea is a condition which resembles dry skin but includes inflamed and highly sensitive skin. But rosacea seems to begin in your gut: studies show that patients with rosacea are more likely to have gastrointestinal diseases, too. Plus, some patients see their rosacea improve with gut-healthy dietary changes.
Leaky gut syndrome is a gastrointestinal condition which involves a damaged intestinal lining which can’t perform its job. A leaky gut allows toxins, undigested food, and bacteria to get into your bloodstream instead of passing through your stomach for digestion first.
Essentially, your gut lining allows bad bacteria, such as an overabundance of lipopolysaccharide, to get into your bloodstream and activate multiple immune responses. Over time, you might notice digestive troubles, colon problems, leaky gut acne, and other symptoms.
The underlying cause of leaky gut is still unknown. Some physicians are proponents that diet leads to this condition, specifically foods that cause inflammation in the body like alcohol, dairy, and wheat. Food allergies may also play a role by loosening the tight junctions in the GI tract.
Others point to the abuse of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), like aspirin and ibuprofen, and leaky gut is often present in people who have GI diseases such as IBS, Crohn’s, and celiac disease. Leaky gut and acne are also commonly associated with one another, but the exact cause and effect relationship is still largely unknown.
The good news is that the gut-skin connection means that getting rid of blemishes and pimples may be as simple as making a few diet and lifestyle changes. Keep in mind that each person’s gut microbiome is unique, so what works for one person may not work for you. That said, we do have some general recommendations.
It’s hard to fix an issue if you don’t know what it is. Having labs done is the first step toward fixing leaky gut and acne, and there are two that we recommend. The first is a stool test to rule out any possible infections, and the second is an immunological blood test to find out whether or not you’re actually suffering from leaky gut syndrome.
Your labs may reveal several issues, some of the more common ones being small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), dysbiosis, hypochlorhydria, parasite or yeast infections, and leaky gut syndrome. Once you know what the problem is, consult with your doctor and a nutritionist to develop a plan of attack.
Certain foods damage the gut-skin axis. If you’re looking to improve acne and gut health, it’s wise to avoid them. Some of the main culprits include NSAIDs (anti-inflammatory drugs), antibiotics, alcohol, gluten, and grains. Fried foods, artificial sugars, and spicy dishes can also contribute to your body’s inflammatory response.
When your body reacts to the food you eat, it becomes hypersensitive to potential “invaders.” It also shifts bodily processes into abnormal states; when certain cells or bacteria proliferate, they overwhelm your system and result in skin issues. The foods you eat can also affect your brain’s processes, and the gut brain skin axis dictates how your body responds to potential triggers.
Plenty of foods are beneficial to gut health and can help relieve leaky gut acne, too. Incorporating prebiotics (“food” for healthy bacteria) and probiotics (more good bacteria) into your diet helps balance your gut, but consuming fermented foods is a simple way to get those probiotics into your gut.
Instead of (or in addition to) a probiotic supplement, you can eat fermented food like kimchi, kefir, and sauerkraut as part of a regular, gut-healthy diet. You may also want to seek the advice of a nutritionist who can recommend a personalized diet for optimal gut health.
Undergoing a cleanse can clear your system and “re-set” for a healthier gut. Eliminating toxins, waste, and harmful bacteria primes your gut for optimal health. Learn how to detox naturally by incorporating a few simple steps into your lifestyle.
We also recommend trying a 30 day detox. These types of programs are specially designed to help cleanse your digestive system of toxins and reset your body.
There are many reasons why sleep is critical to our health, and we can add maintaining gut health to that list, too. Healthy gut flora plays an integral part in supporting a natural sleep pattern, and getting a good night’s sleep will help do that. Pretty easy, right?
Better sleep can also help reduce oxidative stress, an imbalance of reactive oxygen and antioxidant responses. Essentially, sleep functions as an antioxidant for your entire system—body and brain. Sleep is a simple way to promote overall health, and all it takes is scheduling a couple extra hours per night.
We don’t need to tout the many benefits of exercise, but one we’d like to talk about is exercise’s role in positively helping alter the gut microbiome. There appears to be a link between higher activity levels and a more diverse microbiome, giving us yet another reason to get off the couch and get moving.
Did you know tea is a healing agent? Here at Teami, we harness the power of tea, along with numerous other plant-based ingredients, to bring you an all-natural, vegan, and cruelty-free skincare line. The best part? This range works in synergy with the guidelines for improving gut health and acne we mentioned above.
Try a green tea detox mask, rich in superfoods and antioxidants and designed to rid pores of impurities. Or, consider a green tea facial scrub made with superfoods.
Tired of the bloating, fatigue, leaky gut acne, and other issues that accompany digestive problems? Now that you know more about the gut skin connection, it’s clear that acne and gut health go hand in hand. Fortunately, incorporating lifestyle changes and making healthy choices can help balance your gut and improve your skin.
Gut health and acne go hand in hand, but you can begin working toward clearer skin and a more energized life with easy dietary and lifestyle tips To care for your gut microbiota—including that good bacteria—check out more Teami content (plus recipes) to navigate your gut-health-mind-body connection!