Acne and the Gut... What's the link?

Acne and the Gut… What’s the link?

Acne and the Gut…What’s the link? Our digestive system is a major player when looking at the factors of skin conditions, such as acne, eczema, and psoriasis.

Let’s focus on acne, a common skin condition that affects 85% of the population at some time in their life. It occurs when the hair follicles become plugged with oils and dead skin. Areas most often affected are the face, back, and chest. Plugging of hair follicles creates comedones which block the oil secretion from the cells through the pore.

With the formation of comedones from oil and dead skin cells on the hair follicles, inflammation is created. Inflammation then increases the amount of substance P (neuropeptide that is produced in times of stress) and sebum (oil) feeding the proliferation of bacteria P.acnes. The increase of inflammation and P.acnes leads to the accumulation of neutrophils (immune cells), stimulating phagocytosis. Thus, oxidative stress is generated causing further inflammation and tissue injury.

The combination of increasing inflammation and now oxidative stress disrupts the integral barrier function of epithelial cells. The barrier function of cells is also known as cell permeability. When cell permeability is affected this causes local and systemic inflammation.

The immune system is on high alert because of what is happening to the skin. Because of the immune stimulation, inflammation and oxidative stress are damaging other areas of the body. Specifically, the permeability of our intestinal wall. This is now systemic inflammation which creates dysbiosis of our gut microflora. There are piles and piles of evidence showing a correlation between imbalances of good and bad bacteria and the negative effects shown in our skin.

There is no shortage of lotions, creams, cleansers, and pills on the market to clear your skin but are they getting to the root of the problem? Most of the time, the answer is no.

All of the products that are going on your skin can just be covering up the problem, and perhaps adding to the plugging of skin pores. The pills often miss the mark and instead of healing can contribute to the damage that is happening internally.

Unfortunately, this is a vicious cycle and one that I see often. As a naturopath, I coach people all over the world using a comprehensive plan to get rid of acne. Each person I see is different and therefore the plan I implement for them is unique. But here are some of the tools I use to customize a plan for my patients to help them heal their skin.


1. Comprehensive lab testing

Stool testing – This is the first step to finding out about the health and microbial balance of your gut-ski axis. I recommend a 2-3 day stool analysis or a GI Mapping test.

Blood testing – Immunological blood tests are to assess if the body’s defenses have been breached and signs that your immune system is being tested.  I also review hormones, iron levels, and inflammation responses.

2. Address underlying gut issues

SIBO – Small Intestine Bacteria Overgrowth – when bacteria from the colon finds its way to the small intestines where it should not be. This is normal bacteria growing in the incorrect area.

Dysbiosis – Is an imbalance of good and bad bacteria. Increased amounts of harmful bacteria have been shown as a problem in skin conditions.

Parasites or yeast infections – chronic infections create ongoing inflammation and stress within the body and continue to damage the gut-skin connection.

Hypochlorhydria – decrease stomach acid has been shown to be more common in people with acne.

Leaky gut – all of the above gut issues contribute to increased intestinal permeability. As I mentioned above this is when the inflammation goes systemically throughout our body. (More about leaky gut here)

I use condition-specific natural medicines, diet changes and lifestyle techniques to help the gut and heal the skin from the inside.

3. Avoid foods that damage your skin

Foods that damage your gut, will also damage your skin. So avoid trigger foods as much as possible.

4. Use food to heal your gut-skin axis

Here are some foods I recommend you eat daily

  • Bone broth – its beneficial collagen is known for healing the skin and gut.
  • Fermented vegetables – for that pre & probiotic goodness.
  • Brassica vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, kale, cabbage, and brussels sprouts are rich in indol-3-carbinol which aids the detoxification of the liver and gut.
  • Apple cider vinegar before each meal will help with digestion and absorption of your food.
  • Water – staying hydrated is hugely important.


Acne and the Gut… What’s the link? Find out what is the underlying cause of your acne and address it with a comprehensive plan to help you have clear skin and find the solution you have been looking for.