Digestive System and Acne : A Guide To Improving Gut Health

digestion and acne

By Vinni

Now more than ever, people of all ages are suffering from the physical and emotion effects of unpredictable acne.  The first thing most people look for is a topical product to fix it all,  but what if acne had more to do with how you eat?

Although simple life style tips like using correct cleansers and creams can help, battling the inflammation in our digestive system in a few ways can be the strongest route to healing acne.

When your digestive tract is impaired, or not regularly emptied, toxins can get absorbed into the blood, and that blood goes to your face, causing skin lesions. Digestive acne appears on the forehead and on the cheeks. There are several things that could be wrong with your gut that could cause acne. You could have a parasite, gut dysbiosis, leaky gut, candida overgrowth, bacterial infection, GERD, or even low stomach acid.

(Before reading further, I suggest you get acquainted with the terms “gut flora”, “stomach acid” and “leaky gut” and “yeast” by doing some research on the internet.)

I myself have had cystic acne on my cheeks after a stomach infection that didn’t heal. I couldn’t understand where the acne was coming from; it was so sudden! I had an outburst of allergies as well. I had developed a fever due to stomach problems, but I was hesitant to take antibiotics, because of their reputation of causing acne.   This is where my acne from poor digestion came from.  

    Take Antibiotics ONLY WHEN NECESSARY For Confirmed Gut Infections

    I went though probiotics to try to relieve my stomach issues but it didn't help because after getting tests done, I actually had an infection that required antibiotics to treat and resolve.  I stress upon this to all acne sufferers. Take antibiotics only when needed. Do not take it just for your acne, but if you have any sort of infection. One course is likely going to cause permanent harm compared to what the infection can do! Take probiotics side by side and after to reduce impact to your digestive health. After about a month of suffering, I was diagnosed with amoebiasis and started taking an antibiotics course for that.  Two days into the course my allergies were gone and so were my bloating and my skin issues.

    Some common long term stomach infections that impair digestion and can lead to ongoing health issues include

    At that moment I wished I had taken antibiotics sooner; then maybe I wouldn’t have suffered for that extra month.    Again, I only recommend antibiotics if you have an infection, not simply for acne and if you suspect an infection, you can request to get tested to rule them out.   

    How To Tell If Your Acne Is From Poor Digestion?

    There are other 3 main questions you can ask yourself in terms of figuring out if your acne is from digestive issues:

    • Do I break out after eating certain foods such as sugar, dairy or meat?
    • Do I experience stomach aches or weird stomach noises after eating certain food? Do I “pass gas” a lot? It’s honestly a serious question. Do you have bad flatulence that smells?
    • How are you my experiences in the toilet? This is a very personal topic but when you go to the bathroom, do you have regular, smooth and natural stool movements? If not, something is wrong with your digestive system which is likely to contribute to your acne.  

    Here’s how you can manage your digestion and acne problems:

    Parasites: Look for symptoms like allergies, skin rashes, bloating, abdominal discomfort, loose stools, extremely light colored stool, fever, itchy and inflamed eyes, anal itching etc. See if your doctor can order a test for parasites for you.  If you have a parasite, you may take a course of antibiotics or a drug that targets worms and protozoans. There are also many natural and herbal remedies that claim to get rid of parasites as well, wormwood and pumpkin seeds being two examples. You can even take neem, which can apparently kill parasites and also remove the toxins they release upon death.

    Candida: Yeast is normally present in the flora in your intestine, but in certain cases the yeast (called Candida) can overgrow and cause an imbalance in your gut flora. Symptoms of candidiasis include vaginal yeast infections, oral thrush, rashes, allergies, brain fog, eczema, etc. Controlling candida can be difficult especially if it’s severe. People usually go on candida diets which include no sugar or carbs for long periods of time, as well as candida-killing supplements. I myself have had vaginal thrush before, but did not know the cause earlier. In order to prevent candidiasis I take a spoon or two of pure virgin coconut oil daily (which also boosts my thyroid) and drink green tea. Coconut oil is known to get rid of yeast.

    Leaky Gut: This basically means that your gut wall is not as impermeable as it should be, and it allows toxins and other particles to enter the bloodstream, causing acne, food allergies, as well as autoimmune disease. There are many articles and books dedicated to healing leaky gut, but the piece of advice I have used, and which has always stuck with me, was to take gelatin. Eating gelatin can heal the walls of your intestine. If you’ve heard of miracle acne cures using just home-made bone broth, it’s because the broth contains gelatin in a highly digestible form, thus healing people’s leaky gut and leading to relief from acne and food allergies. 

    There are different varieties of gelatin and you should read up on which kind to take depending on what your digestive system can handle. Bone broth contains the most easily digestible form. I used to take a teaspoon of gelatin powder and mix into water and then heat it up slightly so it would dissolve. This made for a hassle-free, if awful-tasting, way to eat gelatin.

    Gluten: Gluten is a microscopic protein found in wheat products, such as white or wheat bread, white or wheat flour, cereals, and even most chips. When consumed, the molecular structure of the protein can be far too overwhelming for many people’s digestive system, which can cause bloating, gas, and inflammation to  acne.  

    This is something you can try experimenting with. Most people are able to tolerate gluten, but you could eliminate for a month and if you notice less bloating or more energy, chances are you could have a sensitivity to gluten.  

    Low Stomach Acid: This is a very underrated topic when it comes to the causes of acne. Low stomach acid could contribute to acne, and can be easily fixed, and if this is your cause, you will see immediate relief from your skin troubles. You can tell if you have low stomach acid if you have undigested food in your stool, bloating and flatulence, and acid reflux. Taking apple cider vinegar or HCl supplements are simple and sure-shot ways of increasing your stomach acid and improving your digestion. This might be what changes your skin permanently for the better; try it!

    GERD:  Short for gastroesophageal reflux disease usually due to having too much stomach acid.  This condition can also be caused by chronic stress, or medications like ibuprofen.  This can cause your stomach or esophagus to become inflammed and damaged.  You might notice a burning feeling, pain, bloating or nausea if you have GERD. There are medications to help manage it, but avoiding spicy foods, caffeine, and acidic foods like tomatoes, citrus foods, and raw garlic or onions can help your gut heal if you have GERD.  

    Gut dysbiosis: If you’re on antibiotics for too long, or have taken too many courses, the antibiotics may have killed off too many of your gut bacteria. This is why you can get worse acne after a course of antibiotics.

    You need your gut flora for digesting your food! If you have an imbalanced gut flora it can lead to a variety of health issues, including acne. Low stomach acid can also cause bad bacteria to take over the good ones and might be a cause for dysbiosis. Probiotics are supplements that have beneficial bacteria that you can ingest.

    Some people who take probiotics break out, but for some, it is the cure for their gut and acne. I think taking probiotics is something you should do no matter what because it will lead to overall better digestion and better immunity. Many people don’t realize that the gut flora plays a huge role in the control of the immune system, and acne is, in fact, an immune system inflammatory disorder. Your skin is not supposed to react and swell and get inflamed due to bacteria on your face. Especially in severe cases, healing your gut flora can reduce the severity of your inflammatory response and give relief from painful, deep lesions.

    Constipation:  First, try to find the source of your constipation.  In the meantime, try and get your bowel movements to a minimum of once daily. Taking magnesium, eating fiber and whole foods, increasing water intake, and taking probiotics are all great ways of becoming regular. Be careful not to increase fiber too much if your body is not used to it as it can cause a lot of bloating. Your waste matter cannot keep sitting in your intestine, otherwise, hormones and other matter that was going to be excreted can be reabsorbed. Clean up your colon and regulate it!

    If you feel like your digestion could use some improvement, use all this information to see one of these issues sound like you, and maybe fix your acne from the root of digestion, thus preventing it!

    If you need extra guidance from a professional, we recommend certified nutritionist Dani's Guide to Gut Health


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