Have you been struggling with acne and skin issues for years, maybe decades and still can’t find an answer? I wish I would have known how deep the connection between the gut and clear skin was when I first attempted to figure out my health issues. I would have had an answer much sooner. The funny thing is, this is not new information, just forgotten.
The relationship between gut balance and clear skin can be traced back over 70 years ago when dermatologists John H. Stokes and Donald M. Pillsbury first proposed a connection between depression, anxiety and skin conditions such as acne.
They specifically found that emotional states (stress), like anxiety and depression, have the ability to alter gut flora!
We know that over time, this can compromise intestinal integrity and contribute to a permeable gut (leaky gut) and therefore inflammation. How that inflammation spreads is different for every person as it is systemic, meaning that it can manifest as different symptoms all over the body. For many, it can have a direct effect on the skin.
The Original Remedies for Clear Skin
The remedies that were used by Stokes and Pillsbury is now a widely known and popular bacteria, Lactobacillus acidophilus, also known as the most common strain of probiotic on the market (if you’re looking for a multi strain probiotic, Bio-Kult is an excellent one). The second remedy they used was cod liver oil! We know that cod liver oil contains vitamins for skin conditions as it is rich in A and D, which directly impact the health of the skin.
We also now know that the reason this remedy works is because a healthy gut is where 70-80% of our immunity is. If you have a well functioning digestion system, your overall health is probably better than the majority of the population, meaning that overall inflammation is likely to be much lower in those without gut issues. Although it’s possible to have acne and not have gut issues, it is very rare that I have seen this with my clients. Even when there are no obvious digestive symptoms, I will still work on supporting the gut, and there is always an improvement toward clearer skin.
So how does our gut flora get compromised in the first place? Lots of things can alter the good and bad ratio of bacteria in our system:
- Poor Diet– rich in sugars and carbohydrates, processed/ refined food, caffeine, alcohol, rancid oils and fats.
- Stress– physical, emotional, mental.
- Lack of Sleep- alters cortisol levels, creates stress and weakens the adrenals.
- Medication/ Antibiotics- Even the birth control pill which was used by 67% of young women ages 18-24 in 2008.
- Poor Digestion- Without the proper ability to digest our food thoroughly, this will create toxins and contribute to the load of bad bacteria in our system, adding to the cycle.
- Food Sensitivities- Even healthy food can be damaging if one is reacting to it. You can read more about food sensitivities here.
Psychological Stress and Leaky Gut
As our gut flora changes for the worse, the stomach lining becomes permeable. Leaky gut is well known now, especially in the alternative medicine field, as it is more common today than ever.
This is due to many people experiencing these stressors above on a daily basis. Over time, without addressing these symptoms, our immunity goes down, and more toxins, chemicals, bacteria and even parasites start to compromise the lining of the stomach and seep through to enter the bloodstream.
This is why it is known as “leaky gut”. Emotional stress can lead to the same symptoms. A study in the Journal of Clinical Investigation showed psychological stress disrupts the skin’s antimicrobial barrier, the epidermis, which is our first defense to invaders:
“A large number of skin diseases, including atopic dermatitis and psoriasis, appear to be precipitated or exacerbated by psychological stress . When this happens, infection and inflammation in the skin develops.”
Hydrochloric acid, or HCL, is another well known supplement when it comes to supporting digestion, but turns out it is great for acne as well. The reason for this is because most people who have a compromised digestive system will also be low in HCL, which helps with digestion and maintains the proper pH.
So instead of food fermenting and turning toxic inside of us, it’s actually being used as it should. HCL (sources) is the first line of defense in our stomach to fight off bad bacteria and pathogens from going any further. Our intestines are the biggest reservoir of bacteria in the whole body, particularly in the colon, so we need the proper pH to help maintain an environment where unfriendly germs can’t flourish, but our good bacteria can.
Fix that Gut if You Want Naturally Clear Skin!
Bottom line, if you want clear skin naturally, you need to start from the inside, gut first, not with toxic prescriptions like or chemically laden skincare products for acne prone skin.
The second thing you may want to consider is that most people need to do some sort of gut healing, but timing is everything. If you currently have an infection, or gut parasites present, you don’t want to be throwing probiotics at it, as it will not heal and can exacerbate symptoms.
I suggest working with a practitioner that has experience finding out the real cause of your digestive (or other symptoms) concerns. This means testing. I personally suffered for years with digestive issues and acne, thinking I could figure it out without tests, only to find out that I had two parasites and a nasty bacteria that I needed to have addressed first and foremost. Needless to say I am now an advocate of certain tests as it is crucial to properly address the root problem.
Sources and More Information
Very nice! I love to read your blogs and I really like this article so much. Thanks and keep sharing.
I’m now suspecting kombucha as the cause of my worsened acne. Just recently learned it’s high in fluoride, which can cause acne. Seems counterintuitive since probiotics are supposed to help, but I’ll stick with different fermented foods for now and see what happens.
Never mind, after 2 weeks on fermented cod liver oil my face has quite improved. I did notice one day I ate oily noodles, the next day my chin broke out again, though it had been improving before that. I still get occasional whiteheads, but not as many as before and they seem to heal quickly. It’s weird; through my teen years when I was on the Standard American Diet, I didn’t get as many whiteheads on my cheeks and chin like I have been more recently, but I did perpetually have at least one big pimple on my forehead, nose, or upper lip. I wonder why acne appears in different places and different kinds. It seems like most people who get cheek acne get it on the lower, outer parts, but I never get it there, rather the inner upper parts. I’ve seen those “face maps” but they’re always on beauty blogs and without any evidence backing them up.
Help, I am getting more acne (small Whitehead’s that leave a red mark for weeks) every day! On my cheeks (inner cheekbone area, under eyes) and chin. This is despite taking cod liver oil, eating sauerkraut, kefir, and a bottle of kombucha every day, avoiding vegetable oils, sugar and processed foods, getting enough sleep, not being stressed. I don’t have any allergies but this is getting ridiculous. I don’t know what else could be wrong. I don’t understand how most people my age (21) don’t give a care what they eat yet have perfect skin, and here I am trying my best to eat healthy and am getting breakouts every day.
Lisa J Fletcher
A healthy gut gives rise to the overall healthy body. Clear skin Is also one of an important part of the healthy gut. So it is very important to take care of your gut. bowtrol colon cleanse ingredients are very good for gut health.
Carla, would you be so kind and tell us which test you used to find the parasites? And would you say that once you eradicated the parasites your skin became normal? I have done different type of pcr stool tests and eradicated the parasites that have been found but i have not gotten any relief :/ i think in the majority of people it is quite hard to find “the root cause” with current technology
Totally agree, I also would like to know which tests you recommend. Which doctors should someone go to ? Can you do the test by yourself ?
It’s no wonder some people have poor skin you’ve only got to see what they put in their food trolley at the supermarket! If you follow a healthy diet instead of eating processed and junk food there’s less likelihood of health problems.
If you looked in my food trolley I have all organic fruit and vegetables and eat very healthy! I still have acne!
Comments like yours are mindless and have no fact to them!
I saw a kinesiologist who is working with me to support my gut health after it took a blow from a prolonged period on antibiotics when I was younger.
She believes that my acne is due to this. Other sites back up acne being down to poor gut health which isn’t always just about what we eat!
My kinesiologist said that although I eat super healthy my body isn’t absorbing the nutrients from the food as well as it could be.
Comments like yours just make people with acne feel worse, like its something we are doing to deserve getting it!
An interesting article. If people realised if they look after their health properly then perhaps many of the ailments such as bad skin complexion and acne would not exist.