The Gut-Skin Connection: Can Your Gut Help You Get Rid of Acne?

The Gut-Skin Connection: Can Your Gut Help You Get Rid of Acne?

Jun 14, 2024Simran Nahata

Whiteheads? Blackheads? Or maybe just inflamed patches on your face. You know what we are talking about. Acne is a common skin condition affecting millions of us and keeping most of us frustrated, even more so when people without the condition recommend us to just wash our faces. Guess we didn’t try that! *eye roll*

While there are different approaches to treating acne, most of them focus on the surface via skincare products forgetting the root cause of the condition which may be our gut and the bacteria it hosts. Emerging research points out that people having acne have a compromised diversity of bacteria, sometimes lacking Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria strains (simply put, less good players). The scientific community has named the gut and skin connection as “the gut-skin axis” albeit the mechanism of the cause of this condition is still understood with the help of different theories. But the important question is: Can your gut really help you get rid of acne? 

Acne happens when pores on the skin get clogged when oil and skin cells block the glands creating a plug (comedone). If the plug’s top is white, it’s a whitehead; if it’s dark, it’s a blackhead. If the bad bacteria (Propionibacterium acnes)get trapped in the plug, it can cause pimples due to the immune system's reaction. Now how does our Gut come into this picture? 

Gut health influences factors such as inflammation and hormone levels, which play a role in the development of acne. Good bacteria produce short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) that maintain a healthy gut barrier. A National Institute of Health (NIH) study showed that without enough good bacteria and SCFAs, the gut becomes more permeable, allowing toxins and inflammatory molecules to enter the bloodstream and potentially contribute to skin inflammation. 

Secondly, Gut microbes produce neurotransmitters (chemical messengers that affect the nervous system and skin function) which could contribute to acne by fueling inflammation. Lastly, the skin, like the gut, has its microbiome. SCFAs produced by gut bacteria may influence the types of bacteria that grow on the skin, affecting acne development.

So YES, your gut can help you get rid of those black and whiteheads, provided it’s healthy. 

The way to a healthy gut and thus healthy skin can begin by 

  • eating a high-fiber diet
  • drinking enough water
  •  including green leafy vegetables (they are the best antioxidants along with fibers and vitamins)
  • Including fermented foods and probiotics
  • Limiting ultra-processed foods

Additionally, certain lifestyle factors like exercise, skincare, and good physical and mental health will work in favor of your skin.

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