Acne and the Skin-Gut Connection
We have all heard of the “Brain-Gut” connection, but have you heard of the “Skin-gut” connection? It exists and there are numerous research articles to confirm it.
All Disease Begins In The Gut ~ Hippocrates
How does our gut relate to acne?
Acne is usually a result of hormone imbalance, stress, food reactions, alcohol and digestive complaints. All of these factors affect the immune system. The underlying cause of acne comes from within the body, namely, inflammation. The immune system, which is primarily located in the gut, drives inflammation.
A study published in 2008 found
“that those with acne were more likely to experience symptoms of gastrointestinal distress such as constipation and heartburn. Abdominal bloating was a positive sign of intestinal dysbiosis and inflammation and more likely to be associated with acne.”
So how do we find out what the underlying cause is?
The first step is to become aware of your body’s reaction to certain foods, monthly cycles, stress etc. If you find you are experiencing digestive complaints such as irregular bowel movements, bloating, gas, joint pain, headaches, anxiety or depression, you may have increased intestinal permeabililty(leaky gut). Leaky gut can lead to antigens crossing the gut lumen into the blood stream, thereby weakening the intestinal barrier and creating a stronger immune and inflammatory response. Your whole digestive tract is filled with bacteria and yeast. Everyone has their own distinct microflora which can be affected by antibiotic medication, oral contraceptives, refined sugary foods and alcohol, leading to an imbalance in the levels of these important organsims.
The most common gut irritants are:
grains (mainly gluten containing)
tree nuts (brazil nuts, cashews, walnuts, almonds).
If you notice any symptoms of digestive distress, avoid these foods until you have healed your gut.
How do we heal our gut?
The first stage of healing the gut is clearing the gut of any “bad” bacteria, healing the mucous membranes then replensing it with beneficial bacteria with the possible addition of enzymes to help digest the food. Herbs such as the New Zealand native Horipito is especially helpful in eliminating harmful bacteria. Kawakawa is wonderful in settling an upset stomach as you heal. Aloe vera juice is antimicrobial and mucous membrane healing.
You can increase your beneficial bacteria by including fermented foods into your diet such as kefir, kombucha and saurkreaut. This ancient way of preserving ensures the food is full of beneficial bacterial and active enzymes, which in turn help to lower inflammation, reboot the stress hormones, and detoxify the body. It is best to get professional advice during this time as having too much fermented foods can aggravate certain conditions leading to migraines and an increase in acne.
Supporting the detoxification pathways of the body are extremely important when dealing with acne. The toxins that are passed into the blood stream are sent to the liver to be excreted. If the liver is not functioning properly it can become congested, leading to build up of inflammatory bacteria and toxins. The liver is stimulated by bitter foods (such as dark leafy greens and herbs such as dandelion, yarrow, gentian, feverfew, globe artichoke, andrograpis and golden seal).
By increasing these foods you can take the first step of using food as medicine.
In addition to using food and herbs you also need to apply supportive lifestyle measures. Drinking adequeate amounts of pure filtered water each day will help promote elimiantion and reduce the liklihood of constipation. Make sure you are getting enough sleep. Restorative sleep strenthens the kidneys by allowing them enough time to adequately cleanse the blood and eliminating waste products that would otherwise be excreted via the skin. Engage in restorative and calming exercises such as yoga and t’ai chi to help reduce stress and balance hormone production. Coconut oil used topically is especially beneficial as is antinflammatory and anti-microbial. It may seem counter-intuitive to put oil on your skin (especially if your skin is already oily) but the body will not need to produce as much oil, thereby reducing its output. I have used this technique in clinic with extremely beneficial outcomes.
For an individualised approach to dealing with acne consult a qualified naturopath, nutritionist or medical herbalist to formulate a plan to ensure you will get the best possible outcome.