Meg Hagar, MS, RD, CDN, CHHP
How to Improve Gut Health for Acne
Updated: Sep 4, 2020
If you have cystic acne, you probably are on an endless search about "which acne treatment is best for me?". While there is no specific answer, I can at least help you narrow it down today!
You may also have gut issues- IBS, inflammatory bowel disease, candida, leaky gut or maybe you're not even sure! If you have BOTH digestive problems AND cystic acne, chances are they are probably related. Even if you don't have digestive problems but still have cystic acne, I always start with a gut health diet to improve acne as well!
Luckily, there are some easy things you can start with to optimize gut health- not just for your skin but for your overall health.
1. Try to avoid antibiotics whenever possible. There are plenty of situations where you may really need an antibiotic, such as a severe infection among others. I believe my over-use of antibiotics all my life caused my gut issues I experienced later in life, leaving me susceptible to SIBO, leaky gut AND candida overgrowth. Then, in an endless cycle, these issues exacerbated my acne and made it so much worse. Antibiotics aren't picky when it comes to killing bacteria- meaning that while they work to kill harmful bacteria to clear infections and such, they also kill beneficial bacteria, leaving your immune system susceptible to toxins and microbes that don't belong!
2. Eat plenty of fermented foods. Feeding your gut with beneficial probiotics can help strengthen your immune system and keep your gut environment happy, therefore healing your body from the inside out. Try to have 1 serving of fermented foods every day if you can. Great choices include: probiotic plain yogurt or kefir, apple cider vinegar, kimchi and sauerkraut! If you don't like these foods, work with a Registered Dietitian on if probiotics are appropriate for you. There is a warning that comes along with this to my SIBO/candida sufferers- be sure you're working with a practitioner to eradicate these issues FIRST, as consuming more probiotic foods can actually make these conditions worse if you have an overgrowth of bacteria present! *Fun tip! For acne sufferers, there is new talk of the "skin biome"- meaning the microbial environment on the surface of your skin. Using products with probiotics in them topically may also be great for acne and promoting a beneficial "skin biome"- homemade yogurt masks, apple cider vinegar, etc!
3. Limit exposure to environmental toxins as much as possible. If you live in a suburban area and are able to shop local, I may not be as concerned with eating organic as if you were living somewhere like NYC like I do. Shop local and organic whenever you can. Environmental toxins can come from the air, water or soil our food is grown in, and levels may be higher in urban areas. Although our bodies have natural defense systems in place, if our bodies are working 24/7 at max effort to eliminate some of these toxins we are exposed to- like anything else it'll get run-down eventually. Thus leaving less energy for other tasks such as proper digestion and absorption of nutrients! If buying organic all the time isn't an option, try adopting the Clean 15/Dirty Dozen. You can also use EWG.com to learn about any harmful ingredients that may be in your personal care products.
4. Manage your stress and get plenty of sleep. Easier said than done I know! BUT the fact is that sleep is your body's time to recover and heal. When awake, your body doesn't know the difference between if you're running from a tiger or if your boss pissed you off- either way that response initiates a series of events that put some essential tasks on the back burner- like digestion. If you need help managing stress, check out my post on that here!
5. Eat foods that are whole. What I mean by that is instead of having fruit juice- have a whole piece of fruit. Try not to eat things that are processed/packaged as much as you can. Try to avoid carbohydrates that aren't high in fiber like white bread, white rice, cookies, cakes, doughnuts, biscuits, crackers, etc (unless you're on a specified low fodmap or other therapeutic diet as recommended by your dietitian or doctor!).
6. Try natural digestive enzymes. While digestive enzymes in pill form are recommended for certain individuals, as a place to start, try incorporating more pineapple and papaya into your meals. Perhaps have 1/2 cup serving of pineapple chunks with breakfast for example. These fruits not only contain vitamins and fiber for a healthy gut, but they also naturally contain digestive enzymes to help break down food and enhance absorption.
There you have it! A roundup of 6 easy things for you to start optimizing your gut health for overall health and acne. If you've tried these unsuccessfully or are tired of trying things on your own, it may be a sign you need customized advice and a specific regimen tailoring to YOUR needs. To learn more about how I can help you with that, schedule a Heal Acne for Good Assessment. Or, to learn more about my programs, click here.
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