You have tried every acne remedy in the book, but those pesky zits just won’t go away. Is something missing from your skincare routine? Not necessarily. Digestive imbalances can also fuel acne flares. Yes, you read that right! Your gut could be the culprit. That is why understanding the gut–skin connection is so essential. It could provide important clues to help you achieve an acne-free complexion.
Know your gut reactions
Colloquially, we use ‘gut’ to refer to the stomach or belly. Physiologically speaking, gut means the intestines. This is where your curry and fruit salads and kombucha get broken down into nutrients and waste.
The gut is also home to a massive ecosystem of microbes. Trillions of bacteria, fungi, and other microorganisms collectively make up the gut microbiome. One of their main functions is protecting the barrier between the intestines and the bloodstream. When barrier health is maintained, only nutrients are released into the bloodstream. Toxins and waste products cannot get past this.
The problem is that sometimes the gut gets ‘leaky’. This happens when harmful bacteria proliferate and outnumber the good bacteria in the gut. Such an imbalance is termed dysbiosis. Because the bad bacteria are reproducing fast, the body’s immune cells kick into gear. This leads to inflammation, which can damage the lining of the intestines. The result? A leaky gut.
When the gut barrier is compromised in this way, toxins, undigested proteins, and other waste products can all leach into the bloodstream. Sometimes, bacterial residue may even travel to the skin. What happens next? That is predictable enough: acne bacteria spreads to the skin, and the skin breaks out.
The gut–skin connection
Imbalances in the gut microbiome can aggravate your acne, but they are not necessarily the sole cause. That being said, some research studies have found a link between gut health and acne. Here are three common effects that gut health might have on your complexion.
Inflammation: Harmful bacteria are abundant when digestive health is poor. The immune system naturally wants to keep these microbes in check. So, it attacks the bad bacteria, which results in inflammation. Remember that acne is already an inflammatory condition. Further inflammation in the body can only worsen your acne symptoms. You may notice more redness, along with zits that take even longer to heal.
- Insulin levels: Nothing good comes from toxins leaking into the bloodstream. Some toxins play havoc with the cells’ ability to absorb insulin from the blood. You are left with high insulin levels, which has serious health impacts. It is bad for acne as well. Too much insulin stimulates sebum production and skin cell growth—both of which lead to clogged pores.
- Stress: Digestive problems are not only uncomfortable but can also spike your stress levels. When this happens, the body produces stress hormones like cortisol. High cortisol levels encourage sebum production, thus raising the risk of acne.
Watch what you eat
If your gut health is lacking and good skin is on your wish-list, your meal planning may need some TLC. Pay close attention to whatever goes on your plate!
- Encourage good bacteria: Ingest good bacteria by adding probiotics like curd, idlis, and paneer to your diet. Prebiotics like pickles, raw veggies, leeks, and onions help the good bacteria to flourish and grow.
Eat for your skin: Brightly coloured vegetables and fruit are rich in
nutrients and easy on the stomach. Get your fix of omega-3 fatty acids through oily fish like mackerel or by munching on walnuts. Anti-inflammatory spices like turmeric, black pepper, and ginger could also calm your tummy.
- Avoid gut irritants: Keep a safe distance from sugary and processed foods, whether candy, carbonated drinks, white bread, pasta, or even alcohol. These foods promote the growth of harmful bacteria. Does dairy make you uncomfortable? Cut it out of your diet to bring down inflammation.
Before making any major dietary changes, make sure to consult a nutritionist. And don’t go on any crash diets—they could prove harsh on your skin.
Slow and steady for clear skin
Optimising your gut health is important, but don’t skip out on skincare. You will need a two-pronged approach. Even as you prep meals for a healthy gut, continue to cleanse, tone, and moisturise your face morning and night. Looking to add an acne fighter to your bathroom cabinet? Power up with Clearica Anti-Acne Cream, which is gentle, lightweight, and super-effective against breakouts.
It could take several weeks for your digestive issues to clear up and for your skin to settle down. Just be patient with your diet and skincare. Your skin will thank you for it!
Disclaimer: This page is for educational and informational purposes only. It is not intended as a recommendation or for diagnostic purposes. Please consult your dermatologist or doctor before acting on any of the information provided here.