The Link Between Gut Health and Acne

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Do you ever experience digestive distress?

You know the signs―bloating, gassiness, skipping bowel movements, stomach aches, cramping.

All these are signs of gut imbalance. And can be caused by a good many things including food intolerance, eating food that’s gone bad, taking antibiotics for any reason, taking Accutane, constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, and Crohn’s or Celiac disease.

A woman's hands forming a heart symbol on belly
A woman’s hands forming a heart symbol on belly

Do you ever notice that you break out 24 to 48 after experiencing such discomfort?

If so, that’s because there’s a link between your gut health and acne. What’s more, the longer you ignore the signs of gut imbalance, the more discomfort you’ll experience―and the more breakouts you’ll have.

Why does this happen? Because all systems in our body are interrelated. For example, if you’re lactose intolerant but like having milk in your cereal every morning, that can cause distress in your gut, which creates inflammation, which in turn triggers acne.

If you’re curious about how that chain reaction works and what it means for your skin, let’s dig deeper into what’s happening inside your body.

Living within your gut is an entire universe of bacteria―300 to 500 million!―exhibiting nearly 2 million genes.

Along with viruses and fungi, these tiny beneficial organisms make up your gut microbiome. What’s more, your microbiome is unique, just like your fingerprint. Your initial microbiome was established at birth, from your mother―based on whether you came through the birth canal or she had a c-section, and whether she breastfed you or used formula.

Since then? It’s primarily been influenced by what you ingest, including food, liquids, antibiotics, other prescriptions, contaminants, and toxins. Your lifestyle and stress level also impact your microbiome. Moreover, the bacteria in your gut line your entire gastrointestinal tract―comprised of your mouth, esophagus, stomach, pancreas, liver, gallbladder, small intestine, colon, and rectum. And these bacteria have a direct impact on your metabolism, mood, and immune system.

And this is fascinating to know about your gut…

According to Dr. Lisa Ganjhu, clinical assistant professor of medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center 1., “The gastrointestinal system is more than the body’s primary site of taking in and absorbing nutrients. This system of critical digestive organs also acts as a type of switchboard or communication center to and from the brain, and functions as one of the body’s frontlines in the fight against disease.”

Dr. Ganjhu goes on to say “Our gut plays a major role, not only in our gastrointestinal health, but in the health and well-being of the entire body.”

Another fun fact: Your gut produces more than 90% of your body’s serotonin, the hormone that helps regulate your mood and emotions. “As we might imagine, stress can result in adverse effects on the gastrointestinal tract and the whole body,” Dr. Ganjhu added. “Stress can cause chronic nausea or bloating, and can be a trigger for disease flares or exacerbation of symptoms in people who have irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel syndrome, and other gastrointestinal conditions.”

This is critical information for you to understand about your gut health…and here’s where the link to where your acne comes in.

There is growing evidence that toxins from the gut can enter your circulation system.

Commonly known as “leaky gut”, there are many gut dysfunctions that can contribute to this problem, including the bad bacteria, improper digestion, ingestion of additives and endotoxins from beneficial bacteria, loss of liver detoxification function, and more.

As explained by Joseph Pizzorno, ND2., “One-third of the small molecules in the blood come from bacteria in the gut. Worse, however, is when a patient has overgrowth of particularly unhealthy bacteria, especially Gram-negative, the absorbed lipo-polysaccharides (LPS) are highly toxic with blood levels correlating with many chronic diseases…Aggravating these problems are many food constituents that when improperly digested and absorbed and/or not detoxified by the liver, cause diverse metabolic abnormalities.”

Gut imbalances commonly occur when you take antibiotics prescribed by a dermatologist.

The antibiotics wipe out good and bad bacteria, leaving you vulnerable to toxins entering your system. Accutane use is also known for destroying the gut and depleting it of all beneficial bacteria; it’s not uncommon for someone that has used Accutane more than once to have developed autoimmune disorders such as Crohn’s Disease or Colitis.

Gut imbalance also happens when your diet is off kilter. For example, if you eat foods you have a sensitivity too, such as dairy, nuts or peanuts.

Furthermore, as Pizzorno explains, “Eating foods with gluten grains (wheat, rye, and barley) results in the release of zonulin, which opens up the tight junctions (of your gut membrane walls) allowing free entry of gut constituents.”

When it comes to acne, what’s the result of gut imbalance?

Systemic inflammation in your body from the gut-related toxins circulating in your bloodstream. That systemic inflammation includes your skin, which in turn triggers your acne. If you tend to break out during or after digestive distress, here’s what you can do right away:

Start tracking!

Remember, breakouts triggered by improper gut function typically cause breakouts within 24 to 48 hours of an episode. If you keep a record of what you eat, you’ll be able to zero-in on the foods that are causing the upset to your stomach AND skin.

Ready to clear your acne once and for all? We can help.

From our experience treating thousands of clients, acne usually appears to be triggered by a combination of issues, rather than one. That’s why a typical one-size-fits-all approach rarely works when it comes to clearing and controlling acne over the long run.

If you have tried it all and still have acne, our comprehensive 16-week Online Acne Program is the answer. Our Online Acne Program has a 95% success rate helping thousands of clients get clear. We can help you too!

Get started on your journey to clear by booking an Online Acne Consult today.


    1.   “Your Gut Feeling: A Healthier Digestive System Means a Healthier You.” Dr. Lisa Ganjhu. NYU Langone Health.

    1.   “Toxins From the Gut.” Joseph Pizzorno, ND, Editor in Chief. Integrative Medicine: A Clinician’s Journal. National Institute of Health.

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About the Founder: Jessica Gremley

Jessica has been a Medical Esthetician, Certified Acne Specialist and Healing Diets Coach since 2003. After struggling with acne for more than a decade, she became determined to find a way to clear acne without pharmaceuticals for herself and eventually, future clients. Today, she offers a complete acne regimen that combines proven non-comedogenic skincare products, natural supplements, lifestyle coaching, and support from trained acne specialists to achieve lifelong clear skin. She and her staff serve locally at Natural Acne Clinic in Wheat Ridge, Colorado and nationally via NAC’s Online Acne Program.

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