If you’re struggling with a skin condition, I see you. And I know how frustrating and overwhelming it can be. This week, I’m diving into a new, groundbreaking perspective on skin health and what you can do to optimize it.
The Gut-Skin Connection Everyone Should Know About
But here’s something that a conventional doctor won’t tell you:
“The way your body looks on the outside is a direct reflection of what’s going on on the inside.”
Why? Well, we have to look back at how the body forms in the embryo stage. The same tissue that becomes the skin turns inward and creates the entire digestive tract. For centuries in Traditional Chinese Medicine, they knew the connection between the gut and the skin. But out West that knowledge was limited to the less popular naturopathic medicine.
If you’re like most of my patients, this is news to you. But let me assure you that this connection is well-established. In fact, what we have learned in the last two decades of scientific research is that alterations in the gut microbiome have been connected to a myriad of skin conditions, including:
The authors of one study even explain that the gut microbiota communicate directly with the skin. This is especially true for acne. Studies have shown that intestinal flora is thought to influence acne directly and one possible explanation has to do with a specific pathway in the body called the mTOR pathway. The mTOR pathway controls many aspects of our metabolism and is involved in various diseases — anything from diabetes to obesity to depression. It’s basically a central regulator of metabolism, cell growth, division and survival. Research shows that disruptions in the gut microbiome and leaky gut influence mTOR, which then creates inflammation that aggravates acne.
What I’ve found in my years as a gut doctor is that acne and skin health issues are the outward manifestations of leaky gut and dysbiosis (an imbalance of bad bugs vs. good bugs in the gut); in other words, when you have acne or blemishes it’s a sign that your gut needs some love and attention.
A Contrarian Approach to Skin Health Issues
This might seem like bad news but it actually means that by taking steps to improve gut health, you can improve skin health without prescription drugs or expensive treatments that may or may not work and require constant application. When I see a patient with acne or blemishes in my office, there are three steps I always have them take for skin.
3 Steps to Healthier, Acne-Free Skin
1. Rebalance the Gut Microbiome
Rebalancing the microbiome is all about getting rid of the bad stuff — pathogenic bacteria, parasites, worms and yeast overgrowth — AND encouraging the good stuff, like beneficial bacteria, to grow.
A few years ago I had a patient, let’s call her Emily, who suffered from cystic acne all around her lower cheeks and jawline. A dermatologist would have put her on topicals, oral antibiotics or Spironolactone, a hormone disruptor, and an OB/GYN might have put her on hormonal birth control. Instead, we discovered a yeast overgrowth called candida, which had developed because she was eating way too much sugar, not just as desserts, but also in hidden forms, like chips and pasta.
A yeast overgrowth might sound intimidating but by drastically cutting back on sugar and taking natural antifungals — like caprylic acid and oregano oil — Emily was able to get her acne resolved without turning to prescription drugs. Emily’s case is a great example of how conventional medicine often focuses on treating the symptoms of acne — the blemishes themselves with creams and pills — instead of the underlying cause, which often has everything to do with the gut.
For years we’ve treated acne with antibiotics and birth control and expensive creams and lasers, when really we should have been looking to the gut for the root cause.
2. Avoid Food Sensitivities & Triggers
Drop the dairy!
So, what are the biggest food triggers for acne? The biggest one I see for women is dairy. Research has also backed up this connection, with one study showing that intake of any dairy — including any milk, full-fat dairy, whole milk, low-fat/skim milk, or yogurt — was associated with higher odds of acne, regardless of frequency or amount. The reasons for this connection likely have to do with the hormones and antibiotics sometimes found in dairy, which can especially affect women, as well as the fact that dairy can cause constipation, which as we learned a few months ago when we tackled estrogen dominance, can result in the recirculation of toxins and estrogen in the body, leading to estrogen dominance and acne.
But, there’s one more key step you cannot miss…
3. Heal Leaky Gut
If you’re a person struggling with skin health issues and you haven’t considered the role of your gut in causing these problems, it’s time to take a fresh look at your skin health.
I’ve seen patient after patient retire their expensive face creams, treatments, and prescription medications by simply focusing on the gut and healing acne from the inside out. If you’re struggling with acne or skin health issues, follow the three steps above and see the power of the gut-skin connection for yourself!