October 15, 2015

Getting Rid of Acne by Healing Our Guts.

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When I looked in the mirror, I didn’t see a pretty young face in the prime of my life, I just saw the ugly pimples on my cheeks, forehead and chin.

For years, I’d been told that my acne would go away after I got out of my teens, but I was 21 and desperate to confidently show my face without a thick layer of makeup.

I was tired of defining myself by what I saw in the mirror and discouraged after trying every special lotion and soap out there.

Every time I tried a new acne fighting soap I felt hope, convinced that it would finally be the one that cleared my face. But after trying several strong and abrasive soaps, my face just felt raw and my acne got worse.

Next, I gave the natural stuff a try. I tried honey, oils and steam baths but nothing made any difference.

Ready to finally give up, I blamed my genetics and my skin type.

It wasn’t until I began a degree in microbiology and a career as a nutritionist that I was able to answer the question that had driven me crazy for years.

Why do those fancy creams and expensive soaps never get rid of acne for good?

Because they’re not addressing the root cause of acne—a leaky gut.

A leaky gut, or intestinal permeability, is an increasingly common problem related to a myriad of health issues, from IBS and depression to eczema and acne (1-7).

The thing is, every facet of our health is dependent on a strong digestive system and thriving microbiome. But the modern lifestyle of processed foods, excessive antibiotics and chronic stress, wears away at the delicate single-cell intestinal barrier, allowing harmful toxins to enter the bloodstream and initiate an immune response.

Referred to as the “Gut-Skin Connection,” the intricate communication pathways of neurons and hormones from the gut can cause anything from rosacea, wrinkles, eczema and acne if the gut leaks harmful substances and disrupts normal communication.

Finally, I realized that in order to get rid of my acne for good, I had to heal my body from the inside out.

Healing my gut didn’t require frequent trips to the doctor or expensive medications. It required real food, dedication and a little help from some friendly microbes.

Since my own journey of healing my gut, I have guided so many others through the process. It’s not a one-size-fits all program, but the most important part is to nourish your body with real foods to give yourself the ability to heal.

Here is a three step process to get rid of acne by nourishing your body and healing your gut.

1. Remove any damaging foods from your diet, including fast food, processed sugary snacks, anything from a box or bag and substances that irritate your body.

That could include dairy or gluten, for example. These foods will continue to damage your gut so it’s necessary to completely get rid of them.

2. Replace the junk with homemade, healing foods.

While it may seem limiting to eat lots of fresh vegetables, eggs and meat, those don’t have any of the additives that store-bought processed foods contain and are much less likely to damage your gut further.

Essential to healing your gut is homemade bone broth. Drink at least a cup a day because it is full of healing compounds like gelatin that allow your intestines to rebuild.

3. Replenish your microbiome with fermented foods.

Fermentation is a process that allows the beneficial microbes naturally found on everything to grow and flourish, preserving the food by producing acids or alcohols and increasing the probiotic content of the food.

Kefir and sauerkraut are powerful sources of probiotics, (beneficial yeasts and bacteria) that we can eat to improve our digestive system. I’ve been teaching people how to make their own fermented foods for years and am always amazed by the health response.

Our gut is home to trillions of microscopic organisms, collectively called the microbiome, that eat food, take up space and perform specific actions that keep us healthy, such as producing hormones that target the central nervous system to help manage our stress.

They work to seal up holes in a leaky gut and prevent our brain from releasing Substance P, a hormone implicated in acne formation (8-13).

We have the ability to manipulate our microbiome to ensure we have a strong gut and healthy skin.

Since poor quality foods, antibiotics and chronic stress are detrimental to the friendly gut microbes, our intestines can become overrun with pathogens or too much of one species of bacteria.

Eating fermented foods everyday strengthens our gut microbiome, thus strengthening our gut for healthy, glowing skin.

I ditched the expensive face washes years ago because I can confidently show my face knowing my microbial friends are hard at work keeping me healthy.



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  2. Orel, Rok. “Intestinal Microbiota, Probiotics and Prebiotics in Inflammatory Bowel Disease.” World Journal of Gastroenterology WJG (2014): 11505-24.
  3. Silk, D. B. A., A. Davis, J. Vulevic, G. Tzortzis, and G. R. Gibson. “Clinical Trial: The Effects of a Trans-galactooligosaccharide Prebiotic on Faecal Microbiota and Symptoms in Irritable Bowel Syndrome.” Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics: 508-18.
  4. Dash, Sarah, Gerard Clarke, Michael Berk, and Felice N. Jacka. “The Gut Microbiome and Diet in Psychiatry.” Current Opinion in Psychiatry (2015): 1-6.
  5. Tillisch, Kirsten. “The Effects of Gut Microbiota on CNS Function in Humans.” Gut Microbes (2014): 404-10.
  6. Vitetta, Luis, Matthew Bambling, and Hollie Alford. “The Gastrointestinal Tract Microbiome, Probiotics, and Mood.” Inflammopharmacology Inflammopharmacol (2014): 333-39.
  7. Dinan, Timothy G., Catherine Stanton, and John F. Cryan. “Psychobiotics: A Novel Class of Psychotropic.” Biological Psychiatry (2013): 720-26.
  8.  Pavlovic, Sanja, Maria Daniltchenko, Desmond J Tobin, Evelin Hagen, Stephen P Hunt, Burghard F Klapp, Petra C Arck, and Eva M J Peters. “Further Exploring the Brain–Skin Connection: Stress Worsens Dermatitis via Substance P-dependent Neurogenic Inflammation in Mice.” J Investig Dermatol Journal of Investigative Dermatology (2007): 434-46.
  9. Barrett, Kim. “Faculty of 1000 Evaluation for The Bacterial Signal Indole Increases Epithelial-cell Tight-junction Resistance and Attenuates Indicators of Inflammation.” F1000 – Post-publication Peer Review of the Biomedical Literature (2010).
  10. Peng L, Li ZR, Green RS, Holzman IR, Lin J (2009) Butyrate enhances the intestinal barrier by facilitating tight junction assembly via activation of AMP-activated protein kinase in Caco-2 cell monolayers. J Nutr 139: 1619–1625
  11. Plöger, Svenja, Friederike Stumpff, Gregory B. Penner, Jörg-Dieter Schulzke, Gotthold Gäbel, Holger Martens, Zanming Shen, Dorothee Günzel, and Joerg R. Aschenbach. “Microbial Butyrate and Its Role for Barrier Function in the Gastrointestinal Tract.” Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences (2012): 52-59.
  12. Wang, Yan, and Lloyd H. Kasper. “The Role of Microbiome in Central Nervous System Disorders.” Brain, Behavior, and Immunity (2014): 1-12.
  13. Dinan, T. G., and J. F. Cryan. “Melancholic Microbes: A Link between Gut Microbiota and Depression?” Neurogastroenterol. Motil. Neurogastroenterology & Motility (2013): 713-19.



How I Cured my Adult Acne. (Naturally!)

Author: Hayden Smith

Apprentice Editor: Brandie Smith/Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photo: Sammy JayJay/Flickr

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Hayden Smith