The Gut Microbiome and Acne
The microbes in our gut significantly affect the skin. They are implicated in acne, psoriasis, as well as eczema. In other words, if you have a skin condition, likely the gut is involved.
Our digestive tracts contain trillions of microbes such as bacteria, yeasts, fungi, and viruses. These microbes can produce different metabolites that can be of benefit to us or cause harm.
For example, some strains of bacteria produce a substance called lipopolysaccharide (LPS). LPS causes damage to the intestinal cells, making them leaky, then travel through the blood and cause inflammation throughout the body as well as the skin. As we previously mentioned, inflammation is a critical component of acne, and a very common origin of inflammation is from the gut.
Gut microbes can also stimulate cell turnover or prevent proper turnover. In other words, our bacteria can control the rate at which our skin renews. With acne, usually skin turnover is slower than optimal. This results in dead skin cells plugging up pores, which is one of the steps of acne development.
One of the leading causes of dysbiosis or an imbalance of gut flora besides taking antibiotics is low stomach acid (hypochlorhydria). The most common causes of low stomach acid are medications for heartburn and chronic stress. Both of these factors decrease the amount of acid in the stomach, allowing more bacteria to enter to the digestive tract and overpopulate.
On the other hand, the microbes in our gut can have a positive effect on our skin. Some strains can create beneficial byproducts, such as short-chain fatty acids (SCFA), which are anti-inflammatory to the skin and body. These fatty acids feed the intestinal cells supporting their health and reduce the creation of inflammatory chemicals.
Probiotic supplements, which contain beneficial gut bacteria, have been shown to improve our skin’s barrier function. They do this by increasing transforming growth factor-beta, which is protective to the skin. Studies have also shown that certain bacteria in the gut microbiome can help skin recover after trauma or sunburns.
Also, studies have shown that probiotic supplements have reduced acne in 80% of the people who took them! This finding is very promising news for probiotics and acne.
Understanding if you have an imbalance in your gut flora can be a key factor in resolving your acne and skin issues. Testing such as a complete stool analysis is a great start as it looks at all the different strains of microbes in your gut.
Our Naturopathic Doctors can offer this testing to people all across the country via telemedicine!