The gut microbiome is truly fascinating.
It contains an extensive array of bacteria, fungi, viruses, and protozoa that impact virtually every facet of our existence. In fact, you might be surprised to learn that the gut outnumbers human cells by also 10-fold (which if you think about it, we’re more bacteria than human!).
As researchers devote more time and resources to investigating the myriad of ways the gut microbiome affects humans, they continue to discover just how vitally important the gut microbiome is.
To name a few, the gut microbiome affects mood, immune function, cognition, and metabolism. Today, we highlight one of the lesser-known aspects of physiology impacted by the gut microbiome -- the gut and acne.
The Gut Microbiome & Acne
Acne (aka acne vulgaris) is a skin condition that occurs when your hair follicles become clogged with oil and dead skin cells. The most common spots for breakouts are the face, chest, shoulders, and back. Approximately 79%-95% of adolescents deal with acne in the Western world and 40-54% of adults deal with some degree of facial acne.
Emerging research indicates that the gut can play a mediating role in skin inflammation, and the connection between acne and GI dysfunction may actually begin in the brain.[1,2]
Stress (physical, emotional, and psychological) can adversely affect normal gut function, and, as a result, the gut produces a number of neurotransmitters (including serotonin, acetylcholine, and norepinephrine) that can lead to systemic inflammation.
A growing body of evidence suggests that inflammation is a key contributor to the development of acne.
And here is where we come full circle to the gut-acne connection -- what you eat, as well as what you don’t, has a direct and tangible impact on the composition of your gut microbiome, which ultimately impacts the health, quality, and appearance of your skin.
Studies show that high-fat diets (e.g. typical Western diets) reduce the level of gut flora and increase the concentration of lipopolysaccharides, causing systemic inflammation by impairing gut barrier function and increasing the secretion of pro-inflammatory cytokines.[4,5] Elevated insulin levels, as a result of consuming a high-glycemic load diet (also a hallmark sign of Western diets), is also implicated in the development of acne.
Additionally, individuals with acne possess lower gut microbiota diversity and a higher ratio of Bacteroidetes to Firmicutes, which is a typical microbiome profile of the Western diet.[4,5]
Specifically, researchers noted lower levels of Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, Butyricicoccus, Coprobacillus, and Allobaculum in acne patients. Butyricicoccus, is of particular interest, as it is a species of gut bacteria that generates butyrate -- a short-chain fatty acid (SCFA) which provides energy to cells and prevents mucosal barrier damage and inflammation.
So, what does this mean for you?
Well, if you’re looking to promote healthy, clean, and blemish-free skin, focus on consuming a healthy, nutrient-rich diet centered on lean protein, fruits, veggies, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and healthy fats. Limit your intake of hyper-processed foods and alcohol.
One other thing you can consider is probiotics.
Probiotics (“good” gut bacteria) have garnered a lot of attention in recent years due to the fact that they can support gut health, immune function, and even athletic performance.
But, what about acne?
While research is still ongoing, previously published studies have found that probiotics can help individuals with acne.
For example, A study involving 56 individuals with acne showed that the consumption of a probiotics-enhanced drink improved clinical aspects of acne over 12 weeks.
Specifically, individuals consuming the probiotic drink experienced significant reductions in total lesion (acne) count as well as decreased in sebum production.
Other studies also show that probiotics may help protect skin from UV-ray damage.
Our understanding of the importance of the gut microbiome continues to grow. Immunity, cognition, mood, and skin health are each impacted by the gut microbiome.
With this in mind, it is imperative that we focus on nourishing our bodies, minds, and gut microbiome with a healthy diet, as it ultimately impacts every other facet of our daily lives.
Focus on consuming a healthy diet first, and if you’re looking to further supplement your intake of gut-healthy nutrients, consider using a greens supplement, such as 1UP Greens & Reds Superfood.
Every serving delivers 19 organic greens & reds fruits and vegetables in every scoop along with digestive enzymes, prebiotics (“food” for gut bacteria), and probiotics, including research-backed Lactospore® (heat-stable bacillus coagulans) that supports gut health and body composition goals.
- Bowe WP, Logan AC. Acne vulgaris, probiotics and the gut-brain-skin axis - back to the future? Gut Pathog. 2011 Jan 31;3(1):1. doi: 10.1186/1757-4749-3-1. PMID: 21281494; PMCID: PMC3038963.
- Lee YB, Byun EJ, Kim HS. Potential Role of the Microbiome in Acne: A Comprehensive Review. J Clin Med. 2019 Jul 7;8(7):987. doi: 10.3390/jcm8070987. PMID: 31284694; PMCID: PMC6678709.
- Tanghetti EA. The role of inflammation in the pathology of acne. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2013 Sep;6(9):27-35. PMID: 24062871; PMCID: PMC3780801.
- Deng Y., Wang H., Zhou J., Mou Y., Wang G., Xiong X. Patients with Acne Vulgaris Have a Distinct Gut Microbiota in Comparison with Healthy Controls. Acta Derm. Venereol. 2018;98:783–790. doi: 10.2340/00015555-2968.
- Morales P., Fujio S., Navarrete P., Ugalde J.A., Magne F., Carrasco-Pozo C., Tralma K., Quezada M., Hurtado C., Covarrubias N., et al. Impact of Dietary Lipids on Colonic Function and Microbiota: An Experimental Approach Involving Orlistat-Induced Fat Malabsorption in Human Volunteers. Clin. Transl. Gastroenterol. 2016;7:e161. doi: 10.1038/ctg.2016.20.
- Fiedler F, Stangl GI, Fiedler E, Taube KM. Acne and Nutrition: A Systematic Review. Acta Derm Venereol. 2017 Jan 4;97(1):7-9. doi: 10.2340/00015555-2450. PMID: 27136757.
- Kim J, Ko Y, Park YK, Kim NI, Ha WK, Cho Y. Dietary effect of lactoferrin-enriched fermented milk on skin surface lipid and clinical improvement of acne vulgaris. Nutrition. 2010;26:902–9. doi: 10.1016/j.nut.2010.05.011
- Kober MM, Bowe WP. The effect of probiotics on immune regulation, acne, and photoaging. Int J Womens Dermatol. 2015 Apr 6;1(2):85-89. doi: 10.1016/j.ijwd.2015.02.001. PMID: 28491964; PMCID: PMC5418745.