Gut Health And Your Skin

I received my first facial when I was a junior in college after dealing with terrible cystic acne since my freshman year. I was previously seeing a dermatologist who put me on a medication and harsh creams. The medication made me feel nauseous all the time and the creams completely dried out my face.  

Even though it may have cleared my acne, I eventually became immune to the medication, and was done feeling sick all the time. I also was frustrated that my skin felt irritated all the time.

It felt like each time I went to the dermatologist I was prescribed new things but the doctor was not listening to my concerns; it felt as if they were just trying to clear my acne by stripping my face without finding and clearing up the root of the problem. Eventually, I decided to cut the medications cold turkey and find a more soothing and natural approach.

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At the time, brother’s girlfriend worked part-time at a hair salon in Worcester, and informed me that there was an esthetician renting a space in the shop. At that point I didn’t even know what an esthetician was, but decided to give it a try.

My esthetician, Grace, was a Polish woman who practiced Chinese medicine techniques through skincare.

The facial was amazing, and of course a little painful considering I had A LOT to extract. At the end of the facial she recommended I add barley and/or barley water to my diet, which left me pretty confused. What would eating barley do to my skin? She then informed me that any digestion problems I was experiencing could be related to my breakouts--which definitely made sense.


I felt curious about what all of this could mean and I began to do my own research.

I found that so many foods were triggers for acne, and not to mention the potential cause for my stomach aches.

I became a vegetarian when I went to college, and was eating a diet heavy in tofu. I later found out soy can disrupt hormone function, which was another cause of my acne.

Dairy, fried food, coffee, and alcohol--all college student staples, were also the culprits--so they had to go, or just be consumed very limitedly. It became clear, my hormone imbalance, gut health, and stress were are factors causing my cystic acne, and they undoubtedly were all related.


But how exactly can skin and gut health be linked? Let’s see what science says:


According the Dr. Kellyann,

“the Western Diet is famous for incorporating high amounts of factory farmed animal foods, refined “vegetable” oils, and processed carbs and sugars. This combination is not conducive to a healthy gut and has been shown to reduce the gut’s total bacterial load. But the research on how different types of fats, proteins, and sugars affect the microbiome is mixed. However, we do know that the foods associated with the Western diet are common gut irritants, which can ultimately lead to food sensitivities, food intolerances, food allergies, and systemic inflammation. And these conditions can all lead to skin problems.

“What’s more clear is the fact that the Western Diet lacks fiber from a variety of plant-based foods, such as fruits and vegetables. And since fiber (a.k.a. prebiotics) acts as a 

source of food for the beneficial microbes in your large intestine, diets low in fiber have been shown to negatively affect the gut microbiome.

“Fruits and vegetables are also high in phytonutrients known as polyphenols. These compounds are mostly discussed for their antioxidant properties, but they’re also antibacterial. However, when consumed, studies suggest they help boost beneficial bacteria populations while reducing the concentrations of potentially pathogenic bacteria.

“Plus, fiber is necessary to keep your bowels regular. And good gut motility is essential to a healthy microbiome.

“In relation to stress, gut health, and acne, Dr. Kellyann, states “Physiological stress has been shown to create conditions within the gut that make it more difficult for beneficial bacteria to thrive and more hospitable for pathogenic bacteria. Short bursts of stress are normal and expected. And the bacterial composition of your microbiome is relatively resilient. However, in today’s society, most people are under chronic stress, which can result in a more permanent and harmful cases of dysbiosis.”

Read the full article  here.


This is a great article for learning about what foods to avoid, this article for an overall run down of how gut health and skin is linked, and this for learning about how probiotics can help.


Through regular visits with Grace, some of my own herbal remedies, and a focus on my diet, my acne cleared up within a few months. If you find your skin is plagued with breakouts, hives, rashes, and/or any type of inflammation, and experience any type of stomach issue, you may have a problem with your gut health and/or food sensitivities.



"Breathe it all in. Love it all out"  Mary Oliver