Gut Health and Acne: How Your Microbiome Impacts Your Skin Health
Acne affects more than 50 million people in the United States each year - and more than 85% of adolescents up to the age of 24 have had their fair run-in with acne. Yet, it can look and feel very different from one person to the next. These variations may depend on the severity and the cause, and can be impacted on our level of inflammation, hormone imbalance, or even level of stress. Though common, it can be extremely difficult to narrow down what’s causing your skin to flare up or break out. However, no matter the cause, it is often painful, frustrating, and disheartening.
But let’s start off with a few reminders:
You are beautiful. Period.
Whether your skin has more bad days than good shouldn’t diminish your self-worth. Our skin is constantly exposed to environmental toxins, internal stress, and sometimes - just bad genetics. There is never a reason to let your value depend upon the physical appearance of your skin or your personal chronic issues with acne.
Everybody suffers in one way or another with their skin.
Although clear skin is a great aspiration and can say a lot about your overall health - perfect, poreless, completely smooth skin isn’t normal. Skin should have texture and pores - both of which are instrumental in their ability to defend against pathogens, help us balance our hydration, and expel toxins from our body (like when we sweat). Improving the appearance of skin can do wonders for our self-confidence, but just keep in mind that what we often consider our ‘faults’ are really a way our biology expresses our beautiful, genetic individuality.
However, with that aside - sometimes acne is actually an indicator of something else that is happening beneath the surface of our skin. Rather than telling yourself that suffering from acne is something you just have to deal with - you may be able to reap some valuable insight on where other regions of your body might be struggling.
These days, scientists have found an ‘underground’ link that connects our skin to different parts of our body. And in fact, our skin is quite literally connected to everything inside us through our complex system of nerves, blood vessels, and lymph ducts. Through these various channels, our body transmits a number of signals that correspond with different health issues.
The Ripple Effect
Imagine that moment when you find a perfect lake and have the overwhelming urge to skip a stone across its surface. The moment you toss it into the water, that perfect, glass-like surface suddenly changes on the moment of harsh impact. Then immediately, ripples begin to form that widen and expand. This ‘ripple effect’ is very similar to what happens when something harmful disrupts our body's natural chemistry, or homeostasis. The stone - or disruptive event - immediately impacts the site, but the effects can expand and reach far past the initial source of trauma.
In health, you can imagine the stone as our food. Sometimes, the foods we consume throw a wrench into our gut’s gears and can spike inflammation or alter the normal functioning of our gut microbiome. This impact can then permeate like the ripples in our lake - and travel to our skin and disrupt how well our skin microbes are doing. You might think, well - one stone in such a large lake… Would it really matter?
Perhaps not. But imagine a thousand stones - or a hundred thousand stones - all causing ripples across the lake. Unfortunately, that’s actually a more likely scenario as we rarely consume just one food, one time, that can alter our gut microbiome - and sometimes our environment, our stress, our age, and even our gender can all be responsible for additional thrown stones.
The path from our gut microbiome to our skin is called the Gut-Skin Axis and is an excellent reminder of how connected the foods we consume and the health of our gut can be - not to mention how they can affect areas far outside their reach.
Researchers studying this connection have found an incredible amount of evidence that inflammation stemming from our gut can increase our risk of acne as our skin’s environment alters.
Just like our gut microbes, our skin microbes like a stable and hospitable environment to thrive. And much like our gut microbiome - their balance gives us a number of health benefits. A balanced skin microbiome works to fend off pathogenic bacteria from getting through our skin, and can even keep it shiny, moisturized, and support the health of our skin cells. But when signals from inside us alerting of an internal concern (like inflammation) knock around our skin’s environment, these changes can alter how hospitable our skin is to commensal, beneficial microbes - and actually change our skin’s pH to make it friendlier to pathogens.
It’s often in this way that our Gut-Skin Axis can support acne breakouts, allowing harmful bacteria to colonize.
But as we continue to learn more about these interactions, and just how closely connected our dietary choices are to the health of our gut and our skin… we’re finding more ways to take control of our skin health and adjust it for the better.
Optimizing Our Diet
If you count yourself among those with difficult-to-treat acne and have tried countless topical ointments to no avail, you’re most likely treating the symptom rather than fixing the root cause. One of the simplest ways we can biohack our Gut-Skin Axis is simply by focusing on foods that don’t promote an inflammatory reaction inside us - and that most likely varies from person to person.
In fact, it’s this truth that has made Viome so radically different from other health-focused companies. We don’t just look at how healthy a food is. We actually look at how healthy a food is for you and your gut. What foods might ease inflammation in one person could very likely be the cause for the next. That’s why gambling with your diet isn’t necessarily the best way to overcome your inflamed skin.
But it’s not just foods that can be key to overcoming your skin health. There are a variety of supplements out there that have the potential to help relieve acne, boost your immune system, and improve the overall look and appearance of your skin. Many of the supplements may even be listed in your Viome Precision Supplement line because of their ability to impact other aspects of your health.
Some of the best supplements shown to support skin health include:
Collagen is a protein produced in our skin cells that can help it heal. Oftentimes, acne breakouts can harm our skin and even cause scabbing or sores. Adding an oral supplement of collagen has been shown to be helpful in improving the skin’s ability to heal and even reduce scarring from acne.
In cases where our body has to defend against pathogenic bacteria (inside or outside our body), Zinc is a crucial mineral helpful to boost our immune system’s potential. A number of studies have shown Zinc topically can support our body’s ability to fight acne breakouts, but oral supplementation has also been shown to help dating back since the 1970’s!
Although not always the case, it has been well documented that many individuals with acne suffer from low vitamin D. Thus, researchers have shown that supplementing with it may improve acne in cases where the individual has low level of serum vitamin D.
Acne breakouts tend to destroy the skin cells around the area, promoting the red, inflamed skin we often associate it with. To help keep cells replicating and replace damaged cells, they require a special vitamin known as Niacin to replicate their DNA. Some scientists have found that supplementing with vitamin B3 does have the potential to help cells heal from damage and reduce scarring, typical of acne.
It all stems from the gut, doesn’t it? More and more, we’re seeing how supplementing with probiotics may help alleviate inflammation on the skin that originates from gut dysbiosis. Though not all probiotics may help your specific case, supplementing with probiotics have been shown to help many cases of acne, especially acne resulting from Rosacea. However, understanding where the gaps in your gut microbiome are can lead to a more effective targeted approach - much like through our own Precision Supplement and Pre- and Probiotics line.
Acne doesn’t have to be a life sentence, but even if your condition is difficult to overcome - just remember you are more than the quality of your skin. Each and every one of us is a brilliant individual with complex and multifaceted layers. And no matter if changing your diet and lifestyle doesn’t immediately impact your skin, there are so many more reasons than your skin to follow a path towards optimal health.
But ultimately, and especially, if you’ve felt let down by the countless medications and topical ointments you’ve tried - taking this path might just give you the edge you needed to overcome your current skin health. And maybe - just maybe - even help you appreciate all the other countless biological miracles that make up you and your body.
The information on the Viome website is provided for informational purposes only and with the understanding that Viome is not engaged in rendering medical advice or recommendations. Viome provides this educational information to share the exciting developments being reported in the scientific literature about the human microbiome and your health. Viome products are not intended to diagnose, treat, or prevent any disease.
These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.