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Natural Awakenings Chicago

Acne is a Manifestation of Gut Health

May 25, 2016 05:02PM ● By Promila Banerjee, M.D.

The skin is not only the largest organ in our body, but also a key organ of elimination, along with the gut. Post-adolescent acne is almost as frequent as adolescent acne, and that reflects our overall internal state of health and aging. We eliminate toxins through the liver, kidney, lymphatic system and bloodstream, but both the skin and gut provide an extensive surface area and play key roles in the absorption of nutrients and excretion of toxins from food. An unhappy, inflamed skin is a reflection of an unhappy gut.

       The U.S. Centers for Disease Control publication Fourth National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals tested for 212 chemicals and found them all in the blood and urine of most Americans. The toxin overload from food, water, air and products we use on our skin and in the household is linked to a rise in chronic ailments, systemic and skin diseases, obesity, hormonal imbalances and autoimmune diseases. Now, more than ever, there is a need to periodically detoxify the body to maintain overall health and prevent and manage chronic ailments. Nutrition and detox play critical roles in managing acne, rosacea, psoriasis and atopic dermatitis.

       Simple health tips like avoiding dairy, refined sugars and processed foods, along with increased intake of more whole vegetables and fruits, support gut health and reduce overall inflammation, leading to healthier skin and fewer acne breakouts. Probiotics and micronutrients like niacin and zinc also help reduce acne flares.

       If there is gut dysbiosis (imbalance between good and bad bacteria), inadequate elimination of toxins or leaky gut compromising our optimal nutrient absorption, we are more prone to suffer from adult acne. Hormonal imbalances are often a result of such dysbiosis that ultimately compound other gut and skin issues. Conversely, the rising incidence of adult acne parallels an accompanying rise in infertility, hormone imbalance and polycystic ovary; the common link is an unhealthy gut and chronic systemic inflammation. Addressing the underlying hormonal issues, along with the condition of the skin and gut, is important in this group of adult acne sufferers.

       Recent studies have shown a 10 times more common occurrence of small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) among people with acne and rosacea. Forty-six percent reported improvement in their skin condition with treatment of their SIBO. Thus there is growing evidence that probiotics are not only good for gut health, but also good for skin health. A Swedish study comparing allergic versus non-allergic 2-year-olds found that allergic children have less colonization with good bacteria and more pathogenic bacteria, which illustrates the role our gut plays in inflammation and immunity. Subsequent studies have shown that the presence of good bacteria reduces the lifespan of bad bacteria like P. acnes, a critical player in acne.

       Acne sufferers don’t have to settle for teratogenic (linked to birth defects) Acutane or repeated courses of antibiotics, because there are more natural and healthier ways to keep acne from flaring up and enjoy healthy skin. Laser and other light therapies kill P. acne, reduce inflammation and help regenerate healthier skin. Botanical-based peels, at-home simple skin care and sun protection have also proven to be very effective and safe in helping acne-prone skin.

       Most importantly, optimal gut function can address most cases of acne. Hormonal rebalancing, seasonal detox, increased intake of whole foods such as fruits and vegetables, avoidance of dairy, simple sugars and processed food, certain probiotics and regular bowel movements are critical to being acne-free. Breaks from the stress cycle, adequate hydration, exercise and sleep also help support internal health, which leads to a less inflammatory state, and so less acne.


Promila Banerjee, M.D., FACP, founder of Halo Laser and Aesthetic Medicine, located at 281 Waukegan Rd., in Northfield, is a board-certified fellow of American Academy of Anti-Aging. For more information, call 847-260-7300, email [email protected] or visit See ad on page 17.