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Acne and Gut Health: What to Eat for Clear Skin

May 26, 2021

The link between gut health and clear skin was discovered over 70 years ago, but it’s only recently been verified by modern empirical research, and even more recently accepted by the medical community. While we’ve all heard about kombucha and kale, other foods that are recommended to eat (or avoid) for clear, acne-free skin may surprise you.

How do food and gut health affect acne?

Most of your immune system resides in the gut, along with 300-500 different kinds of bacteria, both good and bad.

Certain foods can lead to gut inflammation and enable bad bacteria to populate the gut, which can influence skin conditions like acne or rosacea in a process known as the “gut-skin-brain axis.”

“When patients come in with concerns about acne or rosacea, we often ask them about their diet,” says our Senior Clinician Ally Cussell, who holds a certificate from the Nutritional Skincare Academy and currently studies Nursing.

Most of us know that sugar can contribute to acne, but as Ally explains, so can high GI foods like white rice, pasta and white bread; “these foods cause a spike in blood sugar levels which leads to a spike in testosterone levels in men and women. Testosterone changes the quality of the sebum, which can lead to more breakouts of acne.”

Other things such as refined carbohydrates, oily foods and alcohol can contribute to gut inflammation which can lead to rosacea flare-ups and acne breakouts.

Certain foods that we often mistake as healthy can also upset your gut. Gluten free and vegan? Many vegan burgers, gluten free breads and crackers contain processed ingredients that contribute to gut inflammation, too.

So which foods can you eat for a healthy gut and a good bacteria population?

The fibre found in leafy greens, such as broccoli, spinach and (of course) kale is very good for gut health. Fermented foods such as kraut, kombucha or kefir can help populate the gut with healthy bacteria. Foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids are also good for the gut, such as fish, nuts and bone-broth. Healthy hint: you can freeze bone broth in portions and add it to stir-fry, sauces and one-pot meals.

More and more, we’re also understanding the importance of prebiotics for gut health and skin. Prebiotics are a type of fibre that isn’t fully digested in your intestinal tract and promotes the growth of good bacteria. Artichokes, asparagus, chickpeas, red kidney beans and cashews are some of the foods that contain prebiotic fibre.

You can also take supplements such as probiotics, glutamine or zinc (but it’s best to double check with your health professional first).

Because your skin also has its own microbiome, products and treatments that use lactic acid and topical probiotics can help reduce inflammation in the skin that contributes to acne and rosacea.

We have a range of treatments and products for acne, rosacea, skin pigmentation and large pores, but we also know that the best results come from combining these treatments with a healthy diet, exercise and a good gut.

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