Woman looking in mirror with hands on face

Could spotty skin be linked to your gut?

Bothered by spots on your face or body?

You might not think that acne is connected to what’s going on in your digestive system, but evidence now suggests that gut issues could be an underlying cause of spots.

Is there a leaky gut link?

A major review of studies published in the journal Gut Pathogens in 2011 found evidence that the gut lining may be more permeable than usual in people with acne.1

Your gut is lined with a layer of proteins, meshed together in so-called ‘tight junctions’ at particular points. But in some people, it’s thought the links between the proteins become too loose, allowing foreign substances through the gut lining and into the bloodstream.

The review in Gut Pathogens showed people with acne are more likely to have certain toxins in their bloodstream, indicating what’s known as a ‘leaky gut’ – this may be because the toxins cause inflammation, leading to spots.

The skin-gut connection

There haven’t been any large-scale clinical studies into the link between acne and increased gut permeability, and it’s probably not something your GP would mention as a potential cause of skin problems.

But some experts, such as functional medicine doctors – alternative medicine experts who look at the underlying causes of disease – believe there is a strong connection. A new area of medical research has also started to explore what’s called the ‘gut-skin axis’, in a bid to understand how digestion can interact with and affect your skin.2

How ‘friendly’ bacteria could help

The 2011 review concluded that taking beneficial bacteria supplements may be useful for people with acne. These can help replenish levels of good bacteria in your gut, which may play a role in reducing inflammation.

Also, a healthy community of gut bacteria can help your body release nutrients from food, which help strengthen the gut lining. This could potentially heal a leaky gut and ease spotty skin, although more clinical research is needed.

It’s also important to include lots of fibre-rich foods in your daily diet that feed friendly gut microbes, such as fresh fruit and veg, wholegrains, beans and legumes. Advice is for information only and should not replace medical care. Please consult a doctor or healthcare professional before trying any remedies.

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