The Gut/Acne Connection: Strengthen your Gut to Improve Acne

Do you or your kiddos struggle with acne or other skin issues? What would you say if I told you it’s possible to significantly improve the condition of your skin (or your teen’s) through simple diet changes?

My guess is it would be about a 50/50 reaction between “ya, right” and “well, DUH!” Most of us were told by our all-knowing moms at one point or another when we were young, that eating all that chocolate, or candy, or those dang delicious McDonald’s fries after every high school dance (just me??) was making our acne worse.

Turns out…they were 100% correct. Moms for the win!

Skin issues are closely tied to gut health and your gut is directly affected by what you put into your mouth. If you suffer from acne or other skin issues, there is an excellent chance your gut health could use some help. Helping your gut will naturally help your skin and this can be accomplished with simple changes to your diet…just keep in mind although the changes are simple, sticking to them requires some determination. You don’t get something for nothing. 🙂

Anything that causes a rapid spike in blood sugar can increase inflammation and insulin levela and can lead to excess oil and acne. Things like processed foods, chocolate, candy, McDonald’s fries (dang!), condiments (loads of sugar in ketchup), soda, flavoured yogurt, potatoes,…I could go on and on…are things that quickly change to sugar in the body and cause blood sugar to spike quickly. Acne is caused by inflammation and imbalance in your gut and you absolutely have control over that through what you eat. I think it’s so amazing that we can use food to help heal and control things we have going on in our bodies AND that the changes you make to heal one area can, at the same time, help correct imbalances in other areas of the body…because you’re working to reduce inflammation…naturally.

For me, that’s the key. Naturally.

With everything I’ve learned about gut health and its importance to overall health, the approach we take in our house is always to identify and try heal the root cause with whole foods (by either adding, or eliminating) before reaching for symptom relief from a pill. Why compromise my gut and other systems in my body that I work so hard to keep balanced, for a “quick fix” that may not be necessary, or even fix the problem. As I’ve said before (and will continue to say), there are most certainly times when medications are necessary (I just went through some skin troubles that required a course of antibiotics and I was oh-so-thankful for them), but we’re all looking for the quick fix and are seldom willing to take responsibility and make the effort to fix the problem ourselves. We think it’s easier to go to the doctor and get the pill – and sometimes, it is. But the pill we get usually doesn’t address what is causing the problem in the first place (so it keeps coming back) and can mess with a whole lot more inside the body – ever listen to that looooong list of possible side effects at teh end of a medication commercial? Reality is, acne meds do not work quickly and can wreak havoc inside the body. 

Besides what you’re putting into your body, what’s already going on in there has an effect on your skin health. Leaky gut is a condition where molecules “leak” through the lining of your small intestine and into the bloodstream. This causes an autoimmune reponse in the body, which leads to…you guessed it…inflammation! When you eat foods that promote the growth of bad bacteria in your digestive system, it can lead to an overgrowth of these organisms and increased inflammation. Once again, the foods I called out above that convert to sugar quickly in the body, feed this overgrowth and cause trouble. 

So what can you do?

Eliminate Dairy, Gluten, Sugar, and Alcohol These items are pro-inflammatory in the body and are often the root cause of skin issues – yes, even for those people who say they’re “not allergic” to them. You don’t have to be allergic to something to have it be messing up the balance of your body systems. The easiest way to test to see if foods are affecting your skin is to cut them out completely for 30 days…I warned you it was easier said than done. It’s so worth the pain, though – even after just a couple weeks without these in your diet, you’re likely to see significant improvements. We eliminated these items from my son’s diet (especially dairy) when his acne trouble and redness began in high school and in less than 30 days his skin was almost completely cleared up and the redness had disappeared. After 30 days, you can slowly begin to re-introduce thefoods back into your diet, one at a time, with three to four days in between. Pay close attention to your skin the day or two after re-introduction of a food – if it breaks out, it may be a food you should avoid for good.

Add Gut Healing Foods – bone broth, fermented foods (komucha, kimchi, sauerkraut), and coconut oil (I love it in my coffee!) are foods that promote the growth of good bacteria and help repair and protect the gut lining.

Water, Water, Water! I will never tire of telling folks this little tidbit. Water is beneficial for anything going on in your body. It flushes toxins and helps to transport nutriets from our food throughout the body. Drink half your weight, in ounces, every day.

Lower Stress – Make a concerted effort to find ways to eliminate and/or manage the stress in your life. Chronic stress causes inflammation and compromises the lining of your gut. ‘Nough said.

So now that you know what to focus on, here’s a easy and yummy recipe from This Art Called Life (with some slight modifications) to get you started:

Gut Healing Green Smoothie

Serves 2


  • 1 banana
  • 1/2 avocado
  • 1″ piece ginger
  • large handful fresh spinach or kale
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 scoop plant-based protein powder (I use this one)
  • 2 cups water, coconut water, or nut milk

Optional Additions:

  • 1 scoop L-glutamine (I use this one)
  • small amount of sweetener (honey, stevia, monk fruit)
Add ingredients to a high speed blender and blend on high until smooth. Pour into glasses and enjoy!


Want to learn more about gut health and how it relates to so many things in the body? I’d love to chat about how I can help!




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