Acne: Not Just Skin Deep

Have you covered up with every cream around to prevent your acne from getting worse?

What if I told you it’s what you’re putting inside you that makes the difference?

The Link Between Acne and Gut Health

There is a strong link between gut bacteria balance and the bacterial balance on our skin. This is why some doctors and dermatologists will take the approach of treating acne with antibiotics. It beats the overgrown, acne-causing gut bacteria back into their hole (or kills them off altogether), causing a change in the bacteria on the skin. Antibiotic creams may also be given as part of this approach.

Considering the long-term damage that antibiotics can do, this is considered one of the bigger guns in the fight against acne.

Acne has also been associated with Vitamin A deficiency; which is why some doctors and dermatologists may prescribe drugs like Isotrentinoin (Roaccutane) to improve skin outcomes. These are also controversial because the list of side-effects is quite concerning; a major one being that you go from having acne to possibly developing extremely dry, cracked and peeling skin.

Your acne is gone, but now it’s replaced with another debilitating skin condition!

What About Diet?

There has been a tonne of research into what foods might or might not be a problem for acne.

It has been shown in the evidence that dairy (mainly cow’s milk) is a big contributor to development of acne, particularly in teenagers. This is because of a hormone present in milk called insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1). IGF-1 is the best thing ever for bovine calves – it helps them to grow big and strong and to gain weight quickly.

IGF-1 doesn’t quite work this way in humans.

When we drink cow’s milk, this IGF-1 stops us from processing insulin properly and can result in raised testosterone in the blood. Acne is considered a clinical sign of excess testosterone.

If you decide to remove dairy from your diet, make sure you are getting the calcium you need in other ways.

My top 3 favourite calcium sources are:

  • Tofu
  • Asian Greens such as Bok Choy and Pak Choy
  • Unhulled Tahini

The diet journey doesn’t stop here – there may be food intolerances or other nutrient deficiencies that might also be contributing factors in your case!

Are My Hormones Part of This?


If you’re a female, another approach your doctor may have is to give you an Oral Contraceptive Pill to control your acne. This replaces the hormones you were making yourself with the ones in the Pill you are prescribed. Oral Contraception can be a total lifesaver for some women, and a complete nightmare for others.

Side effects include:

  • weight gain
  • moodiness
  • constantly craving sugar  
  • depression
  • Decreased libido

Not to mention, if you decide to come off the pill in future in order to conceive a child, your acne will be very likely to come back! The Pill can work well, but it can be a band-aid solution.

If you’re PMS-ing big time before every period, bleeding heavily or maybe not having a bleed at all for months at a time, make sure you talk to your doctor about hormone testing. You might have a severe hormonal imbalance that is impacting your acne!

Thankfully, if you don’t want to take the Pill to manage things, there is so much naturopathic medicine can do for you!

Developing a diet designed just for your gut, targeted probiotic prescription and herbal intervention can work wonders for nutrient deficiency, gut flora imbalance and hormone imbalances.

Clear skin, here you come!

  Lauren Booth

Lauren Booth