The Connection Between Gut Health & The Skin

The link between gut health and skin health has been understood in naturopathic medicine for centuries and can be traced right back to the ancient Greek doctor Hippocrates, who reportedly said… “All disease begins in the gut”.

Modern-day science is now validating what those in the natural medicine field have long known and what I was taught during my naturopathic degree 20-odd years ago. It seems that every day, there is a new study showing the influence gut health has on every part of our health, especially the skin.

But dermatology, like most of the other medical specialities, has been slow to catch onto the gut-skin relationship and is still readily prescribing antibiotics that are terrible for gut health.

Hopefully, dermatologists will soon have gut health in mind when they think of skin health.

The Relationship Between Gut Health and Skin Health

Gut health can affect the skin in a number of ways because when you don’t have the right balance of bacteria in your gut (your microbiome) it:

  • makes you insulin resistant, which can lead to acne
  • slows down hormone and toxin detoxification and causes hormones and toxins to accumulate in your skin. This can trigger acne, dermatitis and eczema
  • causes hormones and toxins to be reabsorbed instead of eliminated as they pass through the gut. This can activate skin inflammation, resulting in rashes, urticaria, acne, eczema and dermatitis
  • interferes with the absorption of important skin vitamins and minerals such as vitamins A and E, and zinc
  • triggers inflammation that can exacerbate acne, dermatitis and rosacea.

So, having good gut health and the right balance of gut bacteria in your microbiome is definitely important if you have skin problems such as acne, rosacea, dermatitis or eczema.

And the gut-skin connection is well supported in the scientific literature. For example –

The journal article Microbiome and Probiotics in Acne Vulgaris—A Narrative Review states that “acne is a disease that can be related to the condition of the digestive tract and its microbiome.” And it further points out that research has shown that the use of probiotics can reduce skin eruptions.

A review article The microbiome and atopic eczema: More than skin deep notes that the gut microbiome plays a significant role in the manifestation of atopic eczema. So therefore positively manipulating the microbiome as suggested in the article Supporting a Healthy Microbiome for the Primary Prevention of Eczema can be a primary treatment for eczema.

And rosacea, long known to be triggered by the gut microbe H.pylori has now been also linked to small intestinal bacterial overgrowth in several journal articles.

Common Skin Conditions Linked to Gut Health

Young Female with Acne Vulgaris
There is a complex interaction between the gut microbiome and the skin which, if dysfunctional, can lead to a range of skin conditions. Here are the most common skin problems that have been directly linked to gut health.


Acne is triggered by the gut through several mechanisms. The first is what’s called dysbiosis. Dysbiosis, to put it simply, is when ‘bad’ gut bacteria have more influence than ‘good’ gut bacteria. The bad gut bacteria produce toxic chemicals that damage the gut barrier and activate inflammation (leaky gut syndrome). This inflammation exacerbates acne.

The second way gut health affects acne is that specific strains of gut bacteria influence the regulation of hormones such as testosterone and insulin. If gut bacteria enhance the production of insulin and testosterone, then it will trigger or worsen acne.


Eczema is strongly associated with disturbances in the gut microbiome’s composition, particularly during infancy. Studies have shown that children with less diverse gut microbiomes or overgrowth of specific bacteria such as Staph.aureus (Golden Staph) are more prone to eczema.

Gut microbial imbalances are thought to disrupt immune system development, resulting in a heightened inflammatory response that manifests as eczema.


Dermatitis covers a broad range of skin issues, including eczema, which is a specific type of atopic dermatitis. It includes most itchy, dry, red and blistering skin conditions. Just as with eczema, rosacea and acne, dermatitis is triggered by poor gut health and imbalances in gut microorganisms.

Gut dysbiosis, leaky gut syndrome, gut infections and poor digestion all contribute to immune system hyperactivation and inflammation that expresses itself on the skin as redness, itching, blisters, rashes and dryness.


As stated earlier in this article rosacea has long been linked to gut health, primarily to H.pylori infection. H.pylori is a bacteria that infects the stomach mucosa and, as with any infection, the body’s inflammatory response is activated and in the case of rosacea this causes facial skin redness.

More recent research on a gut condition called small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) has also linked this condition with rosacea. In SIBO a multitude of bacterial toxins are produced that provoke the body’s immune response, which in the case of rosacea triggers skin inflammation on the face.


Psoriasis is slightly different to acne, eczema and dermatitis in that it is an autoimmune skin condition. Research has shown that the diversity of gut microbes of people with psoriasis is different to those who don’t have it.

As a result of this altered gut microbe environment, gut inflammation hyperstimulates the immune system which disturbs the gut-skin axis causing rapid growth of skin cells that form the distinctive scaley psoriasis patches.

How Gut Health Affects the Skin

Gut Health
Initially, it seemed a far-fetched idea that the gut could affect the skin but when it was discovered that most of a person’s immune system resides in the gut it became very obvious that poor gut health could trigger diseases.

The gut is where the outside world meets the inside world. It is where food goes plus anything else we inhale or ingest. It is the only thing that separates us from the food we eat and the potentially pathogenic microorganisms (bacteria, yeasts, parasites) that inhabit us is the gut wall lining.

The gut lining is a porous membrane that is designed to allow absorption of the life-sustaining nutrients we need (vitamins, minerals, sugars, amino acids, essential fatty acids and short chain fatty acids) and repel pathogens and toxins.

It is a miracle of nature in how it works, but its ability to protect us is being seriously challenged by our modern diet and lifestyle. Medications like anti-inflammatories and antibiotics, stress hormones, artificial colours, sweeteners and preservatives, highly processed sugary foods and dysbiotic organisms chip away at the integrity of the gut barrier.

This causes the gut barrier to break down (leaky gut syndrome) and allows toxic compounds (metabolites) produced by dysbiotic bacteria, such as lipopolysaccharide (LPS), to flood into the body. When LPS enters the bloodstream, it triggers the immune system to fire up because, in ancient times, LPS was a signal to the immune system that bacteria were invading the body.

Chronic inflow of LPS keeps the immune system highly activated initiating a systemic inflammatory response. And depending on the individual this can be expressed on the skin as acne, eczema, dermatitis, rosacea or psoriasis.

Improving Gut Health for Better Skin

Because of the microbiome’s direct influence on skin conditions, it makes it a target for intervention. And there is no easier intervention than diet. Here are some simple and easy diet tips to positively change your microbiome and your skin –

  1. Eat a breakfast bowl-sized serving of fruit or vegetables for every meal. Gut microbes that help heal skin conditions love fibre and polyphenols (the pigments that give plant foods their colour) and fruit and vegetables are loaded with both of these. It doesn’t matter whether they are cooked or raw, just find ways to eat them that you enjoy, other than deep fried!
  2. Eat the colours of the rainbow. Gut bacteria that are good for your skin love to eat polyphenols and different polyphenols feed different types of bacteria. So when you eat a diverse range of coloured plant foods you will feed a diverse range of beneficial gut microbes. For example, get blue from blueberries, red from strawberries or tomatoes, green from spinach or broccoli, purple from eggplants or acai berries, yellow from capsicum/bell pepper, and orange from oranges or carrots.
  3. Eat fermented foods like apple cider vinegar, kombucha, sauerkraut, kimchi and miso. I haven’t included yogurt because dairy can worsen skin conditions such as eczema and acne. Fermented foods contain beneficial microbes as well as short chain fatty acids (SCFAs) like lactic acid and acetic acid that create a healing and antiinflammatory environment in the gut that improves skin health.

Amazingly, eating better is not the only non-supplement way to improve gut and skin health. Here are 4 more ways to improve your gut health:

Adequate Sleep

Getting adequate sleep (more than 7 hours) and sleeping at the right time (asleep by 10 pm and waking between 5-7 am) will improve your microbiome and gut health.

Move Your Body

Exercise, too, improves your gut health. When you move, it naturally massages your bowels and keeps you regular. This has been known for centuries in yoga.

Meditation & Mindfulness

Meditation/mindfulness are great practices to improve gut health because stress can really upset digestive function and the microbiome. Many people notice their gut issues are worse when they are stressed.

Avoid Antibiotics

Avoid antibiotics unless they are absolutely necessary. Antibiotics can be lifesaving, but they are also microbiome-ruining. A course of antibiotics can have long-lasting negative effects, as the good gut microbes tend to be very sensitive to them. If you do need to be on antibiotics, ensure that you follow our antibiotic protocol to help the healthy bacteria bounce back.

Probiotics and Prebiotics: Allies for Skin Health

Probiotics (supplements that contain good gut bacteria) receive most of the attention when it comes to things that you can take to improve your gut health. However, prebiotics (fibres probiotic bacteria eat) are now being seen as possibly more important.

The reason for this is that while there is a mountain of research showing how beneficial probiotic bacteria are. When you take a supplement, you’re only taking an amount that’s just a drop in the bucket compared to how many bacteria already live in your gut.

When you take a prebiotic, you feed the trillions, not billions, of probiotic bacteria you already have in your gut. So if you double their number by feeding them the food that they love, you get so much more impact than you can by taking a probiotic supplement only.

An easy way to understand the role of prebiotics and probiotics is to imagine prebiotics as like fertiliser for your gut microbes. Prebiotic supplements like PHGG, inulin, FOS and GOS are soluble fibres that good bacteria go crazy for and boosts their growth. They are gut bacteria superfoods.

But a great thing is that all plant foods are natural prebiotics too – fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, peas and grains contain prebiotic fibres.

Probiotic supplements on the other hand, supercharge the growth of your own natural good bacteria by creating a gut environment that bad gut bugs hate but your good gut bugs love.

Keeping the gut environment optimal for good gut bacteria is especially important for good skin health. When the gut is healthy, the skin is healthy.

Case Studies, Testimonials, and Research

Testimonial: Brenda

“Before visiting Happy & Healthy Wellbeing Centre, I had been to see 4 or 5 other Naturopath centers where I spent so much money and invested so much time to see absolutely no results with my acne. I finally found this place after seeing recommendations online and it was the best decision and best money I’ve ever spent.

This is the only place that has actually healed my acne, and I’ve got my skin looking great FIRST TIME EVER after years and years of trying EVERYTHING. Both Margaret and Hayden were great; they ran thorough tests that made sense and got to the bottom of the problem rather than shooting in the dark like I felt I had elsewhere.

Based on the results, they prescribed what I needed personally, and sure enough, it worked. I feel I owe them so much, they cleared my skin for my wedding day and got my hormones back on track also aiding in my anxiety. If you’re going to invest to see a Naturopath, this is the place ❤️”


Testimonial: Alanna

“For the past two years, I have suffered from severe stomach cramps, bloating…all the symptoms of Irritable Bowel. When referred to Hayden, I didn’t believe that a change in my diet and some herbal medicine would do much, but after feeling absolutely fantastic for a whole 2 weeks, I started to change my attitude.

Since being on Hayden’s Program, the problems that were once a major nuisance in my life have been kept to a minimum, if not disappeared. I believe that if I hadn’t seen Hayden and listened to his advice, I would have felt as fantastic as I do now!”


Research & Studies

Korean researchers used a combination of probiotic lactic acid bacteria with curcuma longa (turmeric) extract as a symbiotic against the acne-causing skin bacteria C. acnes. They concluded that the combination of probiotic LAB and CLE produced cooperation antibacterial effects against C. acnes

A double-blind clinical trial was performed on men with mild to moderate acne by treating them with an oral supplement containing probiotics, biotin, vitamin E, zinc, nicotinamide, β-sitosterol, and Boswellia serrata extract. At the end of 12 weeks, the men showed clinical improvement based on reducing the Global Acne Grading System (GAGS) score.

Looking After Your Gut

The interconnectedness of the body’s systems is an amazing thing to behold, and this is why it is so important to treat health problems holistically rather than as isolated events. As much as the skin and the gut can seem totally unconnected at first glance, understanding the gut-skin axis is critical to addressing the root cause of skin conditions such as acne, eczema, rosacea, dermatitis and psoriasis.

The skin is a reflection of the internal health of the body, so to fix the skin, you need to fix the gut. Whether that be to –

  • Fix leaky gut
  • Quench gut inflammation
  • Eradicate dysbiosis
  • Boost native probiotic levels
  • Optimise digestion and absorption of nutrients or
  • Modify the diet

So this once ridiculed naturopathic concept of a gut-skin relationship is now backed by hard science in study after study.

Are You Concerned About Your Health?

So, if you have been suffering from a skin issue such as acne, we can help you. As naturopaths, we are experts in the gut-skin relationship and in fixing acne issues naturally and holistically. We have helped more than 1,000 women and men beat their acne by treating the root cause, not just covering it with a Band-Aid.

To get our help, just like YouTube and Instagram influencer Sarah Tilse from Sarah’s Day did is easy, all you need to do is contact us or book an initial consultation with one of our naturopaths.

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