Are you struggling to clear your acne even though you’re eating all the right things for skin health? It could be down to how well you digest and absorb all those nutrients from your food. In my practice, I regularly see struggles with bad digestion in people with acne – meaning they have nutrient deficiencies enough though their diet includes all the amazing things their skin needs.
How can this happen, and why does bad digestion contribute to acne? I will break it all down for you (no pun intended), and give you all the tips you need to get rid of acne caused by bad digestion.
What causes issues with digestion in people with acne?
You need to chew your food correctly. Digestion actually starts in our mouth – yes, your saliva contains digestive enzymes!
If you eat super quickly and swallow whole food, your stomach acid will have a hard time breaking it down, meaning fewer nutrients are absorbed. You might think, “but my stomach acid is so acidic, surely the food would just dissolve?”. Unfortunately, that’s not how it works. What will happen is those large bits of food will take much longer to break down (hello bloating & feeling excessively full), and the food particles may pass into the intestines where the gut bacteria feed on it, causing fermentation – and more bloating!
You might have low levels of stomach acid or digestive enzymes. Poor digestive function means that your body won’t be breaking food down into the tiny particles it needs to be able to extract and absorb nutrients, leading to nutrient deficiencies (especially protein, minerals such as iron, zinc and vitamin B12). Low levels of stomach acid can also lead to an increased risk of bacterial overgrowth in the gut, as stomach acid helps to kill bacteria.
You may have a damaged or inflamed gut lining. If the gut lining is irritated or damaged, you may be more prone to loose stools or constipation, which affects the speed at which food moves through the intestines. If it’s too fast or too slow, it can affect the absorption of all the good stuff from our food and throw off the balance of our gut microbiome. In addition, if the small intestine is damaged, you’re likely to have nutrient deficiencies.
Ok, so why do I have poor digestion?
Poor digestion is very common in people with acne, and these digestion issues can occur from multiple causes, including:
Stress for long periods reduces digestive function. You may be more prone to digestive problems while stressed, including feeling constipated or suffering from diarrhoea more often.
Damage to the gut lining can happen if there’s an imbalance in beneficial gut bacteria, you’re eating foods you possibly have intolerances to, or if you have a diagnosis of something like SIBO, IBS, IBD or coeliac disease.
Infections like H. pylori can damage the stomach lining, causing ulcers and neutralising stomach acid, making it less acidic.
Medications such as Proton Pump Inhibitors (like omeprazole) reduce the production of stomach acid, which is protective in certain conditions but can lead to nutrient deficiencies in the long term.
Nutrients such as zinc, magnesium and b vitamins are essential for maintaining healthy stomach acid levels. So low levels of these nutrients can affect stomach acid and lead to further deficiencies. Viscous cycle, right?
Here’s what you can do to optimise your digestion to clear your acne:
You’ll want to rule out that there are no underlying infections if you have symptoms such as burping after food, loss of appetite, nausea, changes in bowel movements or burning/ painful sensations in your stomach. Stool testing, as well as other medical procedures, can help to identify any infections or inflammation within the digestive tract.
It might seem extremely basic, but you must chew your food correctly.
Make time to sit down and eat your food without distractions; this means no scrolling on Instagram, watching tv or being distracted. Being present and aware of the food you’re eating helps the production of digestive juices and allows the body to register that it’s full.
Digestive boosting foods.
If you think about sucking a lemon, you might feel your mouth producing more saliva just at the thought. This is how bitter foods work; they stimulate the production of digestive juices. These foods include:
- Apple cider vinegar
- Dandelion greens
The good news is all the causes of poor digestion discussed can be helped through diet, lifestyle and supplements, helping you clear your acne. Having some testing done, such as stool testing, can help to uncover what’s going on in your digestive tract. From there, supplements and diet changes can be implemented to help restore your digestive function and get you absorbing all the good stuff your skin needs.