Many natural health practitioners (including myself) believe that there is a significant link between digestion and skin health, and that constipation can cause (or at least, be linked to) spots. Here I aim to explain the connection between constipation and skin health, how constipation may cause spots or acne, and look at possible natural remedies to help resolve it.
Spots are a common and irritating problem for many and may well be linked to constipation
What are spots/acne?
Spots and acne are a common skin problem affecting the face, chest and back. They affect a significant proportion of the population, including up to 80% of teenagers and young adults - yet it is also a problem that affects many people into their thirties and forties as well. Acne can be problematic, affecting both the self-confidence and mood of the sufferer.
Conventional medicine predominantly believes that spots and acne are caused by a build-up of sebum (a waxy matter which lubricates the skin and hair), as well as a build up of anaerobic bacteria known as Propionibacterium acnes (P.acnes), which can cause an infection. This build up of sebum is also often linked to hormonal changes; so as you can see there are a number of factors at play! Spots can therefore be caused by hormonal or bacterial imbalances, or interaction between both. Natural health practitioners tend to look at the body as a whole, with all the systems working together, in order to address the potential triggers. As a result, we believe digestive health (which naturally interacts with the body's bacteria, as well as hormones) plays an important role in the health of our skin.
Acne is caused by a build-up of sebum and toxins, which form a inflammatory pustule or papule
Why does constipation cause spots?
One of the most important aspects of passing bowel motion is to eliminate toxins from the body. If you are constipated, it means that the faeces will sit in the colon for a longer period of time, rather than being evacuated, which may allow toxins to be re-absorbed by the body into the bloodstream. The body will naturally attempt to eliminate these toxins by an alternative method, and as the skin is the largest detoxification organ of the body, toxins may be passed out of the skin causing spots and acne.
It is worth noting that acne and constipation do not automatically occur together, but if you are suffering from spots and acne and are keen to find out what may be contributing to the condition, you may like to look at your gut health as a first step. Ask yourself if you are also feeling 'blocked up' - if so, looking towards your gut health may be key to solving your skin health issues.
The gut-skin connection
There is an increasing body of clinical evidence to support the link between our digestive health and its potential impact on the health of our skin. Dermatologists have recognised the gut-skin connection for many years now and have identified that levels of pathogenic (bad) bacteria in our gut many have be a contributing factor in the development of spots and acne.
Evidence suggests that stress alone, or in combination with a high-fat, high-sugar, and low-fibre diet, can lead to alterations in gut motility, leading to constipation as well as affecting the microbiota (gut bacteria) profile.
GP's commonly prescribe antibiotics for the treatment of spots and acne, which can be effective at helping to kill off the pathogenic bacteria. Unfortunately antibiotics are unselective and in the longterm, may lead to an imbalance in the levels of gut bacteria, causing dysbiosis. Dysbiosis itself may then further exacerbate skin problems in the future - so it is important to ensure adequate levels of beneficial bacteria for the sake of your gut.
Nicola has previously written about the importance of including gut health when looking at your beauty regime beauty regime.
Natural remedies for constipation
If you are suffering from constipation, and believe it may be contributing to your spots or acne, you can be reassured that there are many effective natural remedies for helping to resolve constipation. There are some in remedies that are particularly recommended if you are suffering with both constipation and acne which predominantly focus on improving the body's detoxification pathways and elimination of toxins from the body. Some of these simple yet effective natural remedies for helping to reduce constipation include: drinking more water to help prevent dehydration and to rid the body of toxins and encourage bowel motility, as well as including more fresh fruit and vegetables in the diet as a source of both soluble and insoluble fibre to help carry waste out of the body and to reduce the build-up of toxins. There are also a number of natural supplements available such as psyllium, aloe vera and probiotics that one can try to help regulate bowel movements. Read more about natural remedies for constipation here.
Drinking water is important to help flush out toxins from the body and prevent constipation
Using probiotics can be a helpful way to help restore the balance of gut bacteria, and help to remedy any dysbiosis that may be contributing to your spots and acne. Some people may benefit from topically applying beneficial bacteria to help restore the balance and help to soothe their skin. Probiotics also possess potentially anti-inflammatory properties and the ability to modulate the body's immune response, which can be helping in reducing spots and acne. Find out more about the benefits of probiotics in this article by herbalist & naturopath Megan.
Many people swear by colonic hydrotherapy as a useful remedy for constipation, and as a way of helping the body to detoxify toxins. Some people use colonic hydrotherapy as a means to effectively 'kick start' a detox regime. If this is something you may be interested in, we have previously written about colonic hydrotherapy which you can read here.
The bowel is one of the main detoxification pathways of the body and constipation leads to a build-up of toxins
It appears that there can often be a link between constipation and spots & acne. There are of other important factors that may play a causative role in spots and acne such as hormonal balance, blood sugar control and food intolerances (for example it is believed that dairy products can exacerbate spots and acne in some). There are as well various different causes of constipation. However if you are keen to improve the health of your skin and beat the battle against spots, addressing your digestive health and tackling any constipation would definitely be a very good place to start.
Have you noticed a link between your skin health and gut health? Do you think that being constipated or 'blocked up' can be linked to spots or acne? Please let me know by commenting below.
Bowe, W. P & Logan, A,C. 2011. Acne vulgaris, probiotics and the gut-brain-skin axis - back to the future? Gut Pathogens 2011
Peyri J. Topical bacteriotherapy of the skin. J Cutaneous Dis 1912, 30:688-89.
Adebamowo C A, Spiegelman D et al. Milk consumption and acne in adolescent girls. Dermatol Online J 2006, 12:1.