Constipation and Acne: What’s the Connection?

by TJ Williams, DC, PhD

Symptoms like constipation and acne often occur simultaneously thanks to the gut-skin axis. While conventional medicine typically treats acne with a surface level approach, new research involving the gut-skin axis presents a functional medicine perspective in treating both constipation and acne.

What’s the Connection?

Constipation and acne are often symptoms of two root cause issues: poor detoxification and gut health. For instance, bowel movements are an essential part of detoxification. While your liver does most of the hard work, your gut is responsible for eliminating many of these toxins through the stool. Without regular bowel movements, your detoxification system is suboptimal which may indirectly lead to other symptoms—like acne.

Constipation is also a symptom of poor gut health and gut-related conditions like small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO). When you have an imbalance of gut bacteria, inflammation, or gut permeability (i.e., “leaky gut”), you are more likely to suffer from skin conditions like acne. In fact, up to 78 percent of people with acne may have an imbalance in gut bacteria. What’s more, a study of over 13,000 people found that those with acne were more likely to also experience GI symptoms like constipation. Clearly, there is a link between our skin and our gut health!

How to Treat Constipation and Clear Acne
If you’ve ever had acne, you know that it can be emotionally and financially depleting. While facials and quality skin products can definitely help, it’s also important to make sure you’re creating a solid foundation for a healthy gut and healthy skin.

  1. Eat Enough Fiber
    The majority of Americans fail to meet their daily fiber recommendations. Fiber is a non- digestible carbohydrate that has many benefits for treating both constipation and acne. For instance, fiber provides bulk to your stool and gives it the right consistency for easy and regular passage. Fiber also feeds your friendly gut bacteria and balances your blood sugar levels which can reduce the occurrence of acne breakouts. Aim for at least 25 grams of fiber per day by including lots of fiber-rich foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and seeds.
  2. Drink Enough Water
    If you’re not making a conscious effort to drink water each day, it’s likely that you’re not drinking enough. Water helps to promote regular bowel movements, hydrate the skin, and clear our toxins through your urine. There is no universal requirement for water intake and your needs may vary based on age, gender, health status, and physical activity. However, a good starting place is to drink at least half of your body weight in ounces.
  3. Move Your Body
    Exercise can help both constipation and acne. Moving your body through mild or moderate exercise helps gut motility and promotes regular bowel movements through gravity and contraction of abdominal muscles during exercise. What’s more, exercise also helps balance your blood sugar which may reduce acne flare-ups and hormonal imbalances.
  4. Try a Magnesium Supplement
    Magnesium citrate has a gentle laxative effect that can ease constipation and promote daily bowel movements. Plus, magnesium is also a great nutrient for reducing the effects of stress and encouraging a good night’s sleep. Both stress and poor sleep are associated with worsening acne.

When to Seek Help

Some cases involving constipation and acne require a deeper investigation with personalized testing and tailored treatment plans. If you feel that you have already established a healthy foundation but still experience GI symptoms and/or breakouts, working with a functional medicine practitioner can help.

If you would like more information regarding any of the treatments, therapies, or services offered at The Institute of Natural Health, please contact us at (314) 293-8123 or visit us at INHSTL.com. Dr. TJ Williams is the Clinic Director for the Institute of Natural Health and the host of the radio program Wellness 101, which provides common-sense, science-based strategies for a healthy life. Wellness 101 airs Sundays at 2:00pm on FM NewsTalk 97.1.