The Way to BE

How to Get Radiant Skin: From Acne to Eczema, Kiss Inflammatory Skin Disorders Goodbye!

Whether it is acne or eczema, most skin disorders have one thing in common: inflammation. Inflammation can be triggered in one area of the body and show up somewhere else. So far, research tells us that this phenomenon has to do with two factors.

  1. The immune system
  2. The microorganisms living throughout the body

As it turns out, the microorganisms on the skin play a more important role in the body’s inflammatory signaling than we ever expected.

The microbes found on the skin are just as valuable to the immune system as those lining the walls of the digestive tract.

Cross-Talk Between the Skin and the Gut

In the early 1930s, two dermatologists named John H. Stokes and Donald M. Pillsbury put forth the idea that poor gut ecology may cause things like anxiety, depression, and acne.

In their research, Stokes and Pillsbury found a direct relationship between the health of the gut and the health of the skin. 1 This is known as the gut-skin axis. 2 They developed a protocol that involved the administration of lactobacillus-rich milk and saw much success. 1

kefir-starter_4The skin and the digestive tract have a cross-directional relationship that will affect one another through the health of the immune system. You can drink refreshing coconut water kefir daily, made with the Kefir Starter, and add it to your face wash to support gut, immune, and skin health.

Almost one hundred years later, scientists have found that the work of Stokes and Pillsbury is worth resurrecting. 3 In fact, researchers recently found that skin bacteria can influence the immune system to the same degree as gut bacteria.

According to the gut-skin axis, the digestive tract and the skin have a cross-directional relationship that allows one to affect the other. This happens by way of the immune system. This means the ecology of skin and the microorganisms residing there can trigger a systemic immune response in the body as much as the microbes living in the gastrointestinal tract! 4

There is more cross-talk between the gut and the skin than previously thought.

Microorganisms Help to Create the Skin-Gut Axis

Did you know that your body has more bacteria than human cells? In fact, the bacteria in the body outnumber human cells 10 to 1! 5 And many of these microbes are found in the gastrointestinal tract.

Because gut bacteria have evolved with us through time, they play a prominent role in our health and wellbeing. Some researchers have even referred to the entire microbial community as a “forgotten organ.” 6 Many bacteria protect and nourish the body, while at the same time the human body protects and nourishes bacteria.

When it comes to skin disorders, gut ecology matters! This is because bacteria and yeast can grow unchecked, dominating their habitat. This can irritate the gut and lead to a permeable gut lining, or what is known as leaky gut. Once the lining of the gut becomes permeable, toxins from bacteria or large food particles can ignite a systemic inflammatory response.

A systemic inflammatory response can contribute to various forms of acne and other inflammatory skin disorders, such as eczema and rosacea. 7, 8, 9

Relief for Inflammatory Skin Disorders: Optimize Your Gut and Skin Ecology

The best way to support your overall wellbeing and your immune system is to focus on a healthy inner ecology. This means choosing a diet that is full of fermented foods.

It is essential to eat fermented foods each and every day. These foods are full of beneficial bacteria, or probiotics, that go straight to the gut. The beneficial bacteria available in these foods have been found to support the body beyond digestion. This means that multiple systems benefit, including the skin.

Because the microbes found on the skin are just as valuable to the immune system as those lining the walls of the digestive tract, it is important to also nourish a healthy microbial community on the skin itself.

Throw out your antibacterial soaps and creams -- they strip your skin of its protective microbial inhabitants!

In fact, several studies have shown that topical probiotics reduce the number of lesions and the amount of inflammation associated with severe acne. 10, 11 Beneficial bacteria applied to the skin effectively addresses dandruff, otherwise known as seborrheic dermatitis or cradle cap in infants.12, 13

A few ounces a day of coconut water kefir or a probiotic beverage will help restore the balance of your inner ecosystem. Many of our Body Ecology community members incorporate these into their favorite face mask or face wash.

Remember, if you suffer from a skin disorder, in addition to harmonizing gut ecology, it is essential to nourish skin ecology. Your immune system will thank you!

What To Remember Most About This Article:

Most mild to severe skin disorders, ranging from acne to eczema, are triggered by inflammation. This systemic inflammation is related to the health of the immune system and the microorganisms that live throughout the body.

When it comes to treating skin disorders, gut ecology is critical. Bacteria and yeast can easily dominate and irritate the gut to cause a permeable gut lining, leading to a full body inflammatory response. The gut-skin axis indicates that cross-talk occurs between the gut and the skin; skin bacteria can influence the immune system just as much as gut bacteria!

Since microbes found on the skin are just as vital to your immune health as microbes in the digestive tract, topical probiotics can be used to reduce inflammation associated with severe acne. Beneficial bacteria applied topically can also treat conditions like dandruff, otherwise known as cradle cap in infants.

If you suffer from a skin disorder, it's time to nourish your skin ecology, as well as your gut ecology. Start with a few ounces a day of coconut water kefir or a probiotic beverage to boost your inner ecosystem or add a few drops to your face wash to alleviate a number of chronic skin issues!

  • Kefir Starter

    Kefir Starter

    Better Digestion, Boost Immunity

    Kefir has many benefits, including better digestion of fats, proteins and carbohydrates. It has been known for thousands of years for its anti-aging and immune-enhancing properties.

    Kefir is an ancient cultured food, rich in amino acids, enzymes, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and B vitamins. Kefir means "feel good" in Turkish, and that's just how you'll feel after drinking a glass in the morning! Easy and fun to make at home, it is superior to commercial yogurt. An absolute must after antibiotic use!

    Unlike yogurt, kefir can actually colonize the intestinal tract and is simple and fun to make at home. To make kefir: Mix one packet with 1 quart of warm milk, cover and set at room temperature for 18-24 hours. Refrigerate and enjoy!

    Each packet yields 1 quart of kefir, and can be reused up to 7 times. This means you can create 10 ½ gallons of kefir from one box!

    • Digest fats, proteins and carbohydrates
    • Has anti-aging and immune-enhancing properties
    • Rich in amino acids, enzymes, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and B vitamins
    • An absolute must after antibiotic use


  1. Stokes JH, Pillsbury DH. The effect on the skin of emotional and nervous states: theoretical and practical consideration of a gastrointestinal mechanism. Arch Dermatol Syphilol 1930, 22:962-93.
  2. Zhang H, et al. Risk factors for sebaceous gland diseases and their relationship to gastrointestinal dysfunction in Han adolescents. J Dermatol 2008, 35:555-61.
  3. WP Bowe, et al. Acne vulgaris, probiotics and the gut-brain-skin axis - back to the future? Gut Pathog. 2011 Jan 31;3(1):1 – 11.
  4. S Naik, et al. Compartmentalized Control of Skin Immunity by Resident Commensals. Science. 2012 Jul 26. [Epub ahead of print]
  5. Turnbaugh PJ, Ley RE, Hamady M, Fraser-Liggett CM, Knight R, Gordon JI (2007) The human microbiome project. Nature 449: 804–810
  6. O'Hara AM, et al. The gut flora as a forgotten organ. EMBO Rep. 2006 Jul;7(7):688-93.
  7. Juhlin L, Michaëlsson G: Fibrin microclot formation in patients with acne. Acta Derm Venereol 1983, 63:538-40.
  8. Viana AF, Maciel IS, Dornelles FN, Figueiredo CP, Siqueira JM, Campos MM, et al: Kinin B1 receptors mediate depression-like behavior response in stressed mice treated with systemic E. coli lipopolysaccharide. Neuroinflammation 2010; 7:98.
  9. Parodi A, et al. Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth in rosacea: clinical effectiveness of its eradication. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2008 Jul;6(7):759-64. Epub 2008 May 5.
  10. Pavicic T, et al. Anti-microbial and -inflammatory activity and efficacy of phytosphingosine: an in vitro and in vivo study addressing acne vulgaris. Int J Cosmet Sci. 2007; 29:181-90.
  11. Bowe WP, et al. Inhibition of propionibacterium acnes by bacteriocin-like inhibitory substances (BLIS) produced by Streptococcus salivarius. J Drugs Dermatol. 2006; 5:868-70.
  12. Di Marzio L, Cinque B, De Simone C, Cifone MG. Effect of the lactic acid bacterium Streptococcus thermophilus on ceramide levels in human keratinocytes in vitro and stratum corneum in vivo. J Invest Dermatol. 1999; 113:98-106.
  13. Brook I. Bacterial interference. Crit Rev Microbiol. 1999; 25:155-72.

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  • Ash Nand

    Couldn't agree more, the gut is linked to so many health problems its amazing this isn't widely known. I spent several weeks researching the subject and ended up starting the GAPS diet to fix my ACNE problems.

    Im 3 weeks into it, ive actually started an online blog: to document and track my progress :)

  • Penelope Green

    Totally agree with you Amanda! I'm so tired of hearing people lecture about washing your properly or eating more fresh fruit and vegetables. These things alone do not address the gut problem that is causing acne. I've been on the GAPS diet and have had good results. I tried fermented coconut, but my body seems to the like the kefir coconut water better. I'm not sure why exactly. I wrote about some of my gut/acne experience here:

  • Ruby

    @ Alexis, have you tried water kifer instead of the mill one? Ive heard its better.

  • Jessie

    Hi Alexis, your son might be allergic to salicylates which coconut oil is especially high in, the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital has excellent information on this. Please look into it. Best of luck. Jessie.

  • Kaye Frey

    I'm on BED and also interested in the cocobiotic kefir mask for the rash on my face; what is the recipe and procedure? Thank you so much.

  • Alexis

    Hello! We started the GAPS diet about 3 months ago now because my son has what we think to be eczema on his face. One second his face will seem to clear up, then the next its flaired and red. He drinks a raw milk kekir milkshake every morning with his Bio Kult stirred in. Fermented pickles and salsa with meals, and we only use organic stuff on his skin. On his eczema patch we put manuka honey and coconut oil. I dont know if Im doing something wrong and Im getting real discouraged. If you have any pointers that would be great.

  • Amanda

    Thank you so much for this article! I have been suffering from cystic acne for over 10 years now. Regular doctors and nutritionalists did not help in determining the real problem- parasites! I knew it was an internal (gut/intestine) issue and less to do with the skin on my face but no MD would listen. The only thing that seemed to help were probiotics and acids like apple cider vinegar (after I tried elimination diets for sugar, caffine, eggs and wheat). Now I am on a regimen of colonics, probiotics and other yeast/parasite killing herbs. Clear skin is not just about how well you wash your face or what you eat- its about increasing the good microbes and decreasing the bad ones! (You don't have to live in or travel to a third world country to get parasites- believe me I know!)

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