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Studies Indicate Probiotics Offer Long-term Acne Cure

Suffer from acne? Your gut health may be responsible for your symptoms.
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Do you suffer from acne flare-ups and painful pimples? You don’t have to live with blemished skin. Recent scientific research has indicated that improving gut health from the inside out with the use of probiotics may help clear acne symptoms permanently and leave your skin glowing and clear.

Acne is one of the most-hated skin conditions in the world today. Pimples are not only unsightly, but they can be painful and cause lasting damage to the face. While acne treatments have existed for decades, information on how acne forms is only just now coming to light by scientists and medical professionals.

It turns out, previously-thought beliefs that acne is caused by dirt, oil, and clogged pores are mistaken. Most acne problems start far before these signs emerge- and may even originate in the gut, according to recent studies.

Scientists discovered that a single strain of bacteria, called Propionibacterium acnes, is responsible for the regulation of acne on human skin in the 1970s. Studies indicated that individuals who suffer from acne have a greater concentration of Propionibacterium acnes. Since then, the standard medical treatment for acne has included some form of antibiotic to control the growth of the bacteria on the skin.

Antibiotic treatments for acne

Many common acne treatments include some form of antibiotic- either topical or oral.

Common antibiotic treatments for acne include:

  • Tetracycline-based antibiotics: These are the most common antibacterial treatments for acne.
  • Erythromycin and trimethoprim: These antibiotics are prescribed if tetracycline-based antibiotics have no effect.

A common method to treat acne is to take an antibiotic orally while using a non-antibiotic topical cream, such as Benzoyl peroxide. As of 2004, there were no resistances found to Benzoyl peroxide, which is it often used in combination with antibiotics, as bacteria can build up a resistance to antibiotics over time.  

Do antibiotic treatments last long-term?

There is some debate over whether antibiotic treatments for acne last long-term. A 2011 study published in the Archives of Dermatology studied 83 individuals currently taking antibiotics for acne. The purpose of the study was to identify if taking an antibiotic long-term would cause the bacteria to develop a resistance to the medication. The researchers looked at the prevalence of S aureus in the nose and throat of the patients over a two-month period.

The study indicated that after a period of two months, patients showed a 40 percent resistance to clindamycin, a 44 percent resistance to erythromycin, and a 10 percent resistance to tetracycline. Most antibiotic treatments for acne last between 3 and 4 months, which may indicate a stronger build-up of resistance to acne antibiotics during that period.

According to Patient.co.uk, it is common to need additional maintenance treatment for acne after the initial antibiotic course. Flare-ups are likely to occur again, and some patients must continue a maintenance course of other acne treatment for an additional 4 to 5 years. Extended use of antibiotic treatments for acne is not recommended by the site or most medical professionals.

The case against acne antibiotics

As mentioned by the website Patient.co.uk, continued antibiotic use can lead to antibiotic-resistance in Propionibacterium acnes bacteria. A proposal published on Medscape.com in 2013 by doctors Muneeza Muhammad, BA and Ted Rosen, MD suggested that dermatologists reduce the administration of antibiotics for acne treatment.

The proposal outlined the issue of strengthening P. acnes strains worldwide. The side effects of these antibiotics are also unknown, and may cause other issues in the body. Quoted in the proposal, Medical Director at Courthouse Clinics Dr. Robin Stones says, “"Bacterial resistance to antibiotics is a global problem, which is a cause for serious concern. The emergence of the so-called "superbugs" which are resistant to most antibiotics and therefore difficult to treat is a major threat to health. In many areas of the world more than 50% of acne bacteria are resistant to the antibiotics used to treat the condition and the rates are continuing to rise."    

Rather than treat acne with antibiotics, Rosen and Muhammad suggest alterative treatments in their publication, such as photodynamic light therapy. This treatment emits blue light wavelengths in 420nm, which kills acne bacteria without damaging the skin. P. acnes bacteria create a chemical known as porphyrin. When porphyrin is exposed to light at this wavelength, the material becomes active, which destroys P. acne bacteria without the use of antibiotics. 

Can antibiotics cause acne?

Antibiotics are an effective treatment for acne that has worked for several decades. However, there is little research available about what happens to acne patients after they stop taking antibiotics. Anecdotal evidence suggests that acne problems may become worse after a round of antibiotic treatment due to the stripping of any bacteria that may support the control of P. acne bacteria. One scientific study backs these anecdotal reports.

A 1999 study conducted by Leeds General Infirmary in the UK showed that 82 percent of women over the age of 25 suffering from persistent acne vulgaris failed therapy with multiple courses of antibiotics. 32 percent of women showed signs of acne flare-ups after one or more oral isotretinoin treatments.

There are few (if any) studies that follow-up with acne patients months or years after treatment. However, the information available suggests that antibiotic treatment for acne may not work as a long-term solution, and may even make future acne flare-ups worse.

How can antibiotics make skin worse?

As outlined above, most acne outbreaks are caused by an imbalance of P. acne bacteria on the skin. However, recent research has shown that not all P. acne strains are bad. In fact, a 2013 study conducted by the University of California, Los Angeles, showed that while some P.acne strains cause acne for form, certain strains of the bacteria actually fight acne. According to the researchers, “One particular strain of P. acnes might actually protect the host from developing acne.”

Another 2013 study conducted by UCLA and the University of Washington examined the P. acne bacteria further. This study found that not only do acne sufferers show signs of more “bad” P. acne strains, individuals with clear skin showed a greater prevalence of one particular P. acne strain that the participants with acne had much less of. According to researcher Huiying Li, "This P. acnes strain may protect the skin, much like yogurt's live bacteria help defend the gut from harmful bugs.”

Killing all of the P. acne bacterial strains may lead to an overabundance of the strains that lead to increased acne outbreaks after treatment is ended.

Studies linking gut health with reduced acne symptoms

There have been many studies linking clear skin to a healthy gut. A 2011 study conducted by the State University of New York Downstate Medical Center studied the link between gut health and acne. The researchers found that in 114 acne patients, 54 percent suffered from small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO). The researchers divided the SIBO participants into two groups and gave half ‘intestinal microflora-correcting agents.’ The patients taking the microflora-correcting agents had acne symptoms that cleared twice as fast as the SIBO group not taking probiotic supplements.

A 2011 Korean study conducted by Korea University showed that participants who consumed Lactobacillus-fermented dairy beverages saw inflammatory acne symptoms reduced by 40 percent, and pimple count reduced by 23 percent.

A less-clear study from 2012 conducted by the B.P.Koirala Institute of Health Sciences, showed that Acne rosacea patients were 10 times as likely to suffer from SIBO. When the patients took antibiotics to clear SIBO, rosacea skin symptoms cleared for 71 percent of the patients. The study could not clearly show whether the symptoms clearing came as a direct result from clearing SIBO, however.

A 2013 study conducted by the Department of Medicine, University of Alberta, supplemented acne antibiotic treatments with probiotics in 30 women suffering from acne. After four weeks, all women taking probiotic treatments showed a reduction in acne lesion. The group taking both antibiotics and probiotics showed the greatest improvement over the group taking probiotics alone and antibiotics alone. The study concluded, “Probiotics may be considered a therapeutic option or adjunct for acne vulgaris by providing a synergistic anti inflammatory effect with systemic antibiotics while also reducing potential adverse events secondary to chronic antibiotic use.”

Take probiotics to minimize acne symptoms and improve gut health

Although most studies relating probiotics to improvement in acne is recent, resulting studies indicate that there is a much stronger link between acne and gut health than previously thought. Antibiotics destroy the balance of bacteria in the gut because they indiscriminately kill all bacteria present in the body. Taking a daily probiotic supplement will help restore the bacterial balance in your gut and help control the prevalence of the bad P. acne bacterial strains.

Antibiotics alone are not responsible for interrupting healthy gut function. Other factors can cause problems as well.

Factors that Interfere with Gut Health
  • Stress
  • Low stomach acid
  • Lack of fiber
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Processed foods
  • Chemicals
  • A diet lacking in fermented foods

Other ways to reduce acne symptoms

Probiotics will help reduce acne symptoms, but there are other factors that can contribute to acne as well. It is important to consider a whole-body approach to healing acne symptoms. Simply taking one probiotic pill a day may help (the above studies indicated that probiotics alone show an average improvement of around 20 percent in most people), but you will not see the results you are hoping for unless you take additional steps to clear the skin from the inside out.

Cure Acne Naturally
  • Remove processed foods from the diet
  • Increase plant-based fiber from fruits and vegetables
  • Reduce stress levels
  • Get enough sleep
  • Take acne-fighting supplements

Supplements that stop acne

Many supplements are scientifically proven to help prevent acne flare-ups in teens and adults still suffering from acne. In addition to your probiotic, add these supplements to your diet for your clearest skin yet:

Vitamin A: Vitamin A is a well-known cure for acne. In fact, the medication Accutane is primarily made up of huge concentrations of vitamin A. An old study published in the 1963 edition of the British Medical Journal indicated that taking vitamin A supplements reduced acne symptoms. The participants in the study took 50,000 I.U. of vitamin A thrice daily for six months. After this period, 79 percent of participants saw a significant reduction in acne symptoms.

Fish oil: Fish oil seems like it might be the miracle food missing from the standard American diet. Many studies have linked fish oil supplements with improved skin condition, including a 1986 study conducted by the The University of Iowa College of Medicine. The the B.P.Koirala Institute of Health Sciences study from 2012 also supports the claim that fish oil can reduce acne symptoms.

Zinc: Zinc is a known treatment for acne that is as beneficial as antibiotics in treating some forms of acne. In a 2005 study conducted by CHU Nantes Department of Dermatology, 30 patients were given a daily dose of 30 mg of zinc for two months. After two months, all patients showed a reduction in the number of inflammatory lesions, whether or not they were also taking antibiotic treatments for acne.

Ayurvedic herbs: According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, ayurvedic herbs are considered a viable supplement for treating many health conditions ranging from heart disease, to lower cholesterol, and treat acne. Effective herbs include guggul, fenugreek, and turmeric. Other anti-inflammatory herbs may also be helpful in reducing the size and redness of pimples.

Many medical professionals and health experts recommend taking these supplements in conjunction with traditional acne remedies and antibiotics to ensure skin stays clear beyond the treatment course of traditional acne-fighting medications.

Steps to clear acne now

If you want to cure your acne for good, avoid antibiotic treatments that may interfere with your body’s gut health. Take a daily probiotic supplement and eat as many fermented foods as you can.

Healthy Fermented Foods
  • Kefir
  • Fermented soy products
  • Kombucha tea
  • Yogurt
  • Unpasteurized beer
  • Live enzyme sourdough bread

Taking other oral supplements in combination with probiotics will also help reduce your acne flare-ups. Supplements like fish oil, zinc, guggul, and vitamin A are proven to be effective at reducing acne lesions. Keep your diet free of processed foods, and try to incorporate fresh fruits and vegetables into your diet. If you suffer from milk allergies, avoiding dairy may also be helpful in reducing acne symptoms and curbing acne-related inflammation. 





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