what causes acne, natural remedies for skin, how to improve skin

What Your Skin is Trying to Tell You About Your Health

In the first article in this series we looked at some common skin complaints like acne, rosacea, skin tags, bump, wrinkles, spots and dryness.

This article dives deeper into some of the underlying imbalances that cause these symptoms.

The Gut Biome

The balance of organisms in your intestines is analogous to a rain forest.

Ideally there is a wide diversity of living organisms at a variety of levels serving interdependent functions. The tall trees provide shade for specific shrubs, whose fruit is eaten by an insect, which pollinates a flower and then is eaten by a bird, which lives in the tall tree.

It’s the circle of life writ large.

Researchers in the US have a difficult time finding anyone with that ideal level of gut organism diversity, which says a lot about the state of our health. Some of the primary causes of low diversity of gut bacteria:

  • IV antibiotics given to the mother during childbirth
  • oral antibiotics in childhood for ear infections
  • antibiotics in our food, particularly conventionally raised animal products: meat, chicken, dairy
  • low dietary intake of prebiotic foods like asparagus, onion, dandelion greens

What Disrupts the Ideal Gut Diversity?

Antibiotics are number one.

The FDA reported in 2010 that the annual use of antibiotics for “animal production” was 28 MILLION pounds. That equals several ounces an antibiotics for every woman, man and child  – consumed inadvertently through food.

That figure is about 75% of all the antibiotics sold in this country. “Animal production” means these drugs were not used therapeutically to treat infection but only for increasing growth.

Yes, antibiotic use makes animals weigh more and grow faster and they are used in all conventionally raised meat.

The FDA has requested that the drug manufacturers stop labeling these antibiotics for growth production and that antibiotics only be used under the guidance of a veterinarian by the end of 2016.

That’s a start. But for those of us who grew up on conventionally raised meat it has already taken a toll on our overall health.

Taking a probiotic is not sufficient to restore balance. The best results happen when you combine diet changes, with supplementation of depleted nutrients with a digestive aid.

How the Gut Biome Affects Your Skin

Much of the recent research done is this area focuses on the risk of antibiotic resistance – when a bacterial strain evolves to be able to survive repeated antibiotic use. This is a significant danger and has led to such health hazards as MRSA outbreaks, which can be fatal.

However, there are two more common effects of antibiotic overuse. The balance of organisms in your intestines can affect your skin in two ways.

  • Specific nutrient deficiency – either because you have non-beneficial organisms that use up the supply of a certain nutrient, like iron, or because you don’t have the right bacteria that produce important nutrients like Vitamin K or B12
  • A direct impact – for example many people find that taking antibiotics causes a yeast infection, which could be vaginal or appear on hands, feet, scalp or any area of the body that stays warm and damp. Your skin has a natural bacterial balance which can be affected by your gut bacteria.

Fish Oil Won’t Help Much if…

Fish oil is one of the top sellers of all nutritional products.

Several studies have shown beneficial health impacts from consuming fish. But the studies on taking fish oil in the form of a supplement have been more hit or miss.

What I have found in my clinical practice is that about half of the patients who come to see me have been taking fish oil because they heard it’s good for them, but they don’t notice any positive benefit. When I do my exam I often find that they have impaired fat digestion due to liver and gallbladder impairment – so they are unable to derive significant benefit from the supplements.

Generally, stopping the supplement for a period of time while you’re improving digestive function will allow you to add the supplement back in and derive more benefit from it.

Improvements to skin can be seen in: reduced inflammation, less dryness, improved skin tone and texture.


Food Sensitivities

In addition to your skin’s role as an organ of elimination, and absorption it also acts as part of your immune system.

Foods that trigger an immune response can cause skin reactions. A dramatic example of this is dermatitis herpetiformis, a red, intensely itchy rash that can occur after gluten exposure in those who are gluten sensitive.

Part of a healthy immune is inflammation. You don’t always see it, it may occur on a cellular level. Similar to the reaction that happens when you cut your finger – the body sends nutrients, and immune cells to the area. You may not see inflammation but you may feel the discomfort it causes.


Food sensitivities can have a similar effect. There are some that cause an immediate response where the inflammation may be obvious – swollen lips, hives or throat constriction.

But there is another type of food allergy called Delayed Hypersensitivity. These reactions occur over a period of 72 hours making it very difficult to pin down the trigger. If this is suspected then an IgG blood test is useful.

Micronutrient Deficiency

Your skin requires specific vitamins, minerals and trace minerals to maintain optimal function. In the next article we’ll look at some of the most important nutrients for skin health.

But first, let’s look at what causes those deficiencies.


  1. Depleted soil – If it’s not in the soil the plant was grown in, then it’s not in the plant. Conventional farming uses NPK fertilizer which provides the macro-nutrients of nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium but does nothing to add the important trace minerals like zinc, copper, boron or vanadium. This results in nutritionally depleted food.
  2. Impaired digestion – If you’re buying organic produce from a farmer who uses compost to amend the soil then your produce may be full of micronutrients. But if your have digestive problems, you won’t be able to absorb them.
  3. Many prescription drugs interfere the levels of specific nutrients. For instance, acid blockers can cause B12 deficiency, Birth Control Pills cause B6 deficiency and there are many others.


So if you grew up eating conventionally raised produce, have a history of heartburn and have taken medication for it then you are very likely to have wrinkles, spots, dryness and other skin issues.

The good news is that your skin is resilient and can respond well when it gets what it needs.

The Three Step approach to better skin is to 1) increase nutrient-dense foods 2) address any digestive issues, including gallbladder, liver and gut biome and 3) then identify and replete any specific nutrient deficiencies. This approach typically results in significant improvement in acne, rosacea, dryness, inflammation and itchiness within two to three weeks.

One of the best ways to understand the underlying nutritional cause of your symptoms is to know which foods and nutrients you have trouble digesting and those you are deficient in.
Click here to take Dr. Rose’s Nutritional Profile Quiz and get an overview of what your nutritional imbalances could be. You’ll get your results immediately.


Dr. Marina Rose has a Functional Nutrition practice in Los Altos, CA where she helps people of all agaes address the underlying causes of symptoms including skin problems.



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