Why try Bitters for acne?
(First of all, we aren’t talking about Swedish Bitters – they are not the same! Swedish Bitters contains the laxative herb senna, and that is not what we’re going for here.)
Many of you by now are aware there’s a gut-skin connection, in addition to a hormone-skin connection when it comes to acne, especially the really stubborn, adult kind.
Using Bitters to help with acne can be helpful in a few different ways:
- Bitters improve digestion, lowering systemic inflammation. Poor digestion can cause inflammatory reactions. For example, when you eat certain poorly digested foods, swelling will develop within your internal organs. Your autoimmune system then views that inflammation as a toxin or a disease that it needs to treat. It attacks that organ to stop the inflammation but actually makes the swelling worse. Red meat, dairy products, wheat, and alcohol are great examples of items that cause inflammation.
- Bitters improve digestion, improving nutrient absorption. Oftentimes acne is at least partially exacerbated by one or both of these causes. There are key nutrients for skin health (including Vitamin C, Vitamin A and minerals) and if they aren’t being absorbed correctly by the body, the skin will show the ramifications of this.
- Speaking of nutrient absorption, some of the best supplements you can take for acne include Omega 3s and the retinoid form of Vitamin A (most commonly found in liver). These supplements are best absorbed if they are taken with other fats, as they are fat soluble. Bitters helps to break down and bind these supplements, greatly increasing their absorption.
Gut issues and acne
Why is it so important to address digestion when it comes to acne?
Because problems in the gut can exacerbate/create acne. Some of these gut issues include:
- A gut bacteria imbalance due to a history of antibiotics, birth control or other prescription meds.
- Low stomach acid. Did you know that after the age of 30 our stomach acid levels decline? And stress also decreases stomach acid production. Less stomach acid makes it harder to digest food which increases the potential for leaky gut and inflammation which can show as acne on the skin.
- A diet high in gluten, dairy, processed foods and carbs. These foods create a significant inflammatory response in the gut.
How can you tell if your acne is caused by hormones or by gut issues?
If you answer yes to any of the below questions, your acne likely may have a gut/digestion component. (To check if your acne is hormonal, you can take our hormonal acne quiz here)
- Are you currently on antibiotics, birth control or other meds or have you come off of these meds in the past year?
- Do you have other symptoms of gut distress such as bloating, mental fogginess, or digestive issues?
- Do you have signs of Candida overgrowth – a white coating on the tongue, sugar cravings, UTIs/yeast infections, anal itching?
- Known or possible food allergies or intolerances?
How does Bitters help acne?
It helps in two ways.
First of all, it help to increase digestive “fire” (basically encouraging the release of stomach acid) allowing us to breakdown our food better, reducing the chance of leaky gut and subsequent inflammation that will show up on the skin as acne.
Increasing digestive fire also helps with nutrient absorption, which means our skin has better access to the nutrients it needs to be healthy and function optimally.
Especially important are key fat soluble nutrients: Omega 3s and Retinoids (the form of Vitamin A that is actually useful for acne and which we can only get from animal food sources like grass fed egg yolks, grass fed meats, grass fed dairy (esp butter), and animal liver). It can be difficult to take these supplements in a way that optimizes absorption which is where Bitters comes in handy: it helps to emulsify (ie, increases absorption of) them. These are absolutely crucial for clear skin, but often, even though we are supplementing with them, they are not dissolving or absorbing properly, so Bitters can really amp up their effectiveness.
Will Bitters help with any gut issues?
Yes and no. If you answered yes to the first question about birth control or antibiotics, Bitters will help, but in addition to increased stomach acid what your body ALSO needs for proper digestion is a robust microbiome since bacteria in your gut actually perform digestive actions, so adding probiotics to your supplemental regimen will provide a more complete healing picture.
Will Bitters help acne issues caused by Candida overgrowth?
If you suspect you have a Candida imbalance, it is recommended to do a Candida cleanse to fully resolve the issue. Candida can be notoriously difficult to bring back under control (it is natural to have a small amount of Candida in your gut; the issues arise when it grows out of control). We are launching a Candida cleanse specifically focused on clearing acne here.
What Bitters brand is best?
We recommend one of these: