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Kefir & Acne


What is Acne? Acne is a skin condition that occurs when your hair follicles become plugged with oil and dead skin cells. It often causes whiteheads, blackheads or pimples, and usually appears on the face, forehead, chest, upper back and shoulders. Acne is most common among teenagers, though it affects people of all ages. Acne’s not just for kids – adult acne has experienced a massive rise in recent years, and has been described by dermatologists as “an epidemic.”

What causes acne?

Acne is caused by P. acnes (Propionibacterium acnes), a strain of bacteria which uses the sebum as a food source. Inflammation and the buildup of bacteria on the skin trigger the release of sebum from oil glands within the skin. Elevated bacteria overgrowth results in too much sebum, which can clog pores and aggravate acne problems.

What are the symptoms of acne?

Acne signs and symptoms vary depending on the severity of your condition:

  • Whiteheads (closed plugged pores)
  • Blackheads (open plugged pores)
  • Small red, tender bumps (papules)
  • Pimples (pustules), which are papules with pus at their tips
  • Large, solid, painful lumps beneath the surface of the skin (nodules)
  • Painful, pus-filled lumps beneath the surface of the skin (cystic lesions)

Acne and gut health

Your gut and your skin are closely connected! Your gut microbiome regulates your skin microbiome, so disturbances in the gut can show up on your skin, as acne, eczema, rosacea or dermatitis. Inflammation in the gut will result in inflammation on the skin, leading to acne. Clinicians who work in this area say, “You must heal the gut, to heal the skin.”

This gut-skin axis also includes the brain, and can show up as mood disorder. Studies of acne in science have established that acne has a connection with anxiety, depression and gastrointestinal issues. Intestinal permeability (a.k.a. “leaky gut”) causes both systemic and local inflammation, which in turn contributes to skin disease and emotional disturbance.

A 2005 study showed that individuals with acne and mental health symptoms such as depression had low concentrations of Lactobacillus and bifidobacteria in their gastrointestinal tract and also had increased intestinal permeability.

Individuals with chronic and severe acne concerns are at a higher risk of having small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, leaky gut syndrome as well as mood changes. One study comparing patients with acne to others with normal skin health found that the introduction of E. coli into their gut’s caused an adverse response in 65% of patients with acne problems.

However, healthier patients did not exhibit any skin sensitivity to the bacteria. In another report, individuals with acne and rosacea were shown to have an even greater risk of developing SIBO, by up to 10 times the average health level.

How can kefir help acne?

As it contains significant levels of vitamin A, as well as high levels of live bacteria, kefir has been shown to contribute to the maintenance of normal skin. A study published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information discusses the role of vitamin A and the immune system. Kefir also contains calcium which contributes to the normal function of digestive enzymes in the pancreas, promoting good gut health.


  1. The Telegraph - "The rise of adult acne is 'like an epidemic'". Written by India Sturgis on January 18, 2016
    link to articleNational Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine
  2. The British Skin Foundation - "Acne". Written by British Association of Dermatologists on January 1, 2019
    link to articlehttps://www.britishskinfoundation.org.uk/acne?gclid=EAIaIQobChMI6fLYwOXw4gIVCLrtCh07_QDcEAAYASAAEgK-e_D_BwE
  3. Frontiers in microbiology - "The Gut Microbiome as a Major Regulator of the Gut-Skin Axis". Written by Salem, Iman et al. on July 10, 2018
    link to articlehttps://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6048199/
  4. ScienceDaily - "The Gut-Skin Connection: How Altered Gut Function Affects the Skin". Written by Chris Kresser. on June 11, 2019
    link to articlehttps://chriskresser.com/the-gut-skin-connection-how-altered-gut-function-affects-the-skin/
  5. National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine - "Acne vulgaris: nutritional factors may be influencing psychological sequelae". Written by Katzman M1, Logan AC. on April 19, 2007
    link to articlehttps://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17448607
  6. National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine - "Acne vulgaris, probiotics and the gut-brain-skin axis - back to the future?". Written by Bowe WP1, Logan AC. on January 31, 2011
    link to articlehttps://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21281494
  7. National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine - "Diet and rosacea: the role of dietary change in the management of rosacea". Written by Weiss, Emma, and Rajani Katta. on October 31, 2017
    link to articlehttps://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5718124/
  8. National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine - "Role of Vitamin A in the Immune System". Written by Huang, Zhiyi et al. on September 6, 2018
    link to articlehttps://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6162863/
  9. National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine - "The Exocrine Pancreas". Written by Pandol SJ. on January 31, 2010
    link to articlehttps://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK54127/