Gut – Skin connection By Dr Aruna Tummala, for Hemptress

According to AAD (American Academy of Dermatology), 84.5 million Americans — one in four — were impacted by skin disease and cost the US health care system $75 billion in medical, preventative, and prescription and non-prescription drug costs (1). Acne is the most common skin condition in the United States, affecting up to 50 million Americans annually (2). Although acne is a disease of adolescents and young adults, we are seeing an increase of acne in the adult population as well. Approximately 85 percent of people between the ages of 12 and 24 experience at least minor acne.In 2013, the costs associated with the treatment and lost productivity among those who sought medical care for acne exceeded $1.2 billion.

Given that these numbers are basedon 2013 healthcare claims data, one can only assume that these numbers have gone up since then.

The typical response by mainstream dermatologists, according to AAD’s 2016 treatment guidelines (3)is to consider topicals such as: Benzoyl peroxide, Topical retinoids, Topical antibiotics, Clascoterone, Salicylic acid, andAzelaic acid. If there is inadequate response, systemic agents are recommended such as: antibiotics (Doxycycline for example), hormonal agents (combined oral contraceptives or spironolactone) andisotretinoin. A review of the side effects is enough to give anyone a pause and ask, “Is there a better way?”

As a holistic psychiatrist, I am here to assure you that yes! There is a better and surer path to heal from any skin condition. As a psychiatrist, I did not start off to heal acne or eczema or rosacea. But when I applied the holistic principles to help my patients heal from their mental illness, I observed that their whole mind-body system was healing. Here are just a few patient examples.

Nathan came to be for OCD, Depression and ch PTSD. In the process of healing from these conditions, he also healed his chronic eczema. (

CF came to me for schizophrenia. As her schizophrenia resolved, her severe rosacea and her autoimmune thyroiditis, both went into remission. ( and (in this blog, before and after pictures show the healing of rosacea –

A young 14 yr old came to me for depression. As she reversed her depression, she also healed her severe acne.

These are just a few examples. All these people have been able to stay healthy and in remission from all the health issues that brought them into treatment.

How was this possible? Frankly, it is not rocket science. Rather, it is a result of application of holistic medicine, specifically Ayurveda and functional medicine.

India’s 5000 yr old medical system, Ayurveda, is a complete medical system that has helped generations of people heal from many seemingly incurable illnesses. Ayurveda is enjoying a resurgence worldwide now. One of the core features of Ayurveda is the importance of digestive function and overall health. In fact, restoring the gastro-intestinal function and health is considered the core intervention for almost all (if not all) chronic diseases. Because most illnesses (barring acute infections, acute trauma and such) are caused by lifestyle which creates disordered metabolism and impacts the physiological function of many organ systems in the body. So, in Ayurveda, using lifestyle changes (and herbs and detoxification protocols), we work towards restoring the metabolism and function of every organ system. Thus, restoring health and vitality in the whole mind-body-spirit system.

Today, we hear about the gut-skin axis which refers to the bi-directional relationship between the gut microbiome and skin health (4). Ayurvedic texts also talk about this gut-skin axis.

Ayurvedic texts describe the structure of skin in incredible similarity to modern understanding of the structure of the skin(5). Ayurvedic texts also refer to the gut-skin axis and posit that many skin diseases are caused by problems in the gut-skin axis. In the Ayurvedic understanding, skin diseases are a result of problems not just with the microbiome, but many other causes are also identified such as impaired digestive abilities, inflammation in the gut, nutritional deficiencies, leaky gut syndrome where the gut lining is disrupted, etc (6).

Modern science is also finding these root causes for skin disorders. Some articles that have delved into the gut-skin axis are listed here (7, 8, 9).

However, it has been studied that it takes 17 years for cutting edge valid scientific research to be implemented into mainstream clinical practice. Which is why even though we are seeing credible research implicating the gut-skin axis showing up, how to implement this fascinating information in clinical practice so patients can find relief, is not here in mainstream physician offices.

I hope you are glad you came by this blog 😊. Because, if you are struggling with acne, rosacea, eczema, psoriasis, or any other skin condition; read on to find out how the patients above healed themselves, so you can too!

If I were to sum up my intervention, here it is: “Remove the bad, provide the good – at the level of the body, the mind and the spirit.” And, we repeat this until a person finds healing, joy and vitality. Now, we are able to help our patients achieve this in under 6 months.

First, let’s understand the root causes with some clarity. IMHO, there are only 3 root causes – (wrong) Diet, Trauma and Toxins. For example, salad is considered healthy here in the US. However, according to Ayurveda, a food is healthy not just by its quality (fresh, organic, chemical free, nutrient dense, seasonal, minimally processed, non-gmo, etc) but also by your ability to digest it to extract nutrients and eliminate the waste. So, you are what you eat and are able to digest. Otherwise, any undigested food will lead to leaky gut, microbial dysbiosis, indigestion, and toxicity. And, if you are struggling with any chronic illness, you have impaired digestion. So, switching to well cooked food that is also anti-inflammatory (so remove dairy and gluten for sure – some people may need to remove other food groups), loaded with nutrients and make sure you are eating “clean” food. Whenever we enter the phase of repair and regeneration, our nutrient needs go up. Hence, I offer supplements to support the repair and regeneration process. Ayurvedic herbals are also highly effective in addressing the root causes whether it is inflammation or poor digestion. For example, CCF tea – cumin, coriander and fennel tea when sipped prior to meals can gently support release of digestive enzymes. Omega 3 fatty acids provide the building blocks for repair of the gut lining as well as healthy skin – as within, so without. What the gut lining needs for its repair, the skin needs as well!

Next, let’s talk about trauma. Follow us for a detailed summary of trauma-skin axis. In brief here, early life trauma or chronic stress leads to inflammation and cortisol excess which causes leaky gut and in some people these imbalances can manifest in the gut-skin axis.  So, exploring early life trauma, resolving it, meditation to enhance self-awareness, enhance emotional resilience – all these become important elements of a holistic treatment plan for any disease, including skin diseases.

Finally, we live in an increasingly toxic world. Our food, air, water, soil, are all contaminated with harmful chemicals which our ancestors just 70 years did not have to contend with. Chemicals also abound in our personal care products (body, teeth, hair, skin care products). Pharmaceuticals are also regarded by our bodies as toxins because they are non-native molecules. Sadly, pharmaceuticals also contain many harmful chemicals in the form of preservatives, artificial dyes, artificial flavors, etc.

All of these chemicals cause a variety of harms as they can be – immune toxic, endocrine disruptor, neurotoxic, toxic to the gut lining; to name a few.In my view, the contraceptives recommended in the ADA guide as treatment for acne, is also an endocrine disruptor.

Hence detoxification is a must to restore order and balance within the mind-body-spirit system. Detoxification is 2-fold. 1. Eliminate (or minimize) chemicals in your food, environment, personal care products and switch to toxin free products (Hemptress’s love me, heal me face serum, anyone? 😉).

Jokes aside, Hemptress’s signature product (love me, heal me face serum) islovingly made without any “petro-cosmetics” and carefully crafted with pure organic botanicals that provide nourishment, anti-inflammation and anti-oxidation to the skin. Which leads us to the second aspect of detoxification – support body’s detoxification and repair processes. Because we have to eliminate the toxins that are already accumulated in the body. This can be with food that includes high quality fat – as all toxins are fat soluble, and eating food that is rich in sulfur containing amino acids so our body can make its own glutathione. Supplementation with NAC or glutathione is also recommended. Also supporting anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative processes will help with healing and repair. Sweating (with sauna or exercise), jumping jacks for lymphatic drainage can all support detoxification processes. Hydration to keep the blood and lymph moving and doing its job. Regular bowel movement is crucial. In fact, when constipation happens, toxins get reabsorbed into the systemic circulation and may find expression in the skin as acne or boils, for example.

So, to recap:

  1. Eliminate inflammatory foods – mostly dairy and gluten.
  2. Eat “real” food as described above.
  3. Targeted supplements – Omega 3 fatty acids (dose will vary between skin conditions, so you may want to consult a holistic doctor), NAC, glutathione, Vit D, Iron (for women especially), methylated multivitamin such as MitoBoost.
  4. Stress reduction skills. Steps to resolve trauma and build self-worth, self-love.
  5. Detox – switch to clean products, support with supplements, sauna, exercise, lymphatic drainage, Ayurvedic Abhyanga massage followed by sauna, etc.
  6. Work with a holistic doctor who can help you reverse these conditions and heal, rather than suppress or tame the symptoms.

Reach out for any comments or questions.

Thank you for your attention to this article.



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