Acne, Antibiotics and The Ugly Truth

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Pop an antibiotic for acne and you get clear skin in the mirror tomorrow—but what happens long term? Here's the real story:

You've probably heard about the dangers of isotretinoin (commonly called Accutane), a strong course of treatment for acne that has been linked to many health issues, including Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). In case you aren't familiar with IBD, it includes specific chronic digestive issues like Crohn's Disease and ulcerative colitis. IBD is an inflammatory condition in the small intestine and colon, one that doctors consider to be autoimmune and, in many cases, idiopathic—meaning that the cause of the condition is unknown. It's a scary and frustrating disease that can take a major toll on quality of life.

Recently, scientists took a step back from the Accutane/IBD connection to ask this question: since many acne sufferers who underwent Accutane treatment first used antibiotics for acne, could these antibiotics be partially responsible for the development of IBD as well? It's an interesting question, one that was explored in a study at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and published in The American Journal of Gastroenterology. The results are a major wake-up call for the millions of people who take long-term antibiotics to clear acne—whether or not they've developed IBD.

A quick word about antibiotics: they can be life-saving infection-fighters. Most of us have taken them at one time or another to kick a lingering illness. But they've also been leaned on as a primary defense against acne. Chances are, if you've seen a dermatologist for persistent acne, you came away with a prescription for an antibiotic like tetracycline (the most common antibiotic used for acne), minocycline, erythromycin, doxycycline or clindamycin. Do these names sound familiar?

I myself took tetracycline for acne for years in college and never connected these acne-fighters to my nightly digestive issues or the Crohn's Disease scare that I had years later—these side effects were never tied to the pill that was supposed to give me clear skin. Today I hear from so many readers and clients who are taking antibiotics to clear their skin, but finding that these drugs can go on to create a host of other problems in the body.

It's time to look at the big picture, because antibiotics are a band-aid, NOT a solution for acne.

The University of Pennsylvania study followed up with over 94,000 individuals who had been treated for acne and found that tetracycline-class antibiotics used for acne (a group that includes tetracycline, doxycycline and minocycline) may be associated with the development of IBD, particularly Crohn's Disease, in later years.

But I think there's even more to consider, beyond the development of serious and life-changing conditions like Crohn's and ulcerative colitis. Long-term use of antibiotics for acne (most patients who use antibiotics for acne do so for months or years at a time) kills off the beneficial bacterial in the gut that helps us digest, obtain beauty nutrients from our foods, eliminate, detox, produce feel-good neurotransmitters, and build immunity. These natural functions are some of the MOST IMPORTANT for clear, healthy skin, and yet they've been taken away from us without our knowledge! Even if we don't develop IBD, we're impacting our health and beauty for life when we choose to take antibiotics long-term. This is information that acne sufferers need to consider. Clear skin just isn't found in a pill.

If you've been using or have ever used antibiotics for acne, chances are you've experienced digestive issues, like bloating, gas, diarrhea, or the like, at some point. This is the moment for you to build back your friendly gut bacteria, by adding probiotics and naturally fermented foods like sauerkraut, miso, kefir, and kimchi, that cultivate beneficial bacteria into your daily diet. Cutting down on sugars and eating plenty of prebiotic foods like leafy greens and asparagus, leeks and onions that feed good bacteria will help restore that friendly flora as well.

If you're looking for personal support as you restore your beneficial gut bacteria, I can guide you through a Beauty Is Wellness coaching program that will show you a new way to treat acne from the inside out. Contact me to schedule a free phone call to talk about your health and beauty goals and which Beauty Is Wellness program will help you reach them.