Although acne is a skin disorder that may strike at any age, it is most common in teenagers and young adults. Because the embarrassing zits that are acne’s most characteristic symptom pop up at a time when young people are beginning to find their way socially, teens are eager to find preventive measures. Although it may seem an unlikely treatment, acidophilus, a so-called good bacterium, seems to help prevent acne outbreaks.
How It Works
Acidophilus, also known by its more complete scientific moniker, lactobacillus acidophilus, is a bacterium that has beneficial health effects. Found most widely in the gastrointestinal tract and the vagina, acidophilus is known as a probiotic because it helps to prevent the buildup of harmful bacteria in those areas. As its name hints, the bacterium works to maintain healthy levels of acid in the stomach, intestines and vagina, which in turn inhibits the development of infections that disease-carrying bacteria can cause when their numbers increase sharply.
Acne is a skin condition that is characterized by the eruption of pimples or zits and is seen most commonly on the face, neck and shoulders but can appear elsewhere on the body. The whiteheads, blackheads and other skin lesions associated with acne develop when pores become blocked. As explained by MedlinePlus, each pore is a tiny opening in the skin that leads to a hair and oil gland. If the oil glands are working at normal levels, the oil they produce carries away dead skin cells and keeps the skin lubricated. When the oil glands overproduce, the excess oil can quickly plug the pore, allowing for a buildup of bacteria, natural debris and dirt and, eventually, a pimple.
In “All You Wanted to Know About Acne,” author Poonam Jain explains that a buildup of harmful bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract can trigger health consequences elsewhere in the body, including a flareup of acne. He points out that various aspects of 21st-century life help to lower acidophilus levels, making it essential to build them back up through supplementation. As examples of acidophilus-depleting forces, Jain cites chlorinated water, antibiotics and other drugs, and high consumption of processed foods.
When the body’s natural levels of acidophilus are depleted, you can try to restore bacterial balance in the GI tract through dietary means or supplementation. Yogurt contains acidophilus, but since the levels vary dramatically from one brand to another, supplements offer your best hope of getting things back to normal. In “Smart Medicine for Healthier Living,” authors Janet Zand, Allan N. Spreen and James B. LaValle recommend that acne sufferers take acidophilus supplements, which are available in health food stores, until symptoms clear up. They also say that supplements of bifidobacteria, another probiotic, can be helpful, particularly when taken in combination with acidophilus. Consult with your doctor before self-treating with acidophilus or any other nutritional supplement.
Side Effects and Interactions
While side effects from acidophilus are rare, according to Drugs.com, allergic reactions sometimes occur. If you experience difficulty breathing, hives and/or swelling of the face, lips, tongue or throat, seek medical help immediately. If your doctor has prescribed antibiotics, be aware that such drugs kill or weaken all bacteria, both good and bad. Therefore, take acidophilus supplements well before or after taking your antibiotic prescription.