My Experience with Acne and the GAPS Diet

Back when I was first contemplating starting the GAPS diet, I did a lot of Googling about GAPS and acne. Acne was one of my main health complaints and I was reticent to undertake such a rigorous diet if it didn’t have any chance of healing my acne. I never did end up finding many testimonials, but I was out of ideas so decided to give GAPS a go anyway. In the interest of providing more information for fellow acne sufferers, today I want to share a bit more about my experience with acne and the GAPS diet.

GAPS Hugely Improved My Acne…

GAPS has made a very noticeable difference in my acne. Before GAPS, I would probably classify my acne as moderately severe. I was horribly embarrassed about my skin and tried to avoid social interactions whenever possible. Thanks to GAPS, however, my skin has improved immensely. Now I’d say that I probably only have minor acne. I still get blemishes around my mouth and chin, but it is nowhere near the levels that I used to suffer with.

I think that GAPS was able to greatly improve my acne because much of it was gut-related. If you are a “GAPS person,” your digestive system is damaged in such a way that you can’t digest complex carbohydrates like grains and starches. If you continue to eat these foods, they will create toxins in your digestive system that your body then needs to deal with. This “dealing with” can take many forms; in my case, my body seems to prefer to detoxify these toxins through my skin. When I went on GAPS, I greatly reduced the amount of toxins that my gut was generating so my body no longer had to dump so many toxins out through my skin.

I should add that it took many months for my skin to show improvement on GAPS. After about five months, I was starting to notice a small difference in my skin. It was an additional six months before I got to the relatively minor amount of acne I experience now. Gut healing is a slow process!

…But GAPS Hasn’t Fixed My Acne Completely  

As I mentioned above, GAPS has not managed to completely clear my acne. I believe this is because my remaining acne is hormone-related. While I haven’t gotten an official diagnosis of hormonal acne, I believe my acne is hormonal because:

  • I mostly break out around my mouth and chin, which I have repeatedly read is related to hormonal issues;
  • I have obvious signs of hormonal imbalance in the form of painful, heavy periods;
  • I notice changes in my acne over the course of my cycle.

Hypothetically, GAPS should be able to balance my hormones. I have heard of at least a few women that have fixed painful periods through GAPS.  Unfortunately, I have not experienced any obvious hormone-balancing while on GAPS. I do believe that I have a long-standing family history of hormonal problems, though, so it doesn’t seem unreasonable that I might need some extra help to heal my hormones and thus eliminate my remaining acne.

In the last few months I have been trying acupuncture for my hormones and hormonal acne. Progress has been slow, but I’m hopeful that I’m headed in the right direction.

Does Everyone with Acne Need GAPS?

While GAPS has made a big difference for me, I don’t actually believe that everyone with acne necessarily needs GAPS. When I was searching for answers to my acne before I decided to try GAPS, I found so many stories of people curing their acne by making much smaller changes, such as eliminating sugar, changing their skin care products, switching to real/traditional foods, taking probiotics, supplementing with cod liver oil, or going gluten-free. So I think it’s worth it to explore other avenues before deciding that you need GAPS.  You may be one of the lucky people that can fix their acne without needing to do as rigorous a healing program as GAPS.

In my particular case, the small changes that I tried made absolutely no difference in my acne. I believe that this is because my gut was so damaged that I really needed something that healed the gut while removing all sources of toxicity.

If you’ve tried making changes to your diet/lifestyle (such as those listed above), but haven’t seen any results, then I would suggest looking into the GAPS diet. Like me, you may find that it does dramatic things for your acne problem! Even though GAPS hasn’t cleared up my acne completely, I am so grateful for all of the skin improvement I have experienced.

Want to Read More About GAPS? 

Check out my posts about GAPS, or visit the official GAPS website.

Does the GAPS diet cure acne? Click here to read about my experience treating moderately severe acne with the GAPS diet.

Have you dealt with acne? What’s worked for you? 


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30 Responses to My Experience with Acne and the GAPS Diet

  1. This may not be part of your problem, but I thought I'd share in case it helps. I was constantly breaking out around my mouth and chin. I realized that I was sleeping with my hand covering that area. As soon as I stopped doing that, the acne cleared up. I'm so glad to hear that GAPS has helped you so much!
  2. Jill says:
    My daughter's acne is what eventually led us to GAPS as well. Years ago she suffered from severe, painful, very inflamed acne. She began to receive treatment by a dermatologist who, fortunately, practiced holistic dermatology as well as conventional dermatology. Part of her protocol included placing my daughter on an anti-inflammatory diet, which eliminated, sugar, wheat, all junk foods, and unfermented dairy. It seemed to help, but mostly my daughter noticed she began losing a lot of water weight. When we reported this to the dermatologist, she suspected food allergies and sent a blood sample off for testing. Turned out my daughter was allergic to wheat, gluten, eggs, dairy, and cane sugar--much of which had been eliminated through the anti-inflammatory diet. For the next couple years she continued avoiding her allergy foods, until we learned about GAPS reversing allergies. Reading Gut and Psychology Syndrome explained so much (such as lifelong carb/sugar cravings and digestive issues), and it all made sense that the problem was stemming from her gut health. One full year on GAPS made an even bigger difference in her skin, and she can now eat most of those foods without any symptoms. She does generally avoid unfermented dairy and wheat/gluten still, but if she slips and has a slice of pizza with friends she is fine (whereas before she would be hit with headache, fatigue, digestive issues, and a couple days of "coming off" of it). She also has mild acne still, but NOTHING like what it used to be!
  3. MomLadyOR says:
    I don't recall where I finally read this, but somewhere in searching for answers, I read that acne on the jaw line & neck was from nightshades and acne around the mouth was from dairy. For me, that's holding very true. If I'm really good and stay off all dairy I can clear my acne and then if I cheat even just a little (like a cube of butter in a baked good which I have a small piece of) I will get a couple pimples around my mouth and chin within 30-48 hrs. I've been amazed at the connection. Don't know if it will help you, but thought it couldn't hurt to give it a try (assuming you haven't already). Thanks for sharing your story!!
  4. Rhianna says:
    I have been on GAPs, including starting off with the Intro for the first five weeks, for a little over 3 months. I have gone through intermittent phases of die-off, and now the bloating and other unpleasant GI symptoms are starting to be consistently better, much to my relief. My energy levels are stable despite it being winter time. Mentally and emotionally I feel better and am able to meditate with greater ease and depth. I still don't do well on fermented dairy (no surprise here, although I crave raw fermented dairy with a passion) and egg whites (the gut pain from eating egg whites is freaky), and am developing an increasing sensitivity to nuts (pain) and the GAPS legal lentils and navy beans (worsening gas). The hormonally related acne on my chin and cheeks has been getting worse than it has ever been, actually. I am hoping that it will get better as I progress on the diet. After putting all this effort into this so far, I don't want to quit, especially since my digestion has settled down a bit. I too feel embarrassed by my acne. as a woman in my mid-forties who otherwise appears healthy and fit, the acne doesn't make sense unless one knew about my delicate digestion, food intolerances, and the dyslexia that runs rife through my family. I have no doubt I need GAPS for reasons other than acne. Thanks, Meghan, for letting me know how GAPS has worked for you and the acne after all this time.
  5. Sara says:
    Cutting out sugar, dairy (except butter), and gluten was what helped me deal with acne. My skin is really good now, but occasionally I'll have a few pimples. I've noticed that eating too many nuts usually correlates with this, so I try to reign them in. I also have found that probiotics (as you mentioned) are helpful. Weirdly, my skin looks good even though I still struggle with digestion...
  6. Katie says:
    I hear so many good things about GAPS, but I am too scared to try it since it seems so...restrictive. But the health benefits seem to out weigh the negatives. I need to look into GAPS more! Thanks for sharing your story! - Katie
  7. marie says:
    I totally love you for posting about this! My acne is a constant source of embarrassment and literally pain, I have like 8 cystic acne boulders on my chin right now! I'm 32 and this has been a problem ever since I quit birth control at 22. We have gradually changed our diet over the last two years to help with other minor health problems, and we have begun eating a GAPS like diet. Not the full thing, but incorporating most of the ideas. But it doesn't seem to have helped, and I bet I need to do the full diet and really go with it. One thing I struggle with is what to wash my face with. I was on proactiv for many years, and then decided it was not really helping that much just bleaching my skin. So I basically went to washing with a wash cloth. I have also tried OCM- oil cleansing method. But I don't think I've found the right balance yet. I have even prayed to God about my acne-- it's just a huge source of pain for me and I don't want to go out at all right now because of it!
    • I'm glad you enjoyed the post, Marie. I hope you find something that works for you soon. I know all too well how much of a struggle acne is.
    • Irena says:
      Hi Marie, I'm forty and have struggled with worsening cystic acne since my mid 20s. It is very painful and also leaves pigmentation. It's hard not to squeeze since it hurts so much. Firstly I'd suggest a strong zinc supplement, usually a powder or liquid, the net can explain why better than me. Also fish oil, lots of. Then I'd say get pregnant! My acne cleared up completely and my skin never looked as good when I was pregnant, it was unbelievably brilliant. But a few months after birth it came right back. This happened both times which was a great clue for me haha but also incentive to have the clear skin again. Now I've tried proactiv, too drying, and my beautician put me on glymed which cost a bomb but really didn't make a difference. What I did learn is that a cleanse, tone, moisturise routine day and night actually did reduce the number of cysts and breakouts generally. Also my beautician used to zap my cysts with a mix including salasitc acid (wrong spelling but you get the drift). So instead I went to the pharmacy and found normal priced products that had these and ingredients. I use a mix of dermalogica, clearasil and formula 10.06 spot overnight stickers are a wonder. A moisturiser is important to stop over production of oils in your skin. Just use an oil free brand. I use Olay and I use phisohex as a cleaner as its antibacterial. I am largely wheat, dairy free and have been for 25 years due to intolerance. I I still get acne in my hairline or even on my ears cause I don't use the products there but only one cysts a month and I put a sticker on those. Voila! Gone overnight or two nights. So please don't give up, find the ingredients online that work and find them as active ingredients in the drug store products you buy. It should say so on the pack. Use them morning and night. Keep off the dairy and wheat. I'd say good luck but you won't need it with the above, I'm sure!
      • leia says:
        google about histamine intolerance and maybe an answer why you felt amazing during pregnancy ? as placenta releases anti histamine or something like that.... at the end of the tunnel .. gut issues anyway but avoinding particular foods ( like fermented - very high histamine) at the beginning of the gaps /scd diet may help to overcome histamine issues... just a thought ...
    • Erin says:
      Hi! My teenage daughter struggled with terrible cystic acne on her jaw line and back-shoulder area for years until I made the dairy intolerance connection! We took her off dairy for a few years and all acne disappeared. Unfortunately, she still has scars. :( We have now been using only raw milk and cheese in our house, and she doesn't know that I have slipped it into her food a few times to test the results.. She seems to be able to tolerate raw dairy or fermented raw dairy just fine! I'm trying to convince her to do the GAPS DIET.. I am already doing it now with my younger daughter for a couple of weeks now. :)
    • nicholas says:
      when talking about what to use on your face, i would thoroughly recommend going to and trying their regimen. i found it very helpful, but you must stick to it, to the letter
  8. Colleen says:
    Hi Meghan, Congratulations on your pregnancy! I stumbled across your blog while searching for to cook a stewing hen and was interested to read your experience about acne and GAPS. You've made amazing improvement with your skin. It looks great now, but I can definitely understand about wanting to have that last little bit gone. I have also suffered from acne since my early teens and am now 32. Thankfully, it's almost completely gone now through dietary and skincare changes. I was lucky and did not need to make extreme dietary changes to notice a difference. Since you're pregnant, this probably isn't going to be the best time for advice about acne. (Your skin could do anything. Mine completely cleared while pregnant, though that certainly doesn't happen with everyone.) I wanted to share my experience with hormone balancing anyways, since it may be something to consider after the baby is born. I have found that the only thing that would eliminate my cramps and PMS was regular exercise - running, in my case. I've been a runner since my teens, but it's been off and on. When I don't run, I get bad mood swings from PMS and lots of cramps. When I run, I don't experience any cramps and my mood swings are minimal. I have no idea how it affects my skin, since until recently I believed doctors when they said nothing we did would affect our acne. However, it certainly affects my hormones in a positive manner. Anyways, I have no idea if this would help you or if you've already tried this, but I thought I'd share my experience. Through the past year, as I've been healing my acne, I've discovered that acne generally has many causes and I've had to put all of the pieces together at once to really see an improvement.
    • Thanks so much for sharing your experience, Colleen. Exercise is one area that I really need to improve in. I get chronic foot pain just from standing up for a couple of hours, so exercising is tough, but I'm hoping that I can eventually fix the foot problem and things will get easier... So far pregnancy has made my skin a lot worse. Still crossing my fingers that things will get better, though...
  9. Carissa says:
    Hi Meghan! Great site, lots of good info. I love the GAPS book and think so many people can benefit from this "diet." Anyway, I thought I'd write because I have had cystic acne since my teens. I no longer have it and this has occurred in the last few months. According to a doctor I see I wasn't producing DHEA - a result of my having been on BCP for years and years ("brain not communicating with ovaries"). He prescribed 7-Keto DHEA, one per day, and it took a couple of months but I NO LONGER BREAK OUT. He said some people with acne over-produce DHEA and so I wouldn't know how to direct you to find out if you over produce or under produce but thought I'd share in case it could help. :)
    • Thanks for sharing this, Carissa. I'm pregnant right now so probably won't be able to do much in the supplement department for a while, but I will definitely file it away for the future. It's always helpful to hear about new things that worked for people! Thanks again.
  10. Carissa says:
    A follow up to my post yesterday... You can ask your doctor to test your DHEA levels. In fact, new research has some reproductive endocrinologists recommending the supplement to their patients to improve fertility.
  11. Ash Nand says:
    Hi Meghan, thankyou so much for building this site it has helped me understand GAPS allot more. I am actually just starting my own journey in implementing GAPS diet to fix my acne. I've started a online blog to track my progress and share with the world! I’m looking forward to positive results :)
  12. Kristin says:
    I used to have problem acne. I started on the oil cleanse method and my skin has completely cleared up. I might get a pimple once very month or so. Usually I get one when I stop using the method. It makes my skin so soft, as well. Just google the term and you will get tons of I formation. I have also heard that brewers yeast works very well, but I haven't tried it.
    • Thanks for sharing your experience, Kristin. I'm glad that oil cleansing has worked so well for you! I've tried it in the past without much success. But I'm pretty sure that nearly all (if not all) of my acne is due to internal issues, so that's not all that surprising to me.
  13. nicole says:
    Hi there. I've been doing paleo and autoimmune protocol for about 24 days now. I just started the low fodmap diet as well to try and help my acne. I can't tell yet if it's makin a difference or not. Have you considered trying any of these?
  14. Rose says:
    Hello, I know you posted this some time ago, and I hope your acne and hormone related problems are better. I have hormonal spots and have been suffering from bad period pains, mood swings which were getting worse each cycle. Around three months ago I started using natural progesterone cream (I use Wellsprings but the NHS usually prescribe a different brand) to help with the hormonal issues, which it did within two days. It balances out an oestrogen dominance, which is present for lots of reasons but I believe mostly from pesticide and hormonally fed meat. I won't go into all the technicalities of how to use the cream, you can find more doing a search for natural progesterone cream. I have found that my spots are much better, smaller and less frequent and I'm hoping that they will disappear after a full jar (I'm about 2/3 through now). I now never have period pains or mood swings, and am a little emotional on the day I start my period which is a huge difference to before I was using the cream. Good Luck on your quest for clear skin. Rose
  15. Natalie says:
    Hi Meghan: Just wondering how long it took before you noticed a difference in your acne? Did you eat only grass fed meats? I've read that conventional meats have tons of hormones. Do you take any supplements? I just started the GAPS diet in hopes of repairing my gut and clearing my acne. I think overeating and not allowing your digestive system to rest may have something to do with hormonal acne too (which I happen to do sometimes:) Cheers!
  16. Eczema Free says:
    It's great that you were able to go through the GAPS program! I don’t have acne, but I’ve struggled with eczema (a similar skin problem) ever since I was young. Recently I started a 30-day eczema program…similar to GAPS (it focuses on gut health) but easier, (you’re allowed to eat carbs, red meat, etc.) and it focuses on finding out what your eczema “triggers” are. For me the biggest skin triggers are wheat in gluten, dairy and high amounts of sugar. After finishing two weeks into the program and eliminating my “triggers” my skin cleared up so well! (I also lost 4lbs as a great “side effect” ;) ) It definitely is important to be careful as to what you put in your body! Have you tried to increase the amounts of probiotics and vitamins in your diet? One thing that I continued to do even after the 30-day eczema program was to regularly take vit D, probiotics, and Omega 3's. It really helped my skin see a huge difference! Good luck with everything! Christina
  17. It's amazing what a change in diet can do for all systems of the body! When I was a teen dealing with acne my doctor told that diet didn't have anything to do with it. I'm glad that times have changed. Thank you for sharing. I'm going to go read more about GAPS on your website right now as I'm not familiar with that. Best, Brian
  18. […] another woman was suffering from severe hormonal acne and turned to the GAPS Diet for help. After being on the diet for a few months, she saw significant improvement. While she believes she […]

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