Can taking probiotics cause your skin to break out and develop acne?

by Paris B on · 86 comments

in Health,Musings

Last week, I talked about how what we eat and how our internal plumbing affects our skin. A couple of you mentioned taking probiotics and how you derived benefits from it.

Well, when I was doing my personal research, I found that probiotics is definitely helpful for helping with digestion and bowel movement. What it is, is billions of beneficial bacteria introduced into your gut via a capsule or a yogurt or yogurt drink or even a drink like Yakult or Vitagen (I happen to love drinking the latter 2 as a kid, nevermind the sweetness. It was such a treat!)

probiotics Can taking probiotics cause your skin to break out and develop acne?

The purpose behind probiotics is to introduce more good bacteria to balance out the bad bacteria in your gut. It is being touted as a new health thing and like all health things, there will naturally be pros and cons. If you look out there though, the pros outweigh the cons of taking probiotics by about a million to one. Probiotics is even said to be able to help people who have skin problems, allergies or acne.

Well, guess who discovered a small side effect of taking probiotics that isn’t quite as inspiring as all that? icon razz Can taking probiotics cause your skin to break out and develop acne?

Yours truly actually had acne after taking probiotics. Yep. It defies imagination doesn’t it? Here is this capsule of all these supposedly good bacteria that’s supposed to help with digestive problems, clear up internal plumbing and maybe even help with clearing up acne on skin.

What I experienced was otherwise. I was having some spots. This was during the time before I decided to do anything to my diet. It was highly irritating. I was then suggested to try some probiotics. Everyone in my family was taking it and everyone was raving about how regular it made them. That was the primary reason for taking the probiotics I might add.

probiotics2 Can taking probiotics cause your skin to break out and develop acne?

So I started taking it once a day. After about a week, I started to realize that my skin, which was bad before, was now stark raving NUTS! I was having huge, painful cystic acne on my chin and honestly, after not having such bad skin for such a long time, it was a downer. It wasn’t hormones, I might add. It wasn’t close to that time of the month when hormones go nuts, and I haven’t had hormonal acne for a while now.

I don’t know what made me think about the probiotics I was taking. One morning, I woke up and thought “I wonder if its the probiotics?” Perhaps it was some instinct so I stopped it. Within 2 weeks, I started to notice a difference to my skin. Coupled with my lifestyle and diet change, I found my skin was healing itself, with no lasting damage. Was it the probiotics then? Could it actually cause me to have acne?

I looked for information online but there was little to no information. Most people said it HELPED their acne problem. It was on a few little known forums where I found one or two people who mentioned the same things I experienced. Within a couple of days of taking probiotics, they erupted with acne along the chin and jaw line. After stopping, the breakouts stopped. Most people shot that theory down and told them to stick it out but I personally felt there was something there. I wasn’t going to stick it out, no matter what anyone said.

I’d gotten my problem under control by this time. Barring the regular random blackheads my skin was back to normal. So, I decided to experiment. I popped a probiotic capsule just last week in the morning. By evening, there was a painful hard spot forming on my chin. By the next morning, it was a full blown painful cystic acne spot. I wasn’t waiting around to see what happened if I popped another capsule!

So, going from my personal experience with probiotics, I’m going to stick my head out and say that yes, in some very rare cases (like mine) probiotics can cause you more harm to your skin than good. Probiotics can, in my case, cause you to break out and have acne problems where you had none before, or even make your problem worse.

I’ve stopped taking probiotics and am now treating the spot with the Nexcare patch which is helping to bring down the swelling and reduce the painful spot. Once it flattens out or comes to a head, I’ll go with tea tree oil and then perhaps a whitening spot corrector to get rid of the mark and hydration to get my skin back to normal.

Its a horrible process and if you ask me, I think this an awful way to discover that probiotics isn’t for me. I might add that it could also be the strain of bacteria used in this particular brand (it all looks like the normal stuff in most probiotics supplements though). Not being medically or pharmaceutically trained, I can’t tell. The only thing I will say is that I’m quite safely NOT going near anymore probiotic supplements from now on.

If anyone has shared a similar experience as I have, I hope you could share it. Perhaps you had a good experience with taking probiotics. Share it too! icon smile Can taking probiotics cause your skin to break out and develop acne?

Paris B

Disclaimer: This anecdote and conclusion is based on my personal experience. I am not medically nor phamaceutically trained. If in doubt please consult your doctor.

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[ 86 comments… read them below or join the discussion ]

Joy Chong June 12, 2012 at 9:09 am

This year i went on this epic diet where I was obsessed with yogurt and had almost 500ml of it everyday for lunch. I broke up like crazy for 3 months because according to the dermatologist, there were too much hormones in the yougurt i.e from a cow = hormone crazy = crazy skin.

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Paris B June 12, 2012 at 11:16 pm

Wow! I didn’t know that could happen! Maybe the sugars in yogurt too? I’ve stopped taking yogurt since my lactose intolerance. Since the probiotics in there didn’t help with digesting the yogurt I guess it just didn’t help me there.

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DyN June 29, 2012 at 1:29 pm

Yup my derm mentioned how the hormones from the cows (all the stuff they feed them) has been scientifically proven to worsen acne. He cited some medical journal and advised me not to take so much beef, milk etc for my acne =/

*I’m new to your blog ParisB and am enjoying every post!

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Lily June 12, 2012 at 9:15 am

Oh my goodness, that’s horrible! I haven’t taken any probiotics in my life even though doc recommends it. All the more reason to stay away from it now. Do you think it is getting rid of the bad toxins in your body and if you continued, everything will clear up? Well, actually, even if it’s the case, I wouldn’t wait around to find out ;-)

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Paris B June 12, 2012 at 11:17 pm

I know! Everyone recommends it but after this experience, I’m not going to try it again bah! What a way to figure it out. I did read sometimes it maybe the bad toxins coming to the surface etc. but I wasn’t prepared to stick it out and find out :P

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Lindsey June 12, 2012 at 9:22 am

I personally only take probiotics after taking antibiotics and that sort of thing, to put back in what was possibly killed, you know? But I think anything we put into our bodies can cause acne, or not, everyone’s skin is just so different. It’s why I hate things that claim to be “non-comedogenic” because that’s really a person-to-person thing. I think we just have to be careful of only introducing one new thing at a time, so it’s easier to figure out what the cause of a breakout/reaction is, that seems to be the only way around this stuff.

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Paris B June 12, 2012 at 11:19 pm

I agree with you totally! We are all built differently so there’s no way we can say that one thing works for everyone. What it may work for is the majority but there will always be exceptions. I’ve gone back to taking fish oil. Working well for me!

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ProudMummy June 12, 2012 at 9:48 am

I’ve been reading your various posts on acne and thought I’d share this.
I’ve had acne since my student days in the UK. Fast forward to today, I’m almost 50 years old and still have acne. My breakouts are mainly around the chin area, which everyone says it hormone-related. Well, I went for my routine check up and my gynae confirmed that I have fibroids, which basically mean my body produces too much of female hormones. Sad thing, I’m due for surgery soon to remove my womb and I’m hoping that despite this bleak diagnosis, my problem with acne will finally be over. So ladies, do go for regular checkups.

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Paris B June 12, 2012 at 11:21 pm

Thank you for sharing! I will agree that a chronic and long lasting problem may signal that something is wrong internally and should get checked out. Im sorry to hear of your impending surgery :( I hope it will not only solve your acne problem, but also any other medical issues related to it.

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Grace June 12, 2012 at 9:51 am

It could be the probiotics detoxify toxins from ur body…and the only way those particular toxins to come out is unfortunately it chose ur face its exit and as pimples.

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Paris B June 12, 2012 at 11:23 pm

Yup! That’s what I read too but I wasn’t keen to stick it out and find out. Partly, most people who did experience breakouts had small pimples that went away after a few days. I was having painful cystic acne that was getting worse everyday. When I stopped, it got better. Didn’t want to risk staying on it :) could just be me though ;)

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kim January 25, 2014 at 6:20 am

I had the exact same experience. Started taking probiotics about 3 months ago. The past six to eight weeks have been horrible. I’ve never had good skin, but these chin pimples were huge, hard and cystic. One after another and I haven’t been able to figure out what is going on. Today it hit me – maybe it’s the probiotics! I’m stopping today and we will see. Thanks so much for the post because I thought maybe I was the only one.

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Jyoan June 12, 2012 at 10:34 am

I never knew probiotics could help or stop acne. Good post!

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Paris B June 12, 2012 at 11:24 pm

It helps with digestion primarily so I guess the helping to cure acne problems maybe a positive side effect :)

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Riceball June 12, 2012 at 10:45 am

Maybe because the probiotics were cultured in milk? To people who are allergic to milk and that might cause problem. I am taking probiotics too, and you just reminded me to test if it is causing the random acnes I am having lately, because I am lactose intolerant :(

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Paris B June 12, 2012 at 11:25 pm

That’s an interesting point! I am slightly lactose intolerant although my intolerance manifests mostly in stomach indigestion. I can’t recall if I got acne due to eating dairy foods, to be honest! But it could be a reason!

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plue June 12, 2012 at 10:51 am

sorry to hear what happened, but i guess at least it’s spots that you can deal with, though it’s quite a long healing process.

am just starting to take probiotics that’s included in cereals, hopefully i don’t get any adverse effect!

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Paris B June 12, 2012 at 11:27 pm

Probiotics in cereals usually don’t come in such high doses so I guess you’re safe :) its a horrible healing process :(

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Jue June 12, 2012 at 12:55 pm

My sister had the same problem and she did stick out for weeks and her skin turn out well after that.

But I don’t have the same optimistic level as her and don’t want to go through weeks of hell to have a clearer skin (yes, that’s a lot of negative in one sentence).

I think my skin is alright at the moment and I am perfectly fine with having occasional spots and dealing it with continuous using serum.

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Paris B June 12, 2012 at 11:44 pm

Hats off to your sister! I’m afraid that like you, I’m not prepared to try sticking it for weeks in the hope something good will come out of it. What if it only gets worse! *gasp* I’m very happy with my skin now too *touchwood* just got to get rid of this damned spot and I’m good :)

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Stacey June 12, 2012 at 1:37 pm

i love yakult and it would be a shame if it causes acne. i can’t go one day without it. but so far, i didn’t have any breakouts on my chin lately. *knocks on wood*

I am just curious.. you took probiotics in the morning and by evening a pimple popped out? that’s pretty fast.. i thought it takes much longer for the pimple to surface actually..

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Paris B June 12, 2012 at 11:45 pm

Yup, within a day. It might have been an unfortunate coincidence but I wasn’t waiting to see if it was! None others have popped up since I stopped though. But it’s good to know it works for you. My family can’t understand either lol!

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Michelle November 23, 2013 at 8:52 am

I can completely relate to the acne around the chin line while taking probiotics. After taking them for years, this is new for me. I actually get itchiness on my forehead from breaking out with little pimples, also, then the painful cystic ones along my chin. Once before I stopped taking all my supplements and my skin cleared up. After some experimenting, I thought it was my fish oil or Vit D. Now I’ve stopped the probiotics and no new eruptions or itchiness. Once this break out has cleared up, I’m not going to go back on probiotics again unless through food. Thanks for sharing since there wasn’t much info regarding this online.

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Sze Ling June 12, 2012 at 3:20 pm

When I was a teeny tiny kid, I love love love Vitagen. Now, I just can’t stand the sweetness. Drives me nuts!

I don’t purposely take any form of probiotics. But I do like plain yogurt with fruits every not and then. Probably once a week. So, I hope that’s not too much for my skin. :P

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Paris B June 12, 2012 at 11:52 pm

I haven’t had vitamin for years?! Haha I do like taking it though but only in th original flavor and only if it’s very chilled. I wonder if it’ll make me break out too? It probably doesn’t have as many bacteria as the capsules I was taking. I stopped taking yoghurt due to lactose intolerance. Surprisingly, the probiotics in it didn’t help with that!

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Petrina Alescna June 12, 2012 at 7:11 pm

I’m so sorry about your experience :( I personally do take a capsule of probiotics daily and have been for the last 5 years as I have a very horrible digestive system. Mine is kinda inherited ( mum, sis & bro have it too) and it has been a God send for me.

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Paris B June 12, 2012 at 11:57 pm

I guess it works differently for us all :) I’m glad it helps with your digestion though. It’s so important to have the digestive system working properly right? Really bothersome otherwise!

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casacanberra June 12, 2012 at 9:48 pm

Hi Paris,

I’ve been a reader for a loooong time, but haven’t gotten a chance to comment.

I have the most problematic (asian) skin – sensitive, oily, dehydrated, extremely prone to redness!! I can’t even use Clarisonic for 2 days in a row, without getting a breakout!! On good weeks, I can probably use the Clarisonic twice a week… and that’ the max, before my skin screams murder!!

I’ve been taking probiotics for a few years, mainly to help with my gastric problem. On good months when i diligently take my probiotics day and night, my skin actually cleared up. My skin has only gotten worst when I OD on sugar and dairy, coupled with Probiotics. I’m a sugar-fiend, and cutting back on sugar is worst than someone taking away all my credit & debit cards. So while I think Probiotics may not be for everyone, cutting back on sugar and dairy definitely has brought about significant changes to my skin!! Perhaps you can take the probiotics 1st thing in the morning, on an empty stomach, with lots of water.

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Paris B June 13, 2012 at 12:01 am

Hi there! Thank you so much for sharing your experience. I think it’s so interesting how we all have different experiences with everything so it’s educational to hear from others, good or bad! :D cutting back on sugar and dairy wasn’t hard for me because I don’t eat much of either ;) I was taking the probiotics first thing in the morning with water. I guess it’s just not for me :(

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Alene June 12, 2012 at 9:57 pm

PARIS! you are right! i cannot take not only probiotics, but any form of supplements, be it zinc, vitamin b, vitamin c or multivites, it makes me skin go STARK RAVING mad as well! absofreakinglutely crazy!!!

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Paris B June 13, 2012 at 12:01 am

Wow! It’s nice to know I’m not alone :P I can take oat supplements but am taking fish oil now. That shouldn’t be horrible for your skin right?

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Alene June 13, 2012 at 11:18 am

oh yeah fish oil so far has been ok for me, but really nothing else. man i tell u the zinc ones last time murdered my skin!

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Helz Nguyen June 13, 2012 at 2:52 am

Yup, probiotics doesnt work for me either :( they always made my stomach upsets and it goes on for weeks before my stomach settle down. But I never heard the side effects that you had either, so I guess probiotics arent that wonderful and suitable to everybody. Sucks!

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Paris B June 17, 2012 at 11:03 pm

I’m sort of glad to know that you can’t take probiotics either. Well, not glad that you cant but glad that I’m not alone :) I think we all react differently to different things.

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Clare June 14, 2012 at 5:53 am

Hi, I just wanted to add to this discussion what I recently experienced, taking a Probiotic. During the last 3 days or so, I’ve noticed raised “Air bumps” or Whelps on the inside of my left arm, the only place they appear. Being a 3 time Breast Cancer Survivor, I do take many medications to manage both my resultant chronic pain and other ailments that accompany age (64 1/2). Anyway, a Doctor I saw yesterday called what he saw were “Hives” but the description of Hives and what I was seeing on my arm did not match, in any manner at all. But I do kind of remember seeing these “bumps” some time ago while taking the same Probiotic. So, I just thought I’d add my two cents to the discussion to see if anyone else had had such a experience. Replys would be helpful..Thanks Much

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Janet June 15, 2012 at 5:52 pm

This is a bit bizarre for me to read… as the I thought the science behind the concept of probiotics helping skin was pretty sound – eg – http://www.optibacprobiotics.co.uk/resource-centre/faq/category-precise-conditions/46-can-probiotics-help-with-acne-or-spots.html – granted this is written BY a probiotics company haha!

You mention you were taking them with water – but were you drinking lots of water Paris ? I suppose if they work they could displace toxins in the body so its necessary to make a real effort to flush these out..?

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Paris B June 18, 2012 at 12:23 pm

I don’t doubt the science behind it, but I will have to say that as with all medicine/supplements every body will react differently. There are people online who I’ve found had similar results which leads me to my conclusion that it isn’t something I’m willing to take. Yes, I was taking a lot of water but it never got better, only worse and it cleared up when I stopped taking the probiotics so I guess that answered my question :)

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Karen B June 23, 2012 at 12:45 am

Paris, I also break out really bad with anything that has probiotics in it. My sister does too.. We think it’s a genetic thing. Sad part is that I keep trying them because I love healthy things and detoxing my body… I already have really bad acne as it is, but taking probiotics in pill form, drinking kombucha or kefir; you name it, I break out everytime! And just like you, I get the cysts.. It’s no fun!

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Paris B June 24, 2012 at 10:11 pm

Hi Karen B, I’m sorry to hear of your experience but I’m sort of relieved I’m not alone in this! I guess we belong in the minority here

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Robin June 24, 2012 at 6:36 am

I just call my term, to see if she can change my prescription I take oral meds for my acne made my skin so clear pimple free, i was recently told by my family Dr to take a probiotic everyday, i started going to the bathroom regular but my face started to break out so bad, i have been trying to figure out why all of a sudden this happened, I was online looking for a new Derm Dr thinking the one I have wasn’t for me but after reading i now believe its the probiotics… I won’t take for a few days and see what happens. Thanks for the information.

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Cindy C June 29, 2012 at 3:14 am

Paris, I’m with you!, I am in my early 50′s and have had no problem with acne except for an occasional pimple every 6 months, or so… For the past couple of months, I have been experiencing large, cyst like breakouts on my chin, along with rash like, bumpy break outs on my forehead, scalp and cheeks, along the hairline. I couldn’t figure out why it was happening because I haven’t changed any routine in my skincare, haircare or diet. EXCEPT, I starting taking a probiotic every day a few months ago!!! Today, I am convinced it’s the probiotic, and will update you in a couple of weeks to let you know if the break outs have stopped!

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Paris B July 2, 2012 at 12:00 pm

Thanks for sharing your story Cindy! I hope your breakouts stop once you stop the probiotics! Apparently, whilst it may be good for the general populace, some of us can’t handle it!

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Nonnie July 16, 2012 at 2:45 pm

Yes! I have been taking a daily probiotic for over a month now and my acne prone skin has gotten worse. I am experiencing tiny bumps along my forehead, jaw line and chin like i’ve never had before. The probiotic is the only thing new I’ve added to my life in the last month. I haven’t taken one in 3 days but I am still breaking out. I’ll let you know the status in 2 weeks. Thank goodness I decided to research this cause I thought just like most of you that probiotics would be good for acne.

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Beth August 31, 2012 at 9:33 am

Have you ever heard of Leaky Gut Syndrome? I came across information tonight about drinking Kombucha and it causing acne, and I drink a fair amount of it (it has probiotics). And I also this past month started drinking Apple Cider Vinegar (for the probiotics – one shot every morning) and eating Keifer (for the probiotics – for breakfast). Maybe it was overboard.. but I’m thinking it might be because I have leaky gut syndrome. You should look into this.. there is a great forum on acne.org that also talks about the correlation. I am currently taking a break from this to test my theory. As well as a break from cod liver oil, which I heard can also cause cystic acne on the jawline.

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Julie September 13, 2012 at 2:07 am

Hi Paris. Thanks for your post! I thought I was the only one. I was recommended probiotics by my Naturopathic doctor to help with a stomach/bowel condition that I have. It seemed to help my stomach but left me with horrible cystic acne, especially around the chin. I’ve been on the probiotics since June and just recently made the connection. I have been off them for about 2 weeks and seem to be improving greatly. I will mention this to my doctor at my next visit to get her take on it. It’s so hard to know what we should/shouldn’t do :)

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Paris B September 16, 2012 at 10:11 pm

I hope you find a solution, Julie!

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Steve M September 16, 2012 at 11:10 pm

Mornin Everyone !
1st time poster and thought I’d share my experences. A few days after I started taking probiotic pills I started to get a large whitish looking pimple on the gum. Just one of them. (I am not prone to, nor have I ever had any acne issues) I was pretty shook up, as I have bad teeth, and I thought it was another infection, cavity, etc. I called my denist… he said what I was describing did not sound like a tooth/gum issue, but to moniter. On a hunch I stopped taking the probiotics, and within days the pimple was gone. A few months have gone by, and decided to try taking the probiotic pills again. Sure enough, after a day or two, here come another pimple looking thingy on my gum. I thought too, it might be the toxins leaving my body. Since the pimple(s) are on the inside I am going to start taking probiotics again, on the hope if it is toxins leaving that eventually the pimple(s) will go away as the toxins inside me begin to subside. Just my two cents. I’ll bookmark this site, and report back my results. Have A Nice Day All.. Steve Out !!

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jzn October 18, 2012 at 6:42 pm

Great post! I woke up this morning trying to find a cause to my acne. I had acne as a teenager and as an adult it went away. About 2 years ago I started taking probiotics to manage my symptoms of IBS. I started having severe acne probelms..the deep cystic pimples. My dermatologist prescribed me some cream and it helped me manage the acne. Last year I was off the probiotics as I lived in a different country and the price was out of control. NO acne. I started taking probiotics again in September 2011 and since then my acne has returned. I literally woke up this morning and thought to myself that maybe my probiotic was causing my acne. If this is true…I am bummed. I need the probiotics to manage my IBS. Has anyone found any other solutions to manage their IBS w/o having acne break outs?

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Julie November 10, 2012 at 11:05 am

Hi Jzn,
I have IBS/ulcerative colitis. I posted my experience with probiotics back on September 13th. Since I have stopped taking them, my acne has gotten 100% better. As for treatments for IBS, I have recently started seeing a Naturopath, as I did not want to take a prescribed medication daily. My ND had originally put me on supplements, anti-flammatory shake mix, as well as probiotics. After I made the connection with the probiotics I am now down to just supplements. They are working great! I have not had any stomach issues and do not need to take the prescribed medication from my specialist. It might be worth consulting a Naturopath to see what type of supplements would be right for you. It’s worth a shot. Best of luck!

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