I Went on a 4-Week Gut Cleanse, and It Changed Everything

January and detoxing go hand in hand, but before you commit to a liquid-only diet for seven days, consider a different type of cleanse: the microbiome diet. Natural health enthusiasts swear this anti-inflammatory food plan can help with everything from acne to eczema and even depression by rebalancing the bacteria in your digestive system in just a few weeks—no juicing required. It sounds too good to be legit, but four weeks of following the diet totally transformed my skin, so stick around and hear me out.

This experiment began when my face exploded in chronic cystic acne a little over a year ago. Despite multiple visits to a dermatologist, three courses of antibiotics, and daily use of prescription creams like Tazorac, the breakouts continued—so in desperation, I scoured the Internet for a natural fix. I started by cleaning up my beauty routine (if you haven’t tried May Lindstrom’s charcoal face mask, my jojoba oil from The Buff, or replaced your toner with apple cider vinegar, your skin’s missing out!), and then a colleague inspired me to seek the counsel of medicinal herbalist Daniela Turley. “She’s a total guru,” my friend assured me, so I penciled in an appointment.

During our appointment—after I complained hysterically about a recent and particularly painful breakout—Turley calmly explained that my skin concerns were likely due to yeast growing in unhealthy quantities throughout my digestive system. Ironically, the antibiotics I’d been taking to treat my skin could have been contributing to the problem: “High-sugar diets, antibiotic use and certain diseases such as diabetes can make the gut flora more ‘yeasty,’” she said. Acne is apparently a very common symptom of a yeast imbalance, but Turley says clients also often complain of bloating, digestive issues, lethargy, and foggy headedness—and yes, this is the same type of yeast infection that could present as vaginal thrush.