The Cause of Dark Under Eye Circles

Dark Under eye circles

Do you or do one of your children have dark under eye circles?

Dark under eye circles are a good indicator of food allergies.  Seasonal allergies have been known to cause under eye circles as well, but both can be linked back to an abnormal intestinal flora or an abnormally permeable mucus membrane in the gut otherwise known as “leaky gut .  

These under eye circles are your body telling you that your immune system is overactive.

When your intestinal flora is not fully populated with good, healthy bacteria it leaves room for the mucus membrane on the gut wall to become compromised.  This compromised gut lining can allow food particles to pass through the gut wall and into the blood stream undigested.  These undigested particles are seen as “foreign” invaders just as they might see a virus attacking the body.

Your body will then produce anti-bodies to attack the foreign substance, as the body attacks you will most likely develop allergy symptoms as your body’s attempt to naturally detox your system and rid it of the invaders.  Dark under eye circles are just one allergic symptom and too often this allergy related symptom is overlooked by health professionals.

Are you Hypochlorhydric?

When the body is not making enough stomach acid it can cause problems like indigestion, heartburn, depression, allergies, and the mal-digestion of proteins.  It can cause a whole host of problems in the body as well allowing allergies to develop.  It will also be quite difficult for an individual to get the nourishment that they need since they will not be able to absorb their needed nutrients.  This insufficient stomach acid can cause the membranes of the stomach to continue to allow undigested proteins into the blood stream, which will keep causing problems.

Is your Liver Congested?

Your liver is in charge of filtering toxins from the body, this is another way that the body defends itself from invaders.  If it is functioning properly it can filter out foreign substances that are harmful or toxic to it.  If the liver is not functioning properly then it will be unable to filter these components that are toxic to the body and cause the body to continue this immune response.

Liver congestion is very common in our culture due to environmental toxins and often our toxic diets.  It is always a good idea to help it function optimally such in a gentle liver detox.  But, healing digestion and balancing blood sugar are important components to help cleanse and heal the liver.

Does this all sound overwhelming?  

When dealing with under eye circles the best line of defense is to focus on healing the gut.  Since 80% of our immune system is located in our gut we need focus on eliminating the foods that are causing it stress.  An overactive immune system that is fighting foreign invaders that aren’t actual illnesses and only undigested food particles will cause it to get exhausted.   And, an exhausted immune system will not be able to fight off the viruses and illnesses that it really needs to fight off when they come your way.  When experiencing under eye circles it is best to begin to correct digestion right away so that you can function at optimal health!


 Signs Symptoms and Analysis from a Function Perspective. Weatherby, Dicken, N.D. Bear Mountain Publishing 2004.

Why Stomach Acid is Good for You. Wright and Lenard. M. Evans & Company 2001.

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  1. This is really helpful. I’ve had dark circles under my eyes for as long as I can remember, and always assumed it was related to sleep. I had never heard any of these reasons before but I’m very glad to have heard them so I can investigate the root of the problem. Thanks!

  2. I thought one of the reasons, they could be genetic! Is that true?

    • Becky Webb says:

      Hi Ghada! Yes, ma’am they can be passed on from mother to baby… I don’t think that fits the bill of a genetics though. A mother can pass on her dysbiosis or imbalance of gut flora to her child. This can cause generations of under eye circles and a whole host of other problems.

  3. My 3 year old boy gets dark circles under his eyes often.
    Can a probiotic help with strengthening the gut flora and digestion?

    • Yes! A good probiotic can help very much. I recommend part of a capsule of this one before bedtime each night. If you haven’t check out this post it is good one to take a peek. The powdered gelatin can be used to make gummies and treats to heal the guts of anybody, but especially easy for small children to eat.

      • It is absolutely genetic for some. For us, it’s an Italian trait. However, the darkness is often all around the eye, not just circles — as if you needed a nights sleep. That one actor, Vincent….something…the one that played the ghost in the subway in the movie ghost, has that type of dark eye circle.

  4. Milk allergy and hypothroidism can also be causes

    • Becky Webb says:

      Thanks for your comment Sue. Milk allergies are food allergies and can find their roots back to gut dysbiosis just like any other food allergy. Typically, those who suffer from hypothyridism are nearly always hypochlorhydric, have imbalanced gut flora and often suffer from an over active immune system. In order to balance an under-active thyroid it is always important to balance the gut flora. This balancing of the gut flora can often be a first step in balancing an under-active thyroid.

  5. In addition to adding good bacteria, what should I do get rid of the bad bacteria?

    • Becky Webb says:

      It is essentially a healthy body’s job to rid itself of bad bacteria. The immune system will do a great job of this when the gut is populated with good bacteria, the blood sugar is balanced, you a properly hydrated, getting enough nutrients, and on is getting nourishing foods. A great place to start is digestion. And, I offer one-on-one help for those who are stuck and want some additional support.

  6. My son had terrible dark circles under his eyes while he was growing up – it turned out he had Crohn’s Disease! AFter starting the Specific Carbohydrate Diet these circles have gone along with the symptoms of the disease!

    A great post covering a topic which people (and doctors) don’t fully understand!
    Vicky recently posted…Sainsbury’s Freefrom ChristmasMy Profile

  7. My daughter and I have dark circles. We’ve been on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet for more than 3 1/2 years, take a daily SCD-legal probiotic and digestive enzymes before each meal, have done everything I have read so far to address liver toxicity, etc. etc. My daughter has had multiple food allergy/environmental allergy testing and we’ve eliminated all the foods that show up, but can’t eliminate all the environmental ones. Overall our general health is much improved, but the pesky dark circles remain. I am not sure what to try next.

    • Becky Webb says:

      Hey Susan! It is hard to know without seeing a full work-up. How long have you been on your protocol for the whole 3.5 years? If you are feeling better it sounds like you are on the path to healing. 🙂

  8. Yup, my husband (when I first met him) had these significant dark circles under his eyes and bags. He told me it was his “Italian heritage”, but I knew better:) His diet consisted of lots of pizza, lots of eating out at restaurants, etc. I quickly put him on the same non-restrictive but healthy diet I was on (the Weston A. Price diet, basically). And his under eye circles and bags disappeared within 6 months and are still gone to this day.

  9. Hi, I have very dark bruising like in the inside corners of my eyes,not under. Also my eyes are irritated all the time and mucousy. my eye lids are dark as well and I have tenderness if I press just below my brow bone. I am a smoker,but even when I was not smoking I had this.The bruising look started about 6 years ago maybe.I am 54. Do you think I have a food allergy?
    I am on probiotics and I juice.and not a lot of dairy in my diet. I do have digestive issues also.
    Hoping for some help! Thank you! Holly

    • Becky Webb says:

      Hi Holly! It sounds to me like you have quite a bit of liver congestion. I really can’t tell if you have food allergies without knowing more about you, but it is very possible. Especially if you are having lots of digestive issues. If you want personal support please contact me personally. Here are my rates I would love to be of help to you!

      • Thank you,what would cause liver congestion?

        • Becky Webb says:

          Smoking will most definitely causes liver congestion. Other factors can include food related toxins, chemicals, as well as environmental toxins can all cause liver congestion. The liver is our cleansing organ. If it is overwhelmed by what is put in or applied to your body and abused it can easily have a difficult time detoxing itself and cause you multiple problems.

          • Thank you so much! I am very holistic minded and have studied extensively. I eat pretty clean,drink lots of water,take suppliments like perfect raw food by garden of life. I am quitting the smoking actually tomorrow! I think I will do a liver cleanse and see if that helps. Thank you for your advise! God bless! Holly

  10. Internal health problems lead to certain problems like dark circles. A good observation Becky. Proper diet is most important.

  11. I think this blog post is alarmist and I find that extremely annoying! The photo says “The REAL cause of dark under eye circles” and then in the first paragraph you go on to say “…CAN be linked back”. So you do state it is, basically, only a chance your theory is the cause but the title and title photo say it is the REAL cause as if it is the one and only. So sick of alarmist bloggers!

    • Becky Webb says:

      Wow, sorry the title of my post bothers you so much. Fortunately in my professional experience the content of this DOES contain the REAL cause for dark under eye circles about 98% of the time. Occasionally, people do have a little bit darker pigment under their eyes which may be little cause for concern, but that is pretty rare. Unfortunately as far as life and science go since we aren’t God we can not be 100% sure of anything. That is where Faith and experience come alongside research. As I am not God Himself, I have taken extensive research, experience and sound mind in order to see this play out. I find it alarming that you think an article title like this is a result of an “alarmist blogger.” I encourage you or anyone to always research and read about anything you hear or have been told from anyone to come to a solid research based conclusion. Even if I were to hold a PhD in the subject I would have to said it in similar terms.

    • Zoe,
      Though I kind of agree with you, and disagree with Becky that the number is 98% of the time over, say, genetics, what is she really saying? Eat right, feed the good gut stuff, not the bad, and get enough sleep. Hardly alarming. We all start eating right, sleeping right, and exercising for our own personal reasons (I, personally, am THIS close to doing two out of the three), and for some, getting rid of bags is as good a reason as any.

  12. Thank you so much for posting this!! I have darker circles and related it to heredity but recently I have been removing gluten from my diet and my eyes are looking better! My stomach is not so yuck feeling either. I am also taking It Works Greens to build up my immune system.

  13. Laura Lucas says:

    I’ve always had dark circles under my eyes but none of the other symptoms you describe. That makes me think the cause of my dark circles might be different. I’d love to know your thoughts!

    • Becky Webb says:

      Interesting. It is really hard to know without knowing more about you, your health history and diet. Occasionally, people can have a bit of natural darker pigment under their eyes that may be no cause for concern. This natural dark pigment is a much more rare occurrence, I rarely see it. But, not impossible.

  14. how will you ever figure out which food is causing the reaction?

  15. CavePainter says:

    If you still have dark circles after cleaning up your diet you can use a mint leaf paste to lighten them:

  16. I was born with dark circles so will I be able to get rid of them? If so, how? I am working on eating clean so hopefully that will help.

    • Becky Webb says:

      Hi Jessica! Many people are born with dark circles under their eyes. It can often be a sign of gut dysbiosis from birth. It is not impossible to have naturally dark pigment under the eyes, but I have found that with how common gut problems can be this is often the case. I recommend working on your gut health, I also take clients and help them with digestion issues that often improve these circles.

  17. What research / references can you share to back up this theory please?

    • Becky Webb says:

      Hi Cheryl. I included two references at the end of the post. I can also verify it by my own experience with clients.

  18. Dark circles can also be a sign of G6PD, an inherited genetic defect. G6PD causes somethings, like fava beans, to destroy the red blood cells and makes your body unable to produce red blood cells quickly enough to compensate. Items containing Sulfa are particularly bad. My daughter always had the dark circles, we found out about G6PG and eliminated the items that cause problems, and no more circles.

    • This is interesting, I have dark circles and just recently started to investigate the cause since my son developed them right after starting whole cows milk at 12 months. For myself, I have always had ‘low iron’ and also react with nausea to sulfa drugs. Can you tell me what items cause problems if you have this G6PD? BTW my little guy has his bright eyes back after just 2 weeks on goats milk without even eliminating cheese and yogurt from his diet.

      • Dana,
        Cheese and yogurt are broken down from milk by the enzymes and bacteria used to make them, so many people can tolerate them better. However, though the health community is starting to move toward giving your kids foods that might give them problems now, so they don’t have bigger problems later, personally, I would avoid anything made from cows milk products altogether, but if cows cheese is an ingredient in something, I would let my son have it. Just my way of thinking.

  19. Hey Becky!
    So many questions! Thanks for the great info. My son has these dark circles and we’ve been told by our naturopath the cause may be an iron or vitamin D defiecency. It’s hard for me to think he has some sort of allergy as he’s an extremely healthy and happy kid. No behavior issues at all…just the dark circles.

    • Becky Webb says:

      Thanks for your comment Julia. That’s interesting. Good to hear that he is healthy and happy for sure! Typically it is an immune response of some kind. Does he have them in the summer time? Vitamin D could make a huge difference in how his immune system is functioning for sure.

  20. I cannot break down the proteins in milk. If I get any dairy, from any mammal, I get dark circles under my eyes. I’ve managed to heal my leaky gut but dairy continues to bother me. Takes about 24 hours to show up if I eat something that contains dairy, which I never do deliberately…there are other side effects as well. It takes about 3 months for dairy to work it’s way out of my system.

  21. I do agree, but this is not always true. My daughter had dark circles under her eyes. It wasn’t until we fixed her thyroid problem did they go away. Her excema also cleared up after some time on thyroid medication. That is also an “indication” of food issues, but in her case it wasn’t. Dark circles aren’t always food or gut healthy. Oh how I wish it were that simple.

  22. My son had dark circles and it turned out he was developing type 1 diabetes. Look for other signs that may seem unrelated, like bedwetting, or obvious like being grumpy or tired. Might be related in a way you didn’t consider.

    • Becky Webb says:


      Diabetes often has everything to do with digestion. Other things you mentioned as well can have roots in digestion. The gut has so much to do with our body systems.

  23. My 5 year old has a LOT of allergies, including a severe peanut allergy. She has Eczema and dark circles under eyes, as well as getting colds and respiratory illnesses too often. Her pediatrician seems unconcerned with it all, attributing the circles to her allergy and colds to being school-age. What should my first step be to correcting all of this if its a gut issue??

    • Becky Webb says:

      Hi Ashley,

      I am sure that you have pulled foods from his diet that she is allergic too. That is the first step. Pay close attention. If any foods seem to bother her, make sure you don’t continue to give them to her. Even if she just seems irritable. That can begin to allow the gut to heal and some of them you may be able to add in later. Get a good probiotic. Also, subscribe to my newsletter. I hope to be talking about an awesome program that will be re-releasing in the spring that may be able to give you some good direction.

  24. Thanks a bunch for this!!! My 5 year old has dark circles almost all winter. He’s occasionally sick too. I’ve given him Claritin to no avail as far as the circles. I’ve been making smoothies with yogurt, for the live acidophilus of course. Still, circles!!! He is fair skinned. And summer, he’s great!!! I can’t pinpoint a certain food allergy, as I said, he has these circles all winter. UGH should I move South???

  25. I got dark circle under just one eye what looks pretty bad sometimes, like somebody hit me. Other eye have dark circle too but is barely noticeable.
    I got that before maybe 6 months, I tried vitamins, change diet…didn’t work…what you suggest? Maybe probiotics and liver detox???

    • Becky Webb says:

      You definitely have a immune response going on. I think a digestive cleanse with a focus on the liver would be really helpful.

  26. Charity says:

    I’ve recently developed dark circles under my eyes after a couple of mths of eating organic kefir almost twice/day.
    I had nasal congestion first and that gave me a clue to the dairy. I’ve been off dairy for 5 days now.., and the congestion is improving nicely. How long should it take to get rid of the circles? Just curious.., being in the natural health industry, I’m anxious to let them go 🙂
    Thx so much.

    • Becky Webb says:

      Sorry Charity, I’m not sure. It may vary from person to person.

    • Charity,

      I have heard about Kefir giving people problems. I think it has to do with maybe a higher concentration of the milk proteins. Does yogurt bother you?

  27. Hi,
    My 3 year old son has bad seasonal allergies and has had dark circles under his eyes since he was an infant. He also has a speech delay and some behavioral issues. Bread is a big part of his diet so I have been really hesitant to eliminate it. I also want to get him on a good probiotic because he gets frequent colds which always goes into his chest. Can you give me some advice? Also, I need a good probiotic for children recommendation. Something that he will not fight me to take. Thanks.

    • Becky Webb says:

      Hi Gina, I would definitely remove bread from his diet and see if it makes a difference. You’ll want to trial it for at least a couple of weeks. There are lots of paleo breads or wheat free bread alternatives that you can try. However, I would either make your own or I would find a brand with as few ingredients as possible. Our favorite probiotic for the kids is Gut Pro. You’ll find it is pricey and it comes in a little bottle but it will last you FOREVER!

      • hi becky
        ThAnks for your response. I have started changing my son’s diet by removing gluten and processed foods. I am adding in more fruit (he loves fruit) and trying to add more vegetables plus meats and other sources of protein. How long do you think it will take for me to notice a difference in his “allergy shiners” and behavior?

    • Gina,

      Please have your child tested for B12 deficiency. You may have to go to the Pernicious Anemia website in order to find a doctor in your area, because most don’t have a clue about the testing involved with B12. They just look at the blood count, which tells nothing, especially, if there is a genetic mutation, and say everything is good.

      • Hi Ann,
        What is the link between B12 and allergy shiners? Just want to get a clearer picture.

        • Hi Gina,

          I wasn’t really thinking of the shiners. Lack of B12 can cause speech delays and behavioral issues.

          • I will look into that. Thank you for your suggestion. I was actually taking metformin while pregnant with my son which I found a link to B12 deficiency in mothers and he was born 8 weeks premature. thanks erin.

      • Hi Ann,
        Can you tell me the name of test I would need to get ordered. My father is a physician and could order tests. I would also like to get tested since I am nursing my 13 mo old daughter. I am reading online but it is confusing. I would appreciate your help. Thank you.

        • Gina,
          I have yet to be tested myself. I am not sure what all of them are called. There is a test for MMA (I have no idea what that is, but it is always mentioned), one for intrinsic factor, a genetic test for the MTHRFR gene, one to dee if you have enough acid in your stomach, one to see if the red blood cells are enlarged…
          Unfortunately, I wrote them on a list, and each time doctors would barely look at it, toss it back at me, and say, “I don’t know what these are.” Though apoarently, if your doctor cares, they are pretty standard tests.

          For now, you might want to ask if there are any objections to you taking 2,000 mcg sublingual methylcobalamin a day. There should not be, but I would ask.

  28. I have a 6yr old with the dark circles more noticeable in the winter. How would you recommend I start to treat her? Any help would be greatly appreciated!

    • Becky Webb says:

      Hi Beth, I can’t recommend treatment since I’m not a doctor, but I can recommend a nutritional protocol to strengthen her immune response in the winter time. I do 30 and 60 minute Skype or phone consultations. You can email me to discuss times and prices.

  29. My son has celiac and occasionally dark circles under his eyes. When they appear I figured something was going on in his gut. I’ll start religiously using probiotics. Very informative, thank you.

  30. Hi i am a guy 51 years old and have dark circles all around my eyes for many years, i have also been under weight for many years too, once my thyroids were over active but returned to normal, i have had loads of blood testes but thyroids are normal so they say but although i am careful what i eat and tried all the creams etc…. dark circles still with me!
    Would milk thistle tablets help my liver detox better?
    Gerry x x


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