The primary causes of acne are hormonal imbalances, emotional stress, insulin resistance and poor bowel function. Eating foods that you are unable to digest efficiently or foods that lead to inflammation can burden your liver and immune system; this inevitably shows up on your skin. If your skin flares in a cyclical pattern, your hormones may be imbalanced. Discovering your levels of testosterone, oestrogens, progesterone and DHEA may provide the answers.
Many patients with skin issues describe a worsening whenever they are under high levels of stress, so you may find it worthwhile filling out a comprehensive questionnaire which can give an objective understanding of your emotional wellness. So many Australians are insulin-resistant with our overly abundant eating habits and insufficient exercise. This can cause increased inflammation throughout our bodies including the sebaceous glands in our skin and a simple blood test can establish whether you are insulin resistant.
And now for the good news:
All of the above risk factors for acne are manageable. Once you have discovered the drivers of your skin concern, and usually there is more than one, you can apply the changes you need to enjoy clear, glowing skin!
Research says that high-energy foods like sugar and dairy causes acne. In fact when we look into the research more carefully we see that acne is an early warning sign of metabolic disease. Your intuition often guides you towards certain foods, so this is an excellent reason to make that dietary change. These days we have an abundance of dairy substitutes, some find switching to A2 milk makes a big difference. There are some very useful books and blogs you can access to help you avoid sugar, Sarah Wilson’s ‘I Quit Sugar’ is a great start.
Healthy hormone balance
If your skin flares cyclically (often at ovulation or pre period), or you suffer blemishes around your mouth, under your jawline, on your chest or upper back, hormone imbalance is likely to blame. Take a hormonal saliva analysis test and while you’re waiting for the results, get started with 2 litres of water daily and increase your intake of ground linseeds which contain a substance with the unique ability to bind hormones (2 tablespoons daily is enough). Increase your intake of broccoli and citrus which contain substances that encourage excretion of excess hormones and avoid alcohol, caffeine, sugar and trans fatty acids to take the load off your liver.
Acne is worsened by stress, it disrupts insulin and female hormones, they also contribute to inflammation. Check your work/life balance to see if you are creating time for fun and relaxation? Mindfulness practice is a great way to reduce the physiological impact of stress, 10 minutes morning and night will make a big difference. Herbal nervines like St John’s Wort, Lemon Balm, Vervain and Skullcap help enhance mood and adaptogen herbs like Withania can be used to improve the stress response and immune function and reduce inflammation.
Zinc is by far the most helpful acne supplement. Zinc is essential for healthy ovulation and oestrogen levels and it reduces testosterone in women. It helps keep pores open by reducing keratin production, kills bacteria and plays a role in healthy blood sugar metabolism.
An anti-inflammatory diet is recommended along with anti-inflammatory herbs, particularly those with high levels of berberine like Golden Seal, Barberry and Philodendron.
Check your nutrition
To heal your skin and avoid further outbreaks you’ll need adequate amounts of Vitamin A, C and B6, Selenium, Zinc and Fish Oil. Notice the variety of food you’re eating, apply the ‘Eat the colours of the Rainbow’ rule every day and you can minimize the need for supplements.
Acne is not a trivial condition, I take it very seriously as I know it can damage self-esteem and confidence. There is such an abundance of effective natural therapies available that treatment is usually successful within 6 months.
By Natalie Pickering, Naturopath