Many people, both men and women, have issues with acne and breakouts. For some it can be hormonal, for others it can be simply due to congestion in the skin glands or it could be due to digestive issues. Acne can be sore, embarrassing and cause you to feel self-conscious but it is not something that you have to put up with as luckily nutritional medicine has a lot to offer to control acne.
Acne vulgaris is in fact the most common skin problem that affects the skin’s oil glands. It is caused when the skin’s pores become congested with old skin cells. Acne can be provoked by hormones that increase the secretion of the sebum (oil) from the skin glands. As a result inflammation occurs, causing redness and sometimes pain. Next, bacteria gets involved and now we have ourselves a full-fledged acne party! While each case is unique, you can greatly improve your chances of clear skin by including some vital nutritional methods and reducing triggers.
What causes acne?
- An increased production of skin cells
- A reduced ability to separate the cells in the hair follicle
- An increase in oil production triggered by androgens (male hormones)
- An infection of the pore by the bacteria Propionibacterium acnes which feeds off the sebum
- Inflammation in and around the pore, caused by the bacteria
Where is your acne?
The location of the acne lesions can indicate different drivers of acne. For instance, acne that is located along the chin and jawline in females is often caused by hormonal imbalances. If the acne is present on the chest and/or back the acne can be caused be general toxicity and poor elimination. If the acne is present on the cheeks the acne can be due to a sluggish digestive system and colon toxicity.
Nutritional approach to treating acne
Treating acne from the inside is always the basis for healing the skin naturally. The skin is a good indicator for what is happening internally. Before starting treatment it is important to look at how well the digestive system is functioning and investigate a past history of antibiotics, nutritional status, diet, food intolerances/sensitivities, kidney and liver function and also how well hormones are functioning.
The nutritional treatment works on various factors. We want to encourage healing of the skin and reduce the risk of scarring. We want to reduce the hormonal influence by clearing androgen hormones. Many nutrients are anti-inflammatory and can reduce redness. Many of these treatment goals can be address by making dietary modifications or in some cases nutritional supplementation is needed. Here are a few nutritional tips to get you started:
- Tea tree oil can be a useful antiseptic which also has antifungal properties. It is a great skin disinfectant therefore limiting bacterial growth on the skin. To use, mix the oil (5-15% solution) in warm water and wash the affected areas. Make sure to thoroughly clean and dry the face washer between each use so that bacteria does not build up between washes. Alternatively, the face can be ‘splashed’ with the tea tree infused water straight from the bathroom sink. For best results, wash the affected areas 2-3 times daily
- Keep hydrated! Your body’s proper functioning relies on water. Drink a minimum of 2L of water a day
- Avoid sugar in the diet- Sugar is an immunosuppressant and feeds bacteria therefore perpetuating already existing acne or pimples.
- Limit all processed foods and refined carbohydrates (white breads, white pastas, biscuits, cakes, pastries etc). These are full of sugar and other additives that affect our immune system
- Consume lots of fresh fruit and vegetables- it is recommended that we consume 3 pieces of fruit and 5 servings of different coloured vegetables daily. Freshly squeezed vegetable juices are a great way to increase your daily vegetable intake. Choose fruits and vegetables that are in season and organic for optimal nutrient levels.
- Eat fermented foods like kefir, kimchi, kombucha, sauerkraut; these are foods that are high in beneficial probiotics for gut health.
- Herbal teas such as dandelion root, calendula or nettle are great as these stimulate clearance of toxins and improve liver function.
- Exposure to sunlight is important for the production of vitamin D. Aim to get outdoors for 20 to 30 minutes each day. Many people will achieve this by walking to the bus stop or corner store. Avoid hotter times of the day between 10am and 3pm and over exposure to the sun.
Your nutritional treatment program with supporting supplements may go for 6-12 months and if followed correctly, you can expect to see a significant improvement in your skin and a reduction in acne development.
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