Anyone who has acne has probably said they would try anything to get rid of it. You would do anything to cover it or hide it.
Does that sound familiar to you? Read below- this article focuses on the root causes of acne and what you can do to manage it.
For many people, acne is a sign of underlying inflammation or issues with the immune system. The most known causes for acne include diet, stress, hormone imbalance, poor sleep, infections and allergies.
Some of the lesser known causes of acne include gut bacteria, skin bacteria and digestion.
The customary treatment for acne is either antibiotics or applying topical products. A better approach is addressing the root causes; acne is active with increased levels of inflammation, more sebum (oil) production and a build-up of skin cells. This can lead to inflammatory acne (cysts, papules and pustules) as well as white heads and black heads which can get infected. Physicians may prescribe drugs like Accutane which can have serious side effects such as birth defects and DNA damage. Furthermore, antibiotics over a long period of time can damage the microbiome and destroy beneficial gut bacteria.
Hormone imbalance is a major factor when it comes to acne. During adolescence, estrogen and testosterone flood the body for the first time causing teenage breakouts. Cyclical breakouts are also common in teenage girls during the menstrual cycle when estrogen fluctuates. Estrogen and testosterone are not the only hormones that affect the skin; insulin can aggravate acne by stimulating oil glands. Insulin is produced by the pancreas when we eat, but more is produced when we eat foods high in sugar and refined carbohydrates. When a lot of high-glycemic foods are consumed, insulin levels in the bloodstream go up, stimulating oil production. Insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1) has a stimulatory effect on oil glands and also leads to elevations in testosterone and androstenedione, which in turn can stimulate oil production. Whey-protein shakes boasting high amounts of IGF-1 can contribute to acne, therefore protein shakes from rice, hemp or pea proteins are suitable as alternatives.
When insulin rises, stress hormone cortisol will also rise. Cortisol directly stimulates the sebum glands and causes acne. A diet high in saturated fats causes high cortisol and inflammation. Additionally, stress and lack of sleep will both cause high cortisol resulting in more acne. A cross-sectional study of 144 sixth-year female medical students showed that stress severity strongly correlated with an increase in acne severity.
Gut health is another root cause contributing to acne; toxins in the body are eliminated through the skin, digestive, and urinary system. If the digestive system is not running smoothly, toxins leave through an alternative route, such as the skin. Many factors can damage gut health, including food sensitivities, dysbiosis, regular exposure to inflammatory foods and lack of digestive enzymes. This can lead to leaky gut, poor nutrient absorption and inflammation. A study conducted on adolescents with acne found an increased prevalence of halitosis (bad breath), GERD (heartburn), bloating, and constipation in the participants.
Underlying infections in the gut, like Candida can cause inflammation and acne; beneficial bacteria in the gut play a role in keeping the immune system strong, when the immune system is weakened, it allows the bad microbes to take over and impact the skin. Beneficial bacteria in the gut remove toxins and excess hormones from the body which may help acne.
Long-term use of antibiotics can also disrupt the delicate balance of bacteria on and below the skin surface. In a review of the literature about the gut-brain- skin connection in acne, findings suggest gut microbes and the integrity of the gut lining are contributing factors in the acne development process.
A Western diet usually consists of high calorie intake (carbohydrates, fats and meat intake, as well as dairy protein). This increases androgen (male) hormone secretion and over stimulates the sebaceous glands. High levels of Omega 6’s have been associated with an increase in acne in contrast to Omega 3’s, which decrease inflammation. A cross sectional study comparing diets between adults with and without acne found that participants with acne were consuming a diet with more carbohydrates and sugar and had greater insulin resistance. Dairy consumption causes acne, as dairy contains anabolic steroids that promote the increased production of androgens and the subsequent development of acne.
Acne is best tackled from the inside out; topical treatments and antibiotics may work short-term, however it is vital to heal the internal ecosystem for long term results.
Focusing on food is the best place to start; having an anti-inflammatory and low glycemic diet will fight inflammation and keep blood sugar stable. Foods that are high-phytonutrient vegetables (broccoli, rocket, kale), dark leafy greens, vegetables of different parts of the color spectrum, healthy proteins like pastured meats, wild-caught fish, and eggs, healthy fats (avocados and olive oil), and low-glycemic fruit like berries should be consumed. Avoid dairy – it is highly inflammatory and can aggravate the lining of the gut, it also increases insulin levels, yoghurt is easier to digest and does not increase insulin levels as much as milk. Also, consider eliminating gluten from the diet, as it is known to increase levels of zonulin (protein regulating permeability of the gut lining). Maximise micronutrients like Vitamins B, C and E, omega-3 fatty acids, zinc and probiotics can help clearing the skin.
Boost detoxification pathways; eating cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale and bok choy) is one way of supporting liver function. Additionally, regular exercise and making use of other sweat therapies boosts sweat. Keeping hydrated and a high-fibre diet will ensure bladder and bowel movement..
If you want to discuss supplements, find out what foods you are sensitive/intolerant to, or suspect poor absorption of nutrients and minerals, then work alongside one of our Nutritionist or Functional Medicine Practitioner to get the best treatment for your outcome by getting advice on dietary changes for your skin, followed by any supplementation required and tips on lifestyle changes that can be made. So you can see having healthy, acne-free skin is achievable with the right guidance and expert attention to detail.
Remember, what you put inside your body shows on the outside. A healthy skin on the outside starts with a healthier you on the inside!
If this resonates with you then…
Take advantage of our 15-minute sessions either with a Nutritionist or Functional Medicine Practitioner, designed to give you the support you need with your concerns and to get you started on your road to recovery. Find very quick and effective results!
At Perfect Balance Clinic, our Nutritionists or Functional Medicine Practitioners will provide you with an important assessment of your condition and discuss many routes to explore for optimum health. Our assessment covers important aspects that most practitioners seem to miss in normal sessions with their clients. This allows us to accelerate your recovery! Simply use the contact form below to provide us your details to get booked in.