Blog post originally written by Chelsey for the Perth Health & Fertility Blog:
A naturopath’s goal is always to identify the root cause of someone’s condition or symptom. It is important to avoid a band-aid approach that only suppresses symptoms. This approach is important when addressing any skin-related issue (or any health issue in general), including acne.
Acne is an extremely common issue that affects 85-100% of people at some point in their lives. There are a number of contributing causes to acne and it is important to find what is causing your acne. As a naturopath, I can help you do this. Some common causes include:
Hormonal Imbalances It is evident that hormones have a role to play in acne. This is often seen in women with the cyclical nature of many acne cases, many women report a worsening of acne premenstrually or around ovulation. We also see it in teenage boys hitting puberty! The hormone often linked to acne for both men and women is testosterone. Testosterone is commonly high in conditions like Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS).
Diet There are numerous diet-related factors that can contribute to acne: • High glycaemic index foods like refined sugars or carbohydrates. These foods increase insulin and insulin growth factor 1 (IGF-1) which is a growth hormone that increases the production of hormones like testosterone. • Low protein diets: protein is important for stabilization of blood sugar levels. It is also important for skin healing and integrity. • Cow’s dairy: contains A1 casein which is inflammatory and also increases IGF-1. Many people report a significant improvement in their acne when they remove cow’s dairy products. • Inflammatory foods such as gluten, processed foods, sugar, trans fats and additives as inflammatory mediators are thought to play a role in the development of acne lesions.
Skin hygiene A healthy skincare routine is important when managing acne. Starting with using natural/organic skincare products and makeup as much as possible. You also want to avoid wearing too much makeup too often. Another important practice many people underestimate is ensuring your pillowcase is being changed regularly (every few days).
Nutritional status There are a number of nutrients that acne sufferers may be low in, including zinc, vitamin A, iron, omega 3 fatty acids and more! It’s important to have your nutritional status assessed before taking supplements for acne.
Microbiome and Gut Health The gastrointestinal microbiome forms what is called the Gut-Skin axis (among numerous other gut axis’ in the body), meaning that there is a relationship between the good and bad bacteria in your gut and skin conditions. The microbiome influences the digestion and absorption of nutrients, mood, regulation of the immune system, inflammation and so much more. If you have frequent digestive issues like constipation, diarrhoea, bloating, parasites or have frequently been on antibiotics then it is likely your digestive function and microbiome are compromised. There is a lot of trending “gut health” information out there at the moment but seeing a naturopath is a great way to get tailored advice for what is going on for you.
Elimination capacity The body has 5 main organs of elimination; the liver, kidneys, lungs, intestines and skin. If any one of these organ’s ability to eliminate wastes is compromised, the others are put under more pressure to do so. Regular bowel motions are one of the most important ways the body clears excess hormones and wastes. If you experience constipation then this needs to be addressed! Acne can be a sign that the skin is trying to expel wastes. This can be helped by supporting the other elimination organs, using lymphatic herbs to improve skin clearance, dry skin brushing, adequate hydration, exercising regularly and avoiding environmental chemicals as much as possible.
Stress Research suggests that stress, particularly the stress hormone cortisol, is linked to new breakouts and worsening of acne. Cortisol increases the production of skin oils and sebum, which are up-regulated in acne. Stress management techniques to reduce cortisol and stress levels are an important part of managing any health issue, including acne.
Coming off Hormonal Contraception Many adolescent girls are put on the pill to “treat” their acne in their teen years or early twenties. Certain pills contain synthetic hormones that lower androgens like testosterone while you are on them. Unfortunately, these contraceptives don’t address the cause of the acne, so when you come off them, the acne often comes back and often, even worse than before. There is a rebound affect that occurs around 6 months after ceasing the pill which is a reaction by the body after having sebum secretion suppressed for so long. This is usually when women lose hope and go back on the pill to stop the acne. Seeing a naturopath before you come off the pill can help prepare your body to control this rebound affect and reduce the acne that usually comes back.
As you can see, there are many factors that could be causing your acne. I am passionate about helping people with acne, identify their root cause/s. If you suffer woth acne or know someone who does there is so much that can be done!