Acne is far more than what is happening on the skin. It is a reflection of what is happening within your body. This is why conventional treatment options will rarely work to manage acne long-term. They do not address the underlying cause of the acne and rather suppress it.
Proper cleansing and exfoliation is an important part of acne care because it keeps skin clean and pores free of debris. A natural treatment protocol will also include the following aspects to address the root causes and prevent recurrence.
Remove Trigger Foods
Dairy: Dairy consumption has a strong association with acne. The main culprit is the hormones found in cow’s milk that act in a similar manner as our own hormone, IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor 1). IGF-1 has receptors in the sebum glands in the skin. Excess binding to these receptor sites (by IGF-1) leads to an increase in oil production in the skin, resulting in development and progression of acne lesions. Dairy should be removed for a minimum of 4-6 weeks to determine if it is playing a role in the formation of acne lesions.
Sugar: Acne has been referred to as “diabetes of the skin” since the early 20th century. Acne sufferers are often sensitive to high blood sugar levels and may suffer from insulin resistance. High insulin levels stimulate the secretion of androgens and increased production of sebum leading to formation of acne lesions.
To assess for insulin resistance, blood work can be done to test both fasting insulin and blood sugar. A low carb diet is recommended, which focuses on the reduction of processed, high carb foods and elimination of added sugar and sweeteners in the diet. Anything that can quickly spike blood sugar (high glycemic index) should be avoided. Focus should be placed on trying to achieve blood sugar balance by eating well balanced meals and snacks, containing both protein and fat.
Food sensitivities: Testing for your unique food sensitivities can reveal possible food triggers for acne. Food sensitivities can create low grade inflammation in the body, disrupt the gut flora, and impact absorption and utilization of nutrients all of which can contribute to acne.
Optimize Your Digestion
There is an intimate connection between the gut and skin health. Most skin irritations (acne, eczema, psoriasis, rashes) indicate some type of imbalance in the gut. The standard American diet can be very inflammatory and lead to poor digestion and absorption of food as well as an imbalance in gut flora. Treatment is highly individualized but may include elimination of food sensitivities, probiotics and gut healing supplements. Ensuring regular bowel movements is also key to ensure good elimination of excess hormones and toxins.
Balance Your Hormones
If symptoms do not improve with dietary changes, gut healing and liver support your hormones may to blame. Women will often experience a flare in the week before their period. Acne can result when there is an imbalance between estrogen and progesterone. It can also present in conditions such as PCOS where there is an excess of androgens and insulin resistance present. Complete hormone testing can be done via blood, saliva or urine. Once the imbalance is identified, supplements and herbs can be prescribed to address your individual results.
Decrease Overall Inflammation
Chronic low grade inflammation can present with multiple different symptoms. In regards to acne, this may be lots of red, cystic lesions on the face or other areas of the body. A clean whole foods diet, fish oil supplements, and general lifestyle habits such as stress management, good sleep and exercise can go a long way.
Correct Nutrient Deficiencies
Various nutrients have been found to be low in patients suffering with acne, including chromium, selenium, Vitamins A and E and zinc. The nutrients Vitamin A, C, and zinc are essential for skin healing, collagen production and tissue repair.