Most of us tend to believe that pimples are for kids. Not true. The average age of acne patients has now increased from 20 to 26 years old. Millions of adults are experiencing acne for the first time.
And acne rates are rising — contradicting the belief that this condition is caused by genes. Eight million people see the dermatologist every year for acne and millions more rely on infomercial products hawked by celebrities or over-the-counter products that total $100 million in sales every year. And healthcare costs for prescription acne treatment exceed $1 billion a year. Clearly, this problem, like so many chronic diseases in the 21st century, is increasing.
For the first time, studies show that many of the imbalances in the underlying keys to health are the real causes of acne — including your nutritional status, stress, toxicity, inflammation, and hormonal and gut imbalances. No matter what condition, disease, or health problem you face, the root causes can be traced back to the same underlying factors, because the body is one whole integrated system.
This includes your skin. The key to healthy skin isn’t just dealing with the symptoms — like lathering on potions and lotions, popping and pricking pimples, or taking antibiotics or strong liver-damaging medication.
There’s a better way.
Good Skin Comes from the Inside Out, Not the Outside In! People who eat more fruits and vegetables (containing more antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds) have less acne. A Poor Diet is Bad for Your Skin!
Skin health, and acne in particular, are tied strongly to diet:
- Acne is caused by inflammation and oxidative stress
- Traditional indigenous cultures have little acne, but as soon as they adopt a Western diet or SAD (standard American diet), they see increasing levels of acne.
- Sugar raises insulin levels, which promotes the production of testosterone in women, and inflammation in general, causing acne.
- Saturated and processed fats increase arachidonic acid levels and compete with omega-3 fats in the body, leading to more inflammation and acne.
- Milk and dairy consumption is closely linked with acne (and many other skin and health problems) in part because of the hormones (including growth hormone) in dairy and because of the saturated fats.
- High-sugar milk chocolate can increase acne by increasing inflammation, but dark chocolate does the opposite.
Nutritional Deficiencies Promote Acne:
- Widespread nutritional deficiencies of zinc, omega-3 fats, and some anti-inflammatory omega-6 fats like evening-primrose oil promote acne, while supplementing with them can help boost immunity and reduce inflammation and acne.
- A topical form of vitamin B3 (nicotinamide) can reduce inflammation and help acne.
- Antioxidant levels are low in acne patients — especially vitamins A and E, which are critical for skin health.
- People who eat more fruits and vegetables (containing more antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds) have less acne.
- Certain foods have been linked to improvements in many of the underlying causes of acne and can help correct it, including fish oil, turmeric, ginger, green tea, nuts, dark purple and red foods such as berries, green foods like dark green leafy vegetables, and eggs.
Hormonal Imbalances Cause Skin Problems:
- Hormonal imbalances trigger acne — and diet influences hormones like testosterone, IGF-1 (insulin-like growth hormone), and insulin, which promote acne.
- The biggest factor affecting your hormones is the glycemic load of your diet (how quickly the food increases your blood sugar and insulin levels).
- Eating omega-3 fats and fiber (to reduce testosterone in women), cutting out sugar (to reduce insulin), and using soy foods (to reduce toxic testosterone levels) help balance hormones. Exercise also helps improve insulin function.
Leaky Gut and Food Allergies Cause Acne:
- Delayed food allergies are among the most common causes of acne. Foods like gluten, dairy, yeast, and eggs can be problems if you have a leaky gut.
- Taking probiotics (such as lactobacillus) can improve acne.
- Good bacteria from probiotics also take up residence on the skin, helping with acne.
- I have seen serious cystic acne resulting from gut imbalances and parasites that resolve when the gut is fixed.
Your Brain Can Cause Acne:
- Stress causes acne flare-ups.
- Stress does this by causing increased inflammation and oxidative stress, raising cortisol, and depleting zinc, magnesium, and selenium, which help control acne.
- Stress causes poor dietary choices.
- You can manage stress through meditation, yoga, saunas, massage, biofeedback, aromatherapy, and more.
So getting healthy skin and clearing up acne truly depend on the optimal function of many of the core systems of the body — your nutritional status, your immune system, your gut, your hormones and your mind-body health.
I may seem like a broken record, but it’s true — biology is biology.
I hope you’ve learned more today about how getting to the roots of illness can help you uncover the source of your health problem, wherever you may find it — even in a pimple on your nose!