Acne is the most common skin complaint, suffered not just by teenagers but increasingly those in their 20’s and 30’s. There are numerous things you can do to improve your skin naturally. Your overall health might even getter better too!
Acne has its origins in the skin pore; made up of a hair follicle & the associated sebaceous glands which are connected to the skin by the follicular canal. Sebum and oils, produced by the sebaceous glands, lubricate the skin and help prevent water loss. The cells that line the follicular canal produce a protein called keratin; the main component of the top layer of our skin as well as our hair & nails.
In acne, the pores become blocked with either excess sebum or keratin. This provides an ideal breeding ground for the bacterium Proprionibacterium acnes, leading to an infection in the pore & causing inflammation and redness.
Causes of Acne
Teenage acne is often related to an increase in the hormone testosterone. Testosterone causes the sebaceous glands to enlarge, producing more sebum & also stimulating the follicular cells to produce keratin, increasing blockage. Testosterone is produced in girls & boys, although boys see a much larger increase and therefore often experience more pronounced acne. It appears that it is not the testosterone itself, but the conversion of testosterone to a more potent form, DHT (dihydrotestosterone), by the enzyme 5-alpha-reductase that causes acne.
Clinical studies have found that people with acne often don’t process sugar very well, possibly due to insulin insensitivity. Supporting blood sugar balance and increasing consumption of chromium rich foods (cos lettuce, tomatoes, onions) may help enhance the insulin sensitivity of cells.
Our digestive system is a major route for the elimination of toxins. If our bowels are not emptied regularly, toxins can accumulate and may be reabsorbed back into the bloodstream & then eliminated via our skin causing irritation & inflammation. Antibiotics, which are often used to treat severe acne, can kill off the “good bacteria” in our gut. These bacteria have a number of functions including keeping your bowels regular, thereby enhancing toxin elimination. Without the good bacteria, the bad bacteria can multiply out of control and often excrete toxins themselves, placing an additional load on the body.
Stress interferes with our body’s hormonal balance and can contribute to imbalanced blood sugar. Stress also interferes with digestion, which may lead to problems eliminating toxins and deficiencies of essential nutrients including those needed for optimal skin health. Too much stress reduces immunity and can also contribute to inflammation.
DIETARY & LIFESTYLE TIPS TO IMPROVE YOUR SKIN
- Drink plenty of water as it is essential for helping transport nutrients & waste products in & out of our cells. It also helps prevent constipation which can make acne worse.
- Eat plenty of fruits & vegetables as these provide vitamins & minerals, including the antioxidant vitamins (A,C,E) & minerals (zinc & selenium) for skin & general health. The fibre in the fruits & vegetables help with the elimination of toxins from the gut.
- Eat complex carbohydrates (wholegrains like brown rice & wholemeal bread) to provide energy & help balance blood sugar. These foods also contain high amounts of the essential vitamins, minerals & fibre.
- Increase fibre as this plays anessential role in binding toxins & escorting them out of the body as well as balancing blood sugar. Good sources of fibre are fruit and veg, brown rice, wholemeal bread, oats
- Eat oily fish, nuts & seeds as these provide essential fats which make cell membranes plump & flexible & help with the transport of nutrients & wastes in & out of the cells. They also help balance hormones & are involved in the production of prostaglandins, which are hormone like substances, some of which can help reduce inflammation. In addition to this, essential fats help regulate blood sugar balance & reduce insulin resistance.
- Improve Detoxification by eating cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage, Brussels sprouts & broccoli, and foods containing sulphur such as eggs, onions & garlic. These foods stimulate the liver.
- Reduce saturated fats, refined foods, alcohol, sugar & caffeine. Saturated fats from meat & dairy cause inflammation, which may exacerbate acne. Caffeine has a dehydrating effect on the body & is also an anti-nutrient; depleting valuable stores of vitamins & minerals that are essential for hormone balance. Caffeine in tea, coffee, caffeinated soft drinks & chocolate also upset blood sugar balance. Alcohol also contributes to blood sugar imbalance, is an anti-nutrient & places strain on the liver
- Buy organic where possible & avoid additives, preservatives & artificial sweeteners. Organic foods contain higher levels of the important nutrients & are free from many of the antibiotics, pesticides, fungicides, insecticides & other chemicals routinely used on non-organic foods which need to be detoxified by our liver.
- Optimise your digestion. Chew your food well, eat plenty of fibre and drink plenty of water. If you are emptying your bowels less than once a day then your digestive system is not functioning optimally. Eat live plain yoghurt daily to increase your intake of good bacteria which are essential for good gut health.
- Minimise Stress. Stress upsets your hormone balance and digestion so try to take some time out each day to relax. Perhaps take up yoga or walking, take a bath, or go to bed 15 minutes earlier & read. Give yourself some “me” time & give your body a rest once in a while.
If you would like advice on any of the points mentioned in this post or would like to find out how nutrition can support your health issues please contact me on 07967 639347 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Find out more about nutritional therapy.