Steps You Can Take To Achieve Healthier Skin
Whether you've suffered from acne as a teenager or as an adult, you know just how emotionally trying it is and how frustrating it can be to find a lasting solution. Various conventional treatments are available, from over the counter cleansers to topical antibiotics to oral antibiotics, birth control pills, and even laser treatments. To avoid permanent scars, it's important to get proper help from a healthcare professional, but be sure you know the health risks associated with a some of the conventional treatments. These treatments can carry serious side effects which may pose a greater threat to your health than the acne. Thankfully, however, healthier solutions for acne are available.
Getting to the Root of the Problem of Acne
A blackhead or whitehead forms when dead skin cells and a oily substance called sebum clog up one of the pores in your skin. If the bacteria that live on the surface of your skin make their way into the clogged pore, an infection develops which creates a pimple. In severe cases, painful cysts can form which can lead to scarring.
The root cause of acne lies mostly in hormonal fluctuations and imbalances in the normal diversity of bacteria which live on your skin and in your gut. But both hormonal fluctuations and, especially, the imbalances in your microbiome (the microorganisms that populate your body) can occur as the result of poor dietary habits, stress, toxicity, and genetics.
Hormonal fluctuations which result in more testosterone than estrogen circulating in your body - as is the case with most women just before their period - can set the stage for acne to occur. An increase in testosterone causes an increase in the amount of oil in your skin and with it, the potential for acne.
More and more research studies are finding a link between an inflamed gut and numerous health problems, including acne. When the normal balance of the bacteria in your gut is disturbed - as is the case when you take antibiotics or eat a poor diet or are under stress - groups of harmful bacteria can get the upper hand and cause an inflammation of the lining of your gut. If this inflammation continues unabated, illnesses like inflammatory bowel disease and Crohn's disease can occur. Furthermore, substances which would normally be kept out of your bloodstream - such as toxins and microorganisms like bacteria, viruses, parasites and fungi - can pass through the leaky gut lining and gain access to your bloodstream.
This breach can trigger inflammatory reactions elsewhere in your body - including your skin. One study found that individuals with acne rosacea were 10 times more likely to have abnormal gut bacteria than others with normal gut bacteria. Researchers also support the idea that the bacteria in your gut - which can influence the levels of fatty acids and lipids in your body tissues - may also influence your skin's production of sebum.
Your gut isn't the only place to look when considering the role that your microbiome plays in the development of acne. Because different types of bacteria populate your skin, an imbalance of certain types of skin bacteria may lead to acne. In fact, the use of topical probiotics has been shown to reduce the presence of pimples in patients with acne.
Stress, too, contributes to acne, as the stress hormone, cortisol, can increase the production of sebum, making your skin more oily. As mentioned earlier, prolonged stress causes chronic inflammation which negatively impacts the bacteria in your gut. There 's also mounting research to support the interactions of the gut-brain-skin axis. When you're under stress, an imbalance in your gut bacteria can lead to inflammation which can affect your skin - causing acne or dermatitis - as well as your brain - anxiety and depression. This connection has lead to more research into the use of probiotics for the treatment of acne, anxiety and depression.
Healing Your Skin Naturally
Conventional treatment for acne, especially the use of antibiotics or Accutane for long periods of time, can result in serious side effects. Long term use of antibiotics carries the risk of developing inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn's disease, anxiety, and depression. The side effects associated with the use of Accutane include those risks just listed as well as the risk of ulcerative colitis, liver damage, miscarriage, birth defects, and suicide.
Fortunately, you can heal your skin naturally. Here are some of the most important steps you should take in order to get healthier skin:
Cut out sugar and processed foods from your diet: High glycemic foods increase inflammation as well as the amount of testosterone -two of the main culprits which cause acne.
Cut out dairy products: Dairy products also increases the amount of testosterone.
Eat Foods that have anti-inflammatory properties: See our blog on the topic of inflammation.
Take probiotics: Since many different types of probiotics are out there, you should consult a healthcare practitioner to find out which one you should take. A stool analysis may be necessary to identify exactly what bacteria your gut needs.
Heal and seal your leaky gut: Healing your gut completely involves several steps. See your health are practitioner to find out how you can best heal your leaky gut.
Identify any food allergies/sensitivities: These can contribute to a leaky gut.
Identify and treat any nutritional deficiencies: See your healthcare practitioner to find out where you could have nutritional deficiencies. Proper amounts of omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids are needed for healthy skin as are vitamins A, B, and E.
Detoxify: Going on a 10- or 28-Day detoxification diet can give your skin a big step forward in the journey to healthier skin. Contact us for details on how this can be part of your healthy skin regimen.
Reduce your stress: See our blog on Transforming Stress for help managing the stress in your life.
Get plenty of sleep: Remember to also wash your sheets and towels regularly to reduce the chance of spreading acne-causing bacteria.
Use healthy skin products suitable for your type of skin
Try probiotic skin products made for people with acne
Achieving healthy skin is possible! Getting professional help is an important part of healing your acne. By seeing a healthcare practitioner and undertaking the steps listed above and sticking to them, you can - over time - heal your skin. Patience is key as your skin will require weeks to months to heal, but the changes in your complexion and in overall health will have been well worth the wait.
Honda, K., et al. The microbiota in adaptive immune homeostasis and disease. Nature 535, 75–84 (07 July 2016).
Tremellen, K et al. Abstract: Dysbiosis of Gut Microbiota (DOGMA) – A novel theory for the development of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. 2012 Medical Hypotheses 79 (1): 104-112.
Stecher, B., The Roles of Inflammation, Nutrient Availability and the Commensal Microbiota in Enteric Pathogen Infection. Microbiology lSpectrum 3(3):MBP-0008-2014.
American Association of Dermatologists. Hormonal factors Key to Understanding Acne in Women. March 2012. ww.aad.org.
Arora, MK, et al. Abstract:The relationship of lipid profile and menstrual cycle with acne vulgaris.Clinical Biochemistry. 2010 Dec;43(18):1415-20.
Parodi A., et al. Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth in rosacea: clinical effectiveness of its eradication.Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2008 Jul; 6(7):759-64.
Bowe, W. etal. Acne vulgaris, probiotics and the gut-brain-skin axis: from anecdote to translational medicine.
Benef Microbes. 2014 Jun 1; 5(2):185-99.
The contents of this blog are intended for educational purposes only. The information presented here is not a substitute for proper medical attention, diagnosis, or treatment by a qualified healthcare professional. Always seek the advice of your healthcare provider before starting or making any changes to an existing treatment plan, exercise program or dietary regimen, and before using nutritional supplements.
Dr. Sarah Williams ~ Concord & Nantucket, Massachusetts ~