03 Mar

Acne and Nutrition

Acne is an inflammatory skin disorder. Symptoms are blackheads, whitehead and pimples.  It is not merely a cosmetic problem, it can severely affect your confidence and self esteem. I have suffered and remember well the pain of the spots were enough to make you want to hide in your room all day until they cleared up.

It can arise mainly at puberty due to the dramatic changes happening in the body. Pesky androgens (male sex hormones) are the main culprit. These hormones stimulate the production of keratin (type of protein) and sebum (an oily lubricant). If sebum is secreted faster than it can move through your skin spores a spot occurs. The excess oil makes the pores sticky allowing bacteria to get inside. Adult acne is also common.

Blackheads form when sebum combines with skin pigments and plugs the pores. If scales below the surface of the skin become filled with sebum, whiteheads appear. In severe cases whiteheads spread under the skin, rupture and eventually spread inflammation.  Although proper skin care is important in the management of acne it is not caused by being unclean, it is an overproduction of oil.

Acne contributors: heredity – sometimes we are destined but remember the genes load the gun, environment pulls the trigger. My daughter has suffered with spots but nutritional applications and products she has it under control. Other factors: oily skin, hormonal imbalance, menstrual cycles, diet and yeast infections. Stress, allergies, food intolerances and certain medications can also impact.

Nutritional deficiencies and/or diet high in sugar, saturated, hydrogenated, trans fats have a huge impact on skin health.

Sugar – acne is referred to as skin diabetes. Supporting blood sugar is important. Keep refined sugars low. Eat fruit for sweet taste and train yourself to like more savoury food. Eat protein and or fat with a carbohydrate and keep carbohydrates complex, such as brown rice, oats, quinoa, buckwheat and millet. Vegetables are also a good source.

Dairy – lactose in dairy is a sugar. Dairy also contains hormones and steroids that have been indicated in acne. These are Insulin Growth Factor 1, insulin and androgens. The fats in dairy may also cause a problem.

There has been a link to gluten as well especially if you have a problem with digesting it.

Trans/hydrogenated fats are inflammatory to the body. Also eating too much omega 6 fats can also contribute to inflammation. Vegetable oil, such as sunflower oil is high in omega 6 and can be found in many processed foods such as margarines. Limit processed foods and eat foods with omega 3 fats. Nuts and seeds contain both omega 3 and 6. Omega 6 is not bad for you so don’t avoid; it is the ratio than can cause inflammation. So balance it out by eating more omega 3.

Studies indicate it’s the combination of trans fats, sugar and dairy can have the biggest affect on skin. Sometimes taking out dairy for a short period then reintroducing but keeping the other two low can have results. Nothing has to be forever…well may be the milk chocolate and chips need to go and deep fried mars bars are a definite no!

Acne is linked with other body systems: 

Liver and kidneys – the skin is the largest organ and the second largest organ for detoxification. If liver and kidney function is impaired this can impact skin as these are also major detox organs and a build-up of toxins will try to escape though other means for example the skin. Pollution and chemicals impact skin health.

Digestion – constipation increases toxins impacting the liver’s ability to detoxify and therefore impacting skin.

The digestive system contains immune supporting bacteria called probiotics. These powerful armies of bugs in our bodies will fight of infection at the first call. If they are out of balance this may impact skin. Antibiotics are commonly given out to help with acne but be careful as they can knock out your good bugs so when you come off them acne may reappear. If taking them then add in a probiotic supplement, but take at a separate time to taking the antibiotic.

Inflammation, acne is an inflammatory condition. Eating foods that are anti-inflammatory may support it. Vegetables and moderate amounts of fruit are a good start.

Lifestyle is important, sleep, life-load and how you cope a long with striking balance all help towards healthy skin.

Nutrients for skin – What to eat and lifestyle habits

Zinc – ground pumpkin and sunflower seeds, beef, egg yolks, ginger – ginger tea, grated into curries, soups, or juiced, liver, seafood, beans, pulses and whole grains.

Copper always likes to be balanced with zinc – almonds, avocado, buckwheat, mushrooms, chocolate and broccoli.

Vitamin A – The most absorbable form comes from animal products such as liver, eggs and cod liver oil. However beta-carotene is a form of vitamin A. Think orange and a bit of green – carrots, sweet potatoes, squashes, apricots, egg yolks and green leafy vegetables. Seek professional advice if pregnant.

Vitamin C – kiwi, parsley, citrus – grate rind of oranges and lemons onto salads, veg, chicken and fish, broccoli and strawberries.

Selenium – Brazil nuts are the only concentrated source – a couple a day – they are high in omega 6 so balance this out by eating walnuts and flaxseeds. Other sources: broccoli, cashews, crab, eggs, celery, fish, garlic, onion and turnips.

Chromium – apples, egg yolk, mushrooms, nuts, raisins, wheat and shrimps.

Vitamin E – avocados, almonds, egg yolks, spinach, sunflower seeds and sweet potatoes. Vitamin E along with A, K and D are fat soluble so eat these foods with a fat food such as olive oil, seeds, avocado’s and eggs already come with the fat so a great source.

Omega 3 fats – oily fish – salmon, mackerel, sardines, anchovies and trout, flaxseeds, walnuts, grass fed beef and omega 3 eggs.

Liver supporting foods – cauliflower, broccoli, beetroot, eggs, garlic and onions.

Epsom salt baths – contain sulphur, useful for detoxification and contain magnesium. Magnesium may help with relaxation and sleep. Lie for 20 minutes in a bath of Epsom salts, 2 cups per bath, 2-3 times a week. Pat yourself dry when you get out so not to rub off the magnesium. We heal and repair when we sleep so useful for skin.

Dry skin body brushing may also help with detox and lymphatic drainage and in turn help with skin. Brush always towards the heart starting at feet. Below heart brush upwards, above the heart brush downward. If you have sensitive skin, seek advice first.

Kidneys – nettle tea may be useful for acne and support the kidneys.

Digestion – fibre rich foods – oats, flaxseeds, vegetables, quinoa, beans, pulses, brown rice, wholegrain pasta and fruit. Foods that contain probiotics – plain natural yoghurt and fermented vegetables. A good gut supporting meal is stewed apples with plain natural yoghurt. Eat slowly, relax and chew to optimise absorption and digestion.

Fats – Add 2 tablespoon of ground mixed seeds to your breakfast daily. 1 tbsp. of flaxseeds and 1 tbsp. mixed – sunflower, pumpkin and sesame. You can buy them already grind or make your own. Cook with olive oil or coconut oil.

Find ways to relax, reading, baths, meditation – Headspace App. Exercise is also useful.

Practical tips:

  • Change pillowcase every 3-4 days.
  • Use products without harsh chemicals – tea tree oil externally may help, Salcura skin range, Green People, Rio Amazon, Dr Bronner (shaving gel) and Jason are recommended.
  • Be mindful – are you touching your face?

There are many triggers for acne and the nutrition and lifestyle applications above can be very supportive. Increasing variety of foods to obtain the nutrients and avoiding the key contributors can have a positive effect. You don’t need to suffer alone, speak to your GP, nutritional therapist, beautician and anyone else who has suffered, you can gain useful insight and approach it holistically.