Acne and Other Skin Problems?
(This article is almost entirely taken from a newsletter dated 9/2/18 from ‘The Compounding Lab’.)
The skin is influenced by other organs in the body, and this is especially true of the brain and the gut; scientists coined the term “gut-brain-skin axis” to describe the interconnection between these three systems. We understand from research and by modern studies confirming a strong associations between skin conditions (like acne, eczema and psoriasis) and both mental health problems and digestive disease.
Unfortunately, the conventional approach to treating skin problems does not acknowledge the important role of diet, lifestyle, and digestive health. Instead, it is almost entirely focused on suppressing the symptoms.
With all of this in mind, let’s compare conventional treatment with a Paleo-type diet and lifestyle for the prevention and treatment of acne and other skin problems.
Conventional Treatments for Skin Disorders
The most common treatments for acne include topical creams and gels like Retin-A, Differin, Benzac and Tazorac—which work by unclogging pores—and oral antibiotics, like doxycycline, tetracycline, minocycline, or erythromycin—which kills the bacteria that causes inflammation around the blocked pores. In teenage girls and young women, doctors might also use oral contraceptives as a means of attempting to regulate hormonal imbalances that can lead to acne. Finally, in the most severe cases of acne, doctors may prescribe a medication called isotretinoin, which was originally marketed as Roaccutane.
The effectiveness of these treatments varies. The creams and antibiotics help some quite a lot, while for others they have little effect. Oral contraceptives do seem to outperform placebo in the treatment of acne for teenage girls, but they must be taken for 3–6 months to have their maximal effect. Isotretinoin is a very powerful treatment for acne, which can even clear up severe, scarring breakouts that don’t respond to antibiotics, creams, or contraceptives.
But the potential side effects and risks of these treatments is often substantial, and in some cases, life-altering. For example:
- Long-term use of antibiotics has a profoundly negative impact on gut health, one that we are only beginning to understand. Given that disturbances of the gut microbiota are associated with everything from anxiety and depression, to obesity and diabetes, to autoimmune disease, the consequences of taking antibiotics for months or years should not be underestimated.
- The list of possible side effects associated with oral contraceptives is extensive. It includes nausea, vomiting, constipation, acne, hair growth in unusual places, crushing chest pain or heaviness, extreme tiredness, DVT, fatty liver, weight gain, and swelling of the joints.
- The possible side effects and complications for isotretinoin are downright scary. In fact, due to the number of adverse events reported (including severe fetal abnormalities in women taking Roaccutane during pregnancy) and an FDA-issued “black box” warning, Roche stopped manufacturing Roaccutane in 2009. Roaccutane has also been linked to inflammatory bowel diseases like ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, as well as an increase in suicides and permanent memory loss.
In the case of other skin disorders like psoriasis and eczema, treatment often involves oral and topical steroids. These also come with a long list of side effects and risks!
I don’t discount the psychological suffering that acne and other skin conditions can cause, but when dietary and lifestyle changes plus hormonal balancing can often mostly or completely resolve the condition, then it’s difficult to make an argument for putting yourself or your loved ones at risk with these medications.
So what about your hormones? Well if gut bacteria imbalances and inflammation are the two main culprits, acne is also influenced by hormones. This is because of the Gut – Liver connection. The liver has to clear out and break down excess hormones. For women , when the androgen receptors are particularly sensitive, these hormones can trigger excess oil production and cause skin cells to become sticky, leading to clogged pores and breakouts. The androgens we look at is DHEA and testosterone, also often seen elevated in PCOS (Polycystic ovarian syndrome) . Checking your hormones levels is always encouraged for optimum health.
How can you tell if your acne is hormonal? Clues include breakouts primarily on your lower face (specifically cysts along the jawline and even down the neck) and acne flares before or during your period.
An Anti-Inflammation Diet for Skin Disorders
Acne and skin disorders are shockingly common in the modern western world, but nearly unheard of in hunter-gatherer cultures. That should tell us that there is something about our modern diet and lifestyle that is contributing to skin disease. It also suggests that returning to a way of eating and living that more closely mimics our ancestral template could be an effective means of preventing and treating skin problems.
The most important thing to understand about virtually all skin disorders is that they are inflammatory in nature.
So they key to addressing them is to follow an anti-inflammatory diet and lifestyle. For example
- Eliminate the highly processed modern foods that provoke inflammation, such as refined flour, excess sugar, and industrial seed oils (Soy and Corn Syrup).
- Regular physical activity, which reduces inflammation and strengthens immune function.
- Promote getting adequate sleep, which has also been shown to reduce inflammation and support healthy immune function.Eliminate alcohol and caffeine; drink water instead.
So if your diet has been “SAD” (the Standard Australian Diet), then guess that I would expect to see some nutritional deficiencies. And yes another common cause of skin disorders in the modern world is nutrient deficiency. In the western world we are commonly overfed, but undernourished.
Yes can you believe it UNDERNOURISHED! So often we do mineral and vitamin levels in what would seem a healthy person and they are deficient in so many key nutrients. In fact, more than half of Australians are deficient in zinc, calcium, magnesium, vitamin A, vitamin B6; and about one-third are also deficient in riboflavin (B2), thiamine (B1), folate (B9) vitamin C, and iron and Iodine.
In addition to reducing inflammation, the Anti-inflammation Diet works well for skin conditions because it’s so nutrient dense. Studies have shown that the meat, fish, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, and starchy tubers featured in the Paleo diet are the most nutrient-dense foods we can eat.
Finally, Paleo is a very gut-friendly diet, which is important given the strong evidence of the gut-skin connection. So I would encourage anyone with skin disorders to do the 30 day Paleo reset anti inflammation diet. This will dramatically reduce your inflammation and reduce acne, then we can set about rebuilding a healthy microbiome and help clean the skin.
My top 10 suggestions to rebalancing your microbiome and removing acne are
- Daily professional strength probiotic
- Anti-inflammatory diet with loads of fibre and prebiotics (no dairy and no grains for 30 days then occasionally), AND ADD G-BOMBS in your diet (Greens-Beans-Onions-Mushrooms-Berries-Seeds)
- A high quality exfoliation wash with BHA (beta hydroxy acid) and AHA (alpha hydroxy acid). Use once or twice daily to remove the dead cells that block pores. We also add avocado oil for a natural antibacterial cleanse.
- Moisturise with a clarifying cream that is water soluble and doesn’t block the pores.
- Replace minerals and vitamins that are missing: therapeutic levels of zinc, calcium, magnesium, vitamin A, Vitamin E vitamin B6; riboflavin (B2), thiamine (B1), folate (B9) vitamin C, iron and Iodine , Molybdenum and Biotin are often needed.
- Good fats like Omega 3 and 6: however, they MUST be high quality.
- Hormonal balance with appropriate herbal treatments can be very effective in stabilising hormonal surges and mood changes.
- Topical B3 to dab on the acne lesion: Nicotinamide applied topically has been shown in scientific studies to improve many skin conditions, including acne vulgaris, rosacea and melasma.
- Exercise each day and naturally detox.Eight (8) hours sleep each night.
Bpharm PCCA ABAAHP
If you have a skin issue you would like to resolve, feel free to book in for a free Comprehensive Assessment at our clinic. We can let you know what we think is causing the problem, if we think we can help you, and what treatments would be most effective. (Terms and conditions: the Assessment is a completely free service, with no obligations whatsoever.)