The bigger picture
Acne is caused by a complicated mixture of genes, hormonal imbalances, inflammation and gut issues such as low stomach acid and stress, each of which is a complicated topic on its own. There’s no way to address any one of them, let alone a combination of them, with a one-dimensional solution. Thus, there isn’t a simple solution to treating acne, but the situation isn’t hopeless. You can definitely make great strides towards winning the war on acne with a multi-faceted treatment program that addresses all the causes and avoids the triggers.
This is why, when it comes to treating acne, the doctors at Renewal Institute adopt a holistic approach, addressing and treating all the internal as well as external causes. The presence of acne should be viewed as more than just a cosmetic issue. It's a window into your overall health and may indicate a larger problem such as low stomach acid with all its ramifications.
The causes of acne
There is no ‘acne gene’ that directly causes it. Rather, genes change the physiology of your skin to be far more sensitive to hormones and inflammation. This can lead to blocked pores and eventually pimples and other bothersome symptoms. As of today, there’s nothing you can do about this. You can’t change the hand you were dealt, but if you play it well, you can mitigate the damage and most likely clear your skin.
All acne has underlying hormonal contributing factors. The primary cause is male hormones (androgens such as testosterone, DHT, DHEA and metabolites) that affect all the factors that go into making a pimple. These include increasing sebum production and skin cell growth, preventing skin cell separation after death and heightening increased inflammatory response to P. Acne bacterias.
Inflammation is the immune system’s response to injury and infection. Triggers include:
- Exposure to too much UV-radiation, air pollutants, irritating ingredients or chemicals in products.
- Systemic inflammation (inflammation that affects the whole body)
- A poor or unsuitable diet and bad gut health
- Stress and lack of sleep
- An unhealthy lifestyle which includes bad habits like smoking
Gut and toxins
Low stomach acid is associated with a host of skin conditions such as acne, dermatitis, eczema and psoriasis. This is why other conditions linked to your gut, such as constipation, acid reflux and bloating are also linked to acne.
If you’re dealing with an inflamed gut and low stomach acid, vitamins and minerals, especially zinc which is needed for skin healing, might not be well-absorbed by your body. To heal your gut, you’ll also need to detoxify your liver which is an entirely new discussion on its own. Low stomach acid can eventually lead to dysbiosis (an imbalance of gut bacteria), leaky gut and constipation. These all have a knock-on effect, increasing inflammation in your skin which promotes acne. Interestingly, dysbiosis is often the primary cause of many conditions as 70% of one's immunity starts in the gut. The majority of people have some form of gut dysbiosis, abnormal microbiota or leaky gut condition and this will set back any acne treatment.
As if a time of emotional stress wasn’t bad enough, it’s also a trigger for an acne breakout. The reasoning is complicated, but part of it seems to be the fact that your brain and skin both make the same stress-related hormone, cortisol, that causes inflammation. Stress also interferes with your thyroid’s response to thyroid-stimulating hormone, and low levels of thyroid hormone leave the skin more vulnerable to inflammation. While stress is an unfortunate side-effect of modern-day living, you can find coping mechanisms to help you manage it which will go a long way towards helping to improve your skin.
- •Drinking lots of purified water is essential
- •Limit insoluble fibre which is rough on inflamed gut
- •Limit highly processed food that provokes inflammation such as excess sugar, refined flour and seed oils
- •Do regular physical activity which can reduce inflammation and strengthen immune function
- •Get an adequate amount of sleep
- Green tea
- Juicing - Fresh juice is crammed with healthy fibre, vitamins and minerals.
- Probiotics (found in yoghurt, kefir, sauerkraut, dark chocolate, microalgae, miso soup, pickles, tempeh, kimchi and kombucha)
- Brazil nuts
- Zinc-rich foods like oysters, beans, poultry and fish
- Omega-3 fatty acid-rich foods like salmon and flaxseed
- Beta-carotene-rich foods like sweet potatoes, carrots, cantaloupes and bell peppers
- Vitamin C-rich foods like oranges, guava and peppers
- Vitamin E-rich foods like eggs, almonds and leafy green vegetables
Supplements to consider