Our not so dear friend, Acne, is often caused by an excess of androgens (male hormones) in the body. If you suffer from acne, my first piece of advice is to see your health professional and have your hormone levels tested. Although a Naturopath would treat each acne patient according to their own unique individuality, there are many generic lifestyle factors you can be aware of to encourage healthy skin.
It may sound a bit far-fetched, but stress really does increase the possibility and severity of pimples. When you feel stressed, certain hormones (like cortisol) are produced. Your hormones are all a part of, and controlled by your endocrine system. ‘Stressing out’ causes a cascade of hormones that will imbalance other hormones such as the acne-causing androgens. My favorite herb that I use to help tone the glands of the endocrine system is licorice, it provides adrenal support in times of stress. It also works as a potent anti-inflammatory, making it wonderfully useful for acne treatment in these two ways.
Other ways to reduce inflammation is by incorporating foods into you diet that have anti-inflammatory properties. Apples, onions, grapes and berries contain the anti-inflammatory flavonoid, Quercetin. Pineapples contain the anti-inflammatory flavonoid, Bromelain that also improves the function of some digestive enzymes. Oily fish such as sardines and salmon (Sounds counter intuitive, right?) are rich in omega-3, which have been shown to reduce inflammation including that of acne lesions.
Eliminate toxins and excess hormones
The skin is one of our excretory organs along with the liver and kidneys, and is sometimes referred to as ‘the third kidney’. The skin is one of three organs that clearly (no pun intended) show you when one or all of them are being overworked. So this is just a little reminder to be kind to your liver and kidneys, as they have an enormous job! A beneficial way to start the day is to squeeze half, to a full lemon into warm water and consume first thing. The bitterness stimulates the digestive processes, which then stimulates bile production in the liver, preparing it for the day ahead!
Find out what you shouldn’t be eating
Remove foods from your diet that you are intolerant to. This is important as this can create stress on your digestive system as it tries to deal with food that it just can’t handle. Your digestive system includes your liver, and if it is overworked may present as acne on the skin. Your local Naturopath can perform a food intolerance or sensitivity test for you, it is non-invasive and super easy.
Reduce foods in your diet containing trans-fatty acids
These are found in margarine, frying oils and other spreads. Trans-fatty acids are uncommon in nature, and are instead man made by hydrogenation of natural oils. Not being a part of nature means that your body probably won’t recognize it and treat it as a toxin. It also adds a greater load on the liver as it tries to detoxify the substances out of the body.
Don’t put chemicals on your skin
Save your money, the earth, and your skin from all the nasty fillers and toxic ingredients in most skin cosmetics. The cosmetics industry is self-regulating, meaning that the industry itself determines what is and isn’t safe to put on the skin. Unlike your stomach, your skin doesn’t contain digestive enzymes to deal with these chemicals and they are absorbed straight into your bloodstream heading straight for your glands. So, it’s probably time to consider more than just organic food if you’re interested your health. To get you started, you can make up a simple paste of baking soda and coconut oil. Use this as an exfoliant to prevent the build up of bacteria, which is often responsible for acne lesions.
Use herbs to heal
If you’re interested in using herbs to encourage and nurture your skin, my Sweet Treat and Digest blends contain liquorice which as discussed above, is amazing for your adrenals. The Digest blend also contains Peppermint, Calendula and Fennel to help you deal with issues pertaining to stomach upsets and intolerances.
I know this all sounds pretty counter-intuitive to what our parents taught us – chill out, eat healthy fats, avoiding margarine, and don’t just eat ‘whatever is put in front of you’. But we’ve come a long way since the research of the 70’s and 80’s and its time to start tuning in to what our bodies are trying to tell us. Your body is always communicating with you and your organs way to tell you how they’re doing is through the skin. So tune in and clear it up, you’ll be luminous inside and out.