Photo by Alexandru Zdrobău
What used to be only the teenagers’ nightmare makes more and more adult’s life miserable.
Acne – what causes them and what can we do to make them disappear once and for all?
Acne’s Main Cause is Excessive Sebum Production
Well, the main cause behind acne formation is not dirt, or bacteria as one might think. Fluctuating hormones cause excessive sebum production in the sebaceous gland that normally makes enough acidic oil to moisturize our skin and keep pathogens living on our skin at bay. This excessive sebum ruptures the walls of the hair follicle, especially if it is blocked by hyper-keratinization. This gives way to inflammation and bacterial invasion, mostly by Staphylococcus Aureus and Propionibacterium acnes. Emerging white blood cells start the war with the invading bacteria and the result is even more inflammation and pus formation.
Fluctuating Hormones are No Longer Just Part of Adolescence
The main hormones involved are estrogen (estradiol), testosterone (especially the more aggressive Dihydrotestosterone), DHEA-S and Insulin activated Insulin Growth Factor 1 (IGF-1).
Now, we know that adolescence brings sex hormone fluctuations, but why do people still struggle with hormonal imbalances as adults?
Modern Diet & Acne
Our refined, low nutrient and high toxin containing diet is behind the problem. Our liver is supposed to break down and eliminate excess hormones through the bile via the bowels. However, constipation or slow bowel transit time allows old hormones to get re-absorbed alongside the rest of the toxins – thus over-whelming the liver, which is unable to do its job.
Some chemicals used on our foods mimic estrogen – these are called Xenoestrogens, and they disrupt our endocrine system. Lack of nutrients make the matter worse, as the detoxification process needs heaps of different nutrients which can only be supplied by a wholesome diet. If the digestion/absorption is sluggish the same problems arise. The contraceptive pill is known to cause problems after years of application, as it is extremely damaging for the liver and it depletes many nutrients needed for skin health and liver function. Blood sugar imbalances and insulin surge activate the Insulin growth factor, which, besides causing spots, also encourages uncontrolled cell division and cancer formation.
Natural Solutions for Acne
Topical applications need to be gentle as over-drying the skin causes even more sebum production. Neem is a wonderful and gentle anti-microbial herb that can be helpful in cream form. Rose hip oil is a great moisture balancer and prevents scar formation.
As any other skin condition, acne needs to be addressed on the inside as well as the outside. Skin healing is difficult and takes time, so be patient and persistent.
There might be nutrient absorption problems due to digestive disorders or food allergies, and Polycystic Ovary Syndrome could be behind stubborn acne – therefore a thorough investigation is recommended.
As always, the Functional Medicine approach always starts with a thorough investigation to find the root of the problem, whatever the health concern may be. We are all very individual: as there are no two snowflakes alike, neither are any two human bodies. Once we found the cause, with a tailor made menu plan and herbal supplement regime your body can be gently ushered back to health – without side effects.