The Root Causes of Acne

The Root Causes of Acne

Today’s blog post is a reprint of an excellent article on the topic of the root causes of acne written by Dr. Mercola.

“Just like other chronic diseases running rampant in Western society (like diabetes, heart disease, and obesity), acne is primarily a disease of the Western world.

More proof is continuing to emerge that the root cause of acne is not bacteria or genetics, but environmental factors—particularly your diet. Acne is much less of a problem in non-Westernized societies, where refined carbohydrates and sugar are consumed in much lower amounts. Solid evidence exists that diets high in sugar and refined carbohydrates are the primary CAUSE of acne.

We now know that a low-grain or no-grain diet will very likely clear up your skin, permanently! Antibiotics are unnecessary because correcting your diet creates an internal environment that does not ALLOW bacterial overgrowth to occur.

After diet, the other major factor is stress.

Part of a holistic plan for preventing acne flare-ups is managing your stress. We know that stress is a major factor in infections of any kind. So why aren’t physicians lining up to give you the good news? Well, they can’t “sell” you a healthful diet. The only one who will reap the benefits from that is you!

Grain-Free Diets Can Clear Up Your Acne FOR GOOD!

Not all carbohydrates are created equal. Carbohydrates can be categorized into the following types:

  • Simple carbohydrates are sugars, such as those found in candy, soda, and baked goods. Your best bet is to strictly limit those in your diet—working toward eliminating them completely. Be especially careful to avoid all high fructose corn syrup, which is a major component of sodas and processed foods.
  • Complex carbohydrates are found in natural whole foods such as beans, nuts, whole grains, and vegetables. Although beans, nuts and grains contain more nutritive value than simple carbohydrates, you will need to limit them if acne is a problem for you.

Your body “prefers” the complex carbs found in vegetables to the complex carbs found in grains, because your body handles their digestion differently. Vegetable-carbs are slow to break down into simple sugars, with minimal insulin impact, whereas digestion of grain-carbs raises your insulin and insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1).

Higher IGF-1 levels can lead to increased male hormones, which cause your pores to secrete more sebum, a greasy substance that traps acne-promoting bacteria. IGF-1 also causes skin cells (known as keratinocytes) to multiply, a process associated with acne.

This is why most grains should be avoided if you have acne issues.

The research holds this up.

In a 2007 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, young men (ages 15 to 25) with acne problems were placed on low-glycemic diets for 12 weeks, showing significant improvements in acne and insulin sensitivity.

Similar findings were shown in this 2002 study.

Simply eliminating grains, sugars (particularly fructose), cereals, potatoes, corn, rice, pasta, processed foods, etc., radically improves acne for most people. Fruit contains a fair amount of fructose, so it should be consumed in very limited quantities if you are predisposed to acne. And fruit juices should be strictly avoided since the sugar is very concentrated in them. (Vegetable juices are great, though, especially green juices.)

So, how many carbs is too many? Nutritional Typing can give you your answer.

Knowing your Nutritional Type will help you determine the ideal amount of carbohydrates you should be eating with each meal. By learning to analyze your reactions to the foods you eat, you can begin to fine-tune each meal to the ratios of proteins, fats and carbs that are just right for you. For a simple FREE tool to help you determine your Nutritional Type, see this link.

If you incorporate these dietary changes, not only will your acne subside, but also your complexion will become more radiant and youthful.

Can Gluten Make Your Acne Worse?

Gluten in wheat and other grains may be contributing to your acne symptoms if you have a gluten intolerance, which many people do. This is a separate issue from the insulin effects already discussed. Gluten is a prime suspect if you have rosacea, a growing problem, especially for Baby Boomers.

According to The Gluten Free Diet:

“A person who is gluten intolerant cannot digest gluten, so the body will not recognize it when it is eaten and therefore treats it as a foreign body when trying to digest it.

Because the body of a gluten intolerant person cannot process gluten properly, the small intestines become damaged slowly over time causing digestive issues. The gluten intolerance can produce other symptoms and push the toxins through the skin such as acne.”

Since gluten sensitivity is so pervasive anyway it would make loads of sense to try a a gluten-free diet for one month and see if your acne or any other health symptoms improve. This shouldn’t be too difficult if you are already implementing a low-grain or no-grain diet, which minimizes sources of gluten.

The Milk-Iodine-Acne Connection

Milk generally contains a fair amount of iodine, although there is less in raw milk than pasteurized milk. Iodine is known to aggravate acne.

Several studies document this relationship as farmers often feed their cows iodine-fortified feed to prevent infection.

Therefore, if you drink milk, you should seek to choose raw over pasteurized—this is true, regardless of whether or not you have issues with your skin. Since raw milk naturally contains iodine at healthier levels, it is less likely to aggravate your acne than pasteurized milk—but the potential still exists for even raw milk to trigger flare-ups. In the interest of eradicating your acne once and for all, then, it seems wise to eliminate milk and other dairy products from your diet altogether.

Many Skin Care Products Only Contribute to the Problem

What you put on your skin is as important as what you eat. In fact, what you apply topically is readily absorbed through your skin, which is really a semi-permeable membrane through which substances pass directly into your body.

Many of today’s skin care products and cosmetics are nothing more than a toxic mélange of harsh chemicals, which cause more skin problems than they solve. And when it comes to acne, these chemicals can seriously inflame an outbreak, or prevent one from healing.

Why do so many cleansers, lotions and potions contain these potentially hazardous ingredients?

Because they’re cheap, readily available, and easy to dilute.

When it comes to the skin care industry, anything goes. The Environmental Working Group estimates 99 percent of personal care products contain more than one ingredient that has never been evaluated for safety. It’s a self-regulated industry—an industry that operates on “the honor system” but has a multitude of dishonorable players.

So you have to be a meticulous, well-educated label reader to know what you’re getting.

You should spend five minutes every day cleansing your face, which removes the impurities that collect on your skin during a typical day and clog up your pores. And ladies, please never sleep in your makeup. It’s also advisable to exfoliate your skin once or twice per week. But do so gently, especially if you are experiencing an outbreak, and never pull or rub your skin aggressively.

You should use pure, safe, natural skin care products. Apply your skin care products to warm skin, which maximizes absorption.

And once you’ve cleansed, exfoliated and moisturized, take a deep breath and… rela-a-a-a-x.

Relaxing Your Way to Clearer Skin

Stress can potentially worsen just about every condition, including acne. It’s important to learn how to manage your stress, BEFORE it becomes overwhelming. It is even more important to teach your children how to do this when they’re young, before stress accumulates unabated and begins to take a toll on their health.

Recent studies substantiate the hypothesis that stress can aggravate acne.

One study involving college students found a connection between acne flare-ups and stress from final exams. Researchers found that subjects who had the most stress during examination periods also had the worst acne outbreaks, suggesting emotional stress from external sources is a significant factor.

While it has been argued that the stress associated with acne is an effect of acne rather than a cause, the above researchers believe this new evidence proves otherwise—that it’s the stress that is exacerbating the acne, not vice versa.

Additionally, stress and fatigue can lead to adrenal burnout, where your adrenal glands become depleted. This can worsen your acne as well and perpetuate higher stress levels.

So how do you deal with the ever-present stress in today’s demanding world?

My favorite tool is the Emotional Freedom Technique, or EFT. EFT involves tapping your body’s energy meridians with the tips of your fingers to clear emotional blocks, thus restoring balance to your mind and body. EFT is a powerful de-stressing technique that is easy for adults and children to learn. It can even relieve physical complaints such as chronic pain, allergy symptoms, and more.

You could also add in other proven stress-busters, such as yoga and meditation.

You Can Take Control of Your Skin Health

Remember, your complexion is a reflection of your overall health. Don’t forget to incorporate these essential factors into your acne-busting plan:

  • Sugars and Grains: This is probably the single most important step you can take to improve your skin health.  If you can eliminate all sugars and grains for a few weeks there is a major likelihood you will notice rapid improvement in your complexion.
  • Water: Drink plenty of fresh, pure water every day. Hydrating your body facilitates cell growth and regeneration, elimination of wastes, and sloughing away dead skin cells. Hydration will also improve your skin tone.

Every day, drink enough water so that your urine is a pale yellow color. If your urine is bright yellow, you probably need to drink more water (unless you take B vitamins, which themselves turn urine bright yellow).

  • ExerciseGetting plenty of high-intensity exercise helps your body flush out toxins, including those in your skin’s pores. Plus, exercise is vitally important to all other aspects of your heath. If you happen to have access to an infrared sauna, this can be helpful, because the more you sweat, the more you flush unwanted debris and contaminants out of your pores.
  • Sleep: Did you know that a good night’s sleep can decrease your stress and lead to clearer skin? Your body’s time for healing and rebuilding is at night while you sleep, and this applies to your skin. Sleep is also required for good energy and mood.
  • Proper balance of bacteria: This is especially important if you have been on antibiotics, because those drugs indiscriminately kill off the beneficial bacteria in your gut, without which you cannot have a strong immune system. You can reestablish your bacterial balance by taking a high quality probiotic supplement, and by incorporating naturally fermented/cultured foods into your diet.
  • Vitamin D: This important nutrient is crucial for maintaining a healthy immune response, and most people are deficient in it. Without adequate vitamin D, your body cannot control infection, in your skin or elsewhere. Exposing large areas of your skin to appropriate amounts of sunshine is the best way to optimize your vitamin D levels, or use a safe tanning bed. You should expose your skin until you just barely begin turning pink, which indicates you’ve generated the optimal amount of vitamin D for the day.

If you don’t have access to regular UV exposure, the next best thing is an oral vitamin D supplement, accompanied by regular monitoring of your vitamin D levels with a blood test.

If you change your diet and lifestyle in the ways I’ve recommended, you can expect significant improvement in the health and appearance of your skin. Plus, those same strategies will lead to improvements in your overall health, as well as relieving your bank account of expensive acne drugs that don’t offer any real or lasting solution to your skin’s woes.”


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