- Dr. Mercola
Acne: Simple Ways to Stop It Naturally
Dr. Mercola's Comments:
Acne can be both a psychologically and emotionally painful condition, especially for adolescents. I have plenty of experience with this personally as I struggled with severe acne as a teenager, and even into my 30s. In fact, I had a relatively severe form called cystic acne, which produces large and painful, lesions. Most teens get the type of acne called acne vulgaris, which can appear on your face, neck, shoulders, back and chest.
With acne affecting about 85 percent of the population at some time in their life – including adults -- it is the most common skin disease addressed by dermatologists.
The challenge, of course, is how to treat acne effectively.
Conventional Treatment Strategies for Acne
The typical strategy used by most dermatologists is to recommend an antibiotic -- typically tetracycline-type derivatives designed to kill infections. In this case, it is propioniform types of bacteria that are responsible for the actual inflammation and infection that occurs on your face.
Propionibacterium acnes can be found on the surface of everyone's skin. Acne flair-ups result when the bacteria block your pores, which lead to inflammation.
Antibiotics can in fact be very useful to clear up your acne. Other conventional treatments include using topical agents such as benzyl peroxide, or in extreme cases harsher treatment drugs like Accutane.
However, I don’t think anyone should be using Accutane (generically known as isotretinoin), and strongly advise against it.
It’s actually the only drug classified as category X, meaning it is 100 percent guaranteed to cause birth defects. As of 2002, if you are a woman of child bearing age, you have to get a pregnancy test before it can be prescribed.
It also has other side effects, such as feelings of depression, aggression, and suicide.
Although these treatments typically do work, it’s important to realize that they in NO way, shape or form treat the underlying cause of your acne.
How to Treat the Root Cause of Your Acne
What you want to do is to eliminate the underlying reason that is causing the propioniform bacteria to result in these cysts or lesions. Fortunately, there are some very simple strategies that will accomplish just that, that work nearly every single time.
What most experts will tell you about acne is that diet has nothing to do with it. Well nothing could be further from the truth.
What has become clearly apparent is that your diet has everything to do with it.
If you are predisposed to developing these acne lesions, and are eating a diet that is causing your insulin levels and associated insulin growth factors to rise, then you will have acne.
This happens because when you eat refined carbohydrates and sugar, it causes a surge of insulin and an insulin-like growth factor called IGF-1 in your body. This can lead to an excess of male hormones, which cause your pores to secrete sebum, a greasy substance that attracts acne-promoting bacteria. Additionally, IGF-1 causes skin cells known as keratinocytes to multiply, a process that is also associated with acne.
So, the simple solution is to radically reduce the amount of food you consume that is causing your body to make insulin. The main culprits here are sugar, and ALL grain carbohydrates as they’re converted into sugar in your body. This includes food items such as:
The confusion here is the thought that you can have a healthy grain. Please understand that even a high quality, organic, whole wheat bread will cause this problem because it’s still a carbohydrate.
Another confusion is thinking that corn is a vegetable. It’s actually a grain, and a very high density carbohydrate, which should be avoided. Even fruits will likely increase the amount of insulin in your body, and as a result can exacerbate your acne if you’re predisposed to it.
You’ll want to replace sugars and grain carbohydrates with vegetable carbohydrates according to your nutritional type, as they metabolize slowly and tend to not cause spikes in your insulin production.
Other Important Factors to Consider When Treating Acne
There are two other important factors to consider, especially if you’ve tried the conventional approach to treating your acne.
Establish proper balance of bacteria -- If you’ve been given antibiotics it’s very important to take a probiotic supplement. Antibiotics are indiscriminate killers that wipe out good bacteria in your gut as well as the propioniform bacteria on your face. One common side effect of that is an overgrowth of yeast. If you are a woman, you may experience vaginal yeast infections, but both men and women can develop candida as a result of disrupting the balance of bacteria in your gut.
Of course, by reducing your intake of food that bad bacteria and yeast thrive on, i.e. sugars and carbs, you will also help reestablish the proper balance of bacteria in your gut.
Optimize your vitamin D levels – Lastly, what we’ve now found is that vitamin D is crucially important to establishing a healthy immune system and controlling virtually any type of infection.
When you optimize your vitamin D levels you make over 200 antimicrobial peptides (also called host defense peptides). They are an essential component of your innate immune response, and are potent, broad spectrum antibiotics.
The best way to optimize your vitamin D levels is to expose large portions of your skin to healthy amounts of sunshine – just enough to cause your skin to turn a very light pink. Your body can produce as much as 20,000 IU’s with this level of exposure on most of your body. After that your body will not make any more vitamin D, and you may in fact cause skin damage if you stay out any longer.
By exposing yourself to the sun, or using a safe tanning bed, you will optimize your vitamin D production naturally, and virtually eliminate the need to do any blood testing.
If you don’t have access to regular sun exposure or a safe tanning bed, you’ll want to consider supplementing with oral vitamin D. Typically the oral doses are several thousand units a day, ranging from 2-3,000 to as much as 10,000 IU’s per day. But if you chose that route, only do so if you’re monitoring your vitamin D levels with a blood test at regular intervals.
These are the simple strategies I wish I knew when I was younger. I encourage you to try them out because there’s a strong probability they will virtually eliminate your acne, and all the associated emotional and psychological pain that so frequently affects those with this condition.