Many of us experience the odd monthly spot. But for some of us we find ourselves in a constant battle with breakouts, time and time again. Pimple prone skin can be hard to control, and often topical spot treatments only provide limited relief. Unfortunately, western medicine treatments are also limited and do not provide long term strategies. Treatments such as the Oral Contraceptive Pill are often prescribed to women with hormonal acne. The pill is linked to many side effects including increased risk of blood clotting and hormonal disorders once coming off the pill. Roaccutane is another treatment prescribed, which has been linked to depression, vision impairment, and causing severely dry and irritable skin.
The key to targeting acne is finding the root cause to what is causing it in the first place. From a Naturopathic perspective, different parts of the face or body can give clues to what the underlying cause of the breakouts may be.
Acne may be the result of fluctuations in hormone levels, or sensitivities to specific hormones. For instance, excess testosterone is a common contributor to acne. It stimulates the sebaceous glands in the skin, resulting in excess oil production and clogged pores. Pimples along the chin and jawline. Another hormonal imbalance that affects women is low levels of progesterone. Having low progesterone levels compared to estrogen can increase insulin and lead to excess androgens and in turn more breakouts. One of the main ways progesterone becomes low is through oestrogen dominance.
The treatment of high testosterone and accompanying high insulin, involves supporting liver detoxification, improving insulin signalling in the body and support hormone balance, and decreasing the exposure of environmental toxins. The two herbs licorice and Peony in combination suppresses testosterone production. Whilst the addition of magnesium and the amino acids taurine and glycine support liver metabolism and cardiovascular health which can be a side effect of high testosterone.
Poor liver function can contribute to breakouts as our liver is the major detoxification organ responsible for flushing toxins out of the body. What you drink, eat, and even the air you breathe, all get filtered through the liver. And your skin is a direct reflection of what is going on inside of your body. When the liver is congested and unable to break down toxins, your body makes every effort to purge these toxins through other ways, such as your pores.
Burdock is an excellent herb for healing different skin conditions including acne. This beautiful blood purifying/cleansing herb also helps to enhance the liver detoxification pathways, stimulate circulation, and tone digestive function. My other favourite liver herb is Milk thistle. The key to milk thistle’s powerful properties is a antioxidant called silymarin. Silymarin is one of the most potent liver purifiers in nature. It supports and protects the liver by optimizing liver function and detoxification. It works by binding to the outside of the liver cell fending off toxins by blocking their entry to the liver cell.
Inside your gut, there are millions of microbes, including bacteria, viruses and fungi. There are ‘good’ and ‘bad’ bacteria. The good keep you healthy and fight off the bad, and the bad are those that cause illness. When there is an imbalance of bad bacteria in your gut it can lead to inflammation in the body. This can be caused by diet, stress and antibiotic use. Researchers suspect that the imbalance in gut bacteria contributes to the development of skin conditions like acne and even eczema. Restoring the balance of bacteria in the gut could, therefore, have positive benefits for the skin.
Similarly, if you suffer from leaky gut, you might not be able to properly absorb and utilise key nutrients, minerals and vitamins that are vital for healthy, glowing skin. Furthermore,if the gut is
considered to be ‘leaky’, endotoxins which would ordinarily be processed and expelled may escape into the bloodstream, placing extra pressure on the liver, thereby causing our skin to pick up the slack. Leaky gut also causes inflammation in the body, which is implicated in most skin issues, from acne to eczema and psoriasis.
Looking at your dietary habits is a great way to start addressing your gut issues. Removing excess sugar, carbohydrates, alcohol, and dairy from the diet can help keep our insulin levels in check and reduce inflammation. Introducing pre- and probiotics can also assist with balance gut microbes and therefore reduce inflammation and breakouts.
When the body is under increased pressure or feel stressed, our adrenal glands respond by producing more of the stress hormone cortisol, as well small amounts of testosterone. This causing the oil glands to overproduce sebum, which can raise the risk of skin infections and breakouts.
Adaptogens can help modulate our response to stress, which is one of the primary causes of imbalance in the body, and can show up on skin. Withania, also known as Ashwagandha can aid in hormonal balance by lowering oil-spiking cortisol levels.
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