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Danielle Marasco Blog

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Acne. What it is, and what to do about it!

So, what is acne?

Well...simply put, acne is the presence of blackheads, white head Superficial Pustule Nodules (pus under skin) or Cysts that inflame the skin. While mainly associated with the skin on the face, acne can also affect other areas of the body such as the neck, chest, back and shoulders.  If you have suffered, or are currently suffering from it, this description hardly does it justice, the outbreaks can itch, hurt and even scar, causing no small amount of emotional as well as physical distress.

When does it strike?

While mainly occurring in teenagers, around 70% -87%, according to the Mayo Clinic, it is not uncommon for it to also affect adults.

The reason it mainly occurs during the onset of puberty is because "Androgens" (hormones) enlarge the oil glands, and, cause an over production of oil and keratin (the tough outer layer of the skin). This keratin, and oil builds up in hair follicles, blocking the follicle canal, and traps bacteria, inflaming the blackhead area. Thus the telltale angry red inflammation, and pus.

Ok, so what causes it? Why did I get it? I'm always really careful with my hygiene!

So most of the time its not because you don't was you face enough.  While having good hygiene certainly helps reduce the likelihood of bad outbreaks, there are other factors that cause acne to occur.

The most common cause is a change in hormone levels in the body. As mentioned before, this is most notable during adolescence, due to puberty, though, various other factors can cause hormone irregularities in adults resulting in an outbreak. Some drugs, eg. corticosteroids, iodides, lithium, bromides can be responsible for such imbalances, or other inflaming factors.

As well as hormones, environmental factors can contribute to this condition, including industrial pollutants, such as machine oil and grease, or even products common to most households.  Products such as cosmetics with an oily base, or even soaps or shampoos. The condition can be further aggravated by over-washing and/or scrubbing.

Due to the bacterial nature of this skin infection, the condition can be perpetuated by picking and squeezing the pustules, leading to cross contamination and spreading the infection to, previously unaffected areas of the skin.

OK! Got it! But what can I do to fix it?

So, there are a few treatment options available, and while they will have limited success individually, treating this condition, like any other, it best achieved holistically, that is, to treat the causes, as well as the symptoms, internally, externally, and, environmentally.

To start, there are the "Topical Applications" - this is the external approach.  Make sure that your skin treatments are mild, so as to prevent excess dryness of skin, and increased keratin production which may block pores.  Ensure the use of gentle cleansers, toners and mild astringents twice daily.  I prescribe my clients a gentle cream, with a selection of essential oils to soothe the skin and reduce inflammation.  Your naturopath or other health care professional may have their own products, or can prescribe you a proprietary product.     

Internally the focus is on proper nutrition and detoxification of the bowel, liver and blood, whilst also treating any symptoms of allergies, candida, hypoglycaemia, and, or, stress.

Detoxify:

Bowel:

Toxins in the bowel may get into the blood stream and irritate skin. These toxins can get through a weak bowel lining due to bacterial imbalances, food allergies, low fibre diet and candida infections. Treatments include herbs to detoxify and promote regularity, an anti candida diet if candida symptoms are present, and by increasing dietary fibre.

Liver:

This helps to cleanse blood , regulate hormones, regulate blood sugar metabolism, balance fat and oil breakdown and assist the processing of Vitamins A and E, for the skin. Treatments involve liver herbs (bitters), decreasing fat and including bitter foods, ie. green vegetables, as well as lemon and grapefruit in the diet.

Fibre:

Increase the amount of high fibre foods, in your diet.  These act to absorb liver toxins, cleanse the bowel, remove nasty hormonal by-products and will stabilise your appetite.

Diet really is so important to maintaining the health of your body.  Treating acne is no different! My own person favorite axiom, which you will hear from me time and again, is a quote from Hippocrates II, where he proclaims "Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food."  If we put the right foods into our body, they will act to prevent and treat many of our most common illnesses.

By ensuring proper nutrition, it IS possible to reduce the excess levels of oil and keratin, and re-balance hormone levels.

As such, eliminate foods and substances that irritate and overstimulate, eg. Tea, coffee, alcohol, sugar, tobacco and drugs.  Eliminate allergenic foods that causes inflammatory or catarrhal conditions, eg. Gluten and Lactose (limiting milk intake is crucial due to its hormone levels and fat content).  Cut out that junk food and processed food (white flour, bread, confectionery, cakes, biscuits and chocolate).  I know! All the fun stuff, but your body will thank you! Life is much more fun without the pain, irritation, and stress that acne causes!  Cutting these foods out of your life will help with more than just your acne too!

Now, I know your food list just got slashed, but there are plenty of other foods you can use to replace what you have removed.  Start to include in your diet herbs that act as blood cleansers, anti-inflammatory, antibacterials, antifungals, liver cleansers, and detoxifiers. These herbs will also clean the lymph glands. Incorporate herbs that can help to improve the function of your organs of elimination, that is, the bowel, lungs, kidneys and sweat glands. 

Unfortunately, in extreme cases, simply including the appropriate foods and herbs into your diet, and eliminating harmful foods may not be enough to gain the upper hand, and in these instances, a prescription of concentrated herbs, either in liquid or tablet form, may be necessary.

As with any significant change to your diet, or inclusion of new supplements or medications, it is important to ensure that they will not contraindicate (negatively interact) with any of your medications ,or, dietary requirements.  A quick trip to your naturopath or nutritionist should clear up what you should be taking, and what to avoid.

By treating the cause of acne you will see an improvement in the symptoms:

  • reduced scarring and inflammation,
  • faster wound healing,
  • improved blood circulation and hormonal balance (male and female)
  • stimulated immune function
  • decrease in fatigue.

Remember! We all need to cheat a little every once in a while with our diet and lifestyle (I call it "5% for my soul!!!"), and no-one is perfect! BUT, the better you are with your diet, the better you will feel, and the faster you will beat your illness!

Be Well!

 

Yours in good health!

 

Danielle

 

 

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