Why do we get acne?

Here’s the low-down on the causes and food for thought on getting rid of it.

Acne has multiple causes. This inflammatory skin disease arises due to an imbalance in our hormones, especially during our teens, which causes sebum (oil) overproduction, and the blocking of pores, which can give rise to acne – from mild to severe. For women, it can also arise during pregnancy, at perimenopause, as well as with conditions like polycystic ovarian syndrome.

Stress is another trigger. It’s believed that heightened levels of adrenalin and cortisol stimulate the release of testosterone – ‘male’ hormones in both men and women – causing increased oil production, and that can result in acne.

Some medications (certain TB medications, anticonvulsants, corticosteroids) are also linked to acne. Do some research and speak to your doctor if you notice this.

And then there’s your diet… carbohydrate-heavy, high-glycaemic foods raise your glucose levels, which spikes production of a growth factor that triggers breakouts. And for fish lovers, excess iodine can also trigger acne, sadly. If that’s the case for you, cut down on the sushi binges.

It’s also time to switch the junk food for a diet of fresh, homemade food rich in antioxidant-loaded vegetables and low GI fruit as well as good quality protein.

Latest research

Acne can also be an indicator that all is not well with your body. If lights start flashing on your car’s dashboard, this alerts you that there’s a problem. Similarly, if the skin flares up with acne, it’s an alarm bell that something needs to be addressed within your system.

The newest research shows that, very often, acne starts due to an imbalance in the gut where the ‘bad’ gut bacteria overwhelm the good bacteria that are important for many important body functions. As much as 70% of our general immunity depends on a healthy gut. Unfortunately, modern lifestyles tend to contribute towards compromised gut health, meaning that most of us will experience some form of gut imbalance.

Several medical conditions are associated with acne, including low stomach acid, dysbiosis and leaky gut. These not only compromise the condition of the skin, they may also have future health implications if they’re not identified and treated early.

Restoring harmony in the gastrointestinal tract will improve overall health and wellbeing, ultimately improving acne outbreaks.
We can help our guts by eating fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi and drinking kombucha tea and kefir, which are packed with probiotics and the stuff the good gut bacteria feed on – prebiotics. These are also good for your skin’s health.

Doctors who specialise in gut health can also help you restore your gut to good order.

Next week we look at the treatment options for acne.

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