I get many clients whose main source of concern is their acne. These individuals feel they have tried every treatment imaginable, coming to me extremely frustrated that their acne continues to reappear.

What are the most common underlying causes of acne? How does one move away from conventional approaches toward a root-cause approach?

INFLAMMATION and OXIDATIVE STRESS

  • Sugar raises insulin levels which promotes the production of testosterone in women and inflammation in general – causing acne
  • Saturated and processed fats increase arachidonic acid levels and compete with omega- 3 fats in the body, generating more inflammation and acne
  • Milk and dairy consumption is closely linked with acne (and many other skin and health problems), in part because of the hormones (including growth hormone) in dairy and because of saturated fats. 

NUTRITIONAL DEFICIENCIES

  • Widespread nutritional deficiencies of zinc, omega-3 fats, and some anti-inflammatory omega-6 fats (like evening-primrose oil) promote acne. Supplementing with these nutrients boosts immunity, reducing inflammation and acne.
  • Antioxidant levels are low in acne patients — especially vitamins A and E, which are critical for skin health.
  • Research has shown that certain foods combat many underlying causes of acne – including fish oil, turmeric, ginger, green tea, nuts, dark purple and red foods (such as berries), green foods (like dark green leafy vegetables), and eggs.

HORMONAL IMBALANCES

  • Hormonal imbalances trigger acne. Diet influences hormones like testosterone, IGF-1 (insulin-like growth hormone), and insulin – all of which induce acne.
  • The biggest factor affecting your hormones is the glycemic load of your diet (how quickly the food increases your blood sugar and insulin levels). 

FOOD SENSITIVITIES

  • The most common food sensitivity is wheat and dairy. These produce inflammation and leaky gut (intestinal permeability), caused from stress, diet, and inflammatory foods.

GUT IMBALANCES

  • A lot of acne and skin problems begin in the gut. Our testing looks for things like pathogens, dysbiosis, and overgrowth of yeast – causing inflammation which can produce acne.

STRESS—  Chronic stress may cause acne flare-ups by increasing inflammation and oxidative stress. We can manage stress through meditation, yoga, saunas, massage, biofeedback, aromatherapy, and more.

HIDDEN TOXICITIES— The build up of mold, heavy metals, and environmental toxins like pesticides, herbicides, and BPAs in your body can contribute to acne issues.

  • BPA acts like a xenoestrogen, negatively influencing your hormones.
  • High toxicity levels lead to oxidative stress, decreasing your body’s ability to detox.

 

You cannot fix acne from the outside. Acne is such a common issue, yet so poorly treated. GOOD NEWS: It is easy to treat if we go about it with a functional medicine approach. 

 

Conventional Medicine Approach: 

  1. Lathering on potions and lotions
  2. Popping and pricking pimples
  3. Taking antibiotics or strong liver-damaging medications 

Functional Medicine Approach:

  1. Start with your diet—sugar and processed foods have to go.
  2. Try an elimination diet.
  3. Add b-complex, zinc, omega-3, and evening primrose oil to your daily routine.
  4. Work on your gut health–find a good probiotic and try taking digestive enzymes. 
  5. Get proper testing.

From a functional medicine lens, we understand that numerous factors contribute to acne, including nutrition, stress, toxicity, inflammation, hormonal and gut imbalances. What you put in your body, is more important than what you put on your skin.  Our skin is a reflection of what’s going on with our health beneath the surface. 

Want to find the root cause of your acne? Here is a link to book a 15 minute call with one of our coaches!

Follow @RachelScheerNutrition on Instagram for more Scheer Nutrition tips!

Podcast production for this episode by The Podcast Engineer.

Rachel Scheer

Rachel Scheer

Rachel Scheer is a Certified Nutritionist who received her degree from Baylor University in Nutrition Science and Dietetics. Rachel has her own private nutrition and counseling practice located in McKinney, Texas. Rachel has helped clients with a wide range of nutritional needs enhance their athletic performance, improve their physical and mental health, and make positive lifelong eating and exercise behavior changes.

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