Hey Mommypotamus, I want you to write about clear skin 🙂 you have such gorgeous skin and I would love to hear your thoughts on the subject. maybe even discuss the connection between acne and sugar / gluten / dairy. or the connection between different allergies or dysfunctions and babies with atopic dermatitis, eczema etc thank you 🙂
Aww, shucks, Alexandra! I’ve gotta say, clear skin is NOT something I take for granted. Back in college I had horrible acne. I searched for over an hour for a pic to post as proof, but you know what? There isn’t one. I was so embarrassed I never let anyone near me with a camera. Sorry about that. However, when it comes to the real cause of acne, I do have thoughts to share!
The REAL Cause of Acne
Candida diet? Check. Raw food diet? Double check. Supplements, teas, microdermabrasion? Yes, yes and yes. I tried every over the counter acne treatment and diet I could get my hands on with minimal success. Eventually I came to understand that acne is not caused by bacteria alone . . . otherwise we could infect each other with acne, right?
Instead, it’s thought to be caused by compromised liver, kidney, digestive and hormone function.
For the sake of making this halfway interesting, I think our subject organs should have names. Let’s start with the liver . . . how about Bob? It’s a good, solid name for a hardworking, jack-of-all-trades kind of organ, don’t you think? Okay, Bob it is.
Imagine Bob is a guy with a net. One of his major functions is to remove and break down used hormones and toxic substances from our blood, like the odd floating cup or plastic bag going down a stream. It’s all good until that stream becomes a raging river of trash and Bob is out there in nothing but his knickers trying to scoop like mad as gunk rushes by.
The stuff he misses is cycled back into our blood, including androgenic hormones that send signals to our sebaceous glands to make more oil. (Keep in mind that this is their second time around, so that’s MUCH more oil than Bob intended.)
It’s not just the oil, though. As more an more toxins build up in our bloodstream the body gets stressed. In an effort to restore homeostasis other organs like our skin are recruited for detoxification purposes. As the toxins near the surface of our skin they meet a surplus of oil thanks to the extra androgenic hormones, which creates warm, friendly petri dish for acne.
So How Does This Raging River Scenario Happen?
According to Food Renegade, “The biggest dietary culprits [for liver problems] include caffeine, alcohol, sugar, food additives, and excessive intake of Omega 6 essential fatty acids. But, there are environmental culprits too: pesticides, herbicides, synthetic chemical fertilizers, and even doctor-prescribed medicines.”
Puberty and menstrual cycles are factors also, because they increase the load of hormones Bob needs to clean from the blood. However, as long as he isn’t overwhelmed with environmental toxins the extra hormones aren’t a problem.
Sometimes, though, it’s not just the river – it’s Bob. The man thrives on B, D and A vitamins (found only in animal products) as well as vitamin C. He needs to be well fed to do his job, which means lots of cod liver oil, grassfed butter, liver or seafood along with certain veggies and herbs. (As a side note, zinc doesn’t seem to be a huge part of Bob’s diet but many acne sufferers are deficient in this vital mineral. For a list of zinc rich foods click here.)
Sometimes, It’s Not Just Bob and The River
The real cause of acne is upstream. Here’s what I mean: Caffeine, alcohol, processed sugar (fruit and honey are usually okay in moderate amounts), etc. also damage our digestive tracts, which are our first first line of defense when it comes to deactivating toxins and pathogens. Eliminating problem foods may not be enough to heal holes created in the gut lining (called “leaky gut”). If steps are not taken to repair the holes, proteins and other food substances will pass into the bloodstream in their undigested state. The liver will continue to be overwhelmed and the body, who doesn’t recognize these proteins in their whole forms, will launch an attack (create antibodies) against these proteins. This kicks off a domino effect which can lead to eczema, asthma, ADD, and other problems.
The two other systems (which shall remain nameless) are the kidneys and hormone producing organs (thyroid and adrenals). Similar to Bob, the kidneys are rigorous housekeepers that filter blood and expel waste from the body via urine. To nourish them well, consume generous amounts of cabbage (preferably fermented into sauerkraut), garlic, onions, berries, red bell peppers, cauliflower, extra virgin olive oil and wild salmon.
To support the thyroid and adrenal glands -which regulate hormone function and give us soft, supple skin -make sure to consume liver from grassfed animals, green leafy vegetables, and plenty of seafood. (If you can’t quite stomach the idea of liver you can get them in dehydrated (dessicated) capsule form.
Overwhelmed? Feel A Little Like Bob?
If you’re struggling with acne here are some suggestions that may help. Of course, each situation is unique and I am only speaking generally, so use your judgment.
- Do a cleanse. First a gentle full body cleanse you might consider the Standard Process Purification Program and then, if you feel it is needed, a cleanse that concentrates on the liver. Kari, a reader who knows more on t he subject than I do, says “You need [to start with] a complete cleanse and not just a liver cleanse. You want to clean out your system. If you focus to harshly on the liver it can be dangerous. Make sure you are eating or supplementing w/ lots anti-oxidants. This will help the toxins leave your body and not reattach somewhere else.”
- Acne sufferers often have a cluster of conditions such as fatigue, digestive problems, headaches, etc. If you have other health conditions listed here that you would like to work on, consider the GAPS protocol. (Need help getting started? This guide is very helpful)
- Get some sun! Remember that the liver needs vitamin D to function and the best source is sunlight.
- Get the junk out of your diet and eat foods that support the liver (check out Food Renegade’s article for a fantastic list of foods, herbs and spices), kidneys and hormone producing organs
- Specifically, avoid genetically modified foods (GMO’s). Only one human feeding study has ever been conducted on their safety (which found that pesticide producing genes in soy were NOT killed by stomach acid as makers claimed. They continued to live and produce toxins in the intestinal tract.) However, we can gain insight into the potential for organ damage by animal feeding studies. According to Real Food Digest, “
The livers of mice and rats fed GM soy feed had profound changes. Some were smaller and partially atrophied, others were significantly heavier, possibly inflamed, and some showed signs of a toxic insult from eating GM food.” Oh and rats fed GM Soy experienced a pretty significant indicator of GM effects on organs – their pink testicles turned dark blue.
- Eat probiotic rich foods. The more good bacteria we have in our digestive tract the more easily we neutralize toxins and pathogens. By helping our body get rid of them quickly we avoid the need for detox efforts through the skin later. (New to cultured foods? Here are some recipes to get you started.)
- Try eliminating grains and/or dairy. When digestive function is compromised grains/dairy can sometimes aggravate the problem. You might try eliminating them to see if your skin improves. If it does but you’re not getting full results, check out suggestion #2. (Note: Raw dairy can be beneficial for healing allergies in some instances. It all depends on whether you have enough good bacteria in your gut to break down lactose, among other things. Everyone is different!)
- Don’t over cleanse! Stripping skin of it’s natural oils may seem like a good idea, but it often just triggers oil production. Try the oil cleansing method for acne instead.
What did I miss?? Leave a comment below and let me know!
Photo Credit: Foundry Park Inn
Want more research-backed natural remedies?
No problem, I’ve created a free ebook for you – Kitchen Apothecary: 25+ Natural Remedies Using Ingredients From Your Pantry – as a gift for signing up for my newsletter. You’ll also get updates when I post about safe essential oils for pregnant/breastfeeding mamas, exclusive gifts and coupons (I was able to give away a jar of free coconut oil to anyone who wanted it recently!), plus other goodies.