When it comes to skin health, it not only effects the way our body functions but it can have major impacts on the way we feel about ourselves and our self-confidence. It is the largest organ in the body and the part of you on display to the world. It plays a major role in keeping us healthy and providing us with protection from the outside world.
When we see disturbances of the skin (acne, psoriasis, eczema, rashes, even a dull complexion and a lack of plumpness) it is a sign of internal disruption and possible nutrient deficiencies.
This means that that new fancy cream likely isn’t going to cut it (sorry!).
Let’s focus on acne.
There are a few main reasons we see acne flare up on the skin. This can be issues in the gut, hormonal imbalances, nutrient deficiencies and environmental influences.
The gut and skin health are closely linked and for different people, symptoms of poor gut health will show up in different ways.
When it comes to skin, having imbalanced gut bacteria and gut wall inflammation can lead to epithelial permeability (or ”leaky gut”) which means that bacteria and food particles that would normally be too large to get through the cells gaps, can now enter the bloodstream. Once in the bloodstream the immune system is alerted and it activates an inflammatory response.
Another job of the digestive tract is to remove accumulated waste (this includes some hormones). So, if you’re not using your bowels daily, waste products get reabsorbed into the bloodstream and need to find another way out and for my acne prone friends – its coming out in the skin.
When the gut is not functioning as it should it puts further pressure on the other organs such as the liver and gallbladder which can lead to further issues.
Skin conditions like acne or eczema, and to some degree psoriasis, can often be the first sign that there is something wrong internally and whilst we tend to fixate on what we can see, resolving gut dysfunction is the best way to get on top of your skin health.
In many cases the development of acne is due in part to hormones, particularly androgens.
Androgens are conventionally labelled as male sex hormones, however, everybody, regardless of sex produces androgens.
When there is an excess of the androgen testosterone circulating the body our pores are stimulated to produce more sebum (our natural oil). This excess of oil increases the growth of acne causing bacteria (Tip: you need these bacteria on your skin – but just in the right amounts).
Although counterintuitive – stripping these natural oils can only make things worse as you also need this oil to move dead skin cells out of the pores to prevent clogging and to protect you from the outside world.
And whilst a fancy oil free cleanser may make your skin feel lighter and a little less shiny for about 30 minutes, this can also damage the protective acid mantel of the skin, further increasing the shiny T-zone you may experience. With a damaged acid mantel – the skins normal protective mechanisms are impaired and you are left with thriving acne and dull skin that is far from plump!
So what causes an androgen surge? Events such as puberty or stopping hormonal contraceptives (particularly the oral contraceptive pill) and conditions such as polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) and hypothyroidism and even things like unbalanced blood sugar levels can further drive testosterone production leading to more oil production.
Nutrient deficiencies are so prevalent in today’s society with the common dietary patterns we have and the fact that many Australian soils are depleted in minerals meaning the foods that come from them are also depleted.
Nutrient deficiencies can be caused by so many factors – age, gender, lifestyle, genetics, metabolic or absorption defects, the list is endless! And it can be extremely difficult to figure out if nutrient deficiencies (and which ones) are causing or driving your acne.
When it comes to skin health there are nutrients that are essential for maintaining its integrity, speeding wound healing (think avoiding acne scarring) and keeping the skin hydrated. They include vitamins A, E and C, amino acids arginine, glycine, leucine, lysine, as well as pantothenic acid (vitamin B5), protein, silicon, and minerals copper and zinc.
Determining the “why” behind a nutrient deficiency is just as important when resolving skin issues. If you were to supplement with zinc during a zinc deficiency while there are gut problems causing absorption issues, once you finish supplementing you are back to square one and the problem hasn’t been fixed.
It’s also important to consider medications that may cause nutrient deficiencies, for example the oral contraceptive pill depletes the body of folate, B2, B6, B12, B3, vitamin C and E, and minerals magnesium selenium and zinc.
So to first correct the deficiency long term we need to find out what is causing it in the first place!
Knowing what the cause of your skin conditions are can be difficult and it can be easy to get lost in a whirlwind of information. A holistic health assessment that looks at you as an individual is so important for long term effective treatment. When you resolve a skin issue, you not only improve your bodies protection from the outside world but also often your self-confidence, moods, social life and overall your quality of life.
So if you feel ready to get to the bottom of your skin condition for good, speak to one of our experienced practitioners about your acne and let’s get to the bottom of this together.