Coping With Acne Your Care Plan

November 12, 2012

Coping With Acne Your Care Plan

Acne is a skin condition caused by keratinisation, which means that the skin cells do not develop normally. This can lead to the pores becoming blocked which then trap sebum, which is a greasy substance released from the sebaceous glands under the skin. The proteins and oils trapped under the skin turn into food for the bacteria that is the cause of acne which in turn causes redness and swelling on the surface of the skin.

The amount of sebum being produced by the body increases when more hormones, in particular testosterone, are being produced. That is one of the reasons acne is so common when we are teenagers and young adults.

Acne touches around 80% of the population, and the common time is around the teenage years although acne can occur anytime in your life. It’s very common on the face, yet acne can be found anywhere on the body. The shoulders, back and buttocks are also common areas to see the red bumps and spots. Hormonal factors influence the severity of the acne in individuals and in some of the most severe cases scarring can result.

Many dermatologists now believe that certain foods are triggers that can cause a break out of acne. It is accepted that hard scientific evidence is hard to find yet anecdotal substantiation abounds. Even dermatologists can be affected, just ask Ellen Marmur, MD, she is a professor of dermatology at Mt. Sinai Hospital. She also wrote the book, Simple Skin Beauty and knows that if she eats chocolate then she will have acne two days later. She points out that, “It’s true that we don’t have studies to prove again and again that certain foods cause or prevent acne. But if you surveyed a group of dermatologists, many of us would say, ‘Yes, diet has an effect”.

Many acne sufferers understand that this effect is common and it is estimated that about 33% of acne sufferers have experienced the link between food and an outbreak of acne.

When skin renews itself there are many different steps in the process and because it requires vitamins and nutrients to complete the task of rebuilding and repair successfully the link to food is easily explained. Different foods provide different nutrients and vitamins in varying quantities.

Although food is a component of skin regeneration it is not the major part. Marmur says that, “Food is only about 25% of the picture when it comes to acne. The other 75% is influenced by hormones, stress, sleep levels, and where you live. Good skin care also plays a role.” She also asserts that there are no ‘super foods’. Good skin health comes with good bodily health so the answer is to eat a healthy balanced diet if you are trying to prevent or reduce the effects of acne.

If your eating habits are healthy then you have a better chance of having healthy skin, meaning less chance of developing acne.

Marmur points out, “We all eat the same basic five to 10 meals, so if you give yourself five to 10 meals that provide a balanced diet, it will go a long way in preventing skin problems”. If you do suffer from acne, Marmur advises avoiding junk foods and eating more whole foods, not processed. She says that low fat foods are good whilst standard dairy produce, chocolate and French fries should be avoided.

Foods good for your skin

Studies carried out on foods and their effects on the skin have not found anything surprising. Generally the results tell us that healthy foods consist of fruit and vegetables and junk foods, saturated fats and sugary foods are not very good for our bodies, including the skin. The foods considered to be healthy may minimize the likelihood of an outbreak of acne and may also lessen the inflammation associated with acne.

The foods displaying the positive effects tend to have vitamin A, E, C, zinc, selenium, omega 3 fatty acids and water present. Of vitamin A, Marmur says, “Vitamin A helps regulate the skin cycle, so no acne-causing protein and oil get trapped”. Foods that have a good supply of vitamin A include carrots, broccoli, spinach, salmon and fish oil.

Accutane is a commonly prescribed medication used to fight acne and it is high in vitamin A. However some research has indicated that too much vitamin A can have negative effects and the daily dose should never exceed 10,000 international units (IU).

Vitamin C and E are antioxidants and are said to have a soothing effect. Marmur says that, “They are thought to work synergistically”. Vitamins C and E are found in abundance in fruit and vegetables. Vitamin C is found in oranges, grapefruit, lemons, limes, papaya and tomatoes, whilst vitamin E is in broccoli, sweet potatoes, leafy green vegetables, nuts, olive oil and avocados.

Zinc is said to relieve irritation caused by acne and there is some evidence to suggest that it can even prevent acne because the bacteria which grow to cause the redness and spots associated with acne finds zinc a hostile substance. It is also suggested that people with higher levels of zinc in their bodies are less liable to acne. Foodstuffs that have zinc include Brazil nuts, wheat germ, almonds and turkey.

Selenium is an antioxidant which has the affect of minimizing damage caused to the skin at the cellular level by free radicals. It has also had a study carried out on it which indicated that if taken with vitamin E can produce a positive effect on acne. Francesca Fusco, MD is a dermatologist who works in New York and she says, “A small Swedish study on 42 men and 47 women found that those who consumed selenium together with vitamin E for 12 weeks saw improvements in their acne”.

Common foodstuffs which have selenium include tuna, wheat germ, garlic, salmon, brown rice and eggs.

When skin is healthy there is a turnover of cells and it is this rotation of cells that prevents acne from developing. Omega 3 fatty acids assist the skin to perform this process. Fusco says, “Omega-3 fatty acids inhibit certain molecules that lead to inflammation and resulting skin problems”.

Foods with a good supply of omega 3 fatty acids include salmon, sardines, mackerel, walnuts, almonds and sunflower seeds.

Marmur recommends that we all drink plenty of water. She says, “It’s a good mantra for people to remember to drink water. Many of us have our morning coffee and then drink only one drink during the day and one at night”. A healthy body must be fully hydrated, this means drinking an ample amount of water which leads to healthy skin. If the body is sufficiently hydrated then toxins that can cause skin issues are cleaned out and essential tasks relating to the process of skin revitalization and regeneration can take place successfully.

However Marmur warns that consuming too much water can also be harmful. She says, “By drinking gallons of water, you won’t clear up your skin; you’ll just dilute your blood and put yourself at risk for seizures”. A sensible amount of water intake for one day would be around 5 to 8 large glasses but if the climate is hot and humid or you are doing a lot of physical work then more water may be necessary.

Bad foods for your skin

Although reputable scientific studies are rare there is a growing body of subjective data saying that specific foods can cause acne to break out. The most commonly referred to foods are junk foods and chocolate. Of the studies which have taken place investigating foodstuffs and their association with acne two types of foods have been identified as likely to cause an acne flare up. These are simple carbohydrates and dairy produce.

The George Washington University Medical Center carried out a study which indicated that because of the hormones given to cows to promote development, milk can cause acne in some people and worsen an already present breakout in others. Fusco adds, “It is a complex situation. Put simply, through a series of interactions, the hormones in dairy products increase levels of male hormones called androgens. Androgens increase sebum production, which leads to acne”.

In the second study researchers from Colorado State University carried out a comparison of the people on a ‘western’ style of diet, that is sugary drinks, potatoes and white bread and diets from two indigenous groups. The groups were the Kitivan islanders whose diet generally consists of fruit and fish, and the Aches hunter gatherers who reside in Paraguay. Their diet consists mostly of peanuts and wild game. Neither indigenous group has had any cases of acne.

The researchers found that it was food with a high glycemic index that caused the acne to breakout or worsen. A food has a high glycemic index if it is digested quickly within the body. People in the west generally eat high glycemic index diets. However the two indigenous groups ate predominantly low glycemic index diets.

The researchers noted that against the indigenous people’s record of no cases of acne those with a western style diet showed that 79% to 95% of teenagers and 40% to 54% of people older than 25 had acne.

Of the increased incidence of acne, Fusco notes that western diets cause high insulin levels. This leads him to say, high insulin leads to a series of reactions that increase androgen levels; increased androgens stimulate sebum production and clog pores”.

Although research is useful Marmur points out that you must treat your acne on a personal level. She says that you are the expert on your acne and you are the one who understands the association between diet and skin health. She suggests that keeping a diary for a month to record all that you have eaten and any reactions caused by certain foods. “Then read over it and highlight your worst breakouts. Look back 72 hours prior to what you eat and see if a pattern emerges,” recommends Marmur.

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