Having a poor complexion can lead to low self-esteem, but there is no need to suffer. Anyone who has suffered from true acne, not just the occasional spot, will know that it is a distressing condition which saps away self-confidence. It often results in a trip to the doctor and the expected prescription is a course of antibiotics. But many people decline this form of treatment.
So, what are the alternatives?
Zinc is probably the most important nutrient in the treatment of acne. Of all the zinc in your body, 20% is concentrated in the skin, which therefore reacts quickly to zinc deficiency. Zinc is critical to the metabolism of vitamin A in the skin. It is essential in wound healing, immune function and in the control of inflammation. All these factors are vital in the effective treatment of acne. It is interesting to note that those aged around 14 years have the lowest levels of zinc than in any other age group. Zinc is normally recommended in combination with other factors, but the general rule is that it needs to be taken for at least 12 weeks before improvements are seen. It has been our experience that zinc oxide is particularly well tolerated.
The antioxidant nutrients vitamin E and selenium should be taken together; they work best as a pair, one complementing the action of the other. These substances have the additional benefit of assisting in vitamin A regulation and metabolism. Male acne sufferers have been shown to be low in the enzyme glutathione peroxidase. This is an important substance found within the red blood cell. Supplementing the diet with vitamin E and selenium can restore the levels of this enzyme to normal, with an improvement in acne symptoms. Glutathione peroxidase is involved in the breakdown of fats or, more specifically, the peroxidation of lipids. This suggests that the other free radical agents, vitamin D and betacarotene are important in the treatment of acne.
You are what you eat
Looking to the diet, there are many areas where individual sensitivities may play an important role. Does chocolate actually aggravate acne? Some studies cannot prove that an association exists between chocolate consumption and acne symptoms, while others do. In general, it is a system of trial and error. Limiting the intake of animal fats (milk, milk products, butter, fat, synthetically hydrogenated vegetable oil and so on) is important. These substances need internal metabolic processing to render them safe, which places a huge demand on the nutritional status of the body. In other words, they burn up your antioxidant stores. Another general rule is to cut out refined carbohydrates (sugars) from the diet. Sugar will leach away most of your chromium pool (of which there is only about 400g to start with).
It has been suggested that chromium is involved in the control of skin glucose concentrations. The term ‘skin diabetes’ has been used to describe this situation. A high skin glucose content will aggravate the skin infection associated with acne. Supplementing the diet with chromium will help refill the biological pool and control the skin glucose levels. Keeping the bowels regular is another aspect often neglected by acne sufferers. The development of toxic matter is common in constipation. A change in bowel bacteria population also occurs, which adds to the toxic overload. An overgrowth of the yeast parasite, candida albicans, is likely in this situation. Once established, candida is difficult to shift without a good bowel detoxification programme. Increasing soluble fibre intake, combined with the herb Hydrastis Canadensis (Goldenseal) will assist in re-establishing healthy and balanced bowel function.
If you take a close look at some of the preparations available to fight acne, which are applied topically, there are some surprises in store. Many formulations aimed at problem skin strip it of its natural oils. The skin will become taut and dry, and may even be exposed to the bacterial or fungal infections in the short term. In the long term, it has the opposite effect. By stripping the sebum (oil) with strong astringents and soaps, the sebaceous glands will start to produce more sebum to counteract the dryness of the skin.
Even if the skin seems oily, it is still important to re-balance the moisture content. A regular routine of cleansing and moisturising should be carried out daily. Once a week, a gentle facial scrub or peel is recommended to exfoliate the skin.
So, maintaining a healthy, well-balanced diet doesn’t just have a positive effect on our insides – our skin can benefit too! Zinc can be found in pumpkin seeds, chickpeas and almonds. Carrots, apricots and broccoli are a great source of vitamin A! When it comes to selenium, this supplement from Higher Nature is great! Or, if you’re looking for a combination of vitamin E and selenium as Jan suggests, Solgar’s vitamin E and selenium capsules are the perfect choice. Plus, if you’re looking for good sources of fibre, try eating wholegrain bread, fruits such as berries and plenty of nuts and seeds!