If you are a teenager a cure for acne will likely be first on your list after finding a boyfriend or girlfriend, and most of us who have been teenagers can probably remember the misery that our perception of our looks gave us.
There have been many theories as to the cause of acne, and it is highly likely that there is more than one. The basic reason for the appearance of acne is that oils, dead skin cells and bacteria block the pores of the skin to form a variety of different types of pimples or spots, such as whiteheads, blackheads and pustules than can be irritating or painful. They can also be very unsightly, affecting the face, neck and sometimes the chest and back.
Studies have indicated that acne is caused by the over-production of sebum, a fatty oily substance secreted by the sebaceous glands of the skin to keep it supple and lubricated. If this is excessive, the sebum can block the pores causing blackheads, and become infected causing acne. So what causes this excess production of sebum? There are theories that it could be due to high insulin levels in the blood.
High insulin levels are promoted by high blood glucose levels the more blood glucose in your blood then the more insulin your pancreas produces to help covert it into energy. Higher insulin levels are also associated with high levels of insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1). The result of this is an increase in androgens (male hormones), specifically dihydrotestosterone (DHT), metabolized from testosterone. This in turn causes an increased production of sebum leading to acne.
The complete chain, therefore, begins with increased levels of glucose in your blood and ends in acne. In order to prevent acne you would have to break this chain anywhere in its sequence, and the only viable place to do this is at the beginning reduce your blood glucose level. In order to achieve this you would have to determine what foods you are eating that could cause an excessively high level of glucose in your blood.
Glucose is metabolized from carbohydrates, ranging from complex carbohydrates to refined sugar. However, those that you should try to avoid are the refined carbohydrates such as pasta, white bread, rice and sugar. These are what are known as the high glycemic index foods that can cause a sharp rise in your blood glucose levels when consumed. The complex carbohydrates take longer to be metabolized and are not so prone to producing sudden increases in your sugar levels. These lead to more sustained and gradual increases in blood glucose that demand a steady insulin supply, rather than the sudden increase that can lead to acne. Such foods include high fiber whole grains, oats and the like.
Studies have indicated that twelve weeks on a diet of low glycemic index foods resulted in a significant reduction in acne symptoms when compared to a control that did not change their diet. It therefore seems likely that your nutrition can affect your acne, and that changes in your diet could lead to a significant long-term reduction in acne symptoms such as pimples, pustules and other types of lesion.
The same studies also proved a reduction in the androgen levels of those on the complex hydrocarbon diet compared to the controls, and also greater sensitivity to insulin. However, the test group also experienced a significant weight loss, and it was not conclusively proved whether the reduction in acne symptoms was due to the reduction in blood glucose levels or to the weight loss.
However, the result is in accordance with the insulin and androgen theory, and it is known that diabetes is connected with obesity, so the two might in any case be related. Acne, diabetes, and weight are all related to your blood sugar level, which is in turn related to diet and carbohydrate intake.
Although a low glycemic index diet is suggested, such a diet is not easy to apply properly, and a dietician could help you here. Persistence is the name of the game, and you will not see instant results. Note that the tests referred to above were over twelve weeks, and this is likely the minimum period you will need to stick to your diet. However, the minute you break it, and revert back to simple carbohydrates, your problem will return. There is no sudden cure, rather a continual dietary approach to the prevention of the condition. Acne is not a disease that you can catch and cure. It is a condition created by lifestyle and diet, and can only be controlled rather than cured until you grow out of it in your late teens or early twenties, although many people suffer from acne until later in life.
Your diet should include plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grains and cereals, brown rice, fish, eggs and lean meats. You should avoid saturated and trans fats, and eat unsaturated fats and oils, with plenty of omega fatty acids, vitamins and minerals for a good skin and good health. Exercise will help by improving the blood flow to your skin.
You can also help your condition by taking some specific supplements. Saw palmetto and zinc will help to reduce the levels of testosterone in your blood, and vitamins E and B6 are also believed to help. Selenium, pantothenic acid and essential fatty acids are other supplements that can help with acne, but your best bet is to discuss your condition with a naturopath or somebody trained in the use of natural remedies and supplements with your condition.
Many swear by tea tree oil, although treatment has to be prolonged over a length period before it becomes effective, but you might prefer this to one of the chemical testosterone blockers that can be prescribed for acne in certain cases.
Overall, acne is not a serious condition but can be disfiguring. Although you can seek medical help in the event of serious attacks, your recommended treatment initially is to eat plenty of healthy foods low in simple carbohydrates, to take the appropriate supplements and nutrients to keep you healthy and to take plenty of exercise to maintain a good blood supply to your face.
In these ways you can reduce the number, depth and lasting effects of acne pustules, and in many cases clear the condition altogether.