Acne in Western and Chinese Medicine
Acne can be both a psychologically and emotionally painful condition, especially for adolescents. Beating acne naturally can build confidence and help a young person take control of their health. Image plays an important role in the developing teenager and, as hormones increase, so do skin eruptions. For some teens, acne sores and pimples can make it challenging to find acceptance among peers, potentially increasing a sense of alienation. Many young people unfortunately struggle with embarrassment and shame when they have acne.
Most teens get the type of acne called acne vulgaris, which can appear on the face, neck, shoulders, back and chest. Acne eruptions are commonly found around hair follicles and may have small white or black heads surrounded by red skin. A more severe form is called cystic acne, which produces large and painful lesions, nodules, pustules and discharge. Scars may result when the sores run deeper into the epithelial layer of the body, and a person becomes disfigured by the healing process, which leaves cratered facial skin.
With acne affecting about 85 percent of the whole population at some time in their lives, as an adult or an adolescent, it is the most common skin disease addressed by dermatologists.
Conventional or Western Treatment Strategies for Acne
The strategy used by most dermatologists is to recommend an antibiotic, typically a tetracycline-type derivative designed to kill infections. In this case, it is propioniform types of bacteria that are responsible for the actual infection occurring on the face.
Propionibacterium can be found on the surface of everyone’s skin. Acne flare-ups result when bacteria block the pores, leading to inflammation and infection. New data shows P. acne, once believed to be harmless, can produce proteins that activate the disease process. Researchers found some 2,300 genes in P. acne, some with enzymes that actually break down human skin.
The process of sequencing the genome showed how these bacteria degrade skin tissue because of massive amounts of these enzymes and proteins, and this triggers an immune response.
Antibiotics and Acne
Antibiotics can in fact be very useful to clear up acne. But then there is the risk of developing candidiasis from over use. Other conventional treatments include using topical agents such as benzyl peroxide, or in extreme cases harsher treatment drugs like Accutane. Corticosteroids, birth control pills, acne surgery, cortisone injections, dermabrasion (skin peeling), freezing, and ultraviolet light are also used. Many professionals feel that no one should be using Accutane (generically known as isotretinoin), and strongly advise against it. It is actually the only drug classified as category X, meaning it is 100 percent guaranteed to cause birth defects. As of 2002, if you are a woman of childbearing age, you must get a pregnancy test before using it.
These medicines also have other side effects, such as feelings of depression, aggression, and suicide.
Although these systemic and topical treatments typically do work, it’s important to realize that they in no way treat the underlying cause of the acne. In addition, these conventional medications that attempt to treat acne are expensive antibiotics or topical creams that can be problematic because,they are likely to kill the good bacteria along with the bad.
How to Treat the Root Cause of Acne
What we want to do is to eliminate the underlying reason that is causing the propioniform bacteria to result in cysts or lesions. Fortunately, there are some very simple strategies that will accomplish just that, that work nearly every single time.
Beating Acne Naturally in Asheville, North Carolina
How does acne originate and how are we going to go about beating acne naturally? Eating refined carbohydrates and sugar leads to a surge of insulin and an insulin-like growth factor called IGF-1 in your body. This can lead to an excess of male hormones, which causes pores in the skin to secrete sebum, a greasy substance that attracts acne-promoting bacteria. Over production of the sebaceous glands under the surface of the skin can produce an oily skin surface and increase the predisposition. Additionally, IGF-1 causes skin cells known as keratinocytes to multiply, a process that is associated with acne.
Some say acne is a disease of Western civilization because studies have found that the condition is virtually nonexistent in non-westernized societies, where refined carbohydrates and sugar are rarely eaten. For instance, in one study that looked at acne cases in islanders of Papua New Guinea and hunter-gatherers of Paraguay, no acne cases were found in either group.
The findings, which are in line with many other studies, make a strong case for the significant role of environmental factors, such as diet.
Limiting grain consumption is one positive step for acne sufferers toward optimizing health. The more we study the influence of grains, and their secondary consequences on insulin, the more we find that they influence nearly every aspect of our health.
What most experts will tell you about acne is that it has nothing to do with diet. Nothing could be further from the truth. What has become clearly apparent is that diet has everything to do with it. Beating acne naturally requires you to understand the role of diet in acne care.
If you are predisposed to acne lesions and are eating a diet that is causing your insulin levels and associated insulin growth factors to rise, then you will most certainly have acne.
So, one simple solution is to radically reduce the amount of food you consume that is causing your body to make insulin. The main culprits are sugar and grain carbohydrates, as they’re converted into sugar in your body. This includes food items such as processed bread, cereal, pasta, rice, potatoes, and corn. Even a high quality organic whole wheat bread can cause this problem, because it’s still a carbohydrate. And even fruits can increase the amount of insulin in the body, which can result in exacerbating the acne condition. For some nutritional types, replacing sugars and grain carbohydrates with vegetable carbohydrates will help, as they metabolize slowly and tend to not cause spikes in insulin production.
Other Important Factors to Consider When Treating Acne
Reduce tension and stress – One study found the stress of final exams aggravated the acne of college students. That’s why it is so important to deal with stress before it becomes overwhelming. There are a variety of ways that you can do this, including making sure you get enough quality sleep. Acupuncture helps significantly to restore imbalances in sleep patterns due to stress. Daily meditation, even for five minutes a day, is anti-stress therapy.
If you suffer from acne, young or at an older age, one natural, helpful tool to relieve stress around the skin eruptions is Results, a healing system discovered by Margaret Fields Kean, which involves tapping your body’s energy meridians, or body alignment, and voicing positive affirmations to clear emotional blocks and restore mind and body balance. you can learn more here.
Establish proper balance of bacteria — If you’ve been given antibiotics it’s very important to take a probiotic supplement. Antibiotics are indiscriminate killers that wipe out good bacteria in your gut as well as the propioniform bacteria on your face. One common side effect of antibiotics is an overgrowth of yeast. If you are a woman, you may experience vaginal yeast infections, but both men and women can develop candida as a result of disrupting the balance of bacteria in the gut. By reducing the intake of food that bad bacteria and yeast thrive on, i.e. sugars and high-density carbs, and increasing your good bacteria, you will help to reestablish a proper balance in the gut.
Optimize your vitamin D levels – What we have now found is that Vitamin D is crucially important to establishing a healthy immune system and controlling many types of infections. When Vitamin D, especially in the D3 form, is optimized, we make over 200 antimicrobial peptides (also called host defense peptides). They are an essential component of our innate immune response and are potent, broad-spectrum antibiotics.
The best way to get enough Vitamin D is to expose large portions of your skin to healthy amounts of sunshine – just enough to cause your skin to turn a very light pink. Your body can produce as much as 20,000 IU’s with this level of exposure on most of your body. After that your body will not make any more vitamin D, and you may cause skin damage if you stay out longer without sunscreen and clothing to protect you from the sun’s rays.
If you don’t have access to regular sun exposure or a safe tanning bed, consider an oral supplement. Typically the oral doses are several thousand units a day, ranging from 2-3,000 to as much as 10,000 IU’s per day. But if you chose that route, do so by monitoring levels in the blood with a test at regular intervals.
Traditional Chinese Medicine Treatment Of Acne
TCM views acne as an external manifestation resulting from an internal imbalance. Excess heat and toxins are the primary components causing this imbalance. The general approach chosen for therapy is to reduce internal heat by cooling the blood, decreasing toxicity, and removing what is stagnant. Herbal medicines are also used to alleviate dampness and improve intestinal function where toxins can accumulate. The underlying factors causing the acne such as stress, hormonal imbalance, or the menstrual cycle, will also be treated accordingly so that the acne doesn’t come back in the future
Chinese herbal formulas are customized according to the TCM (Chinese medicine) diagnosis made by Acupuncturist James Whittle. Combinations and dosages of herbs are chosen and adjusted to work specifically for the individual. Chinese herbs have been proven safe and effective without adverse reactions. In addition, quality control and safety research are implemented. Chinese herbs are provided in different forms: raw form (which is boiled to make a liquid), tablets, capsules, powders, and tinctures.
Some foods that can help alleviate acne are squash, cucumber, celery, carrot, carrot tops, lettuce, potato, cabbage, beet tops, alfalfa sprouts, mung beans, dandelions, pears, cherries, papaya, persimmons, raspberries, and watermelon. Drinking plenty of water helps too.
Some foods to avoid or limit are spicy and oily foods, coffee, alcohol, sugar, chocolate, ice cream, soft drinks, dairy foods, red meat, shellfish, bamboo shoots and white mushrooms.
Acupuncture and Acne
Acupuncture can be incredibly effective at helping an adolescent reduce stress and clear the underlying hormonal imbalances that cause acne to erupt. Acupuncture will clear heat from the system and balance digestion issues around the acne as well.
Call the Blue Ridge Clinic to learn more about acne and acupuncture. (828) 254-4405