IMPORTANT: Before you begin
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How do hormones affect acne?
Hormones have a major role in the development of acne, and although the exact mechanism behind their powerful influence is unknown, we do know that androgen hormones gum up the follicle by triggering oil (sebum) production. Androgens are the so called “male hormones” and are present in males and females. They are produced by the testes, ovaries and the adrenal glands. The most well known androgens are testosterone and its breakdown product dihydrotestosterone (DHT).
Why is all of this important in regards to acne? Because research has shown that there are androgen receptors in the base of the oil gland and also in the cells that line the pores! If there are high levels of testosterone and DHT floating around the body, they are highly capable of binding onto these receptors. To put it simply, when these hormones attach to the oil glands (aka. receptors) in the skin, they trigger the gland to produce more oil as well as feed the bacteria and then an inflamed acne lesion is well on its way to surfacing. So, by lowering androgen and testosterone levels in the body, the skin will not produce as much or no acne.
Also at work is DHEA, the chief precursor to testosterone. DHEA causes the growth of and increased productivity of the oil (sebaceous) gland. DHEA levels start rising well before puberty when the adrenal glands start producing this chemical. At this time, acne starts to appear in genetically predisposed teenagers.
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One component to fluctuating or increased hormone levels is the food we consume. The typical American diet that is highly acidic and high in saturated fats, processed grains, meat fats, refined sugar and low in fresh vegetables, fruit, fish , fiber, antioxidants and seaweed has been shown in many studies to either increase or decrease testosterone and androgen levels, respectively. Therefore, a healthy diet is one form of natural treatment for hormonal acne. Another way to balance hormone levels is by taking certain herbs and vitamins for acne. Both these items are discussed in more detail below…
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
PCOS is a condition in which women have an imbalance of female sex hormones. It is linked to low levels of estrogen and progesterone and high androgen levels (male hormones typically found in small amounts in women). It is not completely understood why or how the changes in hormone levels occur. This hormonal imbalance causes the woman’s ovaries to not release eggs, instead, they form very small cysts.
Symptoms of PCOS include: lack of a period or an irregular period, body hair growing on the chest, naval, face or around the nipples, thinning of the hair on the head, acne, dark skin markings around the neck, armpits, groin or breasts as well as decreased breast size. The increase in the male hormone, androgen, is responsible for causing these male-characteristic symptoms.
If you think you may have acne triggered by PCOS, please contact your physician for testing and diagnosis.
1. Take Your Vitamins and Herbs
Omega-3 Fatty Acids– omega-3’s have been found to lower testosterone levels. By taking EPA and DHA omega-3 supplementation and eating more omega 3’s in the diet, one can help the body to balance testosterone levels and eliminate acne breakouts.
Vitex– hormonal acne, in females, typically manifests along the jawline and chin. If you are experiencing acne in these areas, during your monthly cycle, then Vitex for acne may be a successful treatment. Vitex is an herb, also known as Chasteberry and the “womans herb” that has been used with great success for women’s menstrual symptoms of low progesterone in the luteal phase (the part of the cycle that starts at ovulation and ends the day before your next period) and high estrogen levels. Signs of low progesterone include: depression, crying, despondency, mood swings, hormonal acne, nervousness and anxiety. Signs of high estrogen levels include: pain, tender breasts, heavy periods and bloating.
The Vitex herbs acts upon the pituitary and hypothalamus glands by increasing luteinizing hormone (LH) production and mildly inhibiting the release of follicle stimulating hormone (FSH). This results in a shift in the ratio of estrogen to progesterone, with a rise in progesterone. The ability of the Vitex to increase progesterone levels is an indirect effect. The herb itself is not a hormone. Therefore, it is important to know if your progesterone levels truly are low before taking Vitex as it could stimulate an acne breakout from too high of progesterone levels.
Taking the herb Vitex first thing in the morning between 7-8am is the optimal time as this is when the pituitary and hypothalamus glands are active to regulate female sex hormones. For full results, a 3-5 month time frame is recommended when first starting Vitex.
We offer an organic, vegan and therapeutic-grade Vitex that is designed for hormonal acne treatment.
2. Eat the Proper Diet
Lower saturated fat consumption– Dr. Esa Hamalainen and her team showed that by switching from a diet high in saturated fat to one with 38% less fat and more inclusive of polyunsaturated fats (nuts, seeds, fish, algae, leafy greens) for six weeks, there was a significant reduction in androstenedione (precursor to testosterone) and testosterone in the blood. Over the years, the results of this study have been reproduced again and again.
Increase fiber consumption– In other studies, in addition to lowering fat consumption, increasing fiber consumption has also been evaluated. What has been found is that a high fiber diet will also decrease blood testosterone, DHT and DHEA. In America, the average daily consumption of fiber is 13 grams. The recommended daily dosage is 25 grams for women and 38 grams for men. As you can see, it may be beneficial for anyone suffering from acne to increase their fiber.
Decrease milk consumption– If you recall from above, DHT is able to bind to the receptors in the oil glands and “turn them on” so as to trigger oil production and acne. The problem with milk, in correlation to acneic skin, is that the hormones have already been converted into DHT by the cow and enter the human system ready to bind to an oil gland and create a breakout. This information was discovered by Dr. William Danby, Dermatologist, who has researching the diet-acne connection since the 1970’s.
Increase alkaline foods and decrease acidic foods– meat based proteins coffee, alcohol, sugar and processed grains, items heavily consumed in the typical America diet, are acid forming in the system. Whereas, fruits, vegetables and whole grains are alkalinizing to the system. Over-acidification is known as acidosis.
The main symptom of acidosis is fatigue. This is universal. Other symptoms include: loss of enthusiasm for life, loss of sex drive, poor sleep quality, depression and tiring quickly both mentally and physically. Advanced stage symptoms of acidosis include: sensitivity to cold, low blood pressure, hypo or hyperthyroid and low blood sugar. These symptoms are caused because the main minerals that are required to nourish the nervous system, such as calcium, magnesium, and potassium, are the very same minerals that the body uses to neutralize acids!
Because stress also causes acidity it is not surprising that studies have shown that alkaline foods neutralize these acids and reduce cortisol level, the stress hormone (which we mention below is present at higher levels in acne patients).
Just by eating more fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains in replace of meat, sugar and other processed foods you will not believe how amazing you feel in just a few days!
3. Stress Reduction- yes, it does affect our hormones!
These days, starting from kindergarten, the pressure is on. We all experience it and try our best to reduce it.
Simply put, stress activates the adrenal glands to produce extra androgen hormones which eventually results in inflamed acne breakouts in acne-prone skin. These extra hormones stimulate the sebaceous glands in the skin and trigger a breakout. The stress-hormone connection is more of a problem for women than it is for men because they produce most of their male hormones (androgens) in their adrenal glands. Men, on the other hand, produce most of their male hormones in the testes and only a very small amount in the adrenal glands. Men’s primary hormone is testosterone is even when they do get stressed and the body produces extra, it does not have as big of an impact as it does for women. Women produce about one tenth of the amount of testosterone as men do so a sudden surge of additional testosterone can be significant.
To protect our adrenal glands from this surge of androgens (testosterone), we have to protect them! The Adrenal Stress Formula is one of the easiest ways to prevent that spike of androgens from affecting our skin and triggering a stress breakout.
Jessica has over 15 years of experience treating acneic skin. Her approach is extremely thorough and detailed so as to find the root cause of your acne. Call 720-340-2263 now for a free 15-minute consultation!