Banish acne forever

August 15, 2012

Diet, Healing, Lifestyle, Self-esteem, Skin

Scientific research has determined that the single most important cause of the increase in the incidence of acne is diet.

by Dr. Thomas Alexander — 

At one time or another, most of us have experienced that sinking feeling in our stomachs when we looked in the mirror, only to see blemishes on our faces. It is estimated that between 75 percent to 95 percent of our teenage population deals with acne, as do many adults. Acne is a serious problem that can play havoc on anyone’s self-esteem.

Research shows that acne can affect the way you feel about yourself, making it difficult to thrive and function socially. It also can cause you to become preoccupied with imperfections, so that you see nothing other than that big red bump on your face. But, if you knew how to improve self-esteem and make dramatic improvements in your skin and overall health with one step, would you do it? You can — by simply changing your diet.

Scientific research has determined that the single most important cause of the increase in the incidence of acne is diet. Researchers who studied ethnic populations, such as the Kitavan Islanders of Papau New Guinea, and the Ache’ hunter-gatherers of Paraguay, found that those who stuck to their traditional diets had no acne. Dr. O. Schaefer, a physician who worked with the Inuits (Eskimos) for decades, described how this group of people  — who had never experienced acne before — began to develop the problem as their diets became more westernized.

Three major factors contribute to the formation of acne. One is an increase in the formation of keratin — the protein found in hair, skin and nails that makes them strong and protects the underlying cells from the vagaries of the environment. Increased keratin can clog the pores of the oil-secreting glands in the skin. Second, an increase in androgenic hormones (also called masculinizing or male hormones, found in men and women) escalates the secretion of oil by these glands. And third, a bacterium called propionibacterium acnes increases contamination by the skin hair follicles — which is why acne is often treated with antibiotic cremes or oral antibiotics.

The most significant dietary change that has made acne such a problem are the large amounts of highly processed, refined carbohydrates, which stimulate an increased release of a hormone called insulin in the body. Refined, processed carbohydrates have a high glycemic index and include sugar, white bread, white rice and other processed grains, to name a few. Such foods cause high levels of insulin, which, in turn increase the formation of keratin, the production of the male hormones and secretions of the oil glands that cause acne.

A study done in Australia recruited males between the ages of 15 and 25 and put half of them on low-glycemic diets. This half showed significant improvement in their acneic symptoms, as compared to the men who maintained their regular diets.

Deficiencies of zinc and vitamin A can also trigger acne. Diets rich in these nutrients can not only decrease acne, but also reverse it. A decrease in omega 3 fatty acids can trigger outbreaks of acne, as well. Omega 3 fatty acids are found in flax seed, walnuts, pecans and fish and fish oil, to name a few sources.

If you suffer from acne, try these dietary changes and see what a difference they can make.

As always, consult your physician to help you put together a plan. Other medical reasons for acne may need to be ruled out. Also, keep in mind that taking individual supplements can cause deficiencies in other nutrients, so do not do so without help from a professional.


1. Acne Vulgaris: A disease of western civilization. Cordain L et al. Archives of Dermatology.

2. Acne and diet: truth or myth? Denise Lage. Anais Brasileiros de Dermatolgia 2010; 85(3): 346-353.


Thomas Alexander, M.D., is an internal medicine doctor who practices in Scottsdale, Ariz., and believes that we all have the tools for excellent health and an inspired life. 480-998-3551 or

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 29, Number 5, October/Novemer 2010.

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