Whether you're experiencing post pill acne, cyclical skin flareups, or your skin has broken out since your cycles have returned after having a little one, struggling with skin issues isn't fun.
For me, my skin was worst during my teens. Out popped the painful, red and angry looking pimples. There were times I would dread looking into the mirror, cringe at photos of myself and felt self conscious about my inflamed face.
I listened to adverts and followed regimens to cleanse, tone, and moisturise daily, using harsh chemical laden products that promised ‘clean & clear’ skin. It didn’t help.
Little did I know at the time, that it had nothing to do with what I was applying to my skin, but all to do with the inflammatory foods I regularly enjoyed, the synthetic hormones I took and the binge drinking sessions I went on, throughout my party girl years.
Of course, everyone is individual and has differing contributing factors to skin pimples. Let's explore the possibilities, so you can overcome your breakouts and find your clear, glowing skin once again.
Five Causes Of Skin Breakouts
1. HIGH BLOOD GLUCOSE LEVELS AND INSULIN RESISTANCE.
When your blood sugar levels are erratic over the day, this creates stress on your insulin producing organ, the pancreas. A diet high in glucose and fructose containing foods, overtime contribute to a condition of insulin resistance and can therefore lead onto weight gain, and type 2 diabetes.
Insulin resistance is also a known driver for adrenal, thyroid and sex hormone imbalance. The condition up regulates an enzyme called 17, 20-Lyase enzyme, which creates excessive androgen production and therefore contributes to the condition of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). PCOS, or not, high Testosterone levels can drive acne production, in women.
The mineral Zinc is an important nutrient for promoting healthy testosterone metabolism as well as skin healing, so a zinc deficiency can also contribute to skin breakouts.
On the topic of Testosterone, if you experience breakouts around ovulation, this can simply be due to the increase of Testosterone at this time of your cycle. As long as they quickly clear, embrace this powerful phase... and take advantage of it if you're trying for a bubba.
2. HIGH OESTROGEN & OESTROGEN METABOLITES
Oestrogen dominance occurs when the levels of Estradiol (E2) are higher, in ratio to Progesterone. Progesterone, for example should be around 50-200 times the Oestrogen (Estradiol), in the two weeks leading up to your period. This is referred to as the luteal phase.
When Oestrogen is high and causing an imbalance in this delicate ratio, you may experience issues with pimples at this time of your cycle (after ovulation and approaching your period). You may also show signs of breast tenderness, irritability, insomnia, headaches and fluid retention if this oestrogen dominance is a factor for you.
Exposures to hormone disrupting chemicals (xeno-oestrogens), which contribute to oestrogen dominance, include:
- BPA (look for a number 3,6 or 7 on the bottom) in plastic water bottles, containers, the tops of take-away coffee cups and tin liners
- Plastic wrap
- Phthalates in cosmetics, foods, furniture, vinyl flooring & new cars (yep that ‘new car smell’ is endocrine disrupting chemicals off gassing).
- Parabens in cosmetics
- Hydraulic Fluid
- Modified polystyrene
- Fertilisers used in conventional farming practices
These xenooestrogens have the ability to bind to an oestrogen receptor and mimic either a weak or strong action, causing hormonal disturbance and seriously interfering with the natural biochemical changes in your body. Xenooestrogens build up in the environment, are non-biodegradable and accumulate in fatty tissue of humans and are therefore are difficult to detoxify from naturally. Supplemental support is often necessary and discussed within my hormone health book.
Synthetic oestrogen from prescription medications, the oral contraceptive pill and HRT also contribute to the bodies Oestrogen load.
The way we detoxify from our natural Oestrogen can also be affected, in a state of Oestrogen dominance. Oestrogen is eliminated from the body via the Methionine pathway, therefore a variant of the MTHFR enzyme (which up to 60% of the population have), upsets healthy oestrogen metabolism pathways and can contribute to inflammatory conditions in the body, including skin breakouts.
To prevent oestrogen dominance, get some of my favourite lifestyle hacks for healthy hormones here.
When the body is in a state of stress, either physical, emotional, or chemical, your vulnerable adrenal glands are weakened. Accompanying this stress, is sex hormone imbalance. The mother of all hormones, Pregnenolone, is stolen down a pathway to produce the stress hormone, Cortisol. This leaves your body in a state of low Progesterone. As I touched on previously, low Progesterone in ratio to Oestrogen, can cause skin issues such as pimple problems.
Stress is a known driver for the excessive androgen production, which can lead to the many symptoms of PCOS, including acne. Read more on how to overcome stress and high androgens, in my hormone health book, here.
Stress also leads to low stomach acid levels, digestive enzyme production and causes changes in gut bacteria levels, therefore contributing to a condition of leaky gut. This intestinal environment leads to inflammatory consequences that follow, such as acne. Low stomach acid is a perfect segue for the next cause of skin breakouts.
4. DIGESTIVE DISTURBANCES
This is a biggie. Acne is often accompanied by digestive disturbances, such as bloating, abdominal pain, reflux, constipation or halitosis (bad breath). The health of your digestive system simply can not be ignored when investigating the cause of your acne.
Low stomach acid (and being on antacid medication long term); infections such as parasites, bad bacteria and candida fungal overgrowth, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) and food intolerance reactions, can contribute to the condition of a leaky gut, therefore digestive disturbances and acne.
Chris Kresser describes a study indicating the link of acne, with intestinal permeability (leaky gut). “…patients with acne were having strong reactions to things that should still be in the gut but had escaped the gut into the bloodstream, so that, in turn, suggests that the gut is leaky in those patients and things like lipopolysaccharide endotoxin are getting out of the gut and into the blood, and then the patients are mounting an immune response to that, and then that’s causing inflammation, which manifests as acne.”
A lipopolysaccharide is a endotoxin found in the cell wall of bacteria, that is a potent driver of inflammation, when it reaches the bloodstream (it should remain in the gut).
The main foods that often contribute to leaky gut and inflammation, include refined sugar, pasteurised dairy, soy and gluten and consequently may lead to pimple production. Pasteurised dairy is also mucous forming, so its a good idea to trial without it, to improve pustular acne.
It’s also important to note that poor beneficial bacteria levels, will lead to issues in having a regular, well formed bowel movement (think #4 Bristol Stool). Antibiotics and the oral contraceptive pill contribute to an imbalance of good: bad bacteria in the gut.
It is important to note, that when your elimination organs are stressed, such as your lungs, liver, kidneys and bowel, your skin health will suffer. Toxins will be forced out through your skin, contributing to pimples and other inflammatory skin conditions.
Our exposure to toxins occurs on a daily basis. Chlorine and fluoride through our water supply; air pollution from road and air traffic; pesticide residues in farming communities and glyphosate through conventionally farmed produce; off gassing from building materials & furniture and heavy metal exposure such as mercury in large fish and the off gassing of amalgam fillings...just to name a few.
You may have a disrupted ability to detoxify from toxins, through certain genetic mutations, such as the MTHFR Gene Defect and defects in your Glutathione producing genes (GSTT1, GSTP1, GSTM1). This not only creates issues with nutrient deficiencies, but also puts a greater pressure on your skin, as an elimination organ and contributing to a state of acne or other skin irritation.
Supporting your detox organs is therefore a must. You can explore some ways you can do this, over here, along with infrared saunas. Indoor plants are a great way to help to detox your home environment.
LOOK FOR & BALANCE OUT THE UNDERLYING CAUSE
When seeking the underlying cause of your skin breakouts, it’s important to consider factors such as nutritional deficiencies, dietary choices, food intolerances, gut health, stress, toxins, infections, blood sugar balance, the health of your adrenal glands and the levels of your sex hormones.
Guidance on working towards healthy hormones, can be found in my book Balanced, The Natural Way To Healthy Hormones and setting yourself up for fertility and conception in my Glowing Mumma Guide. If you're a new Mumma navigating Bubba Mumma life (and skin breakouts), gain my support for nourishing yourself through this stage of life, here.
Image sourced from www.sheknows.com