Hi! It’s Emma here from Women’s Health and Hormones. Today I’m talking about acne and more specifically how to balance your hormones naturally so you don’t need the oral contraceptive pill to control acne breakouts.
I have a lot of experience working in this area. Earlier in my career I spent about 4 years working in a specialised skin clinic. I used to see about 70 to 80 patients per week at the clinic many of whom were suffering from acne. I experienced firsthand the suffering this was causing and this is what sparked my interest in the area of treating hormone imbalances.
Tip Of The Iceberg
The first thing to remember if you have acne is that it’s a systemic condition. Acne presents with skin symptoms which are on the surface but this is really just the tip of the ice berg.
The underlying mechanisms that are controlling the health of your skin and the presentation of acne are actually coming from within you.
The only way to get acne to go into remission is to address the underlying causes that are contributing to that symptomatic presentation. It’s important also to remember that you can’t cure acne.
Acne is a genetic condition so you will always have this hereditary tendency but there’s so much we can do naturally to get the condition to go into remission so that you’re not experiencing active symptoms that are troubling you all of the time.
There are many ways we can do this naturally without you needing to take the oral contraceptive pill.
The first step is to try and get an idea of what your hormonal profile is. We want to find out which hormones are driving the presentation of your symptoms.
The easiest way to begin is to complete the free Hormone Breakthrough Quiz. If you follow the instructions through the quiz you will find out the underlying hormonal imbalance that may be causing your acne to flare up. The most common hormonal imbalance linked to acne is low progesterone. This may or may not be the case for you. Do the quiz to find out.
Once you’ve done the quiz I recommend you confirm your hormonal profile through hormone testing. The quiz itself gives you an indicator of what your potential hormonal imbalance might be but it’s a great idea to follow that up through saliva hormone testing.
Once you understand your hormonal profile then you can be very specific in taking the right herbs and nutrients to get your hormones back into balance (and that’s different for every person). Just because you have acne doesn’t necessarily mean that you will need exactly the same herbs and nutrients that another of my patients that also has acne may require.
So, there’s no one size fits all approach here it’s a matter of finding out what your unique hormonal blueprint is and addressing that blueprint as best we can.
Other Triggers For Acne
Hormonal imbalance is one part of the picture when we’re treating acne. It’s almost like we’re trying to put together the pieces of the puzzle for your body. What are the underlying causes that are resulting in your hormonal imbalance? What are the other underlying causes that are contributing to your acne flaring up?
If you can go into that deeper level and address all the underlying causes you will get long term improvements in your acne and your hormonal regulation.
As you start to balance your hormones, your general well-being including your mood, energy levels, concentration etc will also improve which is good news.
How Is Your Gut Going?
The next step is also having a look at what’s going on with any gut issues.
Your gut function will always cause a flare up of acne if its not optimal. Remember your skin is a secondary organ of elimination. Any waste products that your body isn’t able to eliminate efficiently through the bowel will come out through the skin so it’s really in your best interest to make sure that your gut is as healthy as possible and that you’re having a regular daily bowel movement.
This also has a direct impact on your hormonal regulation because if your body is finding it difficult to eliminate waste products efficiently through the bowel you will also find it difficult to eliminate hormonal metabolites (the by-products of hormonal detoxification). If your body can’t eliminate those through the bowel they will be reabsorbed from the bowel back into the blood stream and it just perpetrates the cycle of imbalance in the body.
Make sure your having a regular bowel movement. If you’re suffering from constipation it will slow down the elimination of waste products and hormonal metabolites even more from the bowel so we want to make sure that the bowel movement is happening on a daily basis.
If you find that your suffering from sluggish bowel function or constipation it’s important to make sure that you’re including enough fibre particularly soluble fibre in your diet. My recommendation here is to make sure that your including some flaxseed meal.
The Magic Of Flax
Flaxseed meal is fantastic! It’s a great source of soluble fibre that will help to keep your bowel movements regular. It also contains a phytoestrogen which is called lignan. Lignans lock onto your body’s estrogen receptor sites and can trick your body into modulating its own estrogen production. So if your estrogen levels are too high and that (combined with low progesterone) is contributing to the flare ups of acne, flaxseed meal is a really safe and easy way to address that.
Because it’s a modulator it doesn’t even matter if you’re not sure if you’ve got high estrogen. If you have low estrogen flaxseed meal can also help. Flaxseed meal also contains a range of anti-inflammatory essential fatty acids and these will help to dampen down the inflammatory response in your body. We know that acne is an inflammatory condition so anything that has an anti-inflammatory action will be really beneficial in improving the health of your skin.
I recommend you probably start with about 1 tablespoon of ground flaxseed meal each day and gradually take your time to increase that to 2 tablespoons just listening to your body as you go along.
There aren’t many woman who react to flaxseed meal but there’s always that possibility for an idiosyncratic reaction so you just want to go slowly and give your body a chance to get used to it.
How To Use Flaxseed Meal
A great way to include flaxseed meal is in a smoothie or you can sprinkle it on your breakfast or include it on a salad for example. You need to grind the flaxseed meal. If you’re having whole flaxseeds, whilst that will help control the amount of bowel movements you’re having; you won’t absorb any of the beneficial phytoestrogens or any of the essential fatty acids from the whole flaxseeds so you need to grind it.
The best thing you can do is buy a packet of whole linseeds from the supermarket and just grind enough to last you for a week and store it in a glass food storage container in the fridge. That way it will keep the ground linseeds really fresh. Linseeds contain high levels of essential fatty acids which means they will oxidise quickly. You want to make sure that your store them in the fridge and that they’re fresh when you eat them.
So that’s tip number one, we want to really keep the bowel movement happening.
You need to drink plenty of water as well. Two litres plus per day is essential. You will find if you get dehydrated the flaxseeds can potentially actually make the situation worse because they’re a soluble fibre source which means that you need to have lots of water to help them work properly in the body.
Hydrating your system will also help flush waste products through your system and will also help reduce the possibility of waste products being eliminated through the skin so maintaining hydration is essential.
How Does Your Diet Look?
Another important area to look at is optimizing your nutrient status.
We know that there are really important nutrients for promoting both hormonal regulation and skin healing so if you can include a range of these nutrients in your diet it will be both beneficial for helping the hormones and helping the skin more efficiently.
We already mentioned the essential fatty acids which have that anti-inflammatory response in the body. I also recommend you try and eat plenty of green leafy vegetables.
Green leafy vegetables are full of antioxidants and phytonutrients that promote skin healing. They’re also alkaline so they help to dampen down acidity in the body and we know that increased acidity in the body is linked to increased inflammation and can continue to flare up cycles of acne.
We want to try and dampen down the inflammatory response and dampen down the acidity in the body as well.
Green vegetables are fantastic for this purpose. The best leafy greens to include are broccoli, cabbage, brussel sprouts, alfalfa sprouts, fresh herbs such as mint and parsley are wonderful. Even green vegetables like snow peas, asparagus etc – any of those leafy greens will really help.
Just remember the vegetables from the brassica family need to be cooked before you eat them. Kale is also a member of the brassica family and I have heard from quite a few women that they’re including kale in their juices and smoothies and they are having it raw.
Kale is a great source of phytonutrients and anti-oxidants and excellent for healing acne but make sure you cook it first; lightly steam your kale or lightly stir-fry it.
If you’re having it raw in a smoothie or any of those brassicas raw they can impede or slow down your thyroid function and we don’t want that. We don’t want to fix one problem in your health and then cause another problem as a result so just make sure that you cook the brassicas. But having lots of other green vegetables raw is fantastic. Juicing is a great. Making a juice like cucumber, celery, mint and parsley is a great way to boost up those phytonutrients.
Green smoothies are great for the same reason but try and vary up the greens you’re including. If you’re only ever including spinach in your green smoothie you’re going to get some issues there because spinach contains phytates and oxalates that reduce your bodies ability to absorb other nutrients so just mix it up and include lots of different greens.
Change It Up
Change the foods around that you’re eating – don’t eat the same foods every day. You have to try and have variety in your diet as much as possible to minimise the impact of any food intolerences.
Give your body the best opportunity to get maximum nutrition by incorporating a broad variety of foods.
Having lots of green vegetables with your meals is important, so steaming a big bunch of green vegetables and making sure that half of your plate is full of green vegetables is anoter great way to incorporate the greens.
The Power of Zinc
Zinc is another important mineral to promote skin healing and zinc is not high in green vegetables so you want to make sure you include other zinc containing foods in your diet. For vegetarians the best zinc containing food for your diet is actually pumpkin seeds so including a small handful of pumpkin seeds every day great fantastic thing to do. If you’re not a vegetarian, you want to try and incorporate other zinc sources as well.
Eggs and red meat are great sources of zinc. Even legumes (for vegetarians too) include a fair bit of zinc as well. Including zinc containing foods in your diet every day is really really helpful.
If you are going to use any topical treatment to try and heal your skin more quickly you must make sure that it’s natural. If you’re using topical treatments that are not natural or certified organic, it’s highly likely that your body will be absorbing xenoestrogens which are synthetic oestrogen mimickers through the skin.
Now these are hormonal disruptors. Even if you initially see an improvement in your skin symptoms, using these in the long term actually feeds the condition because we know that exposure to xenoestrogens will disrupt your natural hormonal regulation. We need to balance the hormones in order for you to see long term improvements in acne without using the pill.
So choosing natural organic topical products is a really great idea. If you can try and find a formulation that contains herbal extracts, anti-inflammatory essential oils and even some organic fruit acids you will find that very beneficial but try and stay away from the chemically laden skin products. They will flare it up in the long run you want to see long term improvements in your skin symptoms.
Do the best job you can to address as many of the underling triggers as possible. That will give you the best chance of getting your skin condition to go into remission and balancing your hormones naturally without needing to take the pill. Please let me know if you have any questions.