The skin is just a reflection of inner health. Acne is typically treated medically with topical and even oral antibiotic medication. The most popular topical treatments contain benzoyl peroxide (about 5% of the population is allergic to this). Chemicals like these are treating the infection. However, the problem of acne starts way before the infection sets in. In chiropractic we say that “roaches don’t cause the garbage.” Bacteria, like roaches, only move in when the environment is unhealthy. Rather than just killing bacteria we should focus on creating a healthy environment where “roaches” aren’t an issue. The antibiotic approach to acne is effective in some cases, however, the bacteria associated with acne (Propionibacterium acnes) are becoming increasingly resistant to antibiotics. The best approach to solving the acne problem is to understand the underlying causes and correct the problem at its source. The health of the skin is really a reflection of inner health including nerve function, hormonal balance, toxicity and general diet. If we compare your skin to caring for a lawn you’ll see that a healthy lawn does not have too many weeds. However, an unhealthy lawn is quickly overrun by weeds. Bacteria tend to grown in unhealthy situations so when the body is out of balance nutritionally, hormonally or neurologically then acne can be one of the results. The relationship between the nerves of the body and the skin begins in our embryology where the skin and nerves both share the same ectodermal origin. Nerve blockage in the upper neck have been shown to interfere with blood flow to the head. A study by Bogduk showed that irritating the cervical sympathetic nerves results “in pronounced decrease in carotid artery flow (30% of control group).”
The U.S. National Institutes of Health cites stress as a contributing factor in acne. When we think of stress we commonly think of emotional stress. However, internal nerve stress can affect the body the same way. The nerves from the spin affect the stress levels in the body as well as the detoxification organs and the health of the skin itself. Having a clear nervous system is important to having clear skin.
Misalignment of the spinal bones can interfere with nerve function in the body. This interference called subluxation creates either hyperfunction (elevated function) from nerve irritation or hypofunction (lowered function) from nerve pressure. In either case the body is unable to properly regulate and heal itself. The tissues supplied by these nerves – whether they are the liver, kidneys, ovaries, adrenal glands, pancreas or skin – soon suffer ill health. With chiropractic problems in the body, even if you’re putting the right food in your body, it’s like a perfectly good light bulb that doesn’t work because the power isn’t getting through. You cannot really restore the true health of your tissues – including your skin – if you are not getting regular chiropractic checkups.
Acupuncture, Nutrition, Hormones and Acne
We see more acne around puberty because of the increase in testosterone in both boys and girls at this time. Elevated testosterone is also responsible for other conditions like polycystic ovary syndrome, a leading cause of female infertility. These high levels of male hormones are the result of either excessive luteinizing hormone from the anterior pituitary gland or high levels of insulin in the blood. I think of ovarian cysts like a kind of internal acne. How do insulin levels become raised? Insulin goes up in response to the amount of sugar consumed. Foods with a “high glycemic index” are foods that cause blood sugar to strongly elevate. These are foods that include most breakfast cereals, baked potatoes, watermelon, white bread, croissants, white rice and most packaged snacks and desserts. The increase in blood sugar causes the body to release larger amounts of insulin in order to bring the blood sugar back to normal. Hyperinsulinemia (high blood insulin) causes hyperandrogenism (high blood testosterone) by increasing ovarian androgen production (especially testosterone) which interferes with the pituitary-ovary endocrine axis. This in turn leads to increased luteinizing hormone, dysruption of the normal menstrual cycle in females, recurrent pregnancy loss and infertility. Hyperinsulinemia has also been associated high blood pressure and is a major risk factor for the development of heart disease, stroke and type II diabetes. The most important dietary change to make with both acne and polycystic ovary syndrome is to adopt a low glycemic index diet and acupuncture treatment to balancing hormones. Also, medical studies have suggested that cows milk may be associated with worsening acne.
The skin is the largest organ and plays a role in detoxification through the sweat glands. Keeping the skin clean is of course important. Also consider acupuncture treatment that when the internal systems for detoxification (e.g. liver, kidneys, lymphatic system) are overburdened with chemicals, food additives, drugs and environmental toxins that the skin must act as a secondary pathway for detoxification.