Acne is so common among westernized populations that it affects up to 95% of adolescents and 40% to 54% of adults.  Dermatologists generally respond with a number of topical and internal solutions, but none of these deal with the root cause of acne – poor diet. In fact, cultures with diets lacking processed or refined sugars and starches show virtually no acne whatsoever. Not even in teens. The reason is that the abundant processed foods found in western diets cause a sharp rise in blood sugar and insulin levels, resulting in elevated androgenic hormones. This combination can result in bacterial growth and oily, inflamed skin. Although mainstream treatments may help with acne, both antibiotics and Accutane can have some very unhealthy side effects, and topicals may result in dry, damaged skin. A better fix can be found with natural solutions like brewer’s yeast, dietary changes, green tea extract, lactoferrin, and probiotics. These will not only correct the problem but provide positive overall health benefits, not dangerous side effects. A Plan of Action (from mild to severe):
Brewer’s yeast can treat acne by combating bacteria and reducing inflammation in acne-prone skin. Dosage: ten tablets (7 1/2 to 10 grain size) once or twice daily, depending on severity, preferably taken before or at mealtime. Expect gradual improvement within one week.
Reduce your consumption of refined grains, such as wheat flour and cereal grains, which includes all types of cereal except oatmeal. Reduce consumption of sugar in products like candy, cakes, cookies, pastries and donuts. Lastly, reduce consumption of refined starches, such as potato chips and French fries. It is also important to remove hydrogenated oils and trans fats from your diet and replace cooking oils such as canola oil, corn oil, and other polyunsaturated fats with saturated ones like coconut oil, palm oil, butter, and lard.
Reduce Skin Oil (Sebum)
Add in some Vitamin A (not beta-carotene) and some Vitamin D3 to reduce your skin oils from these vitamin-like hormones. These two hormone-like substances work together and they work to improve your skin immunity. Please do not allow your dermatologist to dupe you into taking Accutane. Real Vitamin A is superior, and is especially worthy when it’s combined with Vitamin D3.
EGCG from Green Tea Extract
EGCG positively modifies the production and biological actions of androgens and other hormones involved in acne. Dosage: 200 to 300 milligrams of EGCG taken before or at mealtime once or twice daily. Look for gradual improvement within two weeks time.
This derivative of milk protein has shown impressive results in diminishing acne and may be a good choice for those with challenging, persistent acne. Use in conjunction with items 1 through 4, or try by itself. Dosage: one 200 milligram (or greater) capsule of lactoferrin daily.
Probiotics for Cystic Acne
Personal clinical experience has shown that those with cystic acne usually benefit from a probiotic called Dr. Ohhira’s, Essential Formulas Inc., Probiotics 12 PLUS.
Dosage: One capsule with water twice per day on an empty stomach.
Dermatologists typically recommend the use of topical retinoids, benzoyl peroxide, azelaic acid, and topical and oral antibiotics for mild to moderate acne. While the side-effects may be well-tolerated, they are only band-aids and do not address the underlying causes of acne. Oral isotretinoin, commonly known as Accutane, is regularly prescribed for the treatment of severe nodular acne, resistant acne, and acne with a risk of physical or psychological scarring. Side-effects from isotretinoin can be quite severe and potentially even permanent. Some of these include hair loss, dry skin, joint pain, Crohn’s disease, inflammatory bowel disease, depression, suicidal thoughts, birth defects, and liver damage. To top it off, none of these solutions address the root cause of acne.
While most people think acne is just a natural part of being a teen, the truth is that acne is primarily a consequence of poor diet. To examine acne’s relation to diet, let us briefly examine two cultures that experience virtually no acne. 1,200 Kitavan Islanders of Papua New Guinea were observed, including 300 Kitavans aged 15-25 years, and not a single case of acne was found. In South America, 115 Aché hunter-gatherers from Paraguay were examined for a period of 843 days, including 15 aged 15-25 years, and, once again, not a single case of acne was observed. Their secret? Neither of these non-western groups consumes processed or refined starches or sugars.
How do refined foods cause acne?
Refined foods, such as candy, cereal, cookies, cakes, potato chips, donuts, and French fries, are comprised of processed grains, sugars, and starches. When eaten, these foods are quickly broken down into a simple sugar called glucose, which the body uses as fuel. Blood glucose is processed by the hormone insulin, with higher levels of glucose requiring greater amounts of insulin. The problem with refined foods is not that they’re converted to glucose, but the speed at which it’s done. Refined foods convert much more quickly than natural, fiber-rich foods like fruit, which leads to a spike in blood sugar and a subsequent spike in insulin – the real culprit in acne.
Foods that trigger a high insulin response stimulate Insulin-like Growth Factor I (IGF-1), which increases the production of skin cells. At the same time, these foods reduce Insulin-like Growth Factor Binding Protein 3 (IGFBP-3) which is responsible for controlling the proliferation of new skin cells. In other words, excess insulin results in an overproduction of skin cells. This is important because these excess skin cells block the pilosebaceous ducts (pores), which then become filled with sebum and bacteria, resulting in acne. A pilot study used to determine the effects of a low glycemic load diet on hormonal markers of acne suggested that dietary glycemic load may be one environmental factor contributing to the variation in acne prevalence worldwide.
How do we live acne free in a processed food world?
Acne sufferers can prevent future breakouts by lowering their insulin levels through dietary changes, taking supplements, or both.
Brewer’s yeast can treat acne by neutralizing excess bacteria, as well as by supporting production of white blood cells, which serves to reduce inflammation in the philosebacious ducts. In 1989, a study out of Germany evaluated the effects of brewer’s yeast on various forms of acne. This randomized, controlled, double-blind study involving 139 patients was studied in comparison with a placebo over a maximum period of five months. Over 80% of the patients were considered to be healed or considerably improved taking brewer’s yeast, while the control group improved only 26%. 
EGCG from Green Tea Extract
More protection against acne comes from a potent green tea extract containing at least 50% polyphenols of EGCG (epigallocatechin-3-gallate). EGCG is a specific green tea catechin that positively modifies the production and biological actions of androgens and other hormones involved in acne. 
Those who have very challenging, persistent, chronic forms of acne may benefit from a derivative of milk protein, called lactoferrin. Lactoferrin plays a protective role in the skin, providing antimicrobial action by binding free iron, thus preventing its availability necessary for microbial growth and its survival.  A trial using lactoferrin on adolescents resulted in an average decrease in acne lesions by 71% within one month and 95% within two months. 
For cystic acne, the most effective approach is to supplement with a quality probiotic. Cystic acne is often caused by an overgrowth of bad bacteria in the digestive system and intestines. This imbalance of intestinal microflora, or dysbiosis, impacts the presence of beneficial bacteria such as bifidobacteria, a strain that naturally produces antimicrobial agents which defend against pathogenic micro-organisms. Research has shown that acne sufferers possess increased blood levels of toxins that have been absorbed from the gut as a result of dysbiosis. Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that can help your body rid itself of the bad bacteria that is attacking your system.
When shopping for a good probiotic, one particular set of strains may not necessarily work as well as another, so it pays to experiment until you find the one that works best for your body. A probiotic that works quite well for many with cystic acne is called .Dr. Ohhira’s, Essential Formulas Inc., Probiotics 12 PLUS. But regardless of the strain, it is important for acne sufferers to take a quality probiotic for some length of time if they have used antibiotics within the last year or two. Antibiotics allow opportunistic yeasts to crowd out beneficial bacteria, causing an elevation of androgen activity, and poor glucose management.