If you’ve ever wondered why some people are blessed with perfect skin while you have to suffer through acne breakouts, science just got a little bit closer to finding the answer.
A new study identified a previously unknown way in which bacteria trigger acne inflammation.
Researchers found that P. acnes, a usually harmless bacteria that lives on the skin, triggers inflammation and breakouts when trapped in airless, oily conditions, such as hair follicles.
In that environment, the bacteria turn sebum into fatty acids that activate inflammation by inhibiting two enzymes in keratinocytes, the cells that make up most of the outer layer of skin.
This makes sense, given that teenagers and people with oily skin are more blemish-prone. The good news is that the better we understand the “why,” the better we get at treating and preventing acne.
The current treatment methods target excess oil in the pores, the bacteria, or the skin’s inflammatory response, but until researchers develop new treatments by finding a way to inhibit the fatty acids or block their impact on the skin, it makes sense to focus on balancing the P. acnes residing on the skin as well as addressing the inflammation.
An overgrowth of P. acnes on the skin means you’re at greater risk of breaking out. By balancing the bacteria that reside on and in your body and inhibiting the growth of bad bacteria, you can improve skin health.
Eating probiotic foods like yogurt and kefir can provide lactoferrin, a protein that may inhibit growth of P. acnes and decrease sebum production.
Taking a probiotic supplement that contains billions of colony-forming-units of a variety of live beneficial species, like our Probiotic-8, may help repopulate your body with more beneficial bacteria as well as inhibit sebum production, which in turn may prevent proliferation of P. acnes.
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Take a two-pronged approach to controlling inflammation: eat an anti-inflammatory diet and supplement with nutrients that have anti-inflammatory benefits.
Anti-inflammatory Diet. Certain foods, like refined carbohydrates, added sugars, saturated fats, and trans fats, promote inflammation. To combat acne, it’s best to avoid these foods and eat an anti-inflammatory diet – something closer to a Mediterranean diet comprising of mostly fresh fruits, vegetables, little to no red meat, and lots of omega-3 foods.
Focus on eating a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables in a variety of colors as their antioxidants can help fight inflammation.
Fill up on oily fish like salmon, sardines, tuna, and anchovies, which are rich in inflammation-fighting omega-3 fatty acids. Use extra virgin olive oil as it contains monounsaturated fat, antioxidants, and oleocanthal, an inflammation-fighting compound.
And fill up on fiber-rich foods like legumes, as fiber can lower C-reactive protein (CRP), a substance in the blood that indicates inflammation.
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Supplements to Quell Inflammation. Several nutritional supplements can also boost the body’s anti-inflammatory response.
Bromelain. This enzyme extracted from pineapple, acts as an anti-inflammatory, reducing inflammation from infection and injuries.
Bioflavonoids. Also known as flavonoids, these naturally occurring compounds are powerful antioxidants that fight inflammation. While there are over 4,000 known bioflavonoids, the most familiar types include quercetin, proanthocyanidins, citrus flavonoids, and green tea polyphenols.
Omega-3s (fish oil). The fatty acids found in oily fish has been shown to reduce inflammation, but it’s important to have a higher omega-3 to omega-6 ratio to see this benefit. The reverse is true about the typical American diet, which promotes inflammation because it tends to be much higher in omega-6s than omega-3s.
Zinc. A trace mineral essential for skin health, zinc aids healing, immune system activity, inflammatory control, and tissue regeneration.
Selenium. This essential mineral has antioxidant properties and helps prevent the inflammation of acne.
Maintaining a clear complexion means maintaining a delicate balance of beneficial bacteria on the skin and inside the body, in addition to fighting inflammation from within. With acne, the better we understand the cause, the closer we get to a complete solution.
David H. Rahm, M.D. is the founder and medical director of The Wellness Center, a medical clinic located in Long Beach, CA. Dr. Rahm is also president and medical director of VitaMedica. Dr. Rahm is one of a select group of conventional medical doctors who have education and expertise in functional medicine and nutritional science. Over the past 20 years, Dr. Rahm has published articles in the plastic surgery literature and educated physicians about the importance of good peri-operative nutrition.