Stress Acne: Reduce Inflammation for Prevention and Treatment

Stress acne is a symptom of a taxed immune system. To clear your skin, reduce inflammation through diet and other natural methods.

Like the rest of your body, your skin’s health can be affected by your stress level.  If you suffer from stress acne, you have undoubtedly discovered this for yourself.  Pimples seem to pop up overnight when you feel yourself overwhelmed.  Topical acne treatments may control your symptoms, but they can’t cure the problem.  This kind of acne is more than skin deep and preventing or curing it must be holistic–centered on your whole system, rather than merely targeting symptoms.

Stress and your Immune System

High Stress = Excess Inflammation

Inflammation is the primary physical cause of acne, although excess skin oil also plays a role.  Stress affects your health by causing inflammation throughout your body.

Stressed business womanWhen you are under stress, your body secretes stress hormones, including cortisol.  Cortisol and the other stress hormones travel through your blood stream signaling your blood vessels to dilate and your blood pressure to rise.  These changes prepare you to meet the stress and they are called the “fight or flight” response.

Unfortunately, our modern day stresses are generally long-term and cannot be dealt with through fighting or fleeing.  Chronic stress means that your stress hormones will be nearly continuously released.  One effect of continual stress hormones is that your immune system never shuts down.  It acts as if you are under continual attack from outside invaders (for example bacteria or viruses).  This immune system “overdrive” is inflammation and is a typical result of chronic stress.

Your immune system helps your body fight unwanted invaders, but too much response, inflammation, does not help your body deal with stress.

  • Inflammation of the blood vessels and arteries contributes to hardening of the arteries and heart disease.
  • Inflammation of the digestive tract contributes to digestive problems and inflammation of the air ways contributes to asthma and other respiratory problems.
  • Inflammation of the skin results in stress acne and other stress-induced skin conditions like hives and psoriasis.

Diet for Stress Acne:  Reduce Inflammation

The link between stress and inflammation is complex and yet to be clearly understood.  However, researchers have determined that diet plays a role in the inflammation process.  The Western diet, which is generally rich in refined sugars and other processed foods has been linked to increased inflammation and to acne.

Foods with refined sugars are high on the glycemic index; in others words, they trigger your body’s insulin (blood sugar) level to quickly rise.  A high insulin level puts your immune system on alert, triggering the inflammation response.

A diet rich in complex carbohydrates and omega-3 fatty acids can help you avoid this pitfall and improve your overall health.   Avoid refined sugars and stay away from junk food.  Eat whole grains and foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as cold-water fish (salmon, herring, and trout), nuts and flaxseed.  Getting adequate lean protein will help keep your blood sugar levels balanced.

Chocolate and Acne??

The connection between a poor diet and acne gives some credence to the notion that certain foods cause acne.  Over the years, various foods, including chocolate and milk have been linked with acne.  Researchers are certain that coca, the main ingredient in chocolate, does not cause acne; however, the extra ingredients of that chocolate bar–refined sugar and milk, may cause a problem.

Refined sugar helps trigger the immune response, leading to inflammation.  Milk also seems to lead to inflammation in some people.  Casein the protein found in dairy products produces an allergic response in many people; the immune system reacts by trying to fight the perceived toxin and excess inflammation is produced.  The hormones in milk have also been linked to acne.

Traditional Chinese Medicine

Chinese traditional medicine also recognizes the connection between diet and acne, as well as between the emotions and acne.  Emotional strain or improper diet can lead to the stagnation of qi, the vital life force (energy) flowing through your body.  Chinese practitioners recommend eating cleansing foods and keeping well-hydrated to help promote the flow of qi.  Cleansing foods include: watermelon, squash, pear, broccoli, cucumber, winter melon, cabbage, celery, beet tops, dandelions, seaweed, aloe vera, carrot tops, cherries, papaya, persimmons, buckwheat, brown rice, millet, and mung beans.

Another Chinese remedy: pearl powder.  Pearl powder is made from sea pearls is used on the skin to promote skin health.

Sunlight for Stress Acne

In recent years laser light treatments have proven useful in treating acne.  This success does not surprise naturopathic healers who have long advocated sunlight for acne.  Exposure to sunlight is necessary for your body to produce vitamin D, which is vital for calcium absorption and also plays a role in fighting inflammation.

Experts say that fifteen minutes of sun exposure before you put on any sunscreen is healthy, not harmful.  Try to get the morning sun; the atmosphere offers the most protection against harmful ultraviolet rays in the morning.   A little sun can ease depression, and stress and give you healthier skin; it can even lower your blood pressure.  Just remember not to over do it; sunburning is not healthy for your skin or the rest of your body.

So if you have stress acne explore the many alternative ways to treat it.  Don’t assume that acne must be a fact of life.  Eliminating stress acne means you have one less stress to cope with.

About Julia Rymut

Julia Rymut helps women find peace in their busy lives. She uses massage, essential oils, organization and a sense of humor to show that stress is a state of mind that can be changed. She lives in Seattle, WA loves talking about history, traveling to exotic places, working out, and walking in the woods.