16 reasonable and natural ways to save your skin and self-esteem from acne

When we have blemishes

One of my older teenage male patients complained of his acne and asked his mom to take him to the dermatologist. He wanted to go on EpiDuo for acne. I am all for treating acne but in this young man’s case his acne was mild and Accutane/Isotretinoin requires repeated blood tests to check liver function. The medicine can have very serious complications. Well, two issues became apparent. The vanity of teens and the need to write about natural acne treatments.

Try these 16 reasonable and natural ways to save your skin and self-esteem from acne.

WHAT IS ACNE?

Sebaceous glands reside in the dermis, the mid-level of your skin, and produce a fatty waxy oil called sebum. There are on average 5,000,000 of these glands covering your whole body, except for the palms of your hands and bottoms of your feet. One gland exists for each hair follicle if you wish to see it that way. The sebum produced by the sebaceous gland inside the mid level of the skin travels up the follicle and out of your pores to lubricate and waterproof your hair and skin. Also, dead skin cells exit the body by traveling up the follicle with the assistance of the sebum and make their way out of a pore. Sometimes these canals get jammed up by excessive sebum (thanks, hormones! and other inflammatory agents!) The body then seals off the area and bacteria like P. acnes begin to feed on the sebum and spew out inflammatory by-products. Voila! That’s when a pimple grows. Bacteria can spill over to nearby areas and acne spreads.

WHAT ARE THE COMMON CULPRITS OF ACNE?

The essence of acne is inflammation rearing its ugly head. To manage acne we need to look at common causes of inflammation.

Dairy: Non-organic milk and dairy products contain growth hormones like IGF-1 and inflammatory substances that clog your pores and cause acne. Milk and dairy cause an insulin spike in humans that cause the liver to produce even more IGF-1, leading to even more acne. Dairy also causes excess sebum which inhibits dead skin cells from exiting the pores causing further clogging. Cow milk is good for cows and good for acne.

HACK IT: Expand your culinary limits! Try nutritional yeast sprinkled onto foods instead of Parmesan. With its rich nutty cheesy savory flavor it is a dairy substitute that could easily be in the starting lineup. Explore and experiment with it. Also, try tofu with your crackers next time, or smoked tofu like a provolone on sandwiches. If you cannot give up dairy and cheese look to goat milk based products- much easier on the digestive system.

Sugar: Beware or be damned. Sugar contributes to and causes acne in two ways. Sugar in the soda we drink (who are we kidding, sugar is in everything) creates a spike in your GH-1 production and bioavailability. In short, sugar causes excess sebum and skin cells to multiply setting off a chain reaction to acne. At the same time, sugar was observed in studies to increase C-reactive protein (CRP) levels, which is regarded as one of the best measures of inflammation. Finally, sugar causes Candida to grow beyond the normal range. On the face excessive Candida growth causes inflammation, and excessive Candida growth can cause havoc in the gut which indirectly contributes to acne.

HACK IT: Opt for honey, coconut-based sweetener, or stevia-based sweeteners. If you touch the Splenda, or high fructose corn syrup, I’ll have to remove you from our Newsletter and Facebook Page.

Wheat and gluten: You probably already know that gluten is a protein found in wheat, that if you are gluten intolerant the body does not recognize gluten as food, and this causes the body to treat gluten as a foreign body like a bad bacteria or virus. Basically, your immune system fires up causing inflammation which indirectly affects acne.

HACK IT: Quinoa is a great alternative grain. Look for an ALDI grocery store for a growing selection of affordable gluten-free products.

Omega-6 fatty acids: Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are needed for many functions related to growth and repair in the body. Our bodies can’t produce them, we must get them from food (or supplements). Omega-6s mostly come from plant oils like corn oil, grapeseed oil, soybean oil, and sunflower oil and the standard American diet (SAD) provides plenty of omega-6s. So when the ratio of these becomes unbalanced and heavy on the omega-6 side, which is easy for Americans, then we get inflammatory immune system responses, thus causing acne to flare up.

HACK IT: As this is about ratio and not about whole values you can look at increasing your omega-3 intake. We recommend a potent liquid fish oil, or potent soft gels if you prefer not drink your omega-3s. It’s that simple.

Alcohol: It is part of our work hard culture and here is how it affects our acne. Alcohol causes a spike in insulin, if you are drinking it with a sweet mixer then you can account for a greater spike. Alcohol also affects our hormones and can reduce our quality of sleep. If we are drinking to take the edge off, then we are also probably dealing with some stress which further aggravates acne. Finally, alcohol can lead to dehydration which inhibits our ability to flush toxins from our body.

HACK IT: Drink in moderation. Stick to red wine or clean spirits, if needed.

Stress: Picture someone feeling tired, anxious and stressed out. How is their complexion? Science tells us that stress doesn’t necessarily create acne, but it does make an existing case worse. Stress throws us into an inflammatory response that causes walls of pores to break therefore enabling the spread of acne-causing bacteria. Stress throws the adrenal gland into overdrive. Androgens (male hormones) increase. Higher levels of androgens lead to more acne, and this is especially true for women because they produce a larger percentage of their androgens in the adrenal gland.

HACK IT: It starts with an appreciative and positive mindset. Surround yourself with other positive and appreciative people. Take time to yourself so that you are in prime health and wellness. Finally, breathe, be in the moment, let feelings wash over you and let them go.

Exercise: This may sound contrarian but exercise can be quite good for your skin. Exercise increases circulation and promotes sweat which helps the body rids itself of toxins and pushes impurities out of pores. We can also mediate our stress levels in a healthy manner through exercise. Exercise also helps us produce endorphins which create a sense of happiness, calm, and well-being. This may have an anti-inflammatory effect which is really what we should all be after.

HACK IT: Leave the lycra at home in favor of natural materials to prevent body acne. Leave the makeup off to permit your body to sweat cleanly. Gently wash your face with cool water after exercise.

Hygiene: Wash your hands frequently with gentle soap. Avoid touching your face, or anyone else’s for that matter. Wash your face twice a day. Washing it more will dry out your skin and promote sebum production. You can use water based face moisturizer. Tea tree oil and aloe are good products for the face. Tea tree oil has antiseptic qualities, and aloe has a soothing moisturizing effect. Avoid toners with alcohol. Wash right after exercising to prevent heat and moisture buildup, which become bacterial breeding grounds. And wash your pillow, and pillow cases frequently.

NATURAL REMEDIES

If you have had acne then you have probably tried one or all of the following; medicating it, meditating it out, hoping it goes away, praying it goes away, harsh soaps, gentle soaps, alcohol, oils, clays, masks, changing your diet, and maybe some voodoo. What really works?

Here are some natural approaches to attenuate acne and cultivate a healthy glowing radiant skin.

Exfoliation: Do it the right way and with the right frequency. Exfoliation helps the body with the natural process of desquamation, showing our older skin cells to the door. As we age our body does this less efficiently. Exfoliation can give your skin a youthful glow, but if done too stringently it can leave you red blotchy and more susceptible to infection. Ever think about using natural baking soda? Use about a tablespoon and gently rub in circles. You can make a paste with sea salt lavender essential oil, or another of your favorite essential oils. Finely ground oatmeal is ideal for sensitive skin. You can buy or make your own Kefir for use as a face wash. Kefir is loaded with good bacteria and pH balancing properties. Honey can be used alone or with any of the other treatments mentioned. Honey is antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal. It reduces inflammation and hydrates. Gentle is key, we aren’t sanding a reclaimed wooden desk.

Organic Apple Cider Vinegar: Tried and true apple cider vinegar is a powerful antibacterial and antifungal agent.
Dabbing blemishes with a cotton swab twice a day will keep bacteria in check and soothe skin. Also, taking 1 tablespoon with purified water can work internally to alkalize and detox the body. This will help to ease inflammatory processes.

Tea Tree Oil (Melaleuca Oil): This oil is a traditional topical antiseptic, antifungal remedy, and it is an extremely effective acne treatment. This remedy is particularly good for those with oily skin. You can add it to your favorite moisturizer, too.

Colloidal Silver: A suspension of submicroscopic metallic silver particles in a colloidal base. Colloidal silver can be used topically for its antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral properties. We recommend talking with a healthcare professional before ingesting colloidal silver because it can have adverse events.

Bentonite Clay: This is a favorite holistic acne/skin treatment of many natural moms and health/beauty practitioners. Perhaps a gift of Pele the Hawaiian Fire Goddess and Goddess of volcanoes and lightning. Bentonite clay is derived from volcanic ash and produces an electrical charge when hydrated. It is a healing clay used across many ancient cultures. Bentonite Clay pulls excess hydrogen from the skin and allows oxygen to take its place. The clay absorbs toxins and releases healthy minerals for the body to use. Bentonite can be used topically and internally. Baths, masks, washes, and powders are all possible with Bentonite Clay.

Omega-3s: Studies have shown that using fish oil supplements for the intake of omega-3s heal acne faster. The positive effects of omega-3s are difficult to overstate. This is one of the supplements we recommend for everyone along with, Vitamin D3, and a quality probiotic.

Zinc: Zinc plays an important role in cell division and regrowth. Few foods are rich and zinc, therefore, many of us are zinc deficient. Zinc also has anti-inflammatory effects which can also help with acne. Take a zinc taste test to learn if you are deficient.

Probiotic: The contrarian approach to the typical dermatologist that prescribes an antibiotic. By maintaining a healthy gut with good bacteria you will better absorb nutrients from food and reduce immune system inflammatory responses. This is a force multiplier for great health and wellness.

Try These Eight Safe, Natural and Effective ADHD Treatments

Prevailing ADHD therapy is not suitable for all children.  If you are looking for natural, safe, and effective alternatives to treat (beat) ADHD, then try these 8 natural supplements readily available in most places supplements are sold.  Turning to a powerful nootropic like Ritalin is not my first choice for treating ADHD because these stimulants can have adverse effects on our children’s reward system that can have lasting effects.

Zinc

Zinc is an important cofactor to dopamine, which affects our responses to emotions and reward-seeking behavior.  Zinc deficiency is further correlated to low melatonin and serotonin which is associated with decreases in ability to process information.  Zinc is naturally occurring in certain foods and added to others.  Oysters have the highest zinc per serving of all foods, but poultry and beef account for most zinc in the American diet.  Many people do not get enough zinc in their daily diet because of our society’s eating habits.  A fun test is to drink a liquid zinc supplement and see what it tastes like.  If you are zinc deficient it will have no taste, but if you have enough zinc it will taste bitter to you.

Carnitine

Carnitine is believed to improve brain cell functioning by facilitating the burning of fatty acids, which helps brain and nerve cells to preserve their membranes.  Carnitine has been demonstrated to improve symptoms of hyperactivity and social behavior and is considered by some as a safe alternative to stimulant drugs.

Serine

Serine in a non-essential amino acid important in metabolism and is a precursor to several amino acids including tryptophan.  When administered with omega 3 fatty acids it improved ADHD symptoms significantly better than omega 3 fatty acids alone, suggesting a synergistic effect.  Phosphatidylserine also increases dopamine levels.

Glutamine

Glutamine is a precursor to the calming neurotransmitter GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) that affects mood, focus, and hyperactivity; Disruption of the glutamine-containing neurotransmission system may cause ADHD.

Choline

Choline is an essential nutrient that is a precursor to the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which regulates memory focus and muscle control (hyperactivity).  Acetylcholine is especially important to normal brain function.  Dr. Axe explains, “Choline is important for liver function, normal brain development, nerve function, muscle movement, supporting energy levels and maintaining a healthy metabolism.”

Folate

Folate is a B Vitamin and low folate levels in pregnancy are linked to hyperactivity in children: People with MTHFR (methyltetrahydrofolate reductase) gene are predisposed to folate deficiency and more likely to have ADHD.

Vitamin B6

Vitamin B6 is a water-soluble vitamin. Evidence suggests high dose supplementation of B6 is as effective as Ritalin for ADHD, probably due to its role in raising serotonin levels.  Dr. Weil explains that “Vitamin B6 supports adrenal function, helps calm and maintain a healthy nervous system, and is necessary for key metabolic processes. Vitamin B6 acts as a coenzyme in the breakdown and utilization of carbohydrates, fats and proteins.”

Magnesium

Magnesium deficiency is linked to poor function of the neurotransmitters that control emotion, social reactions, hyperactivity and attention: Synergistic effect with Vitamin B6.  Literature with the National Institute of Health supports the fact that magnesium supplementation in children with ADHD improved hyperactivity.  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9368236

Conclusion

If you are the parent, guardian, or an advocate for a loved one then I encourage you to begin a dialogue with your pediatrician about the safety and efficacy of these natural supplements for treating ADHD.  We all want to see our children have the best chance they can to grow into well adjusted happy adults, and ADHD can certain make that journey more difficult.  Stimulants may seem like a quick fix, but you should know that natural, safe, and effective alternatives do exist.

Toxins Lookout! How to Detox for Children

Unfortunately, our children are routinely exposed to toxins every single day in today’s world. In many cases, we have no control over the exposure, as is the case with our air and water. Here are five simple ways to help detox your children every day to keep their body healthy and functioning optimally.

Before I jump into how to detox your kids, let’s take a look at where kids are exposed to the most toxins.

COMMON TOXIN EXPOSURES FOR KIDS

Food– Just one look at typical kid cuisine will show you just how toxic it really is. From boxed dinners to fast food, kids frequently consume rancid oils, food dyes, refined flours and sugars. Foods with so little nutrition that they might as well be eating cardboard. Indeed, some ingredients are not too far removed from cardboard.

Air– On any given day, you can drive through your town or neighborhood and see someone spraying pesticides or weed killers. It’s really frustrating that these chemicals have not been banned seeing as how they cause cancer, disrupt hormones, and pose a threat to human health in general. Now, we also have to worry about massive spraying campaigns due to concern about things like Zika virus along with pesticides being sprayed on airplanes.

Water– Most cities add fluoride to their water supply because it’s believed to improve dental health but it actually causes harm, especially to growing children. Studies show that children living in areas with high fluoride exposure are at risk for low IQ, among other health issues. Not only that but chlorine is added to water to sanitize it, which is harmful to the microbiome, as it kills good gut flora. Finally, we also have to be concerned about heavy metals that are often found in water especially in places where lead pipes are used.

Everyday chemicals- From the cleaning supplies we use to our shampoo, harmful chemicals abound in most modern homes. Kids are exposed to toxins via the sheets and mattress they sleep on; the clothes they wear; the soap and toothpaste they use… you see where I’m going with this. There is not a lot of regulation when it comes to these household products and as a result, our kids have a lot to contend with.

It may seem impossible to help our kids live toxin-free, as the above list is pretty daunting. While it can be frustrating that we have so little control over some of the toxins our children are exposed to, there is plenty we can do to eliminate exposure and support their bodies!

HOW TO DETOX KIDS DAILY IN FIVE SIMPLE STEPS

FOCUS ON NUTRITION

While we can’t be sure our kids eat perfectly all the time, we can support their bodies through proper nutrition so that the occasional indulgence can be tolerated.

The best thing you can do is make sure your children eat a well-rounded diet that includes plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, pastured eggs, raw dairy, and grass-fed meats. It’s debatable whether children need grains or if they’re even healthy at all. I personally believe that they should be limited to occasional, gluten-free, properly prepared consumption, if at all. Even more importantly, make sure your child isn’t eating food dyes, MSG, artificial sweeteners, high fructose corn syrup or white bread (and other refined grains)!

JUICING

While a well-rounded diet is one of the best things you can provide for your kids, targeted nutrition through juicing can be incredibly helpful. Not only does juicing provide easily digested vitamins and minerals, but also you can put specific fruits and vegetables in your juice that can target specific detox mechanisms.

Here are a few things I like to include in juices:

Beets- especially good for the liver and for cleansing the blood
Cilantro- helps the body to detox heavy metals gently
Ginger- helps to fight unwanted organism and reduce pain
Turmeric- combats inflammation
Lemon- helps to detox the liver and provides enzymes that aid in digestion

I find that as long as I use several carrots and some apple, my kids not only tolerate our morning juicing routine, but they really like it!

PROMOTE GOOD GUT FLORA

The immune system resides mostly in the gut and also dictates how well your child’s body can deal with the influx of toxins they are inundated with daily. When we support the gut we support the immune system, thereby rendering the body capable of detoxifying on a regular basis.

When the gut flora is compromised, the body is less able to handle the daily assaults of our toxic world and toxins begin to build up. This can result in any number of conditions affecting so many children today including autism, asthma, eczema, ADHD, and so on.

A good probiotic can make all the difference in the world for your child’s gut health and overall ability to detox. A probiotic healed my daughter’s eczema quickly and without major diet changes! You should also incorporate lots of raw and fermented foods in your child’s diet to promote good gut flora.

LET THEM PLAY

Kids should run around barefooted and play in the sunshine every day, as much as possible. Our modern sedentary, indoor lifestyles (facilitated by long school days and video game habits) don’t do our children’s bodies any favors.

For one thing, vitamin D is necessary for our immune systems to function properly that I mentioned above as a necessity for helping children’s bodies detox. Midday sunshine is the best source of vitamin D and allowing kids to play outside and soak up as much vitamin D as possible is one great way to strengthen their bodies’ detox mechanisms.

Additionally, connecting bare feet to the earth is known as “earthing” and it helps with detox function in a number of ways. Earthing can help combat the negative effects of electromagnetic frequencies, improve organ function, reduce inflammation, and improve sleep, all of which promote detoxification.

DETOX BATHS

Finally, get your kiddos in a special bath to promote detoxification through the skin. Detox baths are an easy way to help your child’s body deal with toxins in a manageable way.

To turn an ordinary bath into a “detox bath,” there are a number of additives you can put in the water:

  • Epson salts
  • Baking soda
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Bentonite clay
  • Essential oils

These ingredients not only draw out toxins but have health benefits of their own, which help to strengthen the immune system and nourish the body further promoting detoxification.
To make a detox bath, use as hot of water as your child tolerates (for my kids, that’s not very hot), and add a cup of one or two additives, along with a few drops of essential oils, if you’d like. (Make sure your child doesn’t drink the water!)

Encourage your kiddo to soak until the water is cool or at least for 20 minutes. With a few toys, it’s pretty easy to get kids to play in the bath for a while!

USE WHAT WORKS

No doubt, our kids come into contact with more toxins than most of us would like. Instead of fretting about it, get proactive! You can use the above tips, which are all geared towards activities kids like doing anyways.

Use what works for your child and make it fun! Serve juice up in a cute stainless steel cup with a stainless steel straw, make frequent outdoor activities a regular occurrence, and incorporate things they like into their detox routine. With just a little effort, you can make a big impact on your child’s toxin burden and overall health!

(This is for educational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice. Please consult with your physician for a detox program appropriate for your children and family.)

Spring Renewal: A Natural Home Cleanse

Out with the old and in with the new.  A friend of mine who moved once told me that rather than finding the process chaotic, she found it cathartic. A time to take stock in what was truly needed in her home and to start fresh. Generations ago our ancestors undertook this domestic overhaul in the spring, scrubbing off months of soot and grime that had accumulated in their homes thanks to winter fires, kerosene lamps, and the impracticality of beating carpets in the snow. These days, few of us have to worry about creosote in our kitchens, but the annual ritual of spring cleaning prevails because it just feels so good when the job is done. This year, use this time of renewal to revisit your goals for living cleanly. Take a critical tour of your home, assessing how you’re living up to your own healthy standards. Have you fallen back on great intentions? No worries – we all do. Now is the time to get back on track.

Clean Up the Kitchen

What is under your sink? Purge those cleaners that claim to have magical powers but don’t list ingredients – or who’s ingredients are clearly questionable (if it is purple and smells like a meadow, it probably is questionable). Replace them with non-toxic, plant-based alternatives and avoid sprays, which disperse much of the cleaning agent into the air. It is also easy to make your own effective, inexpensive cleaners using household ingredients such as white vinegar, cornstarch, lemon, and baking soda (see recipes at eartheasy.com). Be sure to check the sink itself for leaks that may keep this area damp and attractive to mold.

How about the cabinets? Clean out old water bottles and food storage containers (including bags) and replace them with non-BPA alternatives that are now readily available at grocery stores. Eliminate non-stick cookware, or at least get rid of any that is showing signs of wear such as scratches or flaking. Consider switching to enamel or cast iron, which will become non-stick if properly seasoned. The fact that it may introduce iron into food is actually a nutritional benefit!

Detox Laundry

Ever think that maybe it isn’t a good thing that your clothes smell like perfume days after they’ve been washed? Artificial fragrances (which often contain hundreds of synthetic chemicals) and funky colors aren’t necessary to clean clothes. Use natural, environmentally-friendly detergents that are just as effective at removing dirt and odors – not masking them.  These products usually list ingredients on the package for consumers.  Hold the same standards for other laundry products like dryer sheets, stain spray, and bleach. Try natural brands that are up front about what they contain (and what they don’t).

Healthier Sleep

Dust mites be gone! Actually, it is impossible to be completely rid of these microscopic creatures, but it is relatively easy to manage them. Wash all bedding – including comforters, mattress pads, bed skirts and pillows – in very hot water. For items that can’t be laundered in hot water, adding tea tree or eucalyptus oil to cooler wash water kills the mites, and smaller items can be put in the freezer for at least 24 hours. Use a couple of teaspoons of essential oil mixed with a pint of water to damp dust furniture and clean floors. You can also buy allergy covers for the pillows and the mattress and create a physical barrier.

Move alarm clocks, phones, and other electronics away from beds to limit exposure to electromagnetic radiation. Consider using a salt lamp. By naturally flooding an area with negative ions, salt lamps may improve air quality, reduce stress, improve sleep, increase energy levels, and reduce allergy and asthma symptoms. They’re great for every room in the house!

A Better Bathroom

How’s your medicine cabinet? Clear out the post-date products and ensure a good supply of basics including supplements such as a whole food multivitamin (such as IntraKid and IntraMax) a probiotic, vitamin D and fish oil. Take a close look at your health and beauty products, eliminating those that will expose your body to irritating and harmful chemicals (see www.EWG.org and www.SaferChemicals.org) such as parabens, formaldehyde, triclosan, and phthalates in products such as moisturizers, soaps and shampoos, cosmetics, nail polish, and deodorant. Women should pay special attention to feminine care products and lubricants which may expose sensitive, highly absorptive areas to toxic chemicals. If a product doesn’t list its ingredients, move to one that does. Cotton products may pose less health risk than synthetic fibers (such as rayon), and it is best to avoid scented tampons and pads.

Take it Outside

As bulbs push their way through the soil, so do weeds. Few of us have the patience to individually pick them from our lawns (kudos to those of you who do!), so we’re understandably tempted to engage a chemical lawn care service to feed our obsession with perfect turf. STOP! Herbicides, pesticides and fungicides widely associated with neurological damage, reproductive harm and cancer are routinely used in chemical lawn care, and there are safer alternatives. Find a service that provides organic lawn care using natural fertilizers such as chicken poop. There are also many organic options for do-it-yourselfers available online or in hardware stores.

The act of spring cleaning can itself be therapeutic, so embrace the ritual! Set aside time to detox your home and start afresh. Then sit back, relax, and be mindful of feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.

Three Steps to Fight Brain Fog

Dr. Perlmutter is someone I consider a mentor.  Check out his 55-second video below for three tips to beat brain fog and help you focus.  In particular, I want to draw your attention to the mention of managing a healthy gut, or the gut microbiome.  There are so many benefits to keeping a healthy gut that I talk more about here.