This common skin problem sometimes requires an integrated therapeutic approach to obtain good results.
Many patients with stubborn acne get subjected to long term treatment with broad spectrum antibiotics, which often keeps the condition at bay by killing off the bacteria involved. However, the antibiotics often provoke a chronic intestinal yeast overgrowth which will actually make the acne worse. Consequently the first line of acne treatment is Candida albicans overgrowth. Proper care also requires the removal from the bowels of toxic bacteria preferably by the use of herbal remedies Hydrastis canadensis or Berberis vulgaris.
Some studies have shown that chocolate, cow's milk and refined carbohydrates, for example, will aggravate acne. Yet others have proved that these foods had no effect whatever. The results of various studies involving zinc supplementation have been equally inconsistent (M Murray & J Pizzorno, Encyclopaedia of Natural Medicine, Rocklin CA: Prima Publishing, 1990).
Nevertheless, other nutritional supplements have offered consistently good results. Chromium has been reported to produce glucose tolerance and to bring about a rapid improvement in patients with acne (M McCarthy, Med Hypoth, 1984, 14: 307-10). Acne has also improved with selenium and vitamin E supplementation, which eliminate free radicals (G Michaelssen & L Edqvist, Acta Derm Venereol (Stockholm), 1984, 64(1): 9-14). Folic acid supplementation has also been shown to be beneficial in cases of acne (T J Callaghan, Curtis, 1967, 3: 583-88). Pyridoxine (B6) supplementation has been shown to be useful in eliminating or reducing acne, especially during premenstrual flare ups (B L Snider & D F Dietemen, Arch Dermatol, 1974, 110:130). Although vitamin A supplementation in high doses (daily doses of 100,000 IU or more) has been shown to be beneficial in acne in well controlled studies, we advise against its use because of potential toxicity. A low fat diet, along with corn oil (omega-6 fatty acid) supplementation was also shown to improve patients (W R Hubbler, Arch Derm, 1959, 79: 644).
Nutritional therapists suggest people with acne avoid the following: inorganic iron, as it inactivates vitamin E; female hormones, which is antagonistic to vitamin E (milk contains such hormones); extra iodine (as in some table salts); commercial carbonated drinks (these usually contain brominated vegetable oils); and extra vitamin B12.
In an experimental study, a combination nutritional regime of most of those nutrients was given to patients. Ninety two per cent had a good to excellent response, and 43 per cent had a 90-100 per cent clearing of their condition in two months or less (S Ayres & R Mihan, Curtis, 1981, 28: 41).
Harald Gaier is a registered Naturopath, Osteopath & Homoeopath.