Acne affects 36% of 4-7 year olds, 28 – 61% of 10-12 year olds, 79 – 95% of 16 – 18 year olds and 12% of middle aged women and 3% of middle aged men. Acne vulgaris seems to be a westernized condition which leads us to think it may have environmental and dietary factors involved. Though in saying that evidence suggests that chocolate has no effect on acne. Generally, a low glycemic diet which improves insulin sensitivity decreases acne lesions and improves weight. Studies have concluded that acne is caused from biological processes which are imbalanced ranging from the skin structure, digestive imbalances with microbial over growth or poor clearance and detoxification, hormone imbalance (including insulin, androgens and cortisol) and / or inflammation within the skin structure and around the acne comedos themselves. Stress is a major factor in hormone imbalances which increases acne lesions, exam time seems to flair most teens up.
Psoriasis affects 1 -3% of the world’s population. Psoriasis is a chronic, immune mediated genetic skin disorder where patches of the skin become scaled with distinct boarders and when removed / scratched blood droplets (Auspitz sign) occur. The psoriatic skin becomes itchy, scaly, thicker, red and irritated. Many people are embarrassed by their psoriasis due to the itchiness and scaly skin flakes.
We are lucky to see that research has found the immune pathway that is a major factor in psoriasis. The TH-17 pathway which includes IL-23 is essential for the protection against infectious agents, particularly bacterial infections and also the pathogenesis of inflammatory disorders. The TH-17 pathway, when out of balance, is implicated in autoimmune conditions such as uveitis, crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis as well as psoriasis. The patient with psoriasis also has the risk of developing psoriatic arthritis (up to 39% of patients with psoriasis), obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular disease as well as the autoimmune conditions listed above.
Even though psoriasis is genetic based we must consider the digestive system, malabsorption, immune modulation and dietary allergens for a comprehensive treatment. This naturopathic approach reduces the risk of the other conditions precipitating as well as treating the psoriasis. Patients can see and feel a difference within 3 weeks and within 6 months the psoriasis is mostly if not completely gone. Of course this depends on the commitment of the patient.
Eczema is also known as atopic dermatitis characterized by dry skin (xerosis), thickening of the skin and an increase in skin markings with lesions. The dysfunction in the skin barrier causes irritation and itchiness and is due to a disturbance in the innate immunity, nutrient deficiencies, allergens, genetic influences, psychological stress and / or living conditions and climate. In the case of allergens or
irritants the skin will proliferate in order to remove the invading pathogens. This proliferation causes leaky skin which causes an increased immune response.
This decrease in the immune response also opens the door for ‘super antigens’ and infections which exacerbates the condition. The super-antigens as well as general immunity can be quickly resolved with naturopathic medicine where assessment of food allergens may be contributing as well as assessing nutrient deficiencies and digestive health.
An international study of 2222 infants aged between 11.5 and 22.5 months with atopic eczema found that 64% of those in who the condition developed before 3 months of age had a high-risk IgE-mediated food sensitivity to egg and / or cows milk and /or peanut. (Worth A, Sheikh A. Food allergy and ectopic eczema. Current Opinion Allergy Clinical Immunology. 2010 Jun;10(3):222-8.)
Acne rosacea can range from reddening of the skin (flushing), pustules and /or red spots. When the acne rosacea is more developed it can be quite painful with a burning or stinging sensation. It can also cause the skin to be dry and thicken.
Often people who suffer from rosacea also experience migraine headaches. This is due to the vascular changes in individuals with rosacea. The digestive system is also affected where rosacea patients can suffer from dyspepsia, bloating, flatulence, abdominal pain and constipation. This could be due to the helicobacter pylori overgrowth, which also causes vasodilation, inflammation and immune modulation in the skin.
Naturopathic medicine takes the whole person into account when treating and supports the body to be feeling better overall. Herbal and nutritional medicine is very effective in treating rosacea.
Herpes simplex virus
Herpes simplex is characterized by painful, burning or pruritic clusters of vesicles on the lips, oral mucous membranes, genital region and / or other areas of the body. I was surprised to see that close to 80% of the adult population carry the HSV-1 infection with only 30% having outbreaks. Cold sores which appear on the mouth are also known as herpes labialis and are the most common form of infection caused by HSV type 1. Genital herpes is the most frequent HSV type 2 presentation. Most often, the virus remains latent in the nerve root ganglion (a part of the nerve cell) and can be reactivated by immune deficiency, stress, fever, ultra violet light and trauma. Certain foods can also bring on the symptoms. There are nutrients that actually block the replication of the herpes virus thus reducing its capacity to cause lesions.
Other skin conditions such as tinea pedia, tinea versicolor, ringworm, dandruff and cradlecap are mostly caused by fungal infections and can be sorted out very quickly with a change in diet and some supportive nutrients.