Acne due to stress?

As a mother of two teenage daughters and the owner of INDISHA, I get a lot of questions about acne. I noticed that a number of young people eat super healthy and do not use cosmetic products that are less pleasant for the skin, but still get acne. In light or more intense form. While other young people who are not really concerned about what they eat do not suffer from acne. Even though we hardly see any pimples, for a young person every pimple is one too many 😀 .

By super healthy food - possibly related to acne - I mean: avoid sugars and cow's milk products, eat little or no wheat gluten, organic fruit and vegetables, little (acidifying) meat, and if meat is eaten, this is organic, sufficient water intake. And also a lot of movement.

Hormones as the culprit?

It could be that the hormone balance makes a difference. But with every teenager the hormones are in full swing, so that shouldn't make such a big difference at first glance. Although your endocrine system is partly hereditary, this often only has a 20% impact on your health. The rest is largely determined by your lifestyle. Which you often get from home, which can make it seem as if skin complaints arise mainly due to hormonal heredity.

In my opinion, it could be that one person gives different triggers to the hormone system than the other. Which causes acne in one and no or almost no acne in the other. More about this later in this blog.

Bad chewing and acne

Can chewing food properly or not properly make a difference I wondered. My hypothesis: if you don't chew your food properly, it will go to your intestines in large chunks. Who can't digest this well. As a result, more waste remains in the body. Which, among other things, can disrupt your intestinal flora. Which can cause acne.

I asked a number of parents of young people who suffered from acne, who had already done a lot about this in terms of lifestyle but without the desired effect, whether their adolescent chewed her / his food well. Turns out, most of them didn't. With acne it seems worth trying whether better chewing helps.

Study (1) seems to confirm this suspicion. The intestinal flora of people with moderate to severe acne shows an overgrowth of pathogenic microorganisms, called SIBO, up to ten times more often. And a lower presence of good bacteria such as Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium.

Stress a trigger for acne

Stress can certainly be a trigger for acne. And therefore a reason that with a comparable diet, one young person does and the other develops no or almost no acne.

When you are under stress, your body produces more cortisol. A higher level of cortisol disrupts your digestion. Your body produces less digestive juices, enzymes and stomach acid. This has an impact on your intestinal flora. And thus can trigger the formation of acne.

Stress can also cause a 'leaky gut', a leaky gut wall. Which causes foreign substances to leak into your body. Your body can respond to this with acute inflammation. With chronic stress, small so-called low-grade inflammations arise continuously. Not just in your gut, but throughout your body. Which, among other things, can be noticeable in the formation of acne. In addition, continuous inflammation weakens your immune system. And thus have a long-term negative impact on your intestinal flora. What can cause acne to form or make it go away less well.

Ancient wisdom

In a recent issue of the trade magazine 'the Beauty Professional', I read that as early as 1930 the dermatologists Stokes and Pillsbury came up with the 'Gut-Brain-Skin' theory. In it they described the possible relationship between acne vulgaris (childhood pimples), intestinal problems and emotional problems. At the time, other researchers also made the link between mental disorders and an imbalance in the intestines. Hard evidence for this was never described at the time. Recently, there has been (fortunately) more and more attention from researchers to the relationship between the composition of the gut and acne. So keep an eye on the internet for new insights in this area!

Stress reduction

Nowadays there are a range of interventions to reduce stress - also in young people. Think of yoga, meditation and mindfulness. But a walk in nature also contributes. However, not every teenager is interested in this, because these forms of movement are not (yet) 'cool'. Perhaps it will help if adolescents discover that acne becomes less 😀 . Or schools integrate them into the curriculum.

(1) However, this study is small and observational. Publication in the Journal of dermatology (2018)

Sources: LaViesage, 'The Beauty Professional edition 12, 2021'