Ask The Doctor: Acne

Question:  I have a 16-year-old son who is in his sixth month of suffering with pretty severe acne. Being a teenager, his diet is not optimal to say the least. Lately he is getting more self-conscious and even a bit withdrawn because of his looks. The dermatologist we went to prescribed Tetracycline and Acutane but isn’t there any other way to go?

Answer:  As your describe, acne vulgaris and cystic acne, two very common problems of modern teenagers, can be very debilitating for young people, particularly as it undermines their sense of self-esteem at a time when it is already fragile. Is there an effective strategy available for people in this age group that does not incur the side effects of conventional medications? (Tetracycline is a broad spectrum antibiotic which alters bowel flora and also interferes with bone metabolism. Acutane is a synthetic vitamin A molecule which causes very dry skin, irritability and possible birth defects in growing fetuses.)

A strategy for dealing with acne begins with effective “bowel cleansing” and healthy bowel flora (the normal lacto-bacteria that live in our intestines). This has always been considered the cornerstone of every natural acne treatment. The best remedy for this is for your teenager to eat about 1/4-1/2 cup of fresh, unpasteurized traditionally made sauerkraut every day and then take one teaspoon of Swedish Bitters in warm water before bed. You can make the sauerkraut yourself following the recipes in Nourishing Traditions. There is also a brand called Bubbies, found in the refrigerator section of a good health food store. There are also scores of other lacto-fermented vegetables, fruits and drinks described in Nourishing Traditions that you can try. Sauerkraut, however, should be the cornerstone of treatment as the high sulphur content of the cabbage is especially valuable in skin cleansing. (Cabbage juice is valued in Irish folk medicine for giving a beautiful complexion.)

Another area of importance is the inclusion of the proper fats in the diet (such as good quality butter and olive oil) and excluding the commercial vegetable oils and hydrogenated margarines and shortenings. Your teenager should also take 1/2 teaspoon or 3 capsules cod liver oil daily and 4-5 capsules of evening primrose daily as supplements.

Raw foods should be included liberally in the diet, including vegetables, fruits, milk and even meat. At the same time he should decline sodas, sugar and junk foods as much as possible. Make his own lunch so that he does not have to eat in the cafeteria, and always have plenty of nutritious natural snacks on hand.

Finally, there should be some attention to sweating and the general cleansing of the skin. If your child is athletic, encourage him to exercise heavily, then brush his skin vigorously (with a loofah) and then rinse off in cool-cold water. This is like a skin “exercise.” If he is not athletic, one to three saunas weekly followed by a cool shower will aid detoxification. You might also look into a good herbal skin treatment. I recommend the Hauschka Cosmetics products, available from Raphael Pharmacy (916) 962-1099. They have a trio for acne treatment that consists of capsules containing silica and herbs, a special face lotion for acne and a cleansing cream.

These measures should be a good start in clearing your son’s skin.

First published in Price-Pottenger Nutrition Foundation Health Journal

From a reader, via email: “Your website neglects to mention high doses of the water soluble vitamin B5 (Pantothenic acid) for curing Acne. It does wonders, without of course the damage effects of Accutane. The respected professionals on your panel should investigate this one.”