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Acne: Natural ways to balance my hormone

Q) I am an 18-year-old girl. I suffer from minor acne every now and then, which worsens when my period is here. By then, I will have a large pimple either around my chin or mouth. I experience irregular periods as well.

I read that this might be due to an imbalance of hormones and birth control pills can help. I was thinking if there are any natural ways to balance out my hormones.

Does drinking green tea help? I believe that my body is "cooling", so I try not to drink too much tea.

A. Hormones are chemical “messengers” that affect the way cells and organs in our body function. It is normal for their levels to fluctuate at different times of the menstrual period.

Hormones play an important role in the development of acne, although the exact mechanism is not clear. Male hormones (androgens) cause the oil glands under the skin to produce more oil. This will clog up the skin pores, resulting in bacterial infection and inflamed acne. Androgens are present in small amount in women and they are produced by the ovaries and the adrenal glands (small triangular shaped organs above the kidneys).

Women with hormonal imbalances due to diseases such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) may experience problems with acne. They have raised levels of androgens. By lowering the levels of these hormones using oral contraceptive pills acne will improve.

Healthy diet is a natural treatment for acne. Food high in saturated fats, processed grains, meat fats, and refined sugar has been shown in many studies to increase androgens whereas fresh vegetables, fruit, fish, fibre, antioxidants will lower the androgen levels. Green tea, being a powerful antioxidant, may help in relieving acne.

A study in Finland in 1984 showed that by switching a diet high in saturated fat to one with less fat and more polyunsaturated fats (nuts, seeds, fish, leafy greens) for six weeks, there was a significant reduction in the blood levels of androgens and consequently an improvement in acne.

Yogurt containing “good” bacteria may create a healthier environment in the intestines, improve immune system and help prevent inflammation and acne.

Increase fibre consumption by eating more fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains will help in relieving the acne too.

Fatty fish like salmon and nuts such as walnuts and almonds are high in the omega fatty acids which can help acne by reducing inflammation in the skin.

Cortisol, the stress hormone, has been found to increase the severity of acne. By exercising regularly and reducing stress, acne will improve.

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