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Blog / Cycles

Tackling Premenstrual Acne from a Chinese Medicine Perspective

Many women come to me before getting their period who are suffering from acne. This is also a common complaint of women who have recently come off the pill. The skin is the largest organ in the human body yet so often we neglect it unless something goes wrong.

When issues present on the skin, it can often reflect an internal imbalance. Chinese medicine excels at getting to the root cause of this imbalance and helps to heal the skin from the inside out. Acupuncture can help to reduce redness, balance skin tone, and reduce localized inflammation. Each visit will assist your body in both treating active flair-ups while also getting to the root cause of the condition to help prevent further break-outs. 

In addition to coming in for acupuncture, there are a few steps you can take at home to help tackle PMS related acne outbreaks: 

Eliminate Food Triggers

Finding out which foods lead to an acne flair can be a tricky process because it varies from person to person. However, shifting your diet to recommendations below can help to reduce inflammation and balance hormones naturally. 

Opt for Lower Glycemic Index Carbohydrates

This means choosing foods which are lower in sugar and metabolized more slowly. High sugar foods are pro-inflammatory and can bring on an acne flair. A few examples of low-glycemic index food choices are: whole grains, non-starchy and green vegetables (broccoli, brussel sprouts, dark leafy greens), nuts and seeds, legumes, berries

Limit or Temporarily Omit Dairy

Chinese medicine texts do not demonize milk in the same way that we do today. However, it does recommend all foods in moderation. Dairy is one of those foods that is consumed in excess in this country. For some constitutions, dairy products can be very nourishing. However, if you are suffering from frequent acne with digestive irregularities such as constipation or loose stool, you may be experiencing an accumulation of phlegm and dampness in your system. Therefore, stepping away from dairy for a few weeks might be a useful experiment to see if symptoms improve. If you are still concerned about getting enough calcium in your diet, choose sheep’s milk or goats milk unsweetened yogurt and other plant-based foods that are rich in calcium. Some examples include almonds, chia seeds, poppy seeds, sunflower seeds, dark leafy greens (except spinach), white beans, tofu, and other organic non-GMO soy products. From a biomedical framework, most cow’s milk produced in this country has a hormonal component. Hormones such as prolactin, estrogens, progesterone, corticoids, and androgens are all commonly found in dairy. These elevated levels of hormones can lead to an increase in sebum production and, therefore, acne. 

Choose Your Chocolate Carefully

 Chocolate is another food that is not inherently “bad”. It is rich in antioxidants which are considered to be anti-aging due to their ability to fight free radicals. It also contains magnesium which women need more of right before our period, which is why we crave it. The issue with chocolate is it often contains loads of sugar or dairy. Opt for dark chocolate with low sugar and dairy-free if possible. 

Limit alcohol

Alcohol is pro-inflammatory and can disrupt digestive health, it can also temporarily impair Liver functioning. If you are experiencing other signs of PMS including irritability and breast tenderness before your period, Chinese medicine believes that there may be a mild imbalance between the Liver and the other internal organs. Therefore, steering clear of alcohol would be a kinder choice to your body and skin.

Consult Your Practitioner for More Guidance

It should be noted that Chinese medicine does not recognize any one category of food as being “bad” or “good”. Rather dietary modifications are often made temporarily to help address underlying imbalances of each individual. 

Clean Skin Care Routine

Choose products that are low in toxins and help to maintain the proper pH balance of the skin. If you are seeking new skin products, consider the app Think Dirty. You can scan your facial, body, or home cleaning products and search for potentially safer choices. Also, remember to wear sunscreen daily because even a light sunburn can be pro-inflammatory and cause an acne flare up.

Skincare products and face oils for happy clear skin

Healthy Digestion

From a Chinese medicine perspective, we say the “Lungs govern the skin”. In Five Element Acupuncture Theory, the Lungs and Large Intestine are considered paired organs which are both part of the Metal phase. They both have the ability to take in and let go. They are both prone to dryness, heat, and phlegm-damp accumulation when imbalanced. Due to the fact that they are linked, regular bowel movements via the large intestine are critical in terms of healthy skin which is “governed by the Lungs”. Additionally, constipation can prevent the elimination of excessive hormone reserves. If you have issues with constipation, make sure you are drinking enough water. Aim to increase your fiber intake slowly, consume more healthy fats, and consider a probiotic. Regular acupuncture treatments also help tremendously in soothing digestive irregularities.

Reduce Stress

This one is often easier said than done if you are struggling with PMS. Get out ahead of it by making sure you are getting enough sleep in the week leading up to your period. Mindfulness-based practices such as journaling, yoga, and meditation can all be helpful in soothing the mind. Exercise is another great way to reduce stress and boost mood. Additionally, breaking a sweat aids in overall skin detoxification. 

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