Cravings and Acne

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Do you have acne? Do you have cravings?  Did you know that your cravings can be a clue as to what may be causing your acne?  In fact, your cravings can tell you a lot about what is going on in your body.  For instance, a craving for sugar means something completely different than a craving for salt.  An intense mid-afternoon craving can mean something different than a craving after a meal.  If you would rather watch the video than read the blog – scroll down!! I crave chocolate, and it can get really bad.  I have been known to run upstairs and insist that my husband remove all chocolate from the premises before I venture back downstairs.  It’s the only way I can save my skin.  You see, I know that chocolate aggravates my acne and my nervous system.  It actually makes me feel awful, but I just can’t help giving in to my cravings. So why does this happen?  How can cravings be so powerful that they make a rational and intelligent person do things that they know are harmful to their body?  And not just once.  Again and again.  To the point that they become sick. Well, it turns out that cravings are the result of powerful biochemical loops in our body that are difficult to ignore.  Unless, of course, you are armed with the information and techniques to fight the battle against cravings – and win. So let’s break this down: I.  Sugar and Carbohydrate Cravings Cupcakes, chocolate, bread, pasta, pizza, candy, soda pops, pasteries, cookies, fries, processed foods… the list goes on. Cravings for sugary foods and carbohydrates are now at an epic level.   The World Health Organization recommends no more than 6 tsp of sugar per day for optimal health.  And yet, the average American consumes 19.5 teaspoons per day.  And most of this gross over- consumption of sugars and carbohydrates is the result of cravings.  These cravings can be at any time during the day, but often are the strongest not long after meals. Sugar and carbohydrate cravings are the result of three things:  blood sugar dysregulation, leptin dysregulation and dopamine tolerance. What is blood sugar dysregulation? When you eat foods high in sugar or carbohydrates (ie. A pasta dinner, cupcake or a bagel with cream cheese) your blood sugar spikes.  This spike also increases insulin levels, which then ferries blood sugar into the cells so that blood sugar levels drop quickly.  Your body then misses the lost sugar high which then triggers an increased appetite and craving for more sugar and carbohydrates.  It it that simple. What is leptin? Leptin is a hormone that is released from fat cells and tells your body that it is full.  In many people this important feedback loop is broken – meaning that when excess leptin is continually released from the fat cells, receptors down-regulate and leptin tolerance sets in.  This means that the brain is telling the body that it is hungry, even if it has adequate fat stores.  This constant hunger fuels cravings.  Insulin resistance, over-eating, stress, toxins, gluten and too many simple carbohydrates and sugar all contribute to this condition. What is dopamine tolerance? Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that controls the reward center of the brain.  Whenever you experience pleasure, dopamine is released.  And very often sugar and carbs bring us pleasure.  But the problem occurs when the pleasurable experience is over-experienced (ie too much of a good thing).  This leads to an excessive amount of dopamine release, which leads to receptor down-regulation and dopamine sensitization.  Which means that you have to continually eat more and more sugar to get the same feeling of pleasure.  Dopamine tolerance is at the heart of every addiction.  And sugar (btw) is 8x more addictive than cocaine.  The pain is real, friends. So what does this have to do with acne? Blood sugar and insulin dysregulation are at the heart of acne.  In order to successfully overcome acne, you must overcome your cravings for sugar and carbohydrates. How do you overcome sugar and carbohydrate cravings? Blood sugar and insulin must be regulated.  This means having regular meals daily consisting of protein, healthy fats, and vegetables. Knowing when, what and how to eat are key to overcome your cravings.  As for the snacks that are holding you hostage (ie chocolate for me)?  Get them out of the house. Create new habits. II.  Salt Cravings So maybe sweet isn’t your thing?  Maybe you would rather reach for that bag of salty pretzels or chips?  If so, let’s turn our attention to your adrenal glands. The adrenal glands sit on top of your kidneys and regulate the stress response in your body.  When your body is chronically stressed, the adrenals become fatigued and they do not function optimally.  When this happens, because the adrenals also secrete aldosterone, aldosterone levels will be low In the body.  Aldosterone regulates the levels of salt and water in the body, thus having an effect on blood pressure. Do you have low blood pressure?  Do you sometimes feel dizzy when you get up quickly?  Are you fatigued, stressed and do you experience anxiety?  Thirsty? Difficulty sleeping?  If you answered yes to any of these questions, your salt cravings may indicate that your adrenal glands are fatigued. Salt encourages you to drink more water, and that is what your body is asking for when you have a salt craving.  You need water to compensate for the adrenal’s inefficient aldosterone regulation. Another clue that your cravings are due to a stressed adrenal gland is that the cravings are the strongest mid-day, right when you have your coffee and treat. What does this have to do with acne? Insulin dysregulation is always present when there is acne to some degree.  But for some acne sufferers, a stressed adrenal gland can produce a hormone called DHEAs, which is an androgen.  It is not completely clear why this happens, and there is probably a genetic component, but increased DHEAs can lead directly to acne.  The solution?  The adrenal glands must be brought back into balance.  The number one treatment for adrenal fatigue?  A regular schedule (ie regular meal times, bed time and wake-up times). Cravings are intense and they can hold us back from achieving the success we desire, especially when it comes to getting rid of acne.  Breaking the cycle is the most difficult part, but when meals are carefully designed, specific herbs and foods are included, a few well-selected supplements are part of the plan, and you have a supportive community to cheer you on every step of the way, success is possible! Xo, Dr. Stacey    

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