Allergy and Acne

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By: Dr. med. Olaf Koob


In recent years allergies have reached epidemic propor­tions. Today, one out of every two persons in the US is said to suffer from some kind of allergic sensitivity. The proliferating chemicals and additives in our lives cause reactions from earliest childhood on. These substances that we breathe in, or take in, on a daily basis are designed to enhance life. Instead, they often cause natural triggers such as pollen to become much more potent and aggressive.

Psychologists know that constitutional tendencies often influence a hypersensitive reaction. An easily "inflamed" personality will react to the environment differently than a "thick-skinned" person. Likewise, an immune weakness can be constitutionally inherited, but will often remain latent until there is a time of extra stress.

Every inflammation is a dislocated digestive process. Allergic reactions are a case in point. Inorganic sub­stances overtax immune resistance by bombarding it, but it's only "undigested" living substances such as pollen, mites, or foods such as wheat or milk that cause allergic redness, swelling or itching (inflammation).

Today, the various cells that constitute the immune sys­tem and its function are well documented. The mast cells in the blood, for example, can "digest" foreign matter through their biochemical product histamine. Lungs and intestines, where allergens enter, have a high mast cell count. These are the areas of maximum interplay with what enters the organism from outside. Histamines can constrict the small vessels in the bronchioles, causing a coughing reaction. They also stimulate stomach secre­tions; another attempt of the organism to destroy foreign substances through increased digestion. Histamines widen capillary vessels, allowing increased blood supply to the periphery in order to expel allergens through inflammatory processes. Treating inflammatory symp­toms by prescribing anti-histamines obviously suppresses the histamine reaction. While antihistamines can be an important emergency measure they also suppress the body's effort at cleansing and expelling the root problem through the histamine. What is meant to leave the body is instead pressed back, and can become hardened or chronic.

We know that we continually take up the world, work it through, and partially excrete it again (detoxify our­selves). What was outside (called "poison" by Paracelsus) must be made completely ours through many complex transformational processes. The soul gesture of receiv­ing, or taking in, is sympathy, while that of excreting is antipathy. Our immune organism has to keep the balance between what is foreign or outside, and what is our own, inside. Too much sympathy, such as the lack of creating a boundary with the world, endangers the organism, caus­ing an "excretion" reaction accompanied by inflamma­tion. This process can be very uncomfortable.

In every allergy the opposite states of inflammation and hardening are reactions to each other. The skin and mucus membranes are simply the innocent conduits, mir­roring the reaction of the one or the other to its opposite. What should be taken care of deep inside the metabolism is displaced to the nerve/sense periphery because the internal organism is not able to handle it.

If the organism did not react in this way to environ­mental assaults, in other words, if there were no allergic reaction, then eventually chronic illness would result. We might therefore say that inflammations are a necessary training ground of the immune system, and a preventative to sclerosis and hardening illnesses in later life.


"The depth of skin disorder is proportional to the depth of psychological disturbance" - Didier Anzieu

With acne there are certain individual barriers that divert metabolic activity from the appropriate organs into the nerve-sense domain of the skin. Acne is caused by an over-secretion of sebaceous matter in the peripheral hair follicles. The skin appears greasy; the area around the foreign deposits becomes inflamed and often infected. In severe cases acne leads to scarring, especially if there are attempts to suppress it. If the spots don't drain, bacteria transform the accumulated fats into aggressive fatty acids, which can eventually destroy surrounding tissue.

According to Asian medicine, facial acne is an indica­tor of weakened metabolism in specific inner organs:

Forehead – intestines

Cheeks – lungs

Nose area – heart

Mouth area – reproductive organs

Corners of the mouth – stomach

Jaws and chin – kidneys

Acne is usually overcome by age 25, but severe acne, which can also appear in older age, is of complex origin. Besides the obvious hormonal change that disrupts normal organic function, the main cause underlying acne is deep-seated psychological strain or burden. This is often accom­panied by eating disturbances or a one-sided denatured diet, lack of rhythm, lack of air or light, smoking or drug abuse. Psychological disturbances always work back on metabolic and hormonal activity. Anger and stress leads to increased fatty formation on skin and scalp; depression and guilt constrict peripheral blood vessels as they constrict the soul. Both can cause the skin to break out.

Severe acne in puberty leads to huge feelings of sensitivity and vulnerabili­ty, to personal and social conflicts. Precisely in those most sensitive years when the desire for beauty, sensuous­ness and esthetics awakens (the ancient Greeks called it the Venus age) the skin erupts in a strenuous effort at self-cleansing. Puberty is character­ized by the desire to control one's body more fully, to conquer metabo­lism and sexuality. The need for group approval is strong. Coping with the perceived stigma of acne, suffering fears of rejection, mockery or pity, and feelings of inferiority, shame, disgust or group pres­sure can become almost unbearable. That scars on the skin mirror scars in the soul was highlighted in a recent study where teens with severe acne were significantly more aggressive, disruptive, fearful and restless than the healthy control group. And yet I sometimes wonder whether acne isn't also a subconscious protective barrier, allowing the individual a little more time and distance for maturation.

In any event, a parent or therapist must address the prob­lem very delicately. Often therapy will not be sought until the level of inner pain is intense. Usually the family will then take the sufferer to the family physician who will refer to a dermatologist. Only in the rarest of cases will a psy­chologist be sought out. It is vital that communications between physician and patient don't just concern the objective illness but include any prevailing personal rela­tionships or difficulties. The subjective experience of sor­row is more important than the objective findings. Patients so easily feel misunderstood by their physicians.

Besides psychological support, therapy for acne con­sists of finding and dealing with stress situations. Alcohol, tobacco and other stimulants are to be restrict­ed. Attention must likewise be paid to diet, to give the metabolism a rest. Adolescents love fast food and sweets, especially chocolate so it is not easy. Since there is a fundamental disturbance in albu­min and fat metabolism, a protein-poor natural diet is best. Raw vegeta­bles are cleansing and silica rich foods such as millet are helpful. Meats, especially pork are to be avoided as are heated or saturated oils. Carbohydrates such as white flour and sugar, and even citrus fruits, should be kept to a minimum. Fresh air and natural light, more abundant in summer, can have a healing effect on bones and skin. Exercise will help the normal flow of digestion and cir­culation, with further improvement if done in the fresh air and the sun. Summertime often improves the con­dition.

Finally, there are certain thera­peutic applications for acute situa­tions. The Wala Company has an acne series for internal use, and regular use of Weleda's Iris Cleansing Lotion Classic will harmonize texture and tone the skin over the long term.

Dr. Olaf Koob is a medical doctor and lecturer with a practice in Weimar, Germany. The above two articles are excerpted and translated from his book "Die Kranke Haut" with kind permission of the publisher, Verlag Johannes M. Mayer, Stuttgart.

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