I found an interesting blog post the other day over at Seth’s blog about the perverse incentives of the modern healthcare system to let people get sick. It provides expensive treatments for symptoms while failing to investigate the underlying causes. If we understood the underlying causes of acne, for example, prevention would be easy, and expensive doctor visits and pharmaceutical treatments unnecessary.
This post and Seth’s use of acne as an example caught my attention, because I struggled with acne for many years: beginning at puberty, throughout high school and college, and well into my twenties. I washed my face two, often three times daily, saw a dermatologist and got prescriptions for harsh soaps and anti-acne creams, and even oral antibiotics. Yes, I took oral antibiotics regularly for years. Should have known better, but I did not.
But even with all of these expensive, harsh, and potentially harmful treatments, I still had breakouts. Then I switched to a fairly strict paleo diet around the age of 24, and a few months later I noticed that I was not having breakouts anymore. I know that correlation does not prove causation, but the timing was . . .interesting. I decided to do my own n=1 experiment and stop using all of my anti-acne prescriptions. Still no breakouts. Even if I occasionally went to bed without washing my face, still no breakouts.
Loren Cordain wrote a book on the subject, The Dietary Cure for Acne. Very interesting, that hunter-gatherer teenagers do not have acne; I guess we cannot just blame it on hormomes, as so many want to do. Although the comment section at Seth’s blog suggests that Cordain has not conclusively solved the acne puzzle, I think that he is on the right track. A paleo diet certainly worked in my n=1 experiment.
As for what the specific triggers for acne are, I am not sure, and I am hesitant to start introducing Neolithic junk food back into my diet and harming my body just to find out. And maybe the triggers are different in different people. I know that I feel great eating grass-fed butter and cultured dairy, but if I consume milk, even grass-fed and organic, I have a tendency to break out. Perhaps a slight lactose intolerance that manifests on my face instead of in my digestion? Perhaps a reaction to the highly insulinogenic and pro-inflammatory properties of lactose? I am not sure.
I bet if I reintroduced grains and refined sugars I would also have some acne issues to contend with. But again, I have no intention of conducting this experiment.
So I am just curious, since I am a very small sample group of one. What are your thoughts? Have you performed any n=1 experiments on yourself? Do you know if you have any specific food triggers?