Acne is perhaps the most common chronic skin disease. It is an inflammatory condition of the sebaceous ( that is, fat ) glands and hair follicles usually found on the face, the neck, chest and shoulders. Approximately, eight out of ten young people between the ages of 12 and 24 suffer from some degree of acne. It is closely related to the disturbance in the hormones experienced at puberty. The majority of patients recover between the ages 20 and 30 years. But it is still common in men over 30 years. In women, it rarely lasts beyond the early thirties and is normally worse before each menstrual period. The disease causes a great deal of embarassment at an age when people tend to be sensitive about personal appearance.
The skin, covering the entire body, is a marvellous and intricate mechanism. It serves three main purposes, namely protection of the inner organism, regulation of body temperature and elimination of cell waste and systematic refuse. The skin is directly connected to and intimately bound up with the working of the whole system. All skin diseases, including acne, are the outcome of malfunctioning of the body as a whole.
Acne is characterised by the presence of comedones or blackheads, pimples, small superficial sebaceous cysts and scars. There are over half a dozen forms of acne. All of them are connected with the sebaceous glands or the glands connected with hair follicles. The most common form of acne is blackheads. The areas chiefly affected are the forehead, temples, cheeks, chin, the chest and back.In rare cases, almost the entire body may be covered with blackheads with extensive scarring.
All forms of acne have their origin in wrong food habits, such as irregular hours of eating, improper food, excess of starch, sugar and fatty foods. Chronic constipation is another major cause of acne. If the bowels do not move properly, the waste matter is not eliminated as quickly as it should be and the blood stream becomes saturated with toxic matter. The extra efforts of the skin to eliminate this excess waste result in acne and other forms of skin disease. Yet another important cause of acne is a devitalised condition of the skin resulting from unhygenic living habits. Other contributing factors to the disorder are excessive use of tea, coffee, alcohol and tobacco, strenuous studies and sedentary habits which lead to indigestion and general debility.
The treatment of acne by the administration of salves or ointment does not serve any purpose. They only suppress the action of the sebaceous glands temporarily. In nature cure, the main emphasis is on diet and certain water applications. To begin with, the patient should resort to an all-fruit diet for about a week. This regimen should consist of three meals a day, consisting of fresh juicy fruits, such as apples, pears, grapes, grapefruits, pineapples and peaches. Citrus fruits, babanas, dried, stewed or tinned fruits should not be taken. Unsweetened lemon or plain water, either hot or cold, should be drunk and nothing else. During this period, a warm water enema should be taken daily to cleanse the bowels and all other measures adopted to eradicate constipation.
After a week of the all -fruit diet,the patient can gradually adopt a well-balanced diet with a predominantly alkaline base. Emphasis should be on raw foods, especially fresh fruits and vegetables, sprouted seeds, raw nuts and whole grain cereals, particularly millet and brown rice. Further, short periods on the all-fruit diet for three days or so may be necessary at monthly intervals till the skinís condition improves.
Strict attention to diet is essential for recovery. Starchy, protein and fatty foods should be restricted. Meat, sugar, strong tea or coffee, condiments, pickles, refined and processed foods should all be avoided, as also soft drinks, candies, ice cream and products made with sugar and white flour.
The following diet should serve as a guideline :
Two vitamins , namely, niacin and vitamin A, have been used successfully to treat acne. The vitamin therapy, comprising of niacin 100 mg. three times daily and vitamin A in large doses upto 50,000 units per day, should not exceed one month. Vitamin E is also vitally important for preventing scarring from acne and in removing old scars.
For local treatment, hot fomentation should be applied to open up the pores and squeeze out the waste matter. Then rinse with cold water. Sun and air baths, by exposing the whole body to sun and air, are highly beneficial. Washing the affected area with lemon juice has also proved helpful. Healing packs made of grated cucumbers, oatmeal cooked in milk and cooked, creamed carrots, used externally, have been found effective. Packs should be applied and kept on for half an hour and then washed off with cold water. A hot Epsom salt bath twice a week will be highly beneficial in all cases of acne. This bath is prepared by adding three lbs. of Epsom salt to 60 litres of water having a temperature of about 100 o F. The patient should remain in the bath from 25 to 35 minutes till he perspires freely. After the bath, the patient should cool off gradually.