Acne can be a frustrating condition – there are dozens of creams, lotions and potions that work for some, but not for others. Acne fighting foods is the one thing that could work for everyone - a healthy diet designed to heal and treat the skin from the inside out. The old addage ‘you are what you eat’ happens to be true - your diet directly affects how the skin acts, looks and feels.
Did You Know?
The skin is the largest organ in the body – as with all our organs, the skin is directly affected by the foods we eat.
Like all treatment protocols, changing your diet to help improve acne-prone skin takes time. Allow at least 3-4 weeks to begin seeing results, although some people see results within a matter of a few days of changing their diet or avoiding certain food groups. With that said, consider the following changes to help heal and improve your acne:
Avoid Fast-Acting Carbs
After years of debating, then debunking, the ‘myth’ that sugars (carbs) cause pimples – scientists and researchers have taken another look at how processed carbs affect the skin. In a 2007 study, subjects switched from a diet of sugary carbs to one rich in whole grains (healthy carbs). The results showed that they had fewer breakouts. In another recent study, subjects changed to the South Beach Diet (a high-protein, low-carb diet). The result – 87% of those studied had fewer pimples.
A more recent study in 2012, found that those with acne who removed fast acting carbs from their diet had fewer comedones (blackheads and whiteheads). And those with severe cystic acne had more promising results – 71% had fewer cystic pimples after 10 weeks.
So, why do processed carbs cause breakouts and acne? While all carbs raise blood sugar, fast-acting, processed carbs will work more quickly than slow-acting carbs. It is easier for the body to convert fast-acting carbs into glucose (sugar). Glucose is quickly digested in the stomach. It then travels to the small intestine and is absorbed by the bloodstream. When processed carbs are digested very quickly, they cause a spike in a chemical called IGF-1 and insulin (hormones that increases the level of acne-causing androgens like testosterone). This process increases oil secretion and pores become clogged. Studies also find that people who eat a high-carb diet, also tend to eat fewer fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains – all of which boost collagen and keep the skin healthy.
Fast-acting carbs include potatoes, white bread, non-diet soda, power drinks, raisins, milk, candy, fruit juice, sticky white rice, cake frosting, and spaghetti. Any food containing sugar, honey or corn syrup is a fast acting-carb.
Solution: Eat more fiber-rich carbs (slow-acting carbs) like brown rice, whole grain pasta, sweet potatoes and lentils.
Limit Intake of Dairy
Many dairy products are loaded with growth hormones which are responsible for boosting acne-causing testosterone levels. A study conducted by Dr. Danby of Dartmouth University’s Geisel School of Medicine, found that women who drank more milk than others we 44% more likely to have severe acne. Look for organic milk, which will be hormone-free, or try almond milk (a high source of calcium with no hormones), and eat yoghurt. It is believed that the fermentation process required to make yoghurt reduces the hormone level in the dairy product.
Avoid Processed Meats
Meat and processed meats can be high in Omega-6 fats. These trigger inflammation and oil production in the skin which means more acne breakouts. Eat more fresh fish like salmon and mackerel which contain Omega-3 fats that help stop inflammation, a cause of acne.
Cut Down on Alcohol
Alcohol consumption promotes inflammation in the skin that can cause acne. It can also contribute to conditions like Rosacea and Eczema (inflammatory diseases of the skin).
Eat Your Veggies
Mother was right – if you want to be healthy, you need to eat your vegetables! Fill your plate with colorful vegetables like carrots, red and green peppers, spinach, broccoli. These are high in antioxidants and work to fight the free-radicals that affect the skin.
Making the Changes
Changing your diet to improve acne is not without scientific precedent. Doctors and dermatologists report that since giving patients diet advice designed to improve acneic skin, they were writing fewer prescriptions for isotretinoin and antibiotics. Furthermore, it is known that topical treatments only reach the top layer of the skin – the deeper layers, 80% of the skin, where acne is formed, can only be treated by changing your diet.
Those who made the diet switch noticed that their skin was significantly improved within a matter of weeks. The key to successfully changing your diet is to make one or two small changes at a time until they become habitual, then gradually add more changes. Not only will your skin improve, you may find that your waistline improves too!
For more information on what to eat to improve your skin – read our article on the Acne Diet
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