While acne is often viewed as a miner ailment of adolescence, it can have serious psychological effects during critical periods of development. Hardly a life-threatening condition the embarrassment and discomfort it causes should not be underestimated. Sadly, the effects of acne aren’t limited to teenagers, middle aged adults are also forced to deal with breakouts right along with developing wrinkles…like really, how unfair!!!
There are several studies to suggest that acne is an inflammatory condition. And that the biggest driver of this inflammation is food, specifically a diet high in sugar, dairy, gluten-rich grains and processed foods.
So, what is the deal with diet and acne, and can we really prevent/reduce this dilapidating condition. Cos, let’s face it, no matter how severe or mild your acne is/might be, there are days you just want to remain under the covers!
What Is Acne?
Acne vulagris, or acne is a skin condition characterized by blackheads, whiteheads, inflammation, rashes, red skin and sometimes deep lesions. There are three severity’s to which acne may be classified, mild, moderate and severe.
Mild Acne – non-inflammatory lesions, few inflammatory lesions or both
Moderate acne – more inflammatory lesions, occasional nodules – hard painful lesions or both and mild scarring.
Severe Acne – extensive inflammatory lesions, nodules or both and scarring, ongoing moderate acne that has not improved with treatment after 6 months or any acne that causes serious psychological distress.
Typically, acne occurs on parts of your body that have sebaceous glands, tiny oil-producing glands that are influenced by hormones.
What Causes Acne?
This is complex and can be related to anything ranging from genetic predisposition, hormonal fluctuations, stress, inflammations, follicular hyperkeratinisation (abnormal shedding of skin cells) and bacterial colonization. Ultimately though what we see on the skin’s surface is the result of the pores becoming blocked with oil, dead skin or bacteria.
Every pimple starts with inflammatory damage, in the form of oxidation, to sebum, an oily substance produced by the sebaceous glands in the skin. To deal with the root cause of acne there are several suggestions that one needs to cut out food that causes hormonal imbalances and inflammation.
What Is The Connection With Diet And Acne?
There is extensive debate in the medical community about the impact diet has on the skin. While many experts once thought that diet had no role in the development of acne, results of some recent studies suggest otherwise.
Inflammatory food, if consumed on a regular basis, causes all sorts of health problems. Sugar and dairy are the main culprits. One of the main mechanisms that causes inflammation is by raising insulin levels in the body, which causes hormonal imbalances, triggers food sensitivities and induces a leaky gut.
Dairy is a hormonal active substance. There is no such thing as hormone free milk, even the organic type. The hormones in milk are mostly testosterone, antibiotics and growth hormones such as IGF-1. During puberty, the body produces this hormone called insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1). Some studies suggest that IGF-1 may increase the production of sebum and worsen symptoms of acne. Certain foods like dairy therefore further increases IGF-1 levels. Avoiding these foods may help to improve symptoms of acne and help prevent breakouts altogether. Foods high in GI include and is not limited to, white bread, pasta, sweetened cereals, bran flakes, melon, pineapple, potatoes, white rice, pretzels, popcorn, rice cakes.
Sugar is the other big driver of inflammation. Consuming the occasional soft drink or chocolate bar is unlikely to be problematic but if you are consuming sugar or processed carbs at almost every meal be prepared to suffer the ill effects. Sugar as with dairy raises insulin and increases oil production in your skin glands clogging up your follicles.
What Can You Do To Reduce Acne Flare Ups?
As the founder of medicine, Hippocrates said “Let food be your medicine and let medicine be your food”
Drink more water
Water is the foundation of healthy, clear skin, so aim for 6-8 glasses of water every day.
Reduce your sugar intake
Sugar, like in refined carbs and candy can exacerbate acne and cause a whole host of other health implications. Reducing sugar in your diet is tough as it is in just about everything we eat. Keep your daily sugar intake within the recommended two to four servings of the fructose found in fruit.
Avoid processed food
Processed foods contain more sugar, salt and fat than we need. Plus, you wont always be privy to all the ingredients that are in them. While cooking at home may be difficult for some, stocking up your kitchen with fresh whole ingredients will ensure healthier and cheaper meal options, that your body and skin will soon thank you for.
Increase the greens on your plate
Its hardly rocket-science that the more vegetables you incorporate, the clearer and healthier your skin and body will be.
Like vegetables, the more antioxidants you eat, the better! A diet rich in antioxidants can decrease mild to moderate acne. Fill up on berries, dark chocolate, kale, pecans, red cabbage, beans, beets and spinach.
Rich in polyphenols, green tea increases blood-flow and oxygen to the skin. Sipping on green tea will improve the look and feel of your skin.
Be it oysters, pumpkin seeds or a zinc supplement, this mineral is bursting with anti-inflammatory properties that will help by suppressing the production of sebum and acne causing bacteria.
While the management of acne can be challenging, it is worth exploring a low-glycemic diet together with a good topical skin care routine that will put you on the road to healthy, glowing skin from the inside out.