Acne is a complex little monster – and food can feed its frenzy. If you’ve been using the right skincare products but haven’t seen results, consider changing your diet. For example, alcohol can interfere with the digestion of skin-friendly nutrients and slow down the healing process. Other parts of your diet might contribute to inflamed pores or the overproduction of sebum, a fatty substance that can clog pores.
This article looks at six food types to consider eliminating from your diet as you pursue a clear complexion. It also explains how these food types might trigger or prolong skin problems.
1. High Glycemic Index (GI) Foods
Traditional sweets aren’t skin-friendly. High GI foods include cakes, cookies, processed breads, sweet alcoholic drinks and other foods containing simple carbohydrates such as sugar, corn syrup and fructose.
How they cause acne: High GI foods cause blood sugar to spike very quickly. A spike causes the release of insulin. The subsequent chain of events includes the release of testosterone (in men and women), the overproduction of sebum, and acne.
To help determine whether your skin reacts a noticeable amount to dairy, avoid cow’s milk, cream, butter, cheese and margarine for a week.
Dairy may cause acne via many paths. Here are several:
Milk may cause a spike in blood sugar as described in “High GI Foods” above.
Some adults are allergic to dairy even if they haven’t identified themselves as lactose intolerant. Their bodies treat elements of dairy as foreign. Cells become inflamed in general and this is seen in worsened acne.
Milk tends to come from pregnant cows or those treated with hormones. These hormones flow from the cow’s milk right into your hormonal system! Your own hormone level becomes imbalanced and acne results.
Cow’s milk contains dihydrotestosterone (DHT) precursors. These are used to make sebum – and milk provides all the enzymes that are needed to make the production of sebum efficient!
Milk contains iodine. Iodine and acne are discussed in #4 below.
3. Foods with Trans-Fatty Acids
Trans-fats are best known for hurting the heart, but they aren’t good for your skin either. How can they cause acne? Basically, you need linoleic acid to produce a normal amount of sebum in the normal way. Linoleic acid is found in flaxseed oil, safflower oil and other natural fats. When you ingest trans-fats like margarine instead, your body makes a different kind of sebum. This sebum contains oleic acid and is especially likely to cause whiteheads. Oleic acid is drier than linoleic acid and may harden more easily inside of pores.
Thanks in part to a Ban Trans Fats campaign, trans-fatty acids have become less ubiquitous in recent years. Oreo cookies and other foods that once had high trans-fat levels now have less of this harmful fat or none at all. Still, trans-fatty acids are easy to find. Some sources include fried foods, shortening, margarine, sour cream, ice-cream, cheese and synthetically hydrogenated vegetable oils.
4. Foods with Lots of Iodine
Iodine is essential for healthy human development. In order to help prevent serious problems such as mental retardation and goiter, many societies routinely add iodine to their salt. However, iodized salt is now overly abundant in US society. It can cause acne in a few ways, one of which is causing the thyroid to produce too many hormones.
Since iodine can cause acne, your skin might benefit if you exclude the following items from your diet: fast foods, iodized salt (use Pink Himalayan salt instead), egg yolks, kelp, seafood, spinach and onions.
5. Caffeinated Foods and Beverages
Caffeine has been linked to acne. How does that work? Caffeine stimulates a hormonal “fight or flight” response. Testosterone levels are increased and sebum production consequently goes up.
To figure out whether caffeine has a noticeable effect upon your skin, eliminate the following items from your diet for a week: coffee, caffeinated soda, tea and chocolate. Wean yourself slowly; cutting caffeine cold-turkey causes headaches.
Eating animals can trigger acne outbreaks. In some cases, because of fear, animals have a surge of testosterone before they die. The hormones end up in your body and increase sebum production. In other cases, animals are treated with hormones throughout their lives. For example, bovine growth hormones affect human bodies and can trigger acne.
Eliminate meat from your diet and see if your skin improves.
Anti-Acne Action Plan: The Elimination Diet
As suggested in examples above, eliminating certain foods from your diet for a week can help you determine whether they contribute to acne outbreaks. If your acne indeed goes away, then add items back into your diet one by one and monitor any changes to your skin condition.