Would you believe that acne is the most common skin condition in the U.S? Acne is bad news for so many reasons. It not only causes pimples, but it can leave permanent scars, which, in turn, can seriously affect quality of life, causing low self-esteem, withdrawal from social situations, anxiety, and depression. For many, understandably, this can seem like a hopeless situation. But, are there steps you can take to prevent acne? Before we talk about that, let’s take a look at how acne gets started and rears its ugly head.
Now, acne is caused by a number of factors, mainly excess oil production in the skin, skin cells that divide and proliferate excessively, bacteria, and inflammation. The result of all of this badness is a pimple or lesion which forms when a pore in your skin begins to clog with old, dead yucky skin cells. Normally, these cells are simply shed from the surface of your skin, but if too much oil is being produced, the dead cells can stick together and become trapped inside a pore. Then, bacteria can jump in there and can grow and multiply inside the pore, resulting in an inflammatory response.
Ok, so what sets this chain of events in motion? So, glad you asked! Studies have shown that your diet plays an important role. This is because what you eat can affect the hormones that contribute to how much oil your skin produces, how fast your skin cells divide and multiply, and inflammation that can cause acne!
And would you believe that the two big acne-promoting dietary factors are dairy products and high glycemic load foods? Yup! Extensive studies have shown that this dastardly duo are major factors that influence the hormonal and inflammatory factors that can affect how bad the acne gets and how much it develops. They do this by raising insulin and the insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) levels. And elevated IGF-1 levels leads to changes in the body that can cause inflammation, hormonal changes, increased oil production, and development of acne lesions. Ugh!
Stay with me now, it does get worse! Along with dairy and high glycemic foods, excessive oil production by the skin can be worsened by oil intake. Vegetable oils are a big culprit here because their consumption drives omega-6 intake up. And high omega-6 intake is associated with the development of acne because it increases pro-inflammatory effects in the body. The effects of oil intake on acne is made worse by consuming high glycemic carbohydrates like commercially baked goods. That donut run could cost you!
While excessive intake of fat may increase oil production, it’s exacerbated by the glycemic effect of the diet. Did you know that when your diet contains more beans, greens, seeds, onions and mushrooms, and you avoid high glycemic carbohydrates, your body can tolerate more fat? This is because you mostly eliminate any acne-promoting effects on oil production, because you are eating more health promoting antioxidants and lowering the glycemic load of your diet. Try to get your fats from whole food sources like nuts and seeds. About two ounces daily is a good amount and can generally be eaten by those avoiding oils (CLICK HERE to get the skinny on oils) without creating acne. But what about if you start eating refined and high glycemic carbohydrates? Your body will be more sensitive to the fat in your diet. And, yes, even from nuts and seeds.
So, here are the three steps to getting healthier, less acne-prone skin:
This means whole, low fat, and skim milk and yes, (I’m sorry) cheeses. Try non-dairy milks instead like, almond (CLICK HERE to learn how to make your own), hemp, or rice. Also, non-dairy cheeses can be quite tasty. Check out what’s available at your local health food store.
Avoid high-glycemic load foods
The Glycemic load (GL) is basically the measure of how foods affect blood glucose levels. High-GL foods, like that donut I mentioned earlier, cause dangerous spikes in blood glucose which lead to excessive insulin levels in the blood. This is a whole load of badness which contributes to diabetes, heart disease, and even several cancers. Oh, oh! Excess insulin levels not only promotes inflammation but also raises IGF-1 levels which contributes to acne. Studies have shown that a low glycemic load diet helps improve acne symptoms, decreases IGF-1 and skin oil production.
Include protective micronutrients
Get those veggies in your diet because they contain carotenoids which are those fabulous health protective phytonutrients. Not only does the abundance of antioxidants in plant foods protect against acne, but they give skin a healthy color and more youthful appearance as one ages. To your good health!