Diet is crucial to getting — and keeping — glowing skin, so following a healthy eating plan seems like a surefire path to a great complexion. But what if your "healthy" diet is actually what's causing your acne? Here, Dr. Makoto Trotter, a Toronto-based Naturopathic Doctor, breaks down the hidden acne culprits in three of today's most popular diets.
People turn to vegetarianism for a number of reasons, including ethical considerations, health matters, or a general distaste for meat. Vegetarian diets have an aura of being associated with good health.
However, eliminating meat in the diet may be done haphazardly without a lot of research into balancing nutrition and preventing vitamin or mineral deficiencies. First, it is important to ensure adequate sources of B12 and iron to prevent anemia. Second, carbohydrate consumption can get out of control after eliminating high-protein, low-carb meat options from your diet. Excess carbohydrate consumption is a major trigger for acne.
One of the key issues in a vegetarian diet is the challenge of getting adequate protein. An easy substitute is dairy. Dairy products such as cheese, yogurt, and milk are often consumed regularly to make up for a lack of meat protein. With a high intake of dairy, a common food sensitivity for those with acne, this becomes a potential problem.
There is such a large gap in the knowledge that exists between a healthy vegetarian diet and an unhealthy vegetarian diet. It makes sense to research ways to eat healthily as a vegetarian before you adopt the practice.
Processed foods — such as boxed macaroni and cheese, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, cream cheese bagels, and processed soy meats — are examples of easily accessible but unhealthy options for recently converted vegetarians, particularly if these foods are consumed on a regular basis. It not uncommon for vegetarians who make these food choices to see their skin worsen or develop other health concerns.
Raw Vegan Diet
Well, you can’t get much healthier than this diet, right? It would appear that if someone follows a raw vegan diet and has acne, it is not diet that is the issue.
Think about it — raw vegans don’t eat dairy, eggs, or meats, and primarily eat whole foods. They are usually very knowledgeable about nutrition and balance and ensure that part of the diet, particularly if a person is juicing regularly. Consuming juiced fruit and starchy vegetables (a common one is beets, which contain a concentrated amount of naturally occurring sugars) quickly adds many sugars to the body — and in a form that is readily absorbed. Juicing removes the fibers and bulk that would normally stall the assimilation of the sugars through the digestive tract into the bloodstream.
If you are prone to acne, your skin is very sensitive to sugar spikes. As a result, the raw vegan diet can deceptively contribute to acne unless sugar intake is carefully monitored, particularly if juicing.
Paleolithic, or Paleo, diets are helpful to many people and help improve numerous health concerns. A big reason for this is the focus on quality basic foods that are high in protein and good fats, as well as reduced carbohydrate intake, thanks to the avoidance of all grain products and legumes.
The Paleo diet generally consists of the following:
- Ethically raised grass-fed meats and pastured chicken
- Fats, such as nuts, seeds, coconut oil, butter from grass-fed cows, olive oil, and avocados
- Seasonal fruits and vegetables
- Wild-caught fish
There are many interpretations of the Paleo diet, but some suggest that certain forms of dairy are acceptable, including fermented sources like yogurt, kefir, and aged cheeses. Eggs are consumed regularly and often in relatively high amounts.
The carbohydrate intake and glycemic control portion of the Paleo diet are exceptional. The main problem is that two of the more common food sensitivities are included: eggs and dairy. Many people following a Paleo diet end up consuming large amounts of eggs and derivatives of dairy. These two food sensitivities typically follow right behind carbohydrates in the hierarchy of dietary triggers for acne.
Additionally, diets that are very low in carbohydrates can lead to increased levels of cortisol (the stress hormone), which can ultimately increase blood sugar. It seems counterproductive to follow a low-carb diet for the long haul when the whole point of restricting carbohydrates to such an extreme degree is to prevent your blood sugar from spiking. This is why maintaining small portions of grains and legumes in your diet is acceptable and may actually be beneficial for acne treatment and prevention in the long run.