Although we think of problematic skin as an aesthetic issue, it is really a sign of something off balance in the body. And topical treatments alone quite often do not get to the root of the problem; skin breakouts will continue to recur unless managed with a combination of lifestyle, nutrition, and topical changes.
Clear skin starts with allowing the body to rest by removing high-allergen-type foods and dietary pollutants and replacing them with foods to support the health of the eliminative organs.
The health of your body depends on three basic elements:
- The quality of nutrients taken in from your diet
- How well these nutrients are digested and absorbed
- How well our bodies neutralize and remove toxins
If these three elements are chronically out of sync, then it is bound to show up in your skin. The skin is an organ of elimination. We eliminate waste products through our skin. Too many toxins inside the body can cause them to become stored in our skin tissue and promote inflammation. The typical Western diet lacks nutrition and is concentrated with chemicals, preservatives, and by-products that may encourage breakouts. Studies have shown that a high consumption of dairy, refined sugar, trans fat, and meat can make skin more prone to chronic skin conditions, including acne.
Sugar and insulin levels
All sugars and refined carbohydrates are rapidly digested and quickly spike blood sugar levels causing the pancreas to secrete insulin. This has a detrimental effect on the skin because fluctuating blood sugar levels activate the hormones that encourage our oil glands to produce sebum. Over time skin becomes oilier, congested, and more prone to acne breakouts.
Because these types of foods are rapidly digested, they are considered high-glycemic foods, but it is also important to be aware of the amount of glucose entering the bloodstream from each food. Glycemic load value gives you a more accurate understanding of a food's effect on blood sugar. For example, watermelon has a high-glycemic index but a low-glycemic load because it has few carbohydrates in it. Foods with a glycemic load of 10 or below are considered low, while foods 20 and above are considered high Get to know the foods with the highest glycemic load.
- White bagels: One bagel can provide the number of carbohydrates equal to 3 to 5 slices of bread.
- Raisins and dried fruits
- Instant refined cereals such as cream of wheat or puffed wheat
- White rice
- Juice (particularly cranberry juice)
- Baked potato
Dairy and your hormones
There is evidence to show that dairy consumption aggravates skin conditions like acne vulgaris due to the milk proteins, growth hormones, and anabolic steroids that stimulate insulinlike growth factors (IGF). These factors offset hormonal balance and promote inflammation and excess oil production in the skin.
The worst offenders in this food group are:
- Whey and casein protein powders/bars
- Chocolate and skim milk
- Ice cream
Iodine and blemishes
Insufficient iodine intake impairs the production of thyroid hormones—leading to a condition called hypothyroidism. However, if you're prone to blemishes you may want to monitor your intake of iodine-dense foods. Iodine is essential for healthy skin, hair, and nails, but there is some evidence that warns extremely high intakes can aggravate blemish-prone skin. Concentrated sources of iodine include kelp, sea vegetables, iodized salt, cod, shrimp, and milk.
Omega-6s and inflammation
The Western diet is concentrated in omega-6 fatty acids (corn, safflower, and canola oils), and due to our over-reliance on fast foods, many people get far more omega-6 fatty acids (over omega-3 fatty acids) that promote inflammation in the body and eventually reach the skin. Minimize your intake of omega-6-rich oils and processed foods and, instead, offset the imbalance with omega-3-rich foods and supplements.
Be wary of high-allergen foods
Food allergies can play a large role in blemished skin. When the body is allergic to a certain food it can be a toxic cycle in which the immune system fights the invading food, and in response, creates inflammation in the body and skin. Dairy proteins, glutinous grains, and refined sugars tend to be the worst offenders. If you suspect a specific food is aggravating your skin, eliminate it for four weeks and see if your skin improves.
A combination of lifestyle and nutritional changes, along with the addition of supplements (vitamins, minerals, herbs, omega-3 fatty acids), can be effective in clearing the skin, improving immunity, decreasing stress, and supporting your overall health.
Ready to learn more about how gut health is the foundation for the health of your entire body? Register now for our FREE Functional Nutrition Webinar with Dr. Vincent Pedre.