Hippocrates, the father of medicine stated “let food be your medicine and let medicine be your food”, which is certainly the case for your skin. Have you ever noticed that when you’ve been too busy to eat well for a while or you’ve had a few late nights of drinking with friends that your skin is affected? Perhaps it looks duller or feels less smooth, or perhaps you get break outs.
Acne as a teenager is often due in a large part to fluctuating hormones, however, acne as an adult is mostly due to the gut and what we put in it! Eating a well-balanced diet and drinking plenty of filtered water every day is imperative for overall health but there are certainly a few specific food items to pay close attention to in regards to minimising acne.
1. Zinc: There is some research to suggest a correlation between low zinc levels and the severity of acne. Zinc is necessary for hundreds of functions in the body including in our immune and digestive systems which are closely related to the health of our skin. Zinc is also an important co-factor for cell repair, proliferation and growth, meaning we need it for healing the wounds created from acne and reducing scars. Red meat, poultry and oysters are great sources of zinc, as well as nuts, seeds and legumes.
2. Sugar: There’s a lot of research proving the direct relationship between gut health and our skin, in particular with our microbiome. The healthy little microbes in our colon love to eat fibre from fresh fruit and vegetables, however, the not-so-healthy microbes, including yeasts such as candida love to feast on sugar! When the “bad” microbes start outnumbering the “good microbes” this is called dysbiosis. This state causes inflammation and impaired absorption of nutrients necessary for glowing skin. Some studies have suggested that high glycemic foods contribute to acne and this is most likely due to the relationship between insulin and androgen hormones which influence sebum production. Therefore, reducing or avoiding sugar and refined carbohydrates is advised.
3. Vitamin A: Some research has found low levels of Vitamin A in people with severe acne with studies showing supplementation with Vitamin A has shown to reduce the inflammatory markers associated with the bacteria known to cause acne. There are a lot of topical and ingestible retinol-based treatments for acne on the market, some with questionable safety long-term so ensure you are under the supervision of a practitioner if supplementing. There are also plant-based forms of Vitamin A called beta-carotenes which may have a beneficial effect on the skin due to their antioxidant function, however, it is the retinoids found in meat, eggs and seafood that can help with efficient cell growth and protecting the skin against sun damage.
4. Dairy: Just like gluten, a large portion of the population cannot tolerate dairy well and this is expressed differently for each person including the exacerbation of inflammatory conditions in the body such as acne. Numerous studies have found a correlation between dairy consumption and acne with some data suggesting frequency of dairy consumption impacts the severity of acne experienced. Some research suggests this may be due to the natural hormonal components within milk stimulating insulin like growth factor which in turn influences sebum production, resulting in acne. Experimenting with a dairy free diet for a while to see how this influences your skin could be a good place to start.
So as you can see, there are a lot of dietary factors that can influence skin health! By consuming the recommended daily intake of nutrients and water while simultaneously avoiding foods that exacerbate or contribute to acne you will be laying down some solid foundations for improving your skin.
If you need further advice on gut health or the right supplements for you, please book in for a consultation.