How diet can improve your skin!
Your skin is the largest organ in the body with the cells being renewed every few weeks. It is the only organ that we can actually see and reflects our internal health. Acne is a symptom of an internal imbalance and as with any health issue we need to get to the root cause of that imbalance and heal from within, rather than just masking the symptoms by slathering on creams and ointments.
Hormonal effects of acne
Cyclical breakouts tend to be hormone related. Certainly one of the main triggers for teenage acne is the onset of puberty. What happens is that the androgens that will peak at this time actually increase the amount of sebum, an oil produced by the sebaceous glands on the surface of the skin, which then blocks the pores in your skin. Hormones, including insulin, all influence the cause of acne by impacting sebum production.
Now insulin isn’t a baddie – we need insulin to get glucose into our cells for energy. The problems start when there is too much glucose in our system which has the knock-on effect of too much insulin. Long term this can lead to type 2 diabetes which is why we need to eat low Glycaemic Index foods (see below).
Women suffering from polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) sometimes suffer from acne and spots on the cheeks, jawline, neck and back: areas that tend to indicate that our hormones are out of whack.
Oestrogen affects skin health by reducing the fatty content and amount of sebum. Oestrogens also affect skin thickness and moisture, so at the onset of the menopause the skin loses approximately 13% thickness per year post-menopause. Meaning the skin becomes thinner, frailer, dryer and more prone to wrinkles.
Progesterone can also cause problems in the second half of the menstrual cycle by interfering with oestrogen which increases the amount of sebum.
Diet can affect the health of your skin so let’s dig in….
The food that you are putting into your body has a direct impact on, not only your overall health, but also that of your skin. A breakout of acne on the forehead tends to indicate that there is an issue with the diet and gut.
Firstly you need to eat a glycaemic controlled diet: abnormal glucose control is absolutely associated with skin health and appearance. Reducing glycaemic load reduces the clinical symptoms of acne and the rate of sebum production. Diets low in processed foods and sugars are associated with low acne risk – no surprises there!
Therefore, reducing the amount of sugar in the diet is paramount. Chromium and niacin help balance glucose metabolism, improve glycaemic control and reduce insulin resistance. Organic broccoli is an excellent source of chromium. Niacin is found in poultry, organ meats, green leafy vegetables, salmon, tuna and mushrooms. Plus eat foods that contain zinc such as seafood, organ meats, seeds and nuts and green tea as zinc has an anti-inflammatory effect, improving healing.
Small tweaks to your diet can make the world of difference. One of the best things you can do for your skin is eat whole, nutrient dense foods which nourish your body and hormones. These foods include organ meats, organic fish and pasture fed meat, green leafy, sulphurous vegetables (broccoli, spinach, cauliflower, sprouts, and cabbage), nuts and seeds.
Dairy, especially milk, is one of the biggest food correlations with acne with milk. Milk consumption is also associated with an increase in circulating insulin growth factor-1 (IGF-1) which has an impact on sebum production.
There is a link between acne and gastro-intestinal distress. In particular bloating has been found to be a third more likely to be associated with acne. Acne has also been linked with hypochlorhydria (low stomach acid).
Small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) is very common, and has been found to be 10 times more prevalent in cases of acne rosacea. What tends to happen is that food is not digested properly and starts to ferment in the gut which damages the intestinal lining causing a problem known as leaky gut. We know that leaky gut can then lead to an immune reaction and systemic inflammation which is reflected in the skin, impairing skin integrity. It is therefore necessary to consider checking for food sensitivities; with a good place to start being gluten. We offer a food intolerance test here at The Hub so please let us know if you wish to find out more about this.
It has been found that gut microbiota can influence sebum. The ability of the gut microbiota and oral probiotics to influence systemic inflammation, oxidative stress and glycaemic control, may have important implications in skin conditions such as acne, rosacea, dermatitis and psoriasis.
Vegetable oils and foods high in trans-fats (such as processed baked goods) should be avoided at all costs. However, foods high in omega-3 reduce inflammatory prostaglandins, (chemical hormones that help regulate cell function. These foods include small, cold water fish such as salmon, halibut, sardines, sprats, mackerel and anchovies. Omega-3 oils are also present in walnuts, avocados and flaxseed oil.
Vitamins A, B5 and D modulate sebum production. These are found in carrots, sweet potato, apricots; plus avocado, sunflower seeds, organ meats, mushrooms, salmon, eggs, lentils, yoghurt and broccoli. Getting out in the sunshine will also help (when we eventually get some!).
Probiotics can also be used therapeutically with skin conditions. A study showed that a lactobacillus fermented dairy beverage improved clinical aspects of acne over 12 weeks. There are also multiple studies looking at acne and the use of dairy free acidophilus giving good positive results. It is, therefore, advisable to take a good probiotic on a daily basis.
Finally on the subject of diet, good hydration is an absolute must. Drinking water flushes toxins from the body and hydrates the skin from within.
Have an amazing April