From famous celebrities like Selena Gomez and Kendall Jenner to even the newest Spider-Man, Tom Holland himself, the grips of acne have proven to hold many hostage far and wide. In fact, clinical studies indicate that between 40 and 55 percent of the adult population ages 20 to 40 are diagnosed with low grade, persistent acne and oily skin. In other words, you are not alone.
Acne is a skin condition typically caused by excess oil production, clogged hair follicles, bacteria, and inflammation. A variety of associations are known to influence these factors, such as stress, medications, hormonal changes, and diet. Though some would advocate for expensive topical creams or potentially damaging medications, we here at Acne Natural Healing believe that the road to a glowing outside starts from within. Okay yes, a kind heart is important, but we were thinking more along the lines of the squishy, squirmy, churny parts. That’s right! We want to fuel and strengthen our amazing gastrointestinal system! Since we don’t want to continue putting things inside of us we were never built to ingest, we have researched and compiled for you instead, 5 ALL-NATURAL diet tips to help prevent and curb acne. All based on SCIENCE, of course!
1. REMOVE THE REFINED CARBOHYDRATES
Refined carbohydrates are sugars and grains that have been stripped of all bran, fiber, and nutrients. Foods rich in refined carbohydrates include all the yummy and addicting stuff – white bread, pizza dough, pasta, white rice, sweet desserts, and rice cakes.
The problem with refined carbs, however, has to do with a small but fierce hormone we call insulin. Refined carbs, along with sugary soft drinks, have a high glycemic load, which pretty much means our bodies will break them down really quickly and thus cause rapid increases in our blood glucose levels. Normally, insulin will then be released by our pancreas to bring down these levels, however, too much insulin at a time can wreak havoc and trigger drastic increases in IGF-1 production which is known to make our skin cells grow more quickly and boost oil production.
Instead of choosing these food-coma inducing and acne triggering refined carbs, we can opt for more whole-grain foods! We don’t have to be deprived of all those yummy carbs our body and brain need for fuel. It may taste a little different at first, but over time, you’ll wonder how you ever could have eaten anything else! You can find whole-grain versions of rice, bread, cereal, flour, and pasta at most grocery stores. Tell those refined carbs to get out of our status quo!
2. STOP WITH THE GREASE
It’s a hot summer day, and though our generation may not be quite familiar with the romance of Danny and Sandy in the 1978 musical, we sure are familiar with the romance of another great American paring – French fries and milkshakes! Unfortunately, I got some bad news for ya. These foods are dripping (literally) with potentially life threatening saturated fats and an unhealthy amount of omega-6 fatty acids!
Don’t get me wrong, I love me some crispy fries every now and then, but our typical “western diet” tends to go too far! Studies have indicated that our low fiber-high fat diet may aggravate acne by raising insulin and IGF-1 levels. Furthermore, it has been associated with the thinning of important gut lining bacteria and increased inflammation! Do not be misled though that all oils are bad for your skin. Both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are necessary and even beneficial. They improve elasticity, moisture, and flexibility! In fact, dry, itchy, scaly skin can often be a sign of fatty acid deficiency. However, our “western diet” typically includes way more omega-6 fatty acids, which when consumed in excess, increases inflammation, than omega-3 fatty acids. All in all, like many things in life, too much of anything is never a good thing.
Let’s try to incorporate more ways to add omega-3 fatty acids into our diet! Some popular meat options are fish such as salmon, herring, mackerel, sardines, and anchovies. Plant based diets can include hemp seeds, chia seeds, walnuts, and flax seeds.
3. ADD FRUITS & VEGGIES: “TASTE THE RAINBOW” ™
You know them, you will love them, it’s time to incorporate more of them! What can be more natural, than fruits and vegetables! Vitamins A, E, and minerals, especially zinc, have been proven to influence skin hydration, nutrient absorption, and inflammation. In acne, bacteria, excess oil, and skin cells break through the wall of the pore beneath the skin’s surface. The body’s immune system responds by combating the bacteria, which causes inflammation. This inflammation leads to the characteristically typical redness, swelling, pain, and blemishes. Incorporating a wide variety of different colored fresh fruits and vegetables, all with different types of vitamins and minerals, into your daily diet can help mitigate and control our body’s natural immune response!
4. CUT THE CHEESE! No, not like that…
What is the deal with dairy? Though there has been no conclusive study so far to determine whether dairy directly influences acne development, there have been studies that suggest that dairy can increase insulin levels and produce more IGF-1. Milk and dairy products consumed in the United States come from pregnant cows. This means they contain a significant amount of hormones, which can also further aggravate acne development. However, we should be careful about this one since the vitamin D and the calcium contained in milk are crucial for many functions of the body, especially in women. But overall, we would say opt for less dairy and add more berries!
5. RECRUIT GUT SOLDIERS: SAY HELLO TO PROBIOTICS!!!
Spoiler alert: after searching high and low, the verdict is in. We are not alone in the universe. Or at least, not alone, even when we think we are. Welcome, fellow human, to the wonderful world of the gut microbiota. The gut microbiota is pretty much a big fancy science-y word for all the trillions of different microscopic organisms that reside in our gastrointestinal tract. These little creatures do everything from breaking down indigestible foods to regulating our immune system!
Probiotics are good bacteria for the gut. Upon ingestion, they provide a protective shield across the intestinal mucosa which has been linked to reduce inflammation and improve acne by regulating IGF-1 levels. Some foods with lots of natural probiotics are sauerkraut, yogurt, kefir, and fermented veggies such as one near and dear to my heart (not to mention gut), kimchi! Prebiotics, in a nutshell, are the food for those bacteria that can stimulate their growth and activity. Foods with prebiotics include fiber rich foods, garlic, onions, asparagus, apples, and oats.
Our little foreign friends improve our lives, clear our skin, and help get the gut job done! Did you know that there are 10 times more microbial cells in and on you than human cells? There’s more of them inside of you, than you yourself inside of you! If you ever feel like the universe is against you, just remember, there are trillions of little creatures inside of you rooting for you every step of the way!
Well there ya go! The mantra to eat more fresh fruits and veggies, lean proteins, and whole-grain carbs holds true time and time again! Change is definitely not easy – in fact, I have learned that our homeostasis loving bodies do not like it too and will do everything in its willpower to make you stick to your routines. Don’t be discouraged too soon! On average, it may take about 12 weeks of change to start seeing visible results.
Chronic acne is no easy matter to deal with. I know how debilitating to our everyday normal lives it can be causing serious self-esteem issues not to mention extreme pain and damage. It’s so stressful to add yet another thing to worry about in our ever-growing list of things to do! It IS a disease. And like any other disease, it is often merciless and sometimes completely random too. It is not your fault and it certainly does not make you any less worthy.
I hope, overtime, in these small, progressive, habit building changes we can learn to take care and love our bodies for the amazing machines they are that breathe and move and think and love. I hope we can look at this change in diet as not just another checklist, but something we do because we love it, we feel good about it, we may have glowing skin as a result, but most importantly, because we know it is fueling our bodies in just the right ways.