Blemishes effect 8 in 10 people aged 11-30 years with acne being the most common skin condition globally. Acne affects people of all ages and it is now becoming more common particularly in women during their 20s/30s and even 40s. However, despite it being so common, it is also one of the least understood skin conditions. Too often it is treated purely with medications rather than any investigation into diet.
The foods we eat have a direct impact on our skin, however, we have had it drilled into us that acne is caused by hormones or genetics and there is nothing we can do about it. Whilst in some cases this may be true, it is not the same for everyone. Consuming an anti-inflammatory, healthy and balanced diet can help to control and in some cases, even eradicate acne.
The link between acne and diet is becoming clearer. Certain foods can cause our blood sugar to soar which triggers the body to produce the hormone insulin. Other foods contain hormones that can stimulate the oil glands in the skin, creating a hormonal imbalance, and different fatty acids can cause inflammation in the skin or dampen it.
Blemish Busting Nutrients
Plants are brimming with anti-inflammatory and skin healing nutrients that are significantly beneficial for the health of our skin. By plants, I do not mean just vegetables and fruits but also nuts, legumes, seeds, grains, herbs and spices – all of which ‘feed’ our skin. Below is a list of specific nutrients that promote cell repair, reduce inflammation, help prevent blocked pores, reduce stress, and prevent sebum oxidation…all of which contribute to preventing and curing acne.
hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, cashews, chia seeds, quinoa, lentils
brazil nuts, sesame seeds, chia seeds, sunflower seeds, mushrooms, whole-wheat pasta
brazil nuts, quinoa, spinach, pumpkin seeds, lentils, brown rice
sunflower seeds, almonds, pumpkin seeds, pine nuts, avocado, kiwi
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Research has suggested countries whose diets are rich in foods containing omega-3 fatty acids, have lower rates of acne. Omega-3 fatty acids are anti-inflammatory, compared to omega-6 fatty acids which are inflammatory.
Chia seeds are a great source of omega-3 fatty acids as well as protein, calcium, fibre, zinc, iron and are great at reducing inflammation within the body and skin.
Healthy Digestion & Probiotics
A healthy digestive tract is essential for a healthy skin. Whilst an insufficient supply of key nutrients can affect the skin so can poor digestion and absorption. Even if you are consuming a healthy and balanced diet but are not digesting it properly, you will not be getting the nutrients that you need.
Beneficial gut bacteria can work wonders for blemishes and other inflammatory skin conditions. Probiotics contain ‘good’ bacteria and are beneficial for our digestive health which is directly linked to our skin. They can also help to improve liver function, vitamin synthesis and absorption and increase energy. The ideal time to take probiotics is first thing in the morning before consuming any food for optimal digestion.
Processed foods such as white bread, crisps, biscuits, breakfast cereals can contribute to an acne flare up. A diet free from trans fats, inflammatory additives and vegetable oils is KEY for keeping our skin clear.
High glycaemic foods such as white rice, cookies, cakes, chips, white spaghetti or concentrated orange juice, can trigger an insulin spike and raise blood sugar levels leading to hormone fluctuations and inflammation.
Refined sugar found in chocolate, cakes, canned fruits, ready-made pasta sauces and fizzy drinks can cause blood sugar levels to spike and can contribute to a break out.
Certain research has also suggested that the natural hormones found within dairy produce can lead to a hormonal imbalance leading to an eruption. Great alternatives are almond milk and nutritional yeast which can also be used a replacement for cheese.
*If you do decide to remove dairy completely, then you must ensure you are receiving enough calcium per day through consuming 2x tbsp of chia seeds daily*
If you are suffering with acne, then before trying out any strong medications, look at your diet to see if there are any foods that you could reduce or eradicate using the advice above. Remember 25% of all bodily waste (for example any greasy foods we consume) exits the body via the skin!