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Take Control of Your Acne with a Healthy Diet

The relationship between diet and acne has long been contested, but more recent studies have shown what you eat can have both a direct and indirect effect on the health of your skin. New advances in dermatology help us understand the multifaceted nature of acne vulgaris and have led to innovative new treatments and approaches.

Acne has several main drivers that we need to explore when finding a solution:

    1. Skin microbiome
    2. Hormones
    3. Immune system
    4. Sebum production
    5. Cellular metabolism regulation deficiency or FOXO1 deficiency
    6. Deregulation of insulin-like growth factor
    7. Diet

As a registered dietitian, I focus on dietary intervention when addressing acne as there is increasing evidence to support nutrition as an effective treatment. Because an acne focused diet targets digestive health, immune health, and inflammation reduction, the overall health benefits are highly positive.

As an example, Stephanie is a client of mine who has suffered from bloating, gas, recurring diarrhea and cystic acne for as long as she can remember. After implementing her personalized dietary strategies targeted at improving her gastrointestinal microbiome and stabilizing her blood sugars, her bloating was dramatically reduced and her acne was greatly improved. She was so pleased, she said she “felt like a new person both inside and out.”

The skin-digestion connection

 The digestive system and the skin are two of the largest organ systems in the body and are both necessary for immune and neuroendocrine function. These systems have direct contact with the external environment and represent our first line of defense. For this reason, they both have microbes that we aim to keep balanced.

The microbiome influences the immune system, digestion, and metabolism. An unbalanced gastrointestinal system is associated with common skin disorders such as acne and eczema.

This bidirectional relationship or skin-gut axis is further demonstrated by the effect of ultraviolet rays. Exposure to vitamin D via UVB rays has been shown to increase the diversity of the gut microbiome. Diverse microbiome is the goal for both skin and the gastrointestinal system.

In order to achieve these healthy skin results, we focus on nutrients that support a healthy gut microbiome and reduce inflammation. This dietary focus will not only support skin health, but your immune system, mental health and, of course, digestive health.

Reduce foods that cause inflammation

Since acne is an inflammatory disease, prioritizing a reduction in inflammation is important for a successful outcome.

The top culprits for inflammation are high glycemic foods and foods high in saturated fats. Foods that are high on the glycemic index are often high in refined sugar and low in fiber, which causes blood sugar spikes and the release of excess hormones. We need to limit the consumption of these foods and prioritize low glycemic foods that contain healthy fiber and protein.

Increase foods that reduce inflammation and support a healthy immune system

    1. To further reduce inflammation, focus on soluble fiber. This type of fiber helps to stabilize blood sugars by forming a gel in your bowel that slows the absorption of fats and sugars into your bloodstream. Aim for 5 to 10 grams of soluble fiber per day. Good sources include: oatbran, barley, nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, chia seeds, apples, blueberries and more. Speak to your dietitian for a complete list of recommendations.
    2. Consuming Omega 3’s will also assist in inflammation reduction. Aim for 2 servings of cold-water fatty fish per week, such as salmon, mackerel or tuna, or include plant sources such as flax, walnuts and chia seeds.
    3. Zinc deficiency results in immune dysfunction and promotes systemic inflammation, so it’s important to consume enough. A great source of zinc are pumpkin seeds. Pumpkin seeds also contain selenium, another antioxidant.
    4. Choosing fruits and vegetables rich in color and variety supply antioxidants and phytochemicals. The main contributors are vitamin C, E and Polyphenols.
      • Ascorbic acid, or vitamin C, is a powerful antioxidant that supports collagen synthesis. Vitamin C also reduces tissue damage at inflammation sites, assisting wound healing and minimizing scar formation
      • Vitamin E is an antioxidant that supports skin hydration and has anti-inflammatory and anti-seborrheic effects. Dietary sources of Vitamin E include eggs, seeds, nuts, and olive oil.
      • Polyphenols are found in foods such as citrus fruit, apples, cocoa, onions, celery, tea, berries and coffee. Many polyphenols have antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and anticancer properties.
    5. Maintain healthy digestion through adequate hydration, prebiotic and probiotic foods and by leaving adequate time between meals for optimal digestion – this is typically 3 to 4 hours.
    6. Begin your clear skin journey

      If reducing or eliminating acne is your goal, supporting your journey through dietary changes is highly recommended. Your skin and your entire body will thank you!

      To get started:

      • Choose low glycemic foods and limit processed foods
      • Eat to support your gastrointestinal health by including prebiotics, probiotics and proper hydration
      • Reduce inflammation and support your immune system by including antioxidant rich foods, omega 3s and lots of fruits and vegetables

      Acne vulgaris has several drivers. For this reason, having an entire care team to support you will address your skin health from all angles. Dietary intervention is one important area that can improve acne symptoms, but you’ll see the best results when your drivers are treated together.


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