5 Ways Diet Can Contribute to Acne

5 Ways Diet Can Contribute to Acne

We take a holistic approach to addressing acne. Whether it’s the ingredients in your skincare products, the foods you’re eating, or how you’re managing your stress levels, we know that acne is so much more than skin deep. That’s why we’re sharing some advice from one of our clients, Jessica Marcus—an acne success story, who happens to be a registered dietitian nutritionist. Read more on Jessica’s personal acne journey and why she believes diet to be a critical asset to everyone’s skincare regimen.

Like many moms-to-be, a couple years ago when I was expecting my third child I decided to “go green” with the products I was using. While I was quite loyal to my anti-acne regimen, I doubled down and swapped it all out for an organic oil-based product line. Big mistake. My skin reacted with painful, embarrassing breakouts and cystic acne. I felt defeated – what I thought was the right thing to do was actually very wrong.

I became a frequent flyer at my dermatologist where I received multiple steroid injections, harsh topical creams and prescriptions, yet I saw minimal results. In one of my desperate google searches, I came across the glowing reviews of the Acne Specialists of Oakland (ASO) and made an appointment without hesitation.

During my very first visit, I felt immense relief and hope knowing I had finally found a team that approached skincare from the root cause. After just a few weeks of working with ASO, and following their simple, logical approach, my skin started clearing up! While I still get the occasional break out, I’m clearer than I’ve ever been. It feels so good to be comfortable in my own skin again.

In addition to ASO’s effective and simply-formulated products and straightforward facials, I have also found certain changes in my diet to be critical to maintaining clear skin. And through my work as a functional nutritionist, I’m learning that the link between our diets and our skin cannot be overstated.

The gastrointestinal tract is a massive tube (about 30 feet long!) that is directly exposed to the outside world through the foods we consume. What we eat has the power to heal, or the power to harm. Choose. Wisely.

It can take a bit of detective work to figure out how your unique diet affects your skin, but five of the most common culprits include:

1.    Food intolerances & allergies: such as to dairy, gluten, and fructose.

2.    Gut dysbiosis: an imbalance of microbes in the intestines can cause leaky gut and inflammation, leading to conditions like IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) or SIBO (small intestine bacterial overgrowth).

3.    Nutrient deficiencies: such as B-vitamins, zinc, iron and omega-3 fats, which are common deficiencies in vegetarian and vegan diets.

4.    Hormonal imbalances: improper cycling of estrogens and other hormones can lead to the overproduction of sebum (think: PCOS, or polycystic ovarian syndrome).

5.    Blood sugar imbalances: a rise in blood glucose and, subsequently, insulin can cause an increase in androgens and inflammation, both of which worsen acne.

From an ancestral perspective, humans evolved over millions of years to thrive on the whole foods found in nature (think: fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, wild game and seafood). The modern food supply in the US and other industrialized countries has introduced a barrage of refined sugars, processed carb-y snacks, inflammatory fats, preservatives, colors and flavors, as well as meat and dairy products from animals raised with hormones and antibiotics. Our bodies simply weren’t designed to handle these so-called “foods”. Consuming them can cause inflammation levels to spike as our immune systems fight off the foreign substances, and this inflammation can exacerbate acne and other skin conditions.

The good news is that, along with a supportive skincare routine, choosing a clean whole foods anti-inflammatory diet, eliminating food intolerances, and restoring gut balance can have dramatic results and allow our skin to heal and glow from the inside out. 

While my personal interest in good skincare is driven by a generous dose of vanity, I have learned that the way our skin looks says a lot about what’s going on inside our bodies. It can signal imbalances that, if unaddressed, could lead to other more serious health problems down the road.

If you suspect you have gut or hormonal imbalances or just want to learn how to clean up your diet and incorporate more real, wholesome nutrient-dense foods, find a nutrition or healthcare professional who can help you get your body back in balance.

Here are some ways you can start improving your diet today:

  • Drink enough water. Water is essential for flushing toxins and waste from your body. Aim to drink ½ to 1 ounce for every pound of body weight. (ex. If you weigh 150 lbs, drink 75-150 oz of water per day)
  • Aim for at least 6 cups of non-starchy vegetables per day, and be sure to include dark leafy greens like kale, arugula, and spinach, as well as sulfur-rich veggies like onions, garlic and broccoli. This will help your body detoxify waste products and heavy metals.
  • Focus on deeply colored fruits like blueberries, raspberries, blackberries and strawberries, which contain antioxidants that neutralize free radicals and reduce inflammation. 
  • Include cold water fatty fish and seafood like sardines, salmon, halibut, and mussels 2-3x per week, or consider supplementing. The omega-3 fatty acids unique to marine sources help control inflammation.
  • Cut back on sugar, refined carbohydrates (like bread, muffins, pastries, pretzels, muffins, and crackers), caffeine, alcohol, fried and processed foods.
  • Consider a trial elimination diet, excluding dairy, gluten, soy, corn and any suspected intolerances for at least 6 weeks to identify your triggers.

Jessica Marcus, MS, RDN is a registered dietitian nutritionist and health coach. She’s also an endlessly curious home cook, and as a mom of 3, she is always looking for easier ways to get a great wholesome meal on the table. Her functional nutrition practice is focused on finding the root causes of chronic conditions and using food as medicine. Visit her website and blog at www.JessicaMarcusRD.com, follow her on Instagram @JessicaMarcusRD, or schedule a consultation by emailing her at JessicaMarcusRD@gmail.com.

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