Having struggled with years of acne, I tried many products and prescriptions, and spent countless dollars trying to clear my skin. I finally got to the point where I needed to try a new strategy. There has been a wave of men and women on the internet discussing their success in healing their acne through the power of nutrition. Increasing my knowledge in how diet is connected with acne has empowered me to make lasting changes that brought real results.
Food is your medicine.
Acne is primarily a direct result of your digestion, balance in hormones, and level of stress. When we eat unhealthy foods, our digestive system becomes irritable, increasing inflammation and weakening the immune system. Our bodies becomes stressed, trying to function properly without the sufficient nutrients it needs. Certain foods can also affect hormonal balances. Depending on the person, our bodies may react differently when their is a lack of nutrition. Some people may gain weight, some may find themselves feeling sick frequently, and others may develop acne. There is a lot of advise out there – and it can be incredibly overwhelming! I have spent hours of research, and tried numerous approaches. The truth is that you need to heal from the inside out. There is no magical cleanser or prescription. You need to address the root of the problem: your health. Here is what has worked for me:
What foods to avoid:
- Heated oils
- Legumes (beans, peanuts)
- Processed foods
These foods, such as gluten and dairy, can increase inflammation – which can cause acne as well as other health problems such as fatigue, emotional stress, and immune deficiencies. Dairy also contains natural growth hormones (intended to help baby cows grow) which can disrupt our natural hormone balance.
Soy and legumes are common food sensitivities that contribute to irritating the digestive system. Soy acts like the hormone estrogen, which many people (including women) already have an overload of within their bodies due to various environmental reasons (such as drinking and eating out of plastic containers). Therefore, soy can cause hormones to be out of balance. An imbalance of hormones can also lead to acne.
Sugar has no nutritional value, and gives the body large amounts of calories, causing blood sugar to spike and the liver to work overtime. When the liver cannot flush sugar quick enough, the body will store sugar as fat or produce mucus to protect the body. Therefore, too much sugar will cause you to gain weight or lead to illness and allergies. Sugar also feeds the bad bacteria in the gut. We all have a little bit of bad bacteria, but when we have too much of the bad bacteria, the immune system suffers and we end up with too much yeast.
Most oils such as corn oil, peanut oil, vegetable oil, and even olive oil become rancid when heated. This is one of the main reasons why fried foods are so unhealthy. Rancid oils entering your body will cause your body to work hard to eliminate the toxins. I typically only cook with coconut oil since it is one of the rare oils that holds integrity when facing high temperatures.
Processed foods (from boxes, cans, and other packages) are typically stripped of natural nutrients. Many processed foods contain synthetic ingredients – you know, those ingredients you can’t even pronounce! They make your body work harder to filter out the toxins and keep your body feeling hungry since your body is not getting the nutrition it needs.
Avoiding all of these ingredients in your diet will not only help clear your acne, but will improve your overall health.
“Creative Commons Purple Cauliflowers at Hollywood Farmers Market” by Experience LA is licensed under CC BY 2.5
Foods that heal:
- Whole foods
- Dark, leafy greens (kale, spinach, romaine, collards)
- Healthy fats (good quality meats, unrefined extra virgin coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, nuts)
- A variety of seasonal vegetables
- Fermented foods (sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, yogurt)
- Plenty of water (filtered or spring)
Eating whole foods is the key to getting as much nutrition and healing power for your body. Our bodies are intended to eat a hunter/gatherer diet. Due to our history and evolution, our digestive system is best designed to consume animal protein and farmed fruits and vegetables. Foods that require processing (such as grains and processed food) can be taxing on our digestive system. Eating whole foods (foods in their natural state) will allow your body to best absorb nutrients. A good way to make sure you are eating a whole-food diet is to ask yourself, “Is the meat I am eating in an edible form as if it were hunted? Could I have picked these fruits and vegetables, gathered these nuts, etc?” Getting back to nature is key!
Dark, leafy greens is where you will get the most nutritional value for healing your acne. I typically eat a handful of greens blended with my morning smoothie for breakfast. Salads, stir-fries, and baked loafs (quiche, meatloaf, etc) are good methods of getting your greens as well.
Healthy sources of fat will give your body omegas, keeping your skin supple and glowing. Healthy fats keep you feeling full, and give you energy. I am a believer in eating good quality meats. This means that the quality of the animal’s diet as well as how they were treated impacts the quality of nutrition in the meat. When animals are not fed their natural diet, they become unhealthy. For example, when cows are fed corn, risk for ecoli is increased. When cows are fed grass, omegas are present in the meat. Contrary to popular beliefs, grass-fed beef can be more nutritious than poultry! Poorly treated animals produce stress hormones that stay present in the meat after they are processed. You end up ingesting all those stress hormones! I am a strong believer in buying meat from local farms that provide good quality of life for their animals. I suggest purchasing meat at a natural food market or the farmer’s market.
Vegetables that are in season, local, and organic will have the most nutrition. Produce that has traveled far before it reaches the grocery store will have depleted nutrients by the time it ends up on your dinner plate. Buy local and fresh whenever possible!
Fermented foods have natural probiotics in them. Probiotics are the key to increasing the good bacteria in your gut and strengthening your immune system. They also help reduce the effects of eating too much sugar. Super important!
Water, water, water! Keeping hydrated allows your body to cleanse itself. It keeps your skin elastic, helps decrease signs of aging, and keeps your pores naturally clean. If you are not staying hydrated, your pores are not able to easily flush toxins through your pores, thus clogging your pores. I try to drink at least 3/4 of a gallon per day. Drink natural spring water or filtered water.
For me, the trick to making changes to my diet came more easily when I focused on what I should be eating more of – versus worrying all the time about what not to eat. I tend to follow these guidelines 80% of the time, and the rest of the time I allow myself to “cheat” such as when I’m out to dinner, at the movies, or visiting friends who do not follow my choice of diet. Being too restrictive with your diet can cause stress – which will increase cortisol in your body and cause an imbalance in hormones – so don’t take yourself too seriously! Take small steps and give yourself the credit you deserve!
This is more than a change in diet – it is a change in lifestyle. Keep in mind that seeing results may take some time. Allow for at least a full month before seeing a decrease in acne. It took a long time for your skin to become the way it is, so it will take some time for it to heal. Stay strong!