The eyes may be the windows to the soul, but the skin is a window to overall health. If you’re struggling with breakouts, you may want to consider how your diet and lifestyle may be contributing to your skin issues. By understanding its root causes and making changes to your dietary habits, you’ll be on your way to clearer, more healthy skin.
What Causes Acne? Many of us first experience the scourge of acne as teenagers when our bodies are flooded with estrogen and testosterone. Many women also experience acne related to hormonal imbalance during their menstrual cycles, and while surging levels of these hormones are a common contributor to acne, they’re not the only hormones responsible for breakouts.
Insulin, a master hormone generated in the pancreas, can also aggravate acne. When we eat a diet heavy in sugars and refined carbohydrates—aka, high-glycemic foods—the insulin level in our blood rises, stimulating the oil glands, and sending them into overdrive. Another aggravator includes Insulin-like Growth Factor (IGF-1), which elevates both testosterone and androstenedione levels and increases oil production.
If hormonal imbalances aren’t to blame, then poor gut health is the next likely culprit. Many factors contribute to degrading the delicate microbiome of the gut, including undetected food sensitivities, imbalances in gut flora, insufficient digestive enzymes, and regular consumption of inflammatory foods. Each of these chips away at overall gut health, leading to inflammation, poor nutrient absorption, troubled intestinal microbes, and leaky gut. When these toxins overwhelm the gut and have trouble being processed by the body’s natural detoxification processes, they wind up rearing their ugly whiteheads on your skin.
The One-Two Punch of Diet and Lifestyle Changes Topical treatments and prescription pills are often temporary fixes, leading to worse flare ups when they’re stopped. To truly tackle acne for good, your best bet is to start the healing from the inside out.
• Real, Whole Foods The biggest step in healing acne is changing your diet. Ditch the hormone-disrupting junk food and insulin-spiking sugary treats and instead load up on anti-inflammatory and low-glycemic foods such as dark leafy greens like spinach and kale; liver-supporting cruciferous veggies like broccoli and cauliflower; and a rainbow assortment of colorful and carotenoid-rich produce like carrots and tomatoes. Focus on healthy proteins like pastured meat and eggs, wild-caught fish, and healthy fats from avocados, olive oil, almonds, and walnuts. You may also consider adding antioxidant-rich ground flaxseed or flaxseed oil into your routine, as well as anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, and immune-boosting spices such as cinnamon, ginger, and turmeric.
• No Dairy or Gluten Though you may not be obviously lactose intolerant or have celiac disease, both dairy and gluten can aggravate the delicate lining of the gut and contribute to acne. Dairy can increase insulin and IGF-1 levels while gluten raises levels of zonulin—a protein that controls the permeability of the gut lining—even in those otherwise unaffected by gluten. Try eliminating both from your diet to see how their absence improves your skin.
• Supplement Though a better diet will naturally increase the micronutrients you get, supplements can be a powerful tool in your acne-fighting arsenal. Targeted supplementation of vitamins B, C, zinc, selenium, omega-3 fatty acids, probiotics and essential fatty acids (like those from evening primrose and borage oils) can improve your skin quality and reduce breakouts.
• Hydrate One of the best ways to support healthy liver function (your body’s main detox organ) is to drink water. After your liver processes toxins, it sends them back into the body for elimination either through sweat, urine, or bowel movements. Staying hydrated helps shuttle those toxins from your body quickly and efficiently, so aim to drink enough that your pee is almost clear.
• Sweat Another great way to help your body’s natural detoxification processes is to get sweaty. Regular exercise will not only help eliminate acne-causing toxins from the body, but it’s obviously a boon to your overall wellness, too. You may also want to consider a sweat session in an infrared sauna, though however you choose to get your sweat on, be sure to shower and cleanse afterwards so as not to clog pores and contribute to breakouts in a different way.
• Sleep Need another excuse to hit the sheets? Preventing acne may well be another good reason to get some quality rest. Lack of sleep elevates stress levels, in turn contributing to the overproduction of glucocorticoid, a steroid hormone that can lead to trouble with skin structure and function and ultimately lead to acne.
As you can see, concern about acne is more than a concern about vanity—it’s really a concern about your overall wellness. If you’re ready to change your diet and lifestyle and conquer acne, contact me to learn how my programs can help you.