The acne diet connection is extremely complicated.
There are no clear-cut answers to that question.
Diet has a significant effect on acne. And chances are you must change your diet, if you want to get rid of acne naturally. That said diet is just one part of the acne puzzle and diet alone may not be enough to clear acne.
Dermatologists often say diet has nothing to do with acne. And diet is often listed as a myth in acne books and websites.
However you should know that those statements are based on two flawed studies done in late sixties and early seventies. Those studies were so badly flawed that they prove absolutely nothing. They would have not accepted for publication today. And later studies point towards a clear link between diet and acne.
So when dermatologists say diet doesn’t cause acne they are simply repeating a well accepted dogma. It has nothing to do with science. I covered this in detail at origins of acne diet myth article.
Before we get to using diet to cure acne you need to understand how diet causes acne.
How diet causes acne
In the what causes acne page I explained that acne is a result of blood sugar problems and inflammation. Diet can affect both. In fact, diet is one of the main factors behind both of them.
Diet and blood sugar problems
When your blood sugar levels swing too much it triggers a hormonal reaction that leads to:
- Increased sebum production
- More dead skin cells
- Big lumps of dead skin cells
The main dietary causes of blood sugar problems are:
- Eating too much fat. When you eat a high-fat meal the fat goes into your bloodstream. It blocks insulin receptors in the cells and thus increases insulin resistance. Though this only becomes an issue when your fat intake goes above 35% to 40% of your total calorie intake.
- Eating high glycemic index (GI) foods. High GI foods lead to sharp increases in blood sugar levels. The body has to respond by releasing large quantities of insulin, which often leads to crash in blood sugar levels. This is mostly an issue with processed and refined foods. Whole foods in their natural state, such as potatoes and fruits are not such a problem.
- Eating too much. When you eat more calories than your body needs it converts the extra calories into fat. If this happens often the body develops insulin resistance to fight excess weight.
Diet and inflammation
Inflammation is the other big evil that leads to acne. Too much inflammation weakens the immune system and allows acne causing bacteria to overtake your skin.
The main dietary causes of inflammation are:
- Toxins and free radicals. Wrong diet can lead to leaky gut syndrome. It means the toxins from your gut leak into bloodstream. These toxins create free radicals that increase inflammation. I explained how this happens in how foods cause acne page.
- Food allergies and sensitivities. Eating foods you are allergic to triggers a response from the immune system (immune system response always means more inflammation). I cover this in more detail in acne and food allergies page. Gluten (wheat) sensitivity is a fairly common acne trigger, for more see gluten (wheat) and acne.
- Eating inflammatory foods. Certain foods lead to increases in pro-inflammatory hormones. Vegetable oils, refined sugar, wheat (and other grains), dairy products and processed meats are the worst.
- Chemicals in foods. The body treats preservatives, colors, additives and other chemicals in foods as toxins. They trigger an immune system response, which automatically leads to more inflammation. I covered some of the most dangerous ones in toxic chemicals in everyday foods page. As a rule all processed foods contain chemicals and increase inflammation.
- How milk causes acne.
- Acne and carbohydrates. Truth behind acne and carbohydrates. Do carbohydrates cause acne? Is low-carb diet the answer for acne? Find out here.
- Alcohol and acne: Does alcohol cause acne? Find out if your Saturday night drinking leads to Sunday morning breakouts.
Now that you understand how diet causes acne, let’s see how you can use diet to cure acne.
How to cure acne with diet
If you want to cure acne with diet you have two objectives:
- Maintain stable blood sugar levels
- Reduce inflammation
Maintaining stable blood sugar levels
To keep your blood sugar levels stable follow these two simple rules.
- Low fat.
- High fiber. Fiber in foods slows the absorption of sugar and helps to maintain stable blood sugar levels. Because of fiber most fruits, though high in sugar, don’t cause sudden spikes in blood sugar levels.
The simple rules for reducing inflammation with diet are.
- Avoid inflammatory foods.
- Get plenty of antioxidants. The body uses antioxidants to fight free radicals. Less free radicals, less inflammation. Fruits and vegetables are the best sources of antioxidants.
- Eat foods rich in omega 3 and other essential fatty acids. With antioxidants omega 3 fatty acids can fight free radicals and inflammation. Good sources of omega 3 fatty acids are salmon and other fatty fishes and flax seeds.
Putting it all together
To make it easy for you, I compiled few simple diet rules that help you to cure acne:
- Eat whole foods in their natural state. Especially eat lots of fruits and vegetables.
- Avoid processed foods (full of chemicals and low in fiber and nutrients.
- Avoid foods that cause acne. These are the most common foods that lead to acne.
- Keep oils and other overt fats at minimum.
Following those simple rules you can avoid most of the dietary complications with acne.
No discussion about diet and acne is complete without the unhealthy friend objection. Someone inevitably points out that they have a friend who eats the unhealthiest diet but doesn’t get acne. I cover the whole story at unhealthy friend objection page.
Finally, please remember that diet is only a part of the acne puzzle. Diet is often not enough to get you clear. Thinking you can cure acne with diet often leads to stress and frustration that may prevent you from getting clear. As this dangers of anti-acne diets article explains.
You need to attack acne from all sides. My book Clear for Life takes you by the hand and shows how to do this.