How Food Allergies Cause Acne

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Yes, food allergies can affect acne. They won’t cause acne, but they can trigger acne or aggravate existing acne.

In the what causes acne page I explained that acne is a result of insulin resistance and chronic, low-intensity inflammation. Please read it, if you haven’t already.

Inflammation is an immune system response. Food allergies activate the immune system and increase inflammation.

Note, I’m using the word food allergies here. But this same applies to food intolerances and sensitivities also. They all trigger an immune system response. Food allergies are just more severe than sensitivities and intolerances are. Most people are unaware of their food sensitivities because they don’t produce noticeable symptoms.

You get an allergic reaction when undigested (or incompletely digested) food particles enter the bloodstream. Your body doesn’t recognize these particles as food (since they are undigested instead of individual nutrients) and treats them as invaders (like bacteria and virus). The immune system attacks, which increases inflammation.

When you eat foods you are allergic often (most people do so at every meal) the immune system is activated all the time and the levels of inflammatory hormones go through the roof. For acne-prone individuals this can cause acne.

As an acne victims you should avoid the foods you are allergic or sensitive to. This can help you to cure your acne much faster.

This video talks more about food allegies and how they might ‘prime’ your immune system to be overactive. This is because allergies increase the levels of proinflammatory hormones.

How do you know which foods you are allergic to?

Good question. Here are few suggestions.

  • Avoid the common food allergies
  • Do a pulse test
  • Do a food allergy test

Common food allergens

Here’s the big eight of food allergies. They account for 90% of the food allergies in the US

  • Milk and dairy products
  • Egg allergy
  • Peanut allergy
  • Tree nuts
  • Seafood allergy
  • Shellfish allergy
  • Soy
  • Wheat

From a physiological point of view all humans are allergic to at least milk and wheat. We do not have the enzymes to completely digest those foods. Hence whether you have been diagnosed with allergy or not, you are sensitive to those foods. It’s simply a physiological fact.

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Comments on How Food Allergies Cause Acne Leave a Comment

Anonymous @ 3:52 pm #

The worse my allergies get the worse my acne gets.

Hi I have been dealing with cronic hives for about a year now. I’m not allergic to anything but my own body. I’ve noticed that my acne is worse when my hives are worse (stress and hormones are the main reasons way my hives are bad).

As you can probably guess I have pretty bad acne because of all these allergic reactions that I have every day. At first I just had really bad acne and I didn’t know way it kept getting worse until the hives came. So just be cautious with allergies the longer you ignore them the worse they’ll be in the long run.

COMMENT BY SEPPO

Excellent point. And it’s the same with acne. The longer you ignore the root cause of acne the harder it is to get clear later on.

Jacob K @ 3:53 pm #

No more wheat and milk; no more cysts

I wanted to thank you for posting the topic of the not-goodnessicity of wheat and milk. I had HORRIBLE cystic acne and i had tried everything. Antibiotics, perscription washes, etc.

I knew it was a food related allergy or something of that nature. And after you told us about wheat i knew that’s what was causing my horrible breakouts.

That was a while ago, and since i have quit i have not had ONE cyst. i get occassional whiteheads but thats it. im currently going through some treatments for removing my scars, and i still follow all your diet advice. im extremly grateful for what your doing.

You were the factor that helped me get clear.

Jamie @ 4:11 pm #

Milk was causing acne and my eczema to come back.

When I was a baby I had eczema and my mother did not think anything of it.

I drank milk sometimes as a child, but when I was about 16 I started drinking milk all the time. My skin started breaking out really bad and my eczema that I had as a baby came back extremely bad.

Last year I stopped drinking milk all together and my skin was perfect. Now my skin is breaking out and eczema is back again because I have only been drinking milk for the past couple of months.

I honestly believe it is a milk allergy and I am going to get tested to make sure.

sadskin @ 8:10 am #

I got cystic acne at 30. Benzoyl peroxide used to help, but caused melasma. And now, when I try using BP for REALLY bad breakouts, it’s not very effective, and isn’t worth the immediate worsening of melasma. Couple years ago I tried cutting out wheat for a few days, and noticed my skin improved. Now I eat wheat very infrequently, and it SUCKS! But I’m on here because, despite eating almost no wheat, the cysts have come back and are NOT going away. I’m cutting back on dairy, but can’t imagine life without frozen yogurt, or my yogurt for breakfast. w/o wheat and dairy (and soy seems to affect my skin, too) What’s left?! Corn is supposed to be inflammatory, too. I can’t live on rice, fish and vegetables all the time!

honey @ 6:18 am #

Thanks for the info but seeing as there are so many foods that you cant eat i was wondering which foods can you eat and what foods would actually make acne disappear faster.This is really a nice post, great information.

Jessica @ 8:04 pm #

@Anonymous:

That is terrible that you can’t even prevent your allergies. The GAPS diet is a really astounding natural diet that can heal your body in amazing ways, so that might be something you want to look at. GAPS stands for Gut and Psychology Syndrome, and has been used to heal many different illnesses by resetting the body’s health.

Brad @ 11:38 am #

Hi Everyone,

I’m 28 years old and have always suffered acne from time to time. 80% of it is food related. I eat Snickers bars without a problem, but M&Ms are a killer, and I break out every time. I read the labeling, and one of the differences is STARCH, and so I think it may be the ingredient that makes the difference.

Hayyah @ 6:47 pm #

Hello,

I have suffered from bad acne for 20 years, even having taken accutane twice. I have recently discovered that multiple food sensitivities and my body’s reaction to sugar and caffeine is what causes my acne. An elimination diet wouldn’t have worked for me — I am not sensitive to any of the common allergens except corn and a small response to soy. Rather, I’m allergic to buckwheat, beans (esp. fava beans), asparagus, oats, rice, brewer’s yeast, coffee, cottage cheese, potatoes, and several other fruits and grains. Ironically, I’m perfectly fine with milk, eggs, seafood, wheat, and other common allergens. Hence, I really recommend getting an actual test performed by a D.O. or alternative doctor rather than attempting the elimination diet — I probably would have decided I wasn’t sensitive to any foods, since I probably wouldn’t have felt a difference.

I have eliminated about 80% of the offending foods from my diet in the past 3 weeks, and am experiencing a dramatic improvement in my skin. When I eat bread with yeast in it or consume sugar and caffeine, I get a few small red spots, but nothing like what Im used to. Water is also extremely beneficial. Hopefully this will help some of you.

Hayyah @ 6:48 pm #

You could be sensitive to corn (cornstarch). Corn is one of my biggest allergens.

Ted @ 1:47 pm #

So… eggs are ok to eat?

What about salt? How does that effect acne?

Hayyah @ 5:17 pm #

Ted, it depends on what you are personally allergic or sensitive or intolerant to. You’ll find people all over the internet saying to avoid food like wheat, dairy, eggs, etc., since they are common allergens, but that doesn’t actually mean you really are sensitive to them. I took a test and found I’m sensitive to about 15 foods — and none of them are the common ones (I’m fine with eggs, milk, wheat, seafood, etc., but not cabbage, asparagus, rice, etc.).

In my case, because I’m sensitive to so many, there’d be no way I could have found them on my own. I recommend going to a D.O. and getting a blood test.

I don’t know about iodine in salt, but overall, avoid table salt and take in natural, unrefined salt. With the mercury and now radiation in the ocean, use pink Himalayan salt.

I had very serious acne for 18 years, even with 2 bouts of accutane, and am from an acne-ridden family — and I’ve rid myself of it by avoiding my food allergens, cutting out sugar and caffeine, and drinking more water.

Hope that helps.

Ted @ 5:51 pm #

@Hayyah:

Hayyah,

Thanks so much for replying to me. Your info will be very helpful. I too, am effected for 20 years now. I’m 32 and still have this crap all over me. I’m glad I never tried the accutane. I’ve pretty much tried everything else, though.
I will take your advice and get a blood test.
Congrats on getting rid of it.

Thanks again,
Ted

Hayyah @ 6:42 pm #

No problem — I’m 31 and just cleared it. My mom died at 47 with duodenal cancer… and was still breaking out with cysts after a lifetime battle. I’m not trying to scare anyone, but I’m pretty sure her acne and duodenal cancer were related, via food sensitivities and candida (which are often inter-related). I found my sensitivities were affecting my immune system to the degree that I am now on the borderline of having an autoimmune disease.

Other things I found that will hopefully help:
– Test your vitamin D; vit D builds your immune system, which then affects autoimmune issues like allergies and the balance of candida/healthy bacteria, so it’s extremely important and far too many people are low.

– Soaking wheat flour overnight in water and some type of acid (yogurt/lemon) before making bread or whatever makes it digest more easily to the point where some people who normally have bad reactions can eat it (same with real, homemade sourdough bread) — look up Nourishing Traditions or Google ‘soaked wheat’ and ‘lacto-fermented sourdough’.

– Probiotics and fish oil help me tons. I’m now in Jordan, where I can’t find probiotic supplements, so I’m fermenting my own foods the old-fashioned way to get them.

– The e-book ‘Negative Calorie Foods’ has really healthy recipes which contain the veggies and herbs/spices that further clear my skin. I’m not saying everything in it is true or that the recipes always come out great, but the ingredients really help me.

– Aerobic exercise helps my skin tons, and I stopped washing my face. I put organic coconut oil on it, wait a few minutes, and gently wipe it off with a paper towel. No need to moisturize. Another gentle cleanser is ‘Deep Cleansing Oil from DHC (online). It’s mostly olive oil… and btw virgin oil olive helps me avoid break-outs in harsh weather, when my skin is irritated or dry (or when I’m sick and blow my nose a lot). I can’t rub my face or use commercial cleansers. Makes my cells over-proliferate and build up, and causes redness.

– I’ll use a Dead Sea mud mask on occasion for further exfoliation, or food masks I made myself. Straight lemon juice is great, too. (I rub the lemon on my face, which burns for a couple minutes, and then sleep with it.)

– If I don’t thoroughly brush my teeth /and/ floss at night, I can get break-outs around the mouth and chin (I know, gross). Oil pulling with unrefined sesame oil further helps me prevent this. The bad bacteria from our poor digestive systems can travel into our mouths and get on our skin.

– While food sensitivities were the final link, personally, my most important factors are: ***no caffeine (except some green tea)***, no sugar (except some raw honey), lots of purified water (often with lemon in it), and regular sleep (falling asleep before 10 pm is key, and preferably before 9 to really have healthy skin).

Hope that helps some more,

Hayyah

Hayyah @ 6:43 pm #

I meant *vit D builds your immune system, and too little can lead to autoimmune issues…*

Ted @ 5:54 pm #

@Hayyah:

Hayyah,

Hayyah, I can’t thank you enough for all of the info. I’m sorry to hear about what happened to your Mother. But that’s a wake up call to me, so it’s nice that you’re taking that and helping others with it, like myself.
You gave me a lot of helpful tips, and I’m going to keep them in mind for sure.
I’m going to try and get to bed by 10… we’ll see how that goes, ha ha.

Thanks, Ted

Acnesucks! @ 4:47 am #

You dont have to completely cut out wheat. You just have to eat it caution, and limited. I LOVE bread with all my heart and I still gravitate towards it every now and again. As for the yogurt, yogurt is an active bacteria, bacteria is also some of the things your immune system is trying to push out of your body, i would just try to find some serious self-control and eat yogurt like once every 2 weeks.

Acnesucks! @ 4:48 am #

Btw that was for sadskin

Tttt @ 3:59 am #

I have been on 7 cycles of accutane in my life. Jam now 40 and still break out with cystic I have had numerous tests for thyroid and testtosterone but nothing . I am starting to think it’s food. Could it be fish? Is there a blood test for this. I eat fish twice a day everyday. Jam allergic to chicken and turkey and need to find protein sources so that is why I eat so much fish. I live in the Midwest. Any help would be appreciated. This acne has ruined my life for 25 years.

nhpmom @ 2:41 am #

My daughter, who is now 19, has discovered that her acne, which she has had since she was in the 5th grade, is food-related. I am writing partly to vent and also to ask a couple questions. The venting part: She has been going to dermatologists for years, 3 in all, and not one ever suggested food allergies, in over ten years. Why does the medical community ignore this? It is obviously not uncommon…I feel like she has been a victim of medical neglect. Now the questions. She has been on a quasi-elimination diet for 2 months. Gluten and peanuts seem to be part of the problem. Her complexion is much better. She is not eating any grains, soy or milk. (expcept for popcorn and quinoa.) From what I’ve read, corn may be a bigger problem than rice. I guess my question is whether rice is a “safe” food in general. Also, what is meant by Probiotic supplements?

sarah-lee @ 9:02 am #

wow, what an amazing website to have stumbled upon, thankyou all for sharing your wealth of wisdom, so good to know you’re not alone in fighting acne. Especially seppo, what a contribution. Great man.

Dave @ 6:21 pm #

Cheese,Eggs,Yoghurt,Meat,Strawberries,Coconut all cause me cystic acne if i consume any of those within 24hrs i start getting huge red spots on my face.Weird I can drink milk with no effect my body.

GRETA @ 2:32 pm #

I READ EVERYWHERE THAT IODINE IS BAD FOR ACNE. SO THIS IS CRAZY, BUT WHEN I CUT OUT ALL ADDED SALT TO IMPROVE MY BONE MASS PROBLEM, MY ACNE STARTED TO FLARE UP. I ALREADY EAT A GLUTEN FREE, SUGAR FREE, WHEAT, SOY, EGG, DAIRY & CITRUS (LEMONS, ORANGES ETC) FREE DIET. NO PROCESSED FOOD, NO SIMPLE CARBS. OR JUNK FOOD ONLY SOME COMPLEX CARBS (DRY BEANS, SWEET POTATOES, QUINOA)LOTS OF APPLES, I EAT ONLY LEAN CHICKEN, TURKEY, CAN SALMON (RINSED OFF WITH WATER) AND MAYBE ONCE A WEEK LEAN BEEF. NO SALAD DRESSING. I USE SOME HERB AND VITAMIN SUPPLEMENTS, BUT NEVER IN THE OIL CAP FORM. I WAS DOING VERY WELL UNTIL … I HAD TO DRINK THAT TERRIBLE JUNK FOR A COLONOSCOPY…SEEMS LIKE EVERY PORE IN MY FACE WANTED TO FLARE UP… BUT THAT WAS 3 WEEKS AGO AND SHOULD BE OVER. JUST THIS WEEK I CUT OUT THE IODIZED SEA SALT AND NOTICE THE PAINFUL CYSTS RETURNING AROUND MY MOUTH AND CHIN, WHICH I THINK ARE HORMONAL. (HAD HYSTERECTOMY 5 YEARS AGO AND NOT ON HRT) I TRIED THINKING OF ANYTHING I WAS DOING AND EATING DIFFERENTLY AND CUTTING OUT THE SALT IS THE ONLY THING. COULD IT BE I NEED THE IODINE IN THE SALT FOR MY THYROID SINCE I DO NOT GET IODINE FROM ANY OTHER SOURCE ???????

Jessica @ 2:17 pm #

Greta – I would say that you need to eat more fat. It’s so difficult to have to cut out so many foods. I don’t know why the salt changed your skin condition, but in general for health, you need quite a bit of good fats to absorb nutrients from other foods. Good fats would be tallow, cold virgin olive oil (don’t heat), virgin coconut oil, and fats on meat like dark meat chicken, red meat, etc.

Good luck.

Kate @ 8:42 pm #

I wanted to order the book, I subscribed to ur email newsletter and attempted to order the book however it keeps requesting a zip code and I am from Canada. Is there any way for me to still order it?

Colleen @ 3:21 am #

It’s good to know I am not alone in the fight for clear skin. Since 7th grade I have had horrible acne, I’ve been on every antibiotic and accutane, I am now 25yrs old. Just 2 years ago I found out from a friend that food allergies may be to blame..

I had an allergy test done and turns out I’m allergic to (Wheat, Dairy, Eggs, Garlic (GARLIC IS IN EVERYTHING!!!!), Pecans, Cashews, Tea, Shell Fish, Potatoes, Coconut, Rye, Sesame, and Clams) SERIOUSLY eating at a restaurant with friends is hell on earth, I’m learning to find comfort in what foods I can still it, but is there anyway to cure food allergies!?!

I am so angry at my dermatologist for ignoring my symptoms that I tried explaining to her years ago and just upping my dosage or switching to a new drug.. Since I don’t trust dermo’s anymore, what else can I do to help my skin, it still flames up so bad, sadly I believe it’s from stress.. I have eliminated everything I’m allergic to except for cheese, I take Lactaid so I can digest dairy, I have no sickness to dairy when I take Lactaid, but could it still be causing break outs? Also, I’ve noticed if I do eat foods I’m allergic to I break out on my left cheek from from Garlic or Wheat, and my right breaks out from egg and dairy if I forget to take Lactaid.

What else can I do to get ride of stress, I’m financially broke and stuck at my miserable job, I’m trying to keep a positive outlook and find a new direction in life but I don’t know what else to do. Any support or info is greatly appreciated. Thank you!

Jessica @ 2:53 pm #

@Colleen: There is a diet called the GAPS diet that can cure food allergies. You can read about it at http://www.gapsdiet.com or http://www.gapsguide.com. A woman at http://www.cheeseslave.com does an online class on curing food allergies through the Gaps diet (a bit pricey, but her blog has lots of free info). Basically a person gets a leaky gut from stress, toxins, and an unhealthy diet (often it can be from overconsumption of sugar, or use of antibiotics that cause candidiasis which leads to a leaky gut). Then the food molecules that are leaking outside the digestive tract are treated like foreign substances and thats why you have an allergic reaction. The Gaps diet heals the gut, sealing it back up. You have to not just avoid the foods it tells you, but focus on eating homemade broth and fermented foods to heal.

Colleen @ 1:45 am #

Wow, this info is very helpful, I will look into this, thank you Jessica!

darren @ 12:28 pm #

wow!! i am so glad i have recently found out (about a week ago now) about possible allergys being the culprit responsible for my acne, so today i thought i would google it and came across this website with so so many possitive reaction’s.. for a long long while now i’ve been thinking there is alot more to my skin problem/acne than just plain old acne as it’s been going on for just far too long in my opinion, im a 31 year old male from the uk and i’ve suffered with severely bad acne and ingrown hairs primarily on my face and back/shoulders for the last part of 18 years.. i have just about tried every antibiotic known to man and im currently on my third course of accutane (much to the doctors dislike) but it’s still doing nothing to be honest, the first week of taking the accutane i was eating very little due to depression but within 5 days i noticed huge improvements but i just put it down to the accutane doing it’s job, however happiness was all too short and it came back with a vengeance even tho i am now still taking the accutane as we speak…. now i dont want to get my hopes up too much but now i strongly believe it could be because my diet changed, it was my girlfriend who first pointed out it could be a possible food allergy, altho i dont actually have anything possitive to respond yet this has given me much hope at the end of a very long dark tunnel, i have only begun to take this as being a serious solution to my problem as the doctor never ever mentioned diet being a factor.. i have a hospital appointment in 2 weeks and i will make sure i am tested to every food type known to mankind.. i will post back here with the results.. thanks

Jessica @ 1:04 pm #

Well, I actually finally tried avoiding everything I am allergic to, and my acne cleared up completely !! after 13 years of severe acne. It is actually a bit broken out right now anyway because I have been eating the allergic foods (primarily wheat and dairy – sounds like that’s a common one), but as soon as I have the self-control to keep it up again, I know my skin will be clear. Even acne that seemed to be from clothing, like bra lines, is clear because of the food. It must be that it makes you prone to breaking out from other things like that.
Good luck to all of you. For me the challenge of figuring out what it is is over, thank goodness, but the major challenge of controlling what I eat is just beginning. I will try the Gaps diet myself now to try to heal from some of this. I know it works, it’s just hard.

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