Beauty Tips & Tricks

Take Care – Skin Step by Step

You Need to Know How Diet Can Actually Help Clear Your Acne

14 Feb, 2017
By By Daniela Massenz
Acne is a skin issue that can continue to raise its ugly head from our teens well in to our twenties, thirties, forties, and even up to menopause these days. Why is that? And solutions to the problem may come from surprising areas like your diet...
Spot the causes
Oily skin and acne are considered the bummer bit of being a teenager, but an increasing number of people way beyond the down slope of thirty have spots or fullblown acne, which is equally as embarrassing and traumatic for the 'victim' as it was for her (or his) teen self.
We know that teen acne is caused largely by an overproduction of sebum (oil) due to hormonal fluctuations as our body finds its balance on its journey to adulthood. So it's really not fair that we get through this stage and find we're still experiencing break-outs.

What is a pimple?

A pimple is formed when oil is blocked inside a hair follicle by surface skin cells. Acne bacteria breed in this perfect climate, which irritates the follicle, causing the redness and swelling we all know and hate. Scientists have increasingly come to the conclusion that the best approach is to treat the problem from within.
Dermatologists say there is a steady increase in the number of adult acne patients they see. Why, oh why, is this happening? It's down to those pesky hormones again. One cause of adult acne, it's believed, is chronic stress, which causes the ongoing release of cortisol into the body. This stimulates the production of androgens - the so-called male hormone testoserone. [A little bio lesson: women and men both produce oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone.] In women, testosterone causes an increased production of sebum which, in turn, causes acne.
Then there are the hard, red, painful eyesores that erupt on our chin (and/or neck and back) just before we get our period. That's because our oestrogen levels plummet in this, er, period, while our testosterone levels remain the same, and hey presto... there it is!

We can aggravate our problems by not cleaning our skin properly, using dirty make-up brushes, not cleaning our cellphone regularly, etc., which transfer acne-causing bacteria to our faces.
Related: All About Acne: Myths, Facts and Best Advice
But wait! There's more!
There is also the still-controversial, but increasingly accepted, theory about our diet causing zits. Once upon a time, we believed that zits were caused by eating junk food, then a study was done which concluded that there was no connection between what we eat and pimples. Now it appears they may have got it wrong...

Your sweet tooth could be causing the problem.

Dr. Nicholas Perricone, the world-famous dermatologist and author of the book The Clear Skin Prescription, explains that acne is a form of inflammation... as in those red, inflamed bumps... and the best way to treat pimples is by adopting an anti-inflammatory diet. See Perricone's 3-day clear skin kick start diet here and his list of all the 'good' and 'bad' foods in the box at the end of this article.
Sugar is considered a major no-no because it raises your blood sugar level and is inflammatory. And increasing evidence shows a link between raised blood sugar boosting those oil-triggering male hormones. Which is why swapping high-glycaemic foods (sweets, white bread, rice, salty snacks etc.) for low-glycaemic options - complex carbs like whole grains which break down more slowly in the body causing less of a blood sugar spike, is the way to go. It goes without saying that this is much healthier for you generally. 

Be (possibly) wary of dairy

A few studies have linked certain types of cow's milk with a higher chance of developing blemishes. A Harvard study in 2005 of 47 000 women found that those who drank skimmed milk were 44 percent more likely to break out. The theory proposed that androgen hormones used in dairy livestock was transferred to the dairy drinker. But a 2016 study shows a direct link between skim milk and acne - the 225 teen participants with acne drank much higher quantities of low- and non-fat milk than those with clearer skin. The thought is that the way the milk is processed to remove the fat increases levels of the hormones that cause spots.  But before you stop drinking milk - which is a good source of calcium and nutrients - consider whether this really does affect you, and try swapping the low- and no-fat version for full-fat, organic milk.

Iodine can be a culprit

The one nutrient you should be careful about is iodine. Consume it in moderation, which means not overindulging in seafood like prawns, crayfish and crab, sorry!  - keep them as an occasional treat. You can get sufficient iodine from spinach and kelp (try a kelp supplement) for your body's needs.

Gut to know

Over the past few years, we've increasingly seen the importance for our general health of maintaining a healthy gut with good bacteria, because our gut is where we absorb nutrients into our body and it needs to work efficiently. In an interview with the website Well and Good's integrative nutritionist-slash-women's hormone expert, Alisa Vitti, explains that 'a certain set of your gut bacteria (known as the estrobolome) is responsible for one very important hormonal function: metabolizing oestrogen. When the flora in our gut (the microbiome) becomes unbalanced, our gut struggles to digest nutrients, becomes reactive to certain foods, and it can't metabolise oestrogen, Vitti explains. This can contribute to heavy periods, PMS symptoms, bloating, acne, weight gain, and so on.
She fingers dairy, sugar and gluten as major culprits of this bacterial unbalance. Antibiotics should only be used when absolutely necessary as they wipe out both the good and bad bacteria in our body, and always use pre- and probiotics to repopulate the good bacteria.
Vitti also says birth control pills can eliminate the good bacteria, and possibly consider looking at alternative methods of birth control.
So how do you keep your gut in balance? Vitti advises...
  • Make probiotics part of your daily diet. If you're going to rebalance your gut, you need to populate it with good bacteria. Look for good quality supplements. We recommend Solal Probiotic Maximum Potency. Also start eating more probiotic-rich fermented foods like kombucha (fermented tea), water and milk kefir, live yoghurt with Howaru cultures (Woolies yoghurts, etc.), kimchi (spicy Korean fermented cabbage) and sauerkraut (German pickled cabbage).
  • Load up on prebiotics, too. Prebiotics are plant fibres from leafy greens and root vegetables that those good bacteria break down and feed on to keep them working well. Biogen Pre- & Pro-Biotic supplement offers both benefits in one.
Related: Expert Advice On How to Finally Get Rid of Your Acne

If you want a little more good advice on how to get rid of acne naturally, the website ‘7 Simple Natural Ways To Get Rid Of Acne Forever’ points out all the food triggers you should watch out for in addition to offering some practical, down-to-earth good health tips.

Perricone’s list

The 'good' foods

Fantastic foods that taste great, do wonders for your skin and help fight acne!
  • Omega-3 fats (in salmon, oily fish, flaxseed oil and walnuts) counter inflammation. Combined with avocados, seeds, nuts, they help skin to build and repair cell membranes, maintain cellular processes and counteract dryness.
  • Good protein (from fish, chicken, turkey, eggs, tofu) is also important.
  • The healthy choices. Almonds, apples, artichokes, asparagus, barley, beans, bean sprouts, berries, bok choy, brazil nuts, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, cherries, chickpeas, Chinese cabbage, cucumbers, eggplant, endive, fish and shellfish, flaxseed, greenpeppers, hazelnuts, honeydew melon, kale, kidney beans, lentils, macadamia nuts, mushrooms, oatmeal, oats, olive oil, olives, oysters, pears, pecans, pomegranate, pumpkin seeds, red bell peppers, romaine lettuce, salmon, snow peas, soy products, spinach, sunflower seeds, sweet melon, tomatoes, turkey, turnips, watercress, yogurt.
  • Water, of course. Either still mineral water or purified tap water, at least one-and-a-half litres a day.
  • Green tea - although it has a small amount of caffeine, its super-antioxidant polyphenols make it a great drink for skin.
  • Mint - If you suffer from hormonal acne, studies have shown that spearmint tea or juice can help. Always Healthy Living in a feature on how to use mint leaves for acne give you all the gen on what it does as well as some tips on how to make some yummy mint drinks. The bonus? Its anti-bacterial, anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties also make it great for DIY face masks.

The 'bad' foods

  • Inflammation-inducing foods to avoid. Breads and biscuits, bananas, cake, cereals, chips, corn, cornstarch, corn syrup, cream cheese, doughnuts, dried fruit, fizzy drinks, flour, fried food, fruit juices, granola, hard cheese (except Parmesan), honey, hot dogs, ice cream, frozen yogurt, jam, jelly, preserves, mango, margarine, molasses, muffins, noodles, pancakes, papaya, pasta, pastry, peas, pizza, popcorn, potatoes, pudding, relish, rice, snack food, sorbets, sugar, sweets, tacos, tortillas, waffles.
  • Cut out coffee! At least while you're sorting out your body, and then try to avoid it as much as possible afterwards. Besides triggering inflammation (showing up as dark circles, puffiness, reactive skin), it contains a number of organic acids that affect blood sugar and cortisol (the 'stress' hormone) levels. This is not due to the caffeine, says Perricone, 'For example, you can drink a cup of decaffeinated coffee at 8am, and your cortisol levels will still be measurable at 10pm - the same if you had drunk regular coffee.'

We would like to thank Nuria for contacting us about the best healthy and natural diet for acne prone skin which prompted this article. If you have any problems or issues you would like us to cover, you are more than welcome to send them through to us here. We would love to help you out as well.

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