What we eat has everything to do with acne formation and the biggest acne trigger is refined sugar (with wheat and dairy also being at the top of the list).
When we consume sugar there is a rapid spike in our body’s insulin levels, this triggers the ovaries to produce excess testosterone and other androgens and creates hormonal imbalance, which in many cases leads to acne. High levels of androgen hormones leads to over production of sebum and hyper keratinization of the follicle. In a normal skin the keratinocytes shed off and reveal new, beautiful skin cells, this is the natural ability of our skin to self-exfoliate. In the case of acne the keratinocytes shed but don’t budge, they adhere to the skin and pile up in our hair follicles creating acne breakouts.
This also leads to colonization of the follicle by the anaerobe Propionibacterium acnes which is a bacteria normally living on the human skin without causing any problems but when presented with the above conditions (access sebum and trapped dead keratinocytes) starts to overgrow causing acne.
An inflammatory reaction could also occurs as a result of bacteria proliferation, manifesting as redness, swelling and inflamed breakouts. This is the so called inflammatory acne and sugar is the #1 inflammatory food.
Eating fresh, whole foods cooked from scratch and rich in healthy fats, fresh vegetables and foods high in fiber will ensure healthy hormone levels, less inflammation, healthier gut and ultimately the elimination of acne.
Start by eliminating refined sugar first (then you can add dairy and gluten). You have to do each one for at least 3 weeks in order to see a real difference, doing it for a week or two will not give you accurate results because the body needs time to turn off its inflammatory or allergic receptors. In addition to the sugar, you may have to cut other carbohydrates like white rice, corn, potatoes, beans from your diet but this is only if you don’t see results after eliminating refined sugar first.
Avoiding sugar can be more challenging than you think since it is added to almost everything nowadays. Get into the habit of reading labels and be on the lookout for the following:
- syrup (corn syrup, rice syrup)
- the word ends in “ose” (examples: fructose, sucrose, maltose, dextrose)
- “sugar” (examples: raw sugar, cane sugar, brown sugar, confectionery sugar)
Here are some common foods that could contain hidden sugar in them:
- Flavored Yogurt
- Salad dressings
- Alcohol mixers
- Instant Oatmeal
- Non-daily milk
- Bottled flavored water
- Bottled tea
- Protein powder
- Tomato sauce
The best strategy would be to start eating a whole, unprocessed, organic, mostly plant-based diet and cook from scratch. Eat more healthy fats and high-quality proteins to decrease sugar cravings, start taking Omega 3 (from fish oil) and increase your fiber intake. All this will help to lower sugar intake ultimately keeping inflammation at bay and balancing the hormones.